LeVert started the first nine games of the season for Brooklyn (every game before his injury), averaging 16.8 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Nets have been +7.3 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. LeVert missed half of last season with a dislocated right foot.
Three Things to Know: LeBron James looks like MVP-level LeBron James again
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) LeBron James looks like vintage MVP LeBron James again, has Lakers at 6-1. Is it because he just had the longest summer vacation he has had since 2005 and his body got a chance to rest? Is it the motivation of having Anthony Davis next to him? Is it because he doesn’t want Bronny walking around saying he’s the best basketball player in their house?
Maybe he just wants to send a message to his doubters.
Whatever the reason, LeBron James looks like MVP-level LeBron James again — and with that the Lakers are off to a fast start. He has racked up three straight triple-doubles — the last Laker to do that was Magic Johnson — and after an opening night loss to that team down the hall, the Lakers have rattled off six straight wins after beating the Bulls 118-112. The Lakers now have the best record in the NBA at 6-1.
On the season, LeBron is averaging near a triple-double — 26.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 11.1 assists per game (he leads the league in dimes) — and he is doing so efficiently to the point his advanced stat numbers are in line with his MVP seasons in Cleveland and Miami.
The other thing that’s back is his defense — the end of the court that had been more of an issue in recent years. With the shot blocking of Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard behind him to protect the rim — and with AD taking on more offensive load — LeBron has returned to the free-safety role he likes on defense, using his high IQ of the game to take chances, make steals, and be disruptive. He’s said he was motivated by the film out there of him taking plays off on defense the past few seasons (and he did). This season he’s back to being a force.
Seven games into the season is FAR too early to have any serious kind of MVP discussion, but if one did LeBron would be in the mix at the top of the list. Without question.
These Lakers have gotten in the habit of slow starts and furious comebacks — they trailed the Bulls by 19 and looked out of it for the first three quarters, only to go on a 16-0 run to start the fourth — but it’s building confidence in a roster that on paper resembles the Island of Misfit Toys.
But if they have LeBron James playing like an MVP (not to mention that Davis guy putting up career numbers) the Lakers will be in every game — and will be playing in games late into May. At the least.
2) Speaking of guys playing like their vintage selves, check out Gordon Hayward in Boston. The Celtics thought they were signing an All-Star, borderline All-NBA level player who had a well-rounded game in Gordon Hayward a few summers ago — and they had, until a devastating opening night leg injury set him back for a couple of seasons.
Gordon Hayward has looked more and more like his old self this season, the Utah version of himself. Just ask the Cavaliers, Tuesday night Hayward torched them for 39 points on 17-of-20 shooting, plus dished out eight assists in Boston’s 119-113 win on the road.
The @celtics Gordon Hayward shot 16-16 on 2-pointers tonight. It's the most 2-pointers made in a game without a miss since Wilt Chamberlain also went 16-16 on Mar. 19, 1967.
Hayward isn’t quite all the way back to form, but he’s looked closer and closer each game. You can see the confidence building. He’s playing 34 minutes a night, averaging 20.3 points, with an amazing True Shooting Percentage (65.6) because he is knocking down 50 percent his threes. Also, he may be the best playmaker for others on the Celtics.
Boston is off to a fast 5-1 start this season and if Hayward can keep this up they become a much bigger threat in the East.
3) Is there more of a Performance Enhancing Drug issue in the NBA than we realized? First it was Brooklyn’s Wilson Chandler before training camps opened. Then it was the Suns’ Deandre Ayton just one game into the season.
“First I want to apologize to my teammates, the Hawks organization, our fans, partners and community as a whole for this situation,” Collins said as a statement. “I understand the impact this matter has on what we are trying to achieve together this season, and I am incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all of us in this position. I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement which, unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component. I plan to fight my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”
Players almost always say they didn’t know they ingested the banned substance, take that claim with more than one grain of salt. For the record, if he serves the full 25 games this will cost Collins $610,582.
The NBA has had just three players suspended for PEDs between 2014-18. Now that is three just this season, in a little more than two months.
While the NBA may not have the depth of steroid issues facing other sports, the idea that it wasn’t going on at all around the NBA was always a fantasy (one the league was happy to sell). The reality is steroids help people recover faster, and the NBA is a recovery league because of the length and grind of the season (not to mention injuries). Plus, with the tens of millions of dollars at stake, some players will do whatever it takes to gain an edge (which is no different from baseball, football, or other sports).
When NBA players are with their off-season trainers and not around teams, they may try to push the boundaries. The NBA does not appear to be a league rampant with PED use, but the idea it is nonexistent — and something the association does not need to worry much about — has been blown up to start this season. PEDs are an issue to watch around the NBA.
Hawks’ John Collins suspended 25 games for growth hormone
John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks has been suspended without pay for twenty-five games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2 (GHRP-2), it was announced today by the NBA.
