Lou Williams

NBA Power Rankings: Red-hot Milwaukee moves into top spot

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We’ve got a new team on top because the Bucks have been tearing up the league, and while they have some tough games coming up, the fact they are in the East means Milwaukee might hold down this slot for much of the season.

Bucks small icon 1. Bucks (18-3, Last week No. 2). Winners of 12 in a row with a top three offense and defense in the league over that stretch. All that, and this team still leaves points on the table from the three-point line — the Bucks take 40.2 threes a game (third most in the NBA) but hit just 35.1% of them (20th in the league). Gianni Antetokounmpo being willing to shoot from three now is part of that (4.9 attempts a game, hitting 30.4%).They miss Malcolm Brogdon on that front. Good test Friday night when the Clippers come to town.

Lakers small icon 2. Lakers (18-3, LW 1). Watch the Lakers play in person and two things that jump out at you. First, this is is a tall, long team. Second, they play hard. Those two things combined are why they have the fifth-best defense in the league right now. LeBron James sees what’s on the table this year and he’s not coasting, nor is he letting others coast defense, which is another reason he’s in the MVP conversation. That said, the Lakers have gotten sloppy and not played 40+ good minutes a game lately, they got away with that last month but not against Dallas, but showed they learned a lesson against Denver on Tuesday.

Clippers small icon 3. Clippers (16-6, LW 3). We have yet to see the full potency of this Clippers roster. For example, when the game is on the line their four best players are Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell, and that group together (with any other fifth player) is +38.3 per 100 possessions. But we have only seen it for 48 minutes (just five against Portland Tuesday night). It just sigs in Doc Rivers back pocket. The Clippers head out East for six games now (with two back-to-backs), including the Bucks on Friday.

Mavericks small icon 4. Mavericks (14-6, LW 5). Luka Doncic averaged a 30-point triple-double in the month of November, which puts him in some rarified company — the only other people to accomplish that are Russell Westbrook (twice) and Oscar Robertson (eight times). Doncic fuel’s Dallas’ engine, but their ball movement gets them a lot of open threes, 40.4 a game, second most in the NBA, and they hit 36.1% of them (10th best in the league). This offense is not a one-man show.

Raptors small icon 5. Raptors (15-4, LW 6). Nick Nurse didn’t win a title his first season as an NBA coach just because he had Kawhi Leonard on his team (although, that helped). It was because this guy can flat-out coach, and we have seen that this season with Leonard gone, injuries piling up, and yet the Raptors had won seven in a row until Miami on Tuesday and have a top 10 offense and defense over their last 10 games. The Raptors keep finding guys deep on the roster — rookie Terrence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, among others — who can contribute. Tough tests coming up with the Rockets, 76ers, and Clippers as three of their next four.

Sixers small icon 6. 76ers (15-6, LW 8). Everyone — from Sixers fans to coach Brett Brown — keeps waiting for the offense to catch up with the defense. Hasn’t happened yet. Defensively they are fourth in the league (and 0.7 in net rating out of the top spot), and in the last five games that defense has only been better. The offense, on the other hand, is 17th in the NBA for the season and 2.8 per 100 worse in the last five games. Philadelphia needs that offense because the schedule gets much tougher in the next month.

Nuggets small icon 7. Nuggets (13-5, LW 4). Can Denver get its offense rolling? The Nuggets are winning with the league’s second-best defense (a strange thing to type), but they are 20th in the league in offense. Denver doesn’t take a lot of threes (fourth-fewest in the league per game), and they don’t get to the free throw line much (fifth-fewest times per game), which leaves them working hard for the shots they do get. Plus, Nikola Jokic has not been the All-NBA dominant force on offense he was a season ago (the Lakers held him to 13 points on 12 shots Tuesday). Maybe the offense turns around, but we now have nearly a quarter of the season and we can’t just call it slow start anymore.

