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.
JAYLEN BROWN WITH 50 POINTS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/JSm77ygNSW
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 3, 2022
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