Skiles separates his young guards

VIDEO: Oladipo’s 24 points lead the Magic over the Knicks on Wednesday.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton are 23 and 21 years old, respectively, both taken with top-10 picks in the Draft. They are, seemingly, the Orlando Magic’s backcourt of both the present and the future.

But early in his tenure as Magic coach, Scott Skiles has discovered that he can’t play the two guards together for too long. In Game 15 against the Knicks on Wednesday, Oladipo came off the bench, and the Magic were a better team as a result.

As you’d expect, the Magic rank as one of the league’s most improved defensive teams under Skiles, who has a history of transforming teams in that department. Orlando has allowed 4.7 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, jumping from 25th to 13th in defensive efficiency.

But Orlando has been bad both offensively and defensively with both Payton and Oladipo on the floor. They’ve been much better on both ends with one or the other on the bench.


Among 165 players who have attempted at least 100 shots this season, Oladipo (40.8 percent) ranks 152nd and Payton (37.5 percent) ranks 160th in effective field goal percentage. Not only are they both poor shooters from the outside, but they’ve been the two worst shooters in the restricted area among players who have taken at least 60 shots there.

Defensively, the Magic have forced a lot of turnovers with Oladipo and Payton on the floor together. But opponents have also shot better and more often from the restricted area.

Skiles made note of the defensive end of the floor when talking about the lineup change on Wednesday.

“It was not an easy decision and in some ways, it’s not even right,” Skiles said. “We’ve been preaching ‘Play better defense’ from the beginning and I’ve commented multiple times that Victor is our best defender, and oh, by the way, you’re out of the lineup. Victor is kind of a victim.”

The other three players on the floor have something to do with the defensive numbers,which could improve over time. But the Magic’s offensive issues with both guards on the floor is no surprise.

Oladipo and Payton actually were actually on the floor together more in Wednesday’s win over the Knicks (14.4 minutes) than they were in Monday’s loss in Cleveland (13.8 minutes). And the Magic scored 37 points in those 14.4 minutes, by far their best offensive output this season with the pair on the floor. Oladipo himself scored a season-high 24 points in his first game off the bench in more than a year. Payton recorded a season-high 11 assists.

If the Magic can sustain their new offensive success, they need to have a good showing on Friday (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV), when they host the worst defensive team in the league. The Milwaukee Bucks rank last in defensive efficiency and has allowed an incredible 119 points per 100 possessions in its last five games. Tougher tests for Orlando will come after that.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 27

VIDEO: Warriors star Stephen Curry sits down with TNT’s Rachel Nichols


Ambitious Warriors aiming for 33-0 | Kobe’s farewell tour bottoms out | Inside the Cavaliers’ players-only meeting

No. 1: Ambitious Warriors aiming for 33-0 — They’re not going to hide it. And that might be a good thing. The Golden State Warriors, as ambitious as any defending champion in recent memory, are on a historic pace right now. They’ve already taken care of the best record to start a season in NBA history (16-0 and counting heading into tonight’s game in Phoenix, 9:30 p.m. ET NBA TV). They want more. They want the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record for the longest winning streak in NBA history, the sterling 33-0 mark that has stood for decades. No sense in being bashful when you’re already on pace. Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group has the details:

To Stephen Curry, the longest winning streak in NBA history — 33 games for the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers — is something different.

The 16-0 Warriors might not have known much about the record they broke for the most consecutive wins to start the season until recently when they started to get closer. But as they play at Phoenix on Friday, the Warriors are embracing their next chase of history.

“We talk about 33,” Curry said in a conference call with international reporters. “I think I’ve probably talked about it more than anybody else on the team, just because I know about the history and just really how hard it is.

“We’ve had like two 16-game winning streaks the last two years, and those are pretty special feats. For us to have to double that output, I mean we’re going to play hard and hopefully close in on that record, but it won’t be a disappointing effort if we don’t get there. Because there are so many talented teams in this league and for us to just be playing at a high level right now, that’s what we’re worried about. And if we close in and get to 29, 30 games, we’ll talk about it a little bit more.”

The Warriors have won 20 straight regular-season games dating to last season. The 33-game Lakers streak is both the single-season record and one including streaks that cover multiple seasons.

“Yeah, they could do it,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said of the Warriors being the team to win 33 straight. “Because they’re good enough.

“It’s a very young league, and so they’ve managed to put together a team of extremely intelligent players and extremely versatile players and great shooters. And so I see no reason why they couldn’t continue to extend it.”

Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton had expressed concern after the Warriors reached 16 wins on Tuesday with a victory against the Lakers that with their place in the record books, the players might have a different intensity level and see their level of play go down.

Still, there are other records to threaten.

“Thirty-three is a special number,” Curry said. “So there’s obviously still milestones that we can continue to go after, but you go after them by how you approach each day.”


Reports: Sixers rookie Okafor in street fight

The 76ers battled the Celtics down to the wire Wednesday before dropping to 0-16 on the season and running their overall losing streak to a record-tying 26 in a row.

Now TMZ has posted a video they say is of Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor punching a man outside of a bar in Boston who had shouted “76ers suck:”

Okafor says he was being heckled from the moment he left the club and felt threatened because people swarmed him on the street.

He says he was with a teammate — who he wouldn’t name — and says someone got physical with the teammate … so Jahlil did what he felt he needed to do to protect himself and his friend.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman confirmed the story.

The Sixers released a statement on the incident.

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”


Scott won’t cut Kobe’s minutes

VIDEO: Byron Scott addresses media following Wednesday’s practice

The hole keeps getting deeper for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. But coach Byron Scott is intent on letting the 20-year veteran dig his own way out.

Even after a second 1-for-14 shooting effort of the season — the worst of his career — in the dismal 111-77 loss to the unbeaten Warriors the last time out, Scott told Baxter Holmes of that he does not plan to reduce Bryant’s minutes or his prominence in the lineup.

“I haven’t thought about reducing his role,” Scott said Wednesday at the team’s practice facility. “I think his role is pretty defined for us right now. So is his minutes.”

In spite of Kobe Bryant’s 1-for-14 shooting malaise in Tuesday’s rout by the Warriors, coach Byron Scott said Wednesday he hasn’t considered reducing the 37-year-old’s “pretty defined” role.

Bryant, 37, is struggling mightily in his 20th NBA season, during which he’s averaging more shots (a team-high 16.4 field goal attempts per game) than points (15.2). Bryant is second on the team in minutes (30.5) to Jordan Clarkson (30.8).

Scott said he doesn’t believe minutes are taking a toll on Bryant, whose past three seasons have all been cut short by injury.
“Maybe it is, but my opinion, watching him, I don’t think so,” Scott said.

Scott also said he’s not counseling Bryant.

“I’m letting him try to find it for himself,” Scott said. “He’s been doing this for a long time. I’m not so much worried about Kobe. I am concerned about his shooting percentage and shots so far, but so far as knowing him the way I’ve known him and how long he’s played in this league, I’m not worried about him finding it.”

LeBron, Cavs vent after latest road loss

VIDEO: LeBron James was none too pleased after Cleveland’s loss in Toronto

From staff reports

Even after falling in Toronto to the Raptors last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers still sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with an 11-4 mark. The troubling sign for them, though, has come on the road, where they are 3-4 and have lost three straight. After last night’s loss, Cavs star LeBron James questioned his team’s mental toughness and reports of a players-only meeting began to surface.’s Dave McMenamin reported the team did in fact have a players-only meeting while Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group did not report the same. Whatever happened after the game, this much is certain: there were some harsh truths doled out by James and some of his veteran teammates to the team’s younger players.

Here’s McMenamin’s report on the players-only meeting:

Following a 103-99 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers held a players-only meeting during which LeBron James and James Jones got on the team for its inconsistent play through the Cavs’ 11-4 start to the season, multiple sources told

The loss to Toronto marked Cleveland’s fourth defeat at the hands of an Eastern Conference opponent this season — all of them coming on the road — and left the Cavs’ vocal leaders questioning the team’s mental toughness, something that has been a bit of a recurring theme so far this year.

Cleveland was outscored 31-16 from 3:46 remaining in the third quarter until 2:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Toronto ran away with the game.

“It’s all mindset,” James said after the game, still visibly frustrated. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.”

Cavs coach David Blatt absolved his team of any fault after the game, citing the fact that the Cavs were missing four key rotation players in Kyrie Irving (left knee), Iman Shumpert (right wrist), Timofey Mozgov (right shoulder) and Matthew Dellavedova (left calf).

“I thought that we got tired for obvious reasons. Very short-handed. Thought our guys played hard and I thought we ran out of gas,” Blatt said. “I thought fatigue played a big part of that, I really did.”

James, however, rejected his coach’s softer stance.

When asked whether fatigue was a factor, James said, “No. It’s not an excuse.” When another reporter asked whether injuries were to blame, James repeated, “It’s not an excuse.”