Celtics small icon 8. Celtics (14-5, LW 7). There are times the Celtics clearly miss his shot creation, but Boston has held up quite well since Gordon Hayward went down with a fractured left hand. The Celtics are 9-4 without Hayward with a +6.5 net rating, with a top 10 defense and a solid offense. Boston is also 7-0 at home this season where their offense has been dominant (and covered up for a sloppy defense in the Garden). Interesting showdown with the upstart Heat on Wednesday.

Heat small icon 9. Heat (15-5, LW 9). Jimmy Butler is averaging 18.8 points a game, but some in Heat nation think he needs to score more to bolster the team’s offense. I don’t see it that way, what the Heat need is more of the triple-double Butler — 22 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists — from the win that snapped Toronto’s winning streak on Tuesday. That Butler gets other guys such as Duncan Robinson or Bam Adebayo involved, and when that happens the Heat are much more difficult to beat.

Rockets small icon 10. Rockets (13-7, LW 12). James Harden has found his three-point stroke. The Beard shot just 29.8% from three through the first 10 games of the season, but over the last 10 games he’s shooting 38.9%. And that is on 14.4 attempts from beyond the arc. Harden has 88 more attempts from three than the second person on that list this season (Buddy Hield) and is on pace to break his own record for most threes in a season (set last season).

Pacers small icon 11. Pacers (13-7, LW 11). The Pacers have been good — 11-4 in November — but it’s also a challenge to get a real gauge on this team between the soft schedule and rash of injuries they have faced. All that is about to change. The Pacers are getting healthy, the two-bigs lineup of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are showing promise, and most important of all Victor Oladipo is taking some contact in practice and is getting closer to a return. That they have kept their heads afloat through all this is an impressive coaching job by Nate McMillan.

12. Timberwolves (10-9, LW 13). This is not getting enough attention: Karl-Anthony Towns is having an All-NBA (maybe First Team), bottom-of-the-MVP ballot kind of season. Towns is averaging 25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks a game, is shooting 42.1% from three and is playing solid defense. He’s the reason this team is above .500. Minnesota is 7-2 on the road this season, where they score nine more points a game, and seem to play better defense. At home the Timberwolves are 3-7 on the season. So it’s good news that the Wolves start a four-game road trip on Wednesday.

Jazz small icon 13. Jazz (12-9, LW 10). Utah lost 4-of-5 on its recent road trip, including ugly losses in Toronto and Philadelphia. We knew the offense would struggle to start the season, but it’s 23rd in the league and Mike Conley is shooting 37%. The defense that was supposed to carry the team is good but not great, ranked in the league for the season, and in the last 10 games they have fallen to 17th in the league giving up 4.9 more points per 100 possessions than they averaged last season (Rudy Gobert did miss some of those games). The Jazz are a good team, but do not look like the potential contender some of us expected.

Nets small icon 14. Nets (10-10, LW 14). Kyrie Irving is doing on-court work to return from his shoulder impingement but is not taking contact and will remain out through at least Friday. Brooklyn is 6-3 in the games he’s missed, with a basically even net rating, and last week split a home-and-home with Boston — they are playing well thanks to Spencer Dinwiddie. The point guard has averaged more than 25 points and 7 assists a game since Irving went down, and he has the ball moving and the offense flowing more like it did last season in Brooklyn.

Pistons small icon 15. Pistons (8-13, LW 17). The Pistons are getting healthier and playing better of late, and all that starts with Blake Griffin. He has played in nine games so far and the team is 4-5 in those games, plus the Detroit offense is 4.6 points per 100 better when he is on the court. Detroit is playing better of late (+8.7 point differential that past two weeks, sixth-best in the NBA, via Cleaning the Glass), which is keeping them in the hunt of a playoff spot in the East despite the slow start.

Suns small icon 16. Suns (9-10, LW 15). Things have cooled off after the hot start to the season, having gone 2-6 in their last eight games with a -4.7 net rating. The offense has still been okay, but the defense has faded and is bottom 10 in the league over that stretch. The defense tends to be solid when Aron Baynes is on the court but drops off dramatically when he sits. The Suns will need to turn this thing around on the road, they have eight road games remaining this month.