Collins’ suspension will begin with tonight’s game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Collins statement to ESPN: "First I want to apologize to my teammates, the Hawks organization, our fans, partners and community as a whole for this situation. I understand the impact this matter has on what we are trying to achieve together this season, and I am incredibly …"
"…frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all us in this position. I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement, which unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component. I plan to appeal my suspension…" https://t.co/DaNjSEgRrr
Practically all athletes who test positive say they didn’t know they took a banned substance. Practically all appeals go nowhere.
At this point, Collins’ statement looks boilerplate and shouldn’t be taken seriously without far more evidence.
Unlike Ayton, who tested positive for a diuretic (a masking agent), Collins tested positive for the hard stuff. That definitely ought to raise more eyebrows. Jodie Meeks also got suspended for growth hormone last year.
This will cost Collins $610,582 of his $2,686,560 salary. That’s a significant setback for a former No. 19 pick still on his rookie-scale contract. Collins (No. 24 on our list of top 50 players in 5 years) will have a chance for a major payday with a contract extension next offseason. But he’ll have to reestablish himself after returning from this suspension.
In the meantime, Atlanta will rely more on Jabari Parker at power forward. Parker has shown nice early pick-and-roll chemistry with Trae Young, who’s driving the Hawks. But if Young and Collins invited defensive questions, Young and Parker practically scream for help on that.
Vince Carter and De'Andre Hunter can play behind Parker. However, both Carter and Hunter were already getting minutes at small forward. So, Collins’ absence will trickle up the depth chart and weaken Atlanta’s wing depth.
Nets have it all – stars, youth, picks and a chance at a title… in 2021
Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
The Nets had nothing.
Now, they have everything.
At least on paper.
Not long ago, Brooklyn was lousy, old, deep into the luxury tax and without its own first-round pick for years to come. Several lost seasons obviously loomed.
But the Nets made the most of those losing years. They drafted well with their limited picks, acquired more where they could and identified players off the scrap heap. Importantly, they instilled a culture of hard work and development.
The rise was slow, but given the circumstances, quicker than expected. Brooklyn made the playoffs last season.
The Nets parlayed that moderate success into a monumental offseason, luring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Those stars vault Brooklyn onto a whole new level. It’ll probably take until 2020-21 when Durant recovers from his torn Achilles, but the Nets are primed to enter the thick of the championship chase.
Most teams must strip their roster to spare parts to open the cap space for two max players. Remarkably, Brooklyn didn’t.
But that trade with the Hawks also netted Taurean Prince, a solid young forward. Brooklyn got a protected first-rounder from the Warriors, too. With a draft-night trade of the No. 27 pick to the Clippers for an less-protected first-rounder, the Nets are +1(ish) in future first-round picks.
Those young players and picks could be helpful in building a championship-level supporting cast around Durant and Irving. That could be through the players and picks developing or via trade.
In the meantime, Brooklyn enters a limbo year with Durant sidelined. Irving is the clear top player with young teammates around him. That didn’t go so well in Boston. There is a chance the Nets fare worst next season than they did last season, and chemistry would become a huge question amid a backslide.
Jordan (four years, nearly $40 million) is one of the summer’s worst contracts, though it’s completely justifiable as a cost of getting Durant and Irving. Chandler is already suspended.
Durant is also on the wrong side of 30 and seriously injured. There are legitimate reasons for concern.
But the Nets will gladly take these problems over the ones they were facing just a few years ago. Waiting another year for everything to come together is no problem, either. Brooklyn is still way ahead of schedule.
Offseason grade: A
Nets’ Wilson Chandler suspended 25 games for performance-enhancing drug
The Nets will have maybe the NBA’s best forward – in 2020. But Brooklyn doesn’t want to wait to compete until Kevin Durant returns from a ruptured Achilles.
So, the Nets signed Wilson Chandler to a one-year minimum contract this summer.
But it appears the veteran combo forward will be unavailable for a while.
Wilson Chandler of the Brooklyn Nets has been suspended without pay for 25 games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for Ipamorelin, it was announced today by the NBA.
Chandler’s suspension will begin with the next NBA regular-season game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.
Injury and aging have taken a toll on the 32-year-old Chandler in the last few years. We might never learn why Chandler used performance-enhancing drugs, but it’s easy to imagine him doing whatever it takes just trying to hang on. His NBA career appeared to be slipping away.
That Brooklyn was positioned to rely on Chandler says something about the team’s depth. Expect Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince to be the main options at power forward now. The issues trickle up the positional chart. Shooting guard and small forward are mostly interchangeable for wings like Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Garrett Temple. But this limits the Nets’ ability to use a bigger small forward, and it makes them a little thinner at shooting guard.
After five regular-season games, Brooklyn can move Chandler to the suspended list and open a roster spot. There might be consideration to waiving him now and just opening that roster spot before training camp.
This suspension would cost Chandler $582,898 of his $2,564,753 minimum salary if he remains on the team.