Three Things to Know: Carmelo Anthony could learn from Dwight Howard about grabbing last chance

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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) Carmelo Anthony has got his last chance, can he grab it like Dwight Howard has his? He got one last opportunity. It came in an unexpected place, but that didn’t matter because this was it — things work out here or his NBA career ends now. Be in shape, accept your role and know this is not your team, play hard nightly, defend with energy, don’t be a diva and demand touches how and where you want them, and don’t pout or be a distraction if things don’t go exactly how you want them to.

That was Dwight Howard’s situation entering this season — and he’s done all those things and given the Lakers the inside presence they need. Howard’s raw numbers are not eye-popping, 7.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per night, but he’s been the team’s best center (allowing Anthony Davis time at his preferred power forward slot). Howard has been a vital part of the Lakers 9-2 start.

Now Carmelo Anthony has his last chance — the Portland Trail Blazers will sign Anthony to a non-guaranteed contract and ask him to fill a role and help their ailing frontcourt.

The particulars are different from Howard, but the theme is the same.

This is it for Anthony, he “2,000 percent” wanted another shot in the NBA, to go out on his terms, well he’s got it on a team that could really use what he brings. However, it’s not his team (it’s Damian Lillard’s) and Anthony will need to accept a role, get buckets at the four in the system (far more catch-and-shoot than isolation), and defend well enough to stay on the court. Do that and he can help this team.

Portland’s 4-8 start made it the perfect team to take a chance on Anthony. This is a smart signing by Portland (a low-risk one because of the non-guaranteed contract).

The Blazers have an elite backcourt. Damian Lillard is playing like an MVP and averaging 30.5 points per game — he’s carrying the offense so far. CJ McCollum has struggled out of the gate, but Portland isn’t really worried about him getting back on track, this is just a little slump.

The frontcourt, however, has been a disaster, mostly due to injuries. Jusuf Nurkic — Portland third-best player last season and a guy critical to their success — is out until likely after the All-Star break from a fractured leg that required surgery. Portland hoped Zach Collins would step into Nurkic’s role, but Collins is out four months following shoulder surgery. Pau Gasol was signed this summer but he has yet to step on the court and is battling a foot issue. Hassan Whiteside came in via trade and the Blazers brass talked him up, but he has played like he always has — sporadic effort and empty calorie stats. Whiteside does not set a good pick, and on a pick-and-roll heavy team that has hurt Lillard and McCollum, who have had to work harder for space.

That has left Anthony Tolliver and Skal Labissiere as rotation players getting significant minutes.

Now enter Carmelo Anthony.

Portland needs what Carmelo can bring — buckets. He’s not going to get old-school isolation touches on the wing (although coach Terry Stotts would be smart to throw him a couple a game), but Anthony in the past has shown he can be a catch-and-shoot guy who can space the floor and hit threes. Portland desperately needs that. They need a guy who takes the shot or moves the ball, not one who stops it or pounds it into the ground a dozen times then makes a decision. Portland needs a four who can defend well enough not to get played off the floor (and you can be sure teams will test Anthony early and often).

Anthony can do all those things. He can be the player that helps turn Portland’s season around.

He just has to grab his chance and take it.

2) Boos rain down on Kristaps Porzingis, but it is Marcus Morris that gets the ultimate revenge with game-winner for Knicks. Kristaps Porzingis’ return to Madison Square Garden went exactly as expected — Knicks fans unleashed their venom on him.

Knicks fans felt betrayed. Porzingis was the Porzingod when he first came to New York, the anointed savior of the franchise who would return it to the promised land (read: playoffs).Porzingis put up numbers and made an All-Star team, but injuries slowed him, and eventually his relationship with then team president Phil Jackson soured to the point KP blew off an exit interview at the end of the season. A new Knicks front office — president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry, and coach David Fizdale — could not salvage things. Even while out recovering from a torn ACL, the relationship worsened to the point Porzingis and his agent/brother went into Mills’ office and demanded a trade (something the Knicks had privately already been working on). The next day he was sent to Dallas and the Knicks scapegoated him as not wanting to be there.

Knicks fans started in on KP the lay-up lines pregame, and “KP Sucks” chants broke out all night.

However, the ultimate revenge came via Marcus Morris, who drained what proved to be the game-winner with this stepback three (New York won 106-103).

Porzingis finished the night with 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting, plus 11 rebounds. Good but not eye-popping numbers, still better than most of his games to start the season. After 20 months off, Porzingis is still shaking off the rust, and getting used to playing next to Luke Doncic (who had a triple-double of 33 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds).

Now this is behind him, and Porzingis can focus on getting his groove back and becoming the All-Star next to Doncic that the Mavericks need — and that would be his ultimate revenge on New York.

3) Paul George scores 33 in debut for Clippers, but Los Angeles still falls to New Orleans. Paul George is smooth — despite missing all of training camp and the first 10 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgeries (plural), he looked fluid in his return to the court Thursday.

And he scored 33 points.

The rust was there. George had defensive miscommunications with teammates and got himself in foul trouble. Also, his handle is not all the way back yet (Jrue Holiday stripped him three times at the end of the game). George needs time on the court.

“That’s the best my shoulders have felt in a really long time, so I knew coming into tonight shooting wouldn’t be a problem,” George added. “Just playing basketball is what I’m lacking right now.”

Holiday was brilliant with 36 points leading the Pelicans to a 132-127 victory. Derrick Favors had a 20/20 game, and Frank Jackson added 23 points off the bench.

Saturday night against Atlanta the Clippers are expected to have George and Kawhi Leonard on the court together. Then we get to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational Death Star.

Paul George scores 33 in Clippers debut, but it’s not enough to beat Pelicans

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Paul George expected to shoot well in his Clippers’ debut because his surgically repaired shoulders felt great.

It was the rest of his game – from ball handling to defense — that concerned him.

Jrue Holiday scored 36 points and stole the ball from George three times in the final minutes to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 132-127 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night.

“I thought I was terrible,” said George, who was limited to 24 minutes by early foul trouble but still scored 33 points.

“That’s the best my shoulders have felt in a really long time, so I knew coming into tonight shooting wouldn’t be a problem,” George added. “Just playing basketball is what I’m lacking right now.”

George was playing for the first time since signing as a free agent with the Clippers because he’d been recovering from procedures in May on his right shoulder and June on his left.

“A lot of breakdowns happened because of my lack of being out there with those guys,” George said. “I’m here to win games and I didn’t get a win. … We had a chance to win tonight and a couple bad possessions in a row that we have down the stretch and we lose. That’s what I gauge good games and bad games on.”

Holiday, who had six steals in all, intercepted of Lou Williams‘ attempted bounce pass in the final seconds to seal the victory. The play capped off a night in which Holiday scored 12 in the final 4:20, including a pair of pivotal 3s.

“It felt good,: said Holiday, who hadn’t scored as many as 20 points in any of his previous eight games. It’s all about timing and rhythm. I felt like I got a little bit of that back tonight.”

Derrick Favors, in his first season with New Orleans, had 20 points and a career-best 20 rebounds in the first 20-20 game of his 10-year career.

“I’m starting to get comfortable now and just try to keep it going throughout the year,” Favors said. “It was a great game for me, a great game for the team, and we came out and played hard, but we just have to stay consistent.”

Frank Jackson added 23 points in a reserve role.

The Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, who was being rested for the third time this season to ease stress on his sore knee after playing a night earlier in a loss at Houston. But the Pelicans were hardly sympathetic with starters Brandon Ingram (right knee) and Lonzo Ball (groin) sidelined, as well.

George’s 3 cut the Pelicans’ lead to 126-123 with 42 seconds left. But the Clippers left Jackson unguarded on the perimeter on the other end, and he took his time squaring up and connecting on his fourth 3 of the game to restore New Orleans’ six-point lead with 30 seconds left.

J.J. Reddick, who started and scored 19, hit two free throws with 11.4 seconds left to help wrap up just New Orleans’ third victory in 11 games this season.

Williams scored 31 points and Rodney McGruder 20 for the Clippers, who’ve dropped two straight.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s going on with the Knicks? Plus, we answer your questions.

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The big question with the Knicks: WTF?

On an entire podcast based around questions — mostly questions from you, our readers and listeners, on a range of NBA topics — we had to start with that one about the Knicks.

Tommy Beer from Forbes Magazine and NBC Sports Rotoworld joins me to talk what has gone wrong with the Knicks this season, where they go from here, and just how worried David Fizdale should be about his job.

From there we talk Kyrie Irving and the Nets, Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks, Kawhi Leonard and load management, and where the Celtics need to go to get a big man. Plus much more.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Russell Westbrook on Patrick Beverley: ‘He don’t guard nobody, man. He just running around doing nothing’

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley have a history.

After his Rockets beat Beverley’s Clippers last night, Westbrook fanned the flames.

Mark Berman of FOX 26:

Westbrook ripping someone else for phony defensive effort? That’s rich. Westbrook is the king of that style.

Beverley is one of the NBA’s best defensive guards. Sure, he has antics. But there’s an underlying effectiveness behind all his bark.

James Harden scoring 47 points hardly disproves Beverley’s defensive ability. Harden’s output by defender:

  • Beverley: 4 points on 1-of-9 shooting
  • Other: 43 points on 11-of-17 shooting

Three Things to Know: Trash-talking Rockets get 47 from James Harden, beat Clippers

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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) Trash-talking Rockets get 47 from James Harden, beat Clippers. Dear basketball gods: Can you please arrange a Clippers vs. Rockets playoff series? We’d all appreciate that down here. Thanks.

There are no statement games in November, but after the Rockets 102-93 win against the Clippers Wednesday a lot of statements were being made. An intense, emotional game led to a lot of trash talk on the court that spilled over into the locker rooms afterward. These teams do not like each other — and that makes it fun. The basketball gods need to give us more of this.

Everyone was getting in on the act.

Russell Westbrook trash-talked Patrick Beverley’s defense.

Let’s put aside the irony of Westbrook calling out another players’ defensive effort for a second, he’s just wrong. It’s just not factually accurate. Beverley is a good defender and ESPN’s stats guys have the proof

The best trash-talking of the night came from Austin Rivers.

The younger Rivers should forever be grateful to his Dad for that oversized three-year, $35 million contract, but when Doc Rivers got into it with the officials, the younger Rivers urged quick-trigger Tony Brothers to go over and toss his dad out. And Brothers did. That’s when Austin waved off his dad and made the call-me gesture

(Just for the record, Doc had a point. After a failed attempt to call a challenge — Rivers took longer than 30 seconds to do so — he said two referees told him the Clippers had two timeouts. After he used one, Rivers was told that was his last one. If the officials indeed screwed up his timeouts, he should have been pissed.)

There was basketball, too — and James Harden was better at it than anybody.

Harden’s 47 pushed his per-game average over his last five to 41.6 per game. More importantly, he got his buckets when his teams needed them — he scored 17 points in the final six minutes (and did it against Kawhi Leonard and Beverley). Even with elite defenders to match up the Clippers started throwing double-teams at Harden, it just didn’t matter.

Thanks to Harden, the Rockets executed down the stretch. The Clippers did not. Los Angeles’ first half was sloppy and listless, their worst half of the season. They missed bunnies and open threes all night. Los Angeles climbed back with a good third and led at 83-80, but the Clippers offensive execution and shot selection down the stretch was poor.

Leonard finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists, but P.J. Tucker did an excellent job keeping him in check — Leonard 4-of-10 for 10 points with Tucker as the primary defender, according to the NBA.com matchup data.

If these teams meet in the playoffs next spring, this November meeting will be ancient history. Both teams will have evolved and be different by then (the Clippers will be different on Thursday night in New Orleans when they get Paul George back). However, the tone was set. And we want more of it.

2) Ja Morant does not play like a rookie, hits game-winner against Hornets. Sure, Ja Morant brings some freakish athleticism to the point guard position in Memphis. But what is really impressive is the poise he brings — he does not look like a rookie coming out of a small college.

He looks like a beast who can hit game-winners – which he did against Charlotte.

Morant finished with 23 points and 11 assists.

He did all that in 30 minutes — the Grizzlies wisely continue to manage his workload this season, limiting him to 30 minutes a game (with some nights off). This is absolutely the right thing to do. When we talk about the science of “load management” what we’re talking about is the cumulative impacts of numerous seasons of running up and down a hardwood floor — starting in AAU/High School and running up to the NBA — and how that wears a body down and leads to injury.

Ja Morant is getting plenty of minutes, plenty of chances to learn and make mistakes, and he is closing out games (obviously). But he’s still thin and his body’s still adapting to the grind of the NBA. If you have a franchise cornerstone player — and the Grizzlies believe they have one in Morant — why wouldn’t you take steps early to lengthen his career and effectiveness? Why would you ramp up the miles on his odometer during a 24-win season? The Grizzlies are making the right long-term play (especially after watching their prized rookie from a season ago, Jaren Jackson Jr., have to miss the end of the season with an injury).

3) Is Orlando interested in DeMar DeRozan? Makes sense. Are the Spurs going to trade him is another question. An interesting early-season trade rumor popped up via our friend Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer:

The Orlando Magic have interest in trading for the Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan.

For Orlando, this makes a lot of sense. The Magic’s offense has been dreadful this season, scoring less than a point per possession so far. They need a guy who can get buckets, and DeRozan can do that. From the midrange, sure, but the guy scores efficiently and raises the floor of your team —get DeRozan the rock and your team will have a respectable offense. Orlando needs that.

The question becomes, what do the Spurs want to do? Good luck with that one. DeRozan can opt out of the $27.7 million he is owed next season and become a free agent next July, and the Spurs talks with DeRozan about an extension went nowhere. Conventional wisdom in that kind of situation is to trade the player and at least get something for him before he walks. The Spurs, however, do not follow conventional wisdom. The Spurs are going to be a fringe playoff team in the West and may want to keep the band together and make a push for the postseason. Maybe they want to start rebuilding around a young backcourt of Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White, but would they really trade DeRozan to jump start that? Maybe. Maybe not.

Just consider this the start of what will be a lot of trade rumors this season — with a very down free agent class next summer, teams will be turning to trades to upgrade their rosters.