Blazers small icon 17. Trail Blazers (8-13, LW 21). Portland is 3-4 since the return of Carmelo Anthony, which is a step forward (even if the Clippers on Tuesday reminded Portland how far it still needs to go). Those three straight wins for the Trail Blazers were less about ‘Melo and more about the return of Damian Lillard to the lineup, but when those two are paired the Blazers are +8.5 per 100 possessions (in 120 minutes), mostly because the offense is on fire. Hassan Whiteside set a franchise record with 10 blocks this week, when he is on he is impressive.

Magic small icon 18. Magic (9-11, LW 19). Orlando has gone 3-3 and kept its head above water while Nikola Vucevic remains out with a right ankle sprain, although those three wins came against a softer part of the schedule. Still, the Magic will take the victories. Of all the young Orlando players, it is Jonathan Isaac who is emerging as a potential star, a defensive force already who is working on his offense game, check out our feature from Dan Feldman on Isaac’s development.

Thunder small icon 19. Thunder (8-11, LW 20). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the future of this team at the point, he’s already impressive in just his second season (18.2 points per game) and is ready for more responsibility. However, when the game is on the line, the Thunder turn to Chris Paul — he has more fourth-quarter points in the clutch than any other player in the league this season. It’s good that’s working out in OKC because Paul is going to be nearly impossible to trade in season (due to his contract). The Thunder are just a game out of the playoffs in the West but have a tough stretch coming up the next six games.

Kings small icon 20. Kings (8-11, LW 16). Sacramento has kept its head above water with young stars De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III both out — the Kings are 5-5 in games the pair has missed, with a -1.3 net rating. We’ll see if the Kings can stay in the playoff hunt in the West with 8-of-10 coming up on the road. Fox is going to be out at least another couple of weeks with his ankle sprain, but Bagley seems to be getting much close to a return.

Spurs small icon 21. Spurs (8-14, LW 24). Back in July at Summer League, it didn’t take much time watching Lonnie Walker IV to realize he is an NBA player who could dominate in Las Vegas and was ready for more and to break out in San Antonio. We may have seen that breakthrough Tuesday night, Walker scored 24 against Houston, with 18 of those coming in the fourth quarter, including eight consecutive points to tie the game. In what has been a rough season in San Antonio, Walker could be a bright spot.

Bulls small icon 22. Bulls (7-14, LW 23). There are positives when you watch the Bulls play — Wendell Carter Jr. has shown to be a solid big man on both ends of the court, with 12.6 pints and 9.7 rebounds a game, who can be part of the future in Chicago — but their offense continues to be a slog. The Bulls are 29th in the league in offensive efficiency and their offense has not been better the past five games. Chicago needed a lot more out of a healthy Lauri Markkanen than they have gotten this season.

Wizards small icon 23. Wizards (6-13, LW 18). The defensive book on playing Washington clear, and fairly obvious — blitz Bradley Beal whenever he has a screen set for him, and maybe double him even when he doesn’t. Get the ball out of Beal’s hands and force anyone else on that roster to beat you. That guy who beats you will not be C.J. Miles, who is out indefinitely after getting wrist surgery. At least Isaiah Thomas is keeping things entertaining.

Grizzlies small icon 24. Grizzlies (6-14, LW 28). Brandon Clarke, out of Gonzaga, has been one of the surprises as a rookie this season, averaging an efficient 11.8 points a game by getting to the rim and finishing, plus showing the ability to drain the three when he takes it (45.5 percent but just taking 1.2 a game). Unfortunately, an oblique injury will have him out for at least a week (he’s week to week). The Grizzlies have lost 7-of-8 and now head out on the road for their next four.

Hornets small icon 25. Hornets (8-14, LW 25). Reality has caught up with Charlotte, which has lost 7-of-9, and the reason is its defense. The Hornets are 29th in the league in defensive rating and in the past nine games they have been 4.5 points per 100 worse on that end of the court. The only wins in that stretch were a surprising sweep of a home-and-home against the Pistons where rookie PJ Washington stepped up and showed some promise.

