Three Things to Know: Break up Celtics? Trade Jaylen Brown? He drops 50 on that talk

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Break up Celtics? Trade Jaylen Brown? He drops 50 on that talk

Something is not right with the 18-19 Celtics — this team should be better than it is. Despite two elite wings and respectable role players up and down the roster, the offense has been 20th in the league (with garbage time filtered out) and the team has relied on a top-10 defense to win games. The chemistry is off; you can see it in the body language on the court and the way they talk postgame. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but something is definitely not right.

That has led to a lot of “break up the Celtics” trade speculation among fans and around the league — and that means trading Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum is seen as the better player of the two and the face of the franchise, he’s not going anywhere, so it is Brown whose name — fair or not — that gets thrown around.

Brown for Ben Simmons has been a topic among Celtics fans all season. On his most recent “Lowe Post” podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe threw out some other ideas, including a trade with the Grizzlies that brings Desmond Bane and three future first-round picks back to Boston. There are other ideas out there.

Then you watch Brown drop 50 on the Magic, including 24 in the fourth quarter and overtime to spark a comeback win Sunday, and you have to think, “They want to trade this guy?”

Brown shot 19-of-29 overall, 5-of-10 from 3, and 13-of-15 in the paint. He added 11 rebounds and he plays strong defense.

It’s too hard to get two high-level players of the same age range to give up on things too quickly. Boston should take more time to figure this out.

That “trade Brown” talk is not coming out of the Boston front office — sources around the league tell NBC Sports they are trying to add star talent around Brown and Tatum, not break them up. All the speculation on Brown comes from other teams coveting him. Sure, if a Bradley Beal/Damian Lillard level offer fell out of the sky the Celtics would have to consider it, but nothing like that is on the table. Right now, Boston is trying to make this work.

And Brown is making it very hard to trade him.

2) OKC’s Josh Giddey becomes youngest player ever with triple-double

It left many critics shaking their heads at the time, but Sam Presti may have the last laugh (again) — Taking Josh Giddey at No. 6 is looking like a smart move by the Thunder.

Sunday in a loss to Dallas (in the return of Luka Doncic to the court), Giddey had 17 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his first triple-double. He did this at age 19 years, 2 months, 23 days, breaking the record LaMelo Ball set just last season (19 years, 10 months, 17 days).

Giddey drew high praise from a guard who racked up more than a few triple-doubles in his day — Jason Kidd, now coach of the Mavericks.

“He’s unselfish. As a 19-year old, he understands how to play the game,” Kidd said, via the Associated Press. “He’s comfortable with the ball. His teammates all know that if he has it, they’re gonna cut, because there’s a chance that they can get it. He’s comfortable shooting the 3. He has the total package. At 19, it’s just a matter of time of understanding how teams are going to play him. He’s as good as advertised.”

Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make a very interesting young backcourt in OKC.

3) Russell Westbrook defends his right to have some turnovers, miss some shots

Russell Westbrook with the Lakers has been pretty close to Russell Westbrook of the past few seasons, just with a brighter spotlight on him now. Playing in Los Angeles next to LeBron James brings a different level — a championship level — of expectations, so Westbrook’s inefficient game draws more attention.

Of course, Westbrook is putting up numbers — 19.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists — and his usage is down playing next to LeBron and (when healthy) Anthony Davis. But the inefficiencies — the 20.3 turnover rate (4.8 a game), the struggles from 3 (30.2%) and trouble finishing at the rim (59.9%, well below league average) — hurt the Lakers in a way that didn’t matter in Washington and Houston.

Westbrook defended how he is playing after a game Sunday where he had nine turnovers and was 0-of-5 from three. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“My game, you know, is fine,” he said. “My game is not predicated on shots or if I turn the ball over. Like, I miss some shots, that’s part of the game. I’m allowed to miss shots. I can do that. Like any other player, I can do that. I can turn the ball over, too. I can do that. That’s all a part of the game…

“When you watch a basketball game and figure out what impact making the right plays, boxing out, rebounding, whatever that may be, making the right play, making the right reads, that’s all about being a basketball player,” he said.

What’s changed is not Westbrook, he’s the same player. What has changed is his team, his role, and the expectations. The best player and primary ball handler on any team is given some leeway to miss shots and have turnovers because of the shots and opportunities they create for others. Stephen Curry and the Warriors were (and are) a high turnover team through their title years.

Westbrook could be that guy and be forgiven in Oklahoma City or Houston or Washington. However, Westbrook is not the Alpha, not the No. 1 option on the Lakers, that’s LeBron. When Davis is healthy, Westbrook is the third option, and in that role the Lakers need more efficiency. They aren’t getting it, they are getting 33-year-old Westbrook, and it doesn’t sound like he plans to change.

The Lakers beat a shorthanded Timberwolves team (no Karl-Anthony Towns or D'Angelo Russell due to health and safety protocols) 108-103. LeBron led the way with 26 points, Westbrook had 20 on 7-of-16 shooting overall, with five assists. But it wasn’t pretty or efficient.

Highlight of the Night: Ish Smith stands no chance, ends up in Bismack Biyombo poster

Bismack Biyombo is a generous, kind, thoughtful person who cares about others and has been a tremendous mentor to LaMelo Ball and the other young Hornets when he was on that team (he’s with the Suns now).

But don’t get in the man’s way when he is on his way to dunk. Ish Smith tried and it ended poorly for him.

Last night’s scores:

Toronto 120, New York 105
Boston 116, Orlando 111 (OT)
Cleveland 108, Indiana 104
Sacramento 115, Miami 113
Phoenix 133, Charlotte 99
Dallas 95, Oklahoma City 86
LA Lakers 108, Minnesota 103

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.

Tyler Herro says he’s better than players ‘that have gotten paid’

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven
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RJ Barrett signed a rookie contract extension for four years, $107 million fully guaranteed that could climb to $120 million with incentives. Several others out of the 2019 draft class — Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Darius Garland — earned max contract extensions with their team.

Tyler Herro is still waiting on his extension with the Miami Heat.

And with that baked in Herro confidence, he said he is better than some players he has seen getting paid, he told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I was active early in the summer,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel of the extension window that opened in July. “Then I realized it wasn’t going to get done, if it does get done, until later. So I just told my agent to call me when it’s ready. “So we haven’t really spoken much about the contract. Obviously, I tell him to call me when it’s ready. If it’s not ready, I continue to play my game and figure it out next summer…

“There’s players across the league that have gotten paid who I know I’m better than. So it’s got to be the right number,” he said, with the Heat continuing camp on makeshift courts at the [ Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas].

One reason an extension for Herro has not gotten done — and may not get done before the Oct. 18 deadline — is Herro is the Heat’s best trade asset to go after a big name. Once he signs an extension that is off the table, something Winderman and I have discussed in our weekly video/podcast on the Heat and NBA.

The other question on a Herro extension is what is the “right number?” Did the Knicks’ Barrett set the market with his extension?

Maybe Barrett is one of the players Herro “knows” he is better than, but that would not be the consensus of scouts and free agents around the league. Herro has hardware as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, he puts up numbers averaging 20.7 points a game while shooting 39.9% from 3 last season, he can do some secondary play creation and has had big playoff games. He has real value.

However, as Winderman has pointed out, Herro has started just 33 games across three years, compared to Barrett’s 197 starts. More importantly, Herro’s defensive limitations limited how Eric Spoelstra could use him in the playoffs. Then there is the matter of load carried. Barrett was the No. 1 option for the Knicks last season (with Julius Randle falling off) and even with the signing of Jalen Brunson, Barrett is option No.1 or 1B for Tom Thibodeau. Herro is down the Heat pecking order behind Bam AdebayoJimmy Butler, and maybe Kyle Lowry depending on how he bounces back from a down year. The Heat don’t need Herro the way the Knicks need Barrett right now, which is one key reason Herro is available via trade.

Would Herro take a four-year, $105 extension? Would the Heat even offer it? If Miami is hoping for a trade at the deadline, it may wait on an offer and let the market set Herro’s price as a restricted free agent next summer. For Herro, that would give him a chance to prove he is a starter and that his defense has improved — that he is worth more than the Heat had been offering.

If the Heat and Herro agree on an extension, look for it to be in a couple of weeks, pushing up against that October deadline.

 

Lonzo Ball undergoes successful knee surgery, out ‘at least a few months’

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Lonzo Ball underwent another arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday, and the doctors finally had some positive news.

They believe that they’ve “addressed the issue”, and there is “confidence” that he’ll be able to play this season. He’s still expected to miss “at least a few months”, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania added that both sides will monitor his progress over

After his first surgery in January, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well at all, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. During media day this week, Ball said that he couldn’t run or jump, so he couldn’t play basketball. Billy Donovan said that they had to think of Ball’s injury as potentially season-ending. So an update that says that he should play this season is considered good news at this point.

Chicago had a 22-13 record with Lonzo last season, but were just 24-23 without him. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 3.1 triples per game in his first year with the team.

They have other defenders like Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso, but they don’t have anyone else that can both defend and facilitate the way Lonzo can. They’ll use training camp and the preseason to decide on a starting point guard between Dosunmu, Caruso, and Goran Dragic.

They’re one of the more talented teams in the East, but they may end up playing in the play-in tournament if they’re without Ball for the majority of the season.