With the conference improving around them, James and Jones, who already have delivered halftime speeches this season to turn around stagnant team efforts, are trying to instill a sense of urgency in the group.

“It’s indicative of how we’ve been playing all year,” Jones told “We haven’t been consistent. We haven’t been playing to the level of physicality and with the sense of urgency that we need to, that we set out to maintain.”

“For us, the season is about getting better,” Jones said. “It’s way too early in the season for us to even think that we’ve done anything or we’ve reached a level where we can’t continue to improve. So, we’re solid right now, but we have to get better. We’re not a team that’s chasing mediocrity. Being ‘solid’ isn’t good enough.”

And here’s Haynes’ report on the mood in the locker room after the loss to Toronto:

As soon as you entered the room, the mood was tense. There was a somber feeling of a squad that had just lost a playoff game. Players were visibly frustrated and shocked. Tristan Thompson’s head was tilted downward, as if he were ashamed of himself.

“It’s up to the bigs,” he said to “We’re playing too soft. Not tough enough. We have to step up.”

This would be the theme of the evening.

Kevin Love and Mo Williams were sitting at their locker stalls quiet, with puzzled expressions glued to their faces. LeBron James emerged from the shower with a nasty snarl. The reverberations of an unacceptable outcome was everywhere.

Before the media was granted postgame locker room access, the players addressed a lack of toughness, heart and defensive awareness displayed in the fourth quarter Wednesday. James and James Jones demanded more.

“It wasn’t a team meeting. It’s just another game,” Mo Williams said of the postgame team chat. “When you lose games, we just discuss things we could have done better and we need to do going forward. That was basically it.”

After James addressed the media, he walked over to Jones, Kevin Love, Williams and J.R. Smith and began breaking down their defensive shortcomings very animatedly. He wasn’t quiet about it. He was trying to get a message across. Jones subsequently joined in agreement. It soon became a group discussion in the middle of the locker room.

Bismack Biyombo‘s name was mentioned. He came up with six boards and six points in the final quarter. He had two uncontested dunks in the final minute and a half that eliminated any chance of the Cavaliers making a comeback. Toronto had six “and-1s” in the quarter.

Cleveland didn’t intimidate Toronto at all. When asked, Bismack didn’t mince words about their roughhouse nature.

“The most important thing is that we played tough,” Bismack told “Cleveland is a good team, but when they come in here, they feel like we are the tough ones and that’s what we want to accomplish as the definition of the Toronto Raptors.”


While players-only meetings haven’t been a harbinger of great things at other outposts this season (see: Sacramento and Houston), those were held in NBA cities where the squads are more or less failing to meet expectations. How the Cavs take this heart-to-heart talk may very well shape how their performance goes on the road (and beyond) as the rest of the 2015-16 season unfurls.

Jason Kidd ejected for slapping ball from referee

VIDEO: Bucks coach Jason Kidd’s ejection on Wednesday night.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd was ejected from Wednesday night’s game against the Kings and faces a likely discipline from the league, including the possibility of a suspension, after angrily slapping the ball out of the hands of a referee.

Kidd could be seen arguing with Zach Zarba and then, with a swing of his right arm, knocking the ball from Zarba with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter and the Bucks trailing 120-109 in Milwaukee. Kidd had to be restrained by players and assistant coaches before leaving the court.

The Kings won 129-113.

The incident comes two days after Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was fined $25,000 for what the league ruled was incidental contact in bumping referee Ben Taylor.


Hang Time Podcast (Episode 218) Featuring Marc J. Spears

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — They could go 82-0.

Haha, kidding … well, sort of.

At this point, it would be foolish to doubt those “lucky” Golden State Warriors, owners of the Larry O’Brien Trophy and as of this moment, the best start to a season in NBA history (16-0, at the expense of Kobe Bryant and the reeling Los Angeles Lakers, and counting). They won’t go undefeated, but it’ll be fun watching them chase whatever destiny awaits them this season. With the reigning KIA MVP Stephen Curry leading an ensemble cast, the Warriors are clearly on a mission this season.

Keep in mind, they are doing all of this with interim head coach, Luke Walton, filling in for Steve Kerr. And they are doing more than just winning games, they are demolishing the competition, in most instances, with a mix of their signature ball-movement, wicked shooting and relentless defensive work. It’s a beautiful thing to see, especially from a franchise that just a few years ago could only dream of this sort of success.