Pelicans small icon 26. Pelicans (6-15, LW 22). Six weeks after his surgery, Zion Williamson is doing some walkthroughs but has not yet done any on-court work, with coach Alvin Gentry adding they would be “overly cautious” with bringing the young star back. Which means don’t expect to see him Christmas Day. The Pelicans have dropped six in a row and 7-of-11 coming up on the road.

Cavaliers small icon 27. Cavaliers (5-15, LW 27). Darius Garland can shoot the three, the rookie is taking 40.4% of his shots from beyond the arc and hitting 37.2% of them. The problem comes when he steps inside the arc, he is shooting just 46% at the rim and is taking a lot of shots from floater range and hitting just 39.2% of them. It’s a project for the rookie to work on the rest of the season (if this continues into next summer and next season, then we start to worry). The Cavaliers have lost 10-of-11 and now have 5-of-7 coming up on the road.

Hawks small icon 28. Hawks (5-16, LW 29). Atlanta snapped its losing streak, and sure it came against the Warriors but that still counts. Atlanta’s offense remains the entertaining Trae Young show, but the team is going to struggle with wins so long as their defense is bad — and it’s 25 in the league for the season. The biggest problem there is in transition, where teams score at a 133.1 points per 100 possessions pace (second-worst in the league), and the Hawks allow teams to start 16% of their possessions that way (bottom 10 in the league). Transition D is a real issue for the Hawks. (Stats via Cleaning the Glass.)

Knicks small icon 29. Knicks (4-17, LW 26). It can be hard to figure out what the Knicks are trying to do with their rotations: Kevin Knox was consistently losing minutes and last Friday got a DNP-coach’s decision, then on Sunday he started against Boston. Knicks fans are focused on the future and RJ Barrett, who has played solidly as a rookie thrown into the fire this season. Barrett has averaged 14.7 points per game but with a dreadful true shooting percentage of 45.8.

Warriors small icon 30. Warriors (4-18, LW 30). D’Angelo Russell has missed his last nine games with a thumb injury, and obviously Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are out, which also has meant a decrease in Draymond Green’s minutes. Like Ralph Fiennes in Taken, Green has a very specific skillset, and it’s one that makes can make great talent better, but doesn’t lift up young or lesser players. Which is what the Warriors are now, so Steve Kerr has started to cut back Green’s minutes. The Warriors have started 0-3 on their current road trip and have lost 6 of their last 7.

Matt Barnes details – and I mean details – his multi-day argument with Doc Rivers on Clippers

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The Lob City Clippers had plenty of chemistry issues.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan seemed to dislike each other at different points. Doc Rivers acquiring and giving a big contract to his son, Austin Rivers, created complications – particularly with Jamal Crawford.

But tension spread beyond those mainstays.

What went wrong between Doc Rivers and Matt Barnes?

Barnes on All The Smoke:

We had just lost to Golden State in Golden State. They beat our ass. And Blake and D.J. didn’t have the best games.

But for some reason, just that day, he wanted to go at me in the film room.

And I’m someone, you can coach me, you can yell at me. You can do whatever you want. You’re just not going to disrespect me as a man. That’s where I don’t give a f— who you are. That’s where I draw the line.

So, he got mad at the two shots I took. I took two shots in the game. He complained off both. Like, I had a corner 3 that I shot that I should have passed to Blake when he was cutting down the middle. And then I had another 3-pointer that I should have gave to Jamal. I’m just looking at this like, “Motherf—er, I took two shots, and we lost by 30. What the f— are you talking about?” You know what I mean? So, it was just a situation. It was kind of weird. And then he came at me for something.

I’m just like, “Yo, man. F— this.” So, I got up, and everyone in the room is like, [gasp]. Because I remember, D.J. was sitting next to me. He like patted me on the leg like a little dog to keep me calm or something.

Lou Williams:

Which is funny, because D.J. is a f—ing maniac in film sessions.

Barnes:

It came from us, though. Because D.J. didn’t used to be that way.

I got up, and everyone is like, “Oh, s—.” They’re like, “Chill, chill.” So, I walked, you know, out of the film room. I’m in the corner, and you’ve got to walk past the coaches to get out. So, I just – man, I just got up, and I was heated. So, I walked out of the room.

And then I went in the back, and I was like, f— it, I’m just going to go home. I’m just like, nah, I can’t. I can’t let my team down like that. So, I saw on the TV that we were done with film, and they’re out on the court stretching.

So, I went back out on the court, start stretching, mad as f—, not saying nothing to nobody. And this motherf—er comes over to me and tells me to flip my jersey over and he’s going to put Jamal with the starters and put me on the second team. So, I look at him, and I took my jersey off, and I threw it. He’s like, “Put your jersey back on.” I’m like, “These motherf—ers know what team I’m on.” So, I didn’t have no jersey the whole practice. Went out hard, killed in practice.

I was on one. See, I think Doc was on one, too.

Lou Williams:

Doc, he like that s—.

Barnes:

He didn’t like what almost happened to him.

So, then, went hard in practice. Some of the coaches came up and talked to me. You know, “Sorry.” It was this, this and that. Trying to diffuse the situation.

Doc is a players’ coach. He understands that, because he’s a former player.

Williams:

You on edge, so I’m on edge too.

Barnes:

Right.

So, I go home. We play Portland early the next day. And I can’t sleep the whole night. And I had stopped smoking, too, for a little bit. So, that night, I started chain smoking. Probably smoked like three or four joints that night. Mad as f—. Couldn’t sleep.

Got to the gym early as f—. Started shooting. We went to shootaround, and right when we brought it in, and I just told Doc, I was like, “You can coach me. You can yell at me. You can do whatever. Just don’t disrespect me as a man.” And then he said his part, and it kind of started getting heated. He’s like, “You think you’re tough, huh?” I’m like, “What?” So, it go super – he almost was trying to poke me.

So, it chilled out. We went through shootaround, and then we went back in the locker room to watch film after shootaround, and Mike Woodson tried to say something slick. And I was like, “Mike, don’t start. You can get it, too.” You know what I mean?

So, everyone calmed down, and then Doc said some more s— to me and then stormed off to his office. So, I stormed after him in his office, and everyone tried to pull me back. And we sat down and had a little conversation. But it was just a little heated back-and-forth.

Looking back, I f— with Doc. You know what I mean? I was going through a divorce at the time. So, I was kind of on edge. He was going through whatever he was going through. So, he was kind of on edge. So, we talked, obviously talked, and made amends. But, like you said, he is someone that you can go back back at, and you’ve got to respect that. Because a lot of coaches you yell at, you cuss at, and that’s it.

A few things:

  • Barnes appears to be talking about this Nov. 5, 2014 game. He shot 1-for-4, including 0-for-2 on 3-pointers. Griffin and Jordan were unremarkable, though Jordan (17 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 13 rebounds, two blocks, two steals, starter-best -8 plus-minus) didn’t have too bad of a box score. The Clippers lost by 17 to the Warriors and beat the Trail Blazers in their next game, though three days later. I’m not sweating those details, though.
  • All The Smoke clearly has the best stories.
  • My favorite part of this story: Then-Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson butting in and immediately getting told off.

The time Lou Williams’ teammates paid him $15K to drink six-pack on short bus ride

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When jumping straight from high school to the 2005 NBA draft, Lou Williams said, “The second round is not an option.”

The 76ers drafted him in the middle of the second round.

That left Williams with a relatively low $450,000 salary. But on a Philadelphia team with veterans Allen Iverson, Chris Webber and Matt Barnes, a teenage Williams found a way to supplement his income.

Williams on All The Smoke:

I know it was on the West Coast.

Barnes:

We made a bet that he had to drink a six-pack.

Williams:

I didn’t drink at the time.

Barnes:

He didn’t drink. He was fresh out of high school.

Williams:

I was a kid.

Barnes:

Stayed to himself, quiet.

Barnes:

How much money you get?

Williams:

Fifteen thousand.

Barnes:

Bet he couldn’t drink a six-pack on the bus ride, right? It was quick, though. It was a quick ride.

Williams:

They said I couldn’t drink a six-pack of beer before we got on the plane for 15 grand. I downed them b—es.

Barnes:

That motherf—er killed it. But he was so wet that we almost got a little worried. Like, “Damn, what the f—? How are we going to carry Lou?” He kind of had his arm slumped on AI’s shoulder, and then me and C-Webb was kind of in front.

Williams:

I never drank.

Barnes:

He was still there, but he was – He handled himself well, but he was f—ed up. You know what I mean? So we had to kind of camouflage his ass up onto the plane.

Incredible.

Kawhi Leonard scores 34, Paul George 31, Clippers put up 150 in beating Wizards

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LOS ANGELES — Coach Doc Rivers called the first play of the game for Paul George and he hit a 3-pointer.

His teammates found him the rest of the way.

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, George added 31, and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled past undermanned Washington 150-125 on Sunday night for their 12th win in a row over the Wizards at home.

“It’s those new shoulders. He’s just a great shooter,” Rivers said of George. “He’s shooting deep shots on the move and doing it with great balance.”

Montrezl Harrell added 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Lou Williams had 22 points for the Clippers, who led all the way in improving to a franchise-best 12-1 at Staples Center.

“Their athletes are long, wiry and strong and defensive-minded,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “On top of that, they can score. That’s a great benefit.”

The Clippers shot 57% in taking a 27-point lead in the first half when George had 27 points.

“We just came out a little bit more aggressive as a unit,” Williams said. “We were very efficient on the offensive end. The shots we took a lot of times were ones we wanted to take.”

George and Leonard combined to score 10 of the Clippers’ first 13 points in the third when they led 95-69.

The Wizards ran off 11 straight points to close within 15 in their only major spurt of the game.

From there, the Clippers outscored Washington 19-12 to lead 116-98 going into the fourth.

For the game, the Clippers shot 55%, owned a 66-46 edge in the paint and their bench outscored the Wizards reserves 73-39.

“We’re pretty good once we’re clicking,” Williams said. “Every once in a while you kind of see glimpses where guys are on the same page.”

Rookie Rui Hachimura scored a career-high 30 points and Bradley Beal added 23 points and 11 assists for the Wizards. They were without injured John Wall, Moe Wagner, C.J. Miles and Ian Mahinmi in losing for the fourth time in five games.

Davis Bertans had 20 points and a tied his career high with six 3-pointers for Washington.

Leonard scored 11 of the Clippers’ first 20 points in the fourth. George added a pair of free throws and Williams scored seven in the stretch that extended their lead to 138-107. Leonard and George then sat down and turned it over to the bench to finish off the blowout victory.

It was the second time this season the Clippers scored 150 points. They beat Atlanta 150-101 last month.

Three Things to Know: George, Leonard already have Clippers’ defense on lockdown

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Paul George, Kawhi Leonard already have Clippers’ defense on lockdown. Just ask Dallas. The Dallas Mavericks entered Tuesday night with the best offense in the NBA, one so hot that their offensive rating (117.4) was higher than any of the Golden State teams of the last five years. Luka Doncic was leading an offense carving teams up off the pick-and-roll, one that scored at least 137 points in each of the previous three games.

The Mavericks scored less than a point per possession against the Clippers. They didn’t even get to triple digits on the scoreboard.

On paper, the Clippers looked to be a formidable defense with long, defensive-minded wings Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, not to mention other quality defenders such as Maurice Harkless and the pesky Patrick Beverley around them. That potential has quickly become a reality, with a team defensive rating of just 101.7 in the four games Los Angeles’ two superstars have played together.

Los Angeles beat Dallas 114-99 on Tuesday, improving to 4-0 since it got George and Leonard both in the lineup. These haven’t been soft wins, either, they have beaten red-hot Boston and Houston, and now Dallas.

Tuesday night was the first time George (26, 17 points in the first quarter) and Leonard (28) both broke the 20-point barrier.

Remember, George is still doing all this on a minutes limit as he recovers from off-season surgery to both shoulders. When he is on the court, however, he looks every bit the guy who finished third in the MVP voting a season ago.

While the Clippers offense has been good over the past four games — 112.8 offensive rating, which would be second-best in the league for the season — it is still clearly a work in progress. George, Leonard, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams seem to take turns watching each other run the offense, there isn’t a natural flow between all of them. Yet. This is to be expected considering George missed training camp and Leonard has missed games as well dealing with right knee issues.

The defense, however, already looks stellar. The Clippers set their sights on Doncic and frustrated the 20-year-old phenom, who shot 4-of-14 from the field and didn’t hit a three all night. The Clippers said postgame they hoped to be physical on both ends and wear Doncic down (and they were physical, Doncic was clearly frustrated with the officials). Other Mavericks were unable to step up and make the Clippers pay for their Doncic focus, for example Kristaps Porzingis was 4-of-13 from the floor in this game. Part of Dallas’ struggles were Doncic and his teammates missed somewhat open looks they usually knock down, but that’s what happens against a long and quick defensive team when shooters know they have a little less time to get off their shot, so they rush the motion.

This Clippers team is going to evolve a lot over the course of the season, and that will have rough patches in part because Doc Rivers and Clipper management are going to rest guys. That may frustrate some fans, but this team is not thinking about wins in November and December. They are thinking about wins in May and June.

The Clippers already look like a team that defends well enough to get those wins.

2) Denver has won six in a row and is now 10-1 in November after beating the Wizards. The two teams in Los Angeles — not to mention the Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks — have been hot and that has stolen the headlines lately, but the Denver Nuggets are playing as well as any of them.

Denver beat Washington 117-104 Tuesday night to cap off a perfect four-game homestand and extend their win streak to six. It was a game where star center Nikola Jokic only had 8 points, but he contributed a lot with his 20 rebounds and five assists. Jeramie Grant had 20 points off the bench to lead the Nuggets, Will Barton also chipped in 17.

That 10-1 November has been fueled by the Nuggets surprising defense, which has allowed less than a point per possession in those games. If the Nuggets can keep defending like this, they will be a much more dangerous playoff threat.

3) James Harden, how do you feel about an in-season NBA Tournament? “Are we in college?” A couple of Commissioner Adam Silver’s proposed sweeping changes to the NBA schedule seem to have support from teams. The idea of play-in games for the final couple of playoff spots has some backing (teams and players see how that can be sold to a sponsor to have that make money). There is support for the idea of re-seeding the Conference Finals (the final four teams left in the playoffs) regardless of conference. That could create interesting matchups.

However, the idea of an in-season NBA Tournament? It’s not getting the love. The reactions of James Harden and P.J. Tucker seem pretty much in line with those of every team source I have spoken to about the idea.

These kinds of in-season tournaments are baked into the culture of European (and worldwide) soccer, but it’s not part of the American sports DNA. Silver knows this and has said it will take years for this tournament — scheduled to take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas — to gain traction with fans and players.

Even then, will it really have any more prestige than winning the Maui Invitational in college?

It’s not hard to see Silver’s thinking: Early season ratings are down, this gives a boost to the importance of some of those games (the round-robin part of the tournament would be regular season division games taking place after Thanksgiving, providing a doubled importance to those games). Then the eight-team knockout tournament of the teams that win those division games (plus two wild cards) could be sold as a separate television package, generating more revenue (to make up for the four regular season games Silver wants to cut out to make this happen and shorten the season).

Still, the reaction from teams is just a shrug. Players seem even less thrilled.

That doesn’t mean owners will shoot the proposal down next April (with plans to start it for the 2021-22 season), Silver may be able to wrangle the votes. Just don’t expect a lot of enthusiasm from players and coaches. Nobody is playing for a “we won the mid-season tournament” banner.