The Warriors went 40 years between titles, starving one of the most faithful fan bases in all of sports for decades. They are making up for lost time. And the good guess here is it won’t take another 40 years for the Warriors to see The Finals again.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, St. Louis born but Bay Area raised and now a Oakland resident, understands what’s going on with the Warriors better than anyone. He joins us to talk Warriors and much more on Episode 218 of The Hang Time Podcast.


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of, Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: The Warriors, on a historic run, come out to play every single night

Blogtable: Thoughts on Budenholzer’s fine?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season

VIDEOMike Budenholzer gets ejected from the Hawks’ game in Cleveland

> Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer was fined $25,000 for making contact with an official. Was this punishment too much, not enough, or just right?

Steve Aschburner, Not enough. When the established penalty for physical contact with a referee is suspension – from Gregg Popovich‘s one game for bumping Bob Delaney in 1993 to Jerry Sloan‘s seven games for a run-in with Courtney Kirkland in 2003 – it’s recklessly light to only ding Budenholzer’s paycheck. The Hawks coach might come across like straight-arrow Richie Cunningham from “Happy Days”, but on NBA sidelines he can become a fire-breathing, competitive madman same as his 29 colleagues. Mostly it’s a tough precedent for new NBA top cop Kiki Vandeweghe. What happens when it’s a player next time? Or when another coach does it with a little more force? Physical stuff with refs is a line that can’t be crossed, no matter how incidental or innocent it seems. We all remember Jason Kidd‘s accidental spilled soft drink on the sideline too. Uh huh.

Fran Blinebury, I’d say it was about right. The bump may have been unintentional, but the message has to be sent that no coach can be out on the court protesting to put himself in that position. Bud has apologized to referee Ben Taylor, so you move on.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Not nearly enough if there was an intentional bump, but enough if the contact was incidental. The NBA ruled it incidental. While not touching an official is normally a rule without blurry lines, and understandably so, players and coaches can make unintentional contact. People lose their balance or trip. Coaches do too.

Shaun Powell, The punishment was right, because he made contact, but he only got one technical. As for the big picture, coaches do take liberties with their spot on the floor. Far too often, they take a step or two onto the court to call a play or chastise a ref and are rarely punished. I love the old line by John Wooden: “Show me a coach who feels the need to stand and yell the whole game, and I’ll show you a team that’s not prepared.”

John Schuhmann, NBA.comJust right. Budenholzer has to be accountable for his actions, and there’s too much complaining about officiating in the league. The immediate ejection was the right call, but the bump wasn’t malicious enough that it deserved another game away from the bench.

Sekou Smith, Just right. Perhaps it will remind some of the coaches around the league that all the bellyaching in the world does not change anything and only serves to infuriate the officials, bore the true fans of the game and take away from the beauty of a night at an arena. The whole routine has long been the theater of the absurd, if you ask me. And if it a team (like the Clippers) is not careful, fair or not, they develop an identity as a bunch of whiners. I understand barking at an official now and then. And I know there are times when a coach earns a technical foul for the greater good. But going overboard, even inadvertently, is a waste of time and costs good money.

Ian Thomsen, It was far too little. This should be a no-go, don’t-even-think-about-it area. Referees are right to be concerned by the precedent.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogThe punishment was just. While I’m sure he would never say so publicly, my guess is that Coach Bud would probably privately concede that the collision was in at least some part born out of frustration. And I understand why: No other team has played as many games as the Hawks thus far. Commissioner Adam Silver may have managed to eliminate a lot of four games in five days stretches across the NBA schedule, but the Hawks have already had one four-in-five and are started their second four-in-five last night. The schedule will even out at some point, sure, but right now, even this early on, the Atlanta Hawks could use a break.

Blogtable: Can anything slow the Warriors?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season

VIDEOInside the NBA’s experts weigh in on Golden State’s 16-0 start

> With their historic 16-0 start, the Warriors’ have captivated the basketball world and have become one of the best early season storylines in memory. Guys, can anything slow this team down? And is there a downside to chasing records in November?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comInjuries can slow down any team, so unless we find out the Golden State trainer’s room actually is a cyborg workshop full of Silicon Valley elves, the Warriors are only one (you know who) or two injuries away from the same foibles and vulnerabilities as the other 29 teams. I also think we’re going to see frustrated opponents start to play them with unprecedented physical force as a way of knocking the league’s reigning darlings for a loop, if not off their game entirely. Downside to never taking nights off? I actually hope there isn’t one. The “rest” pendulum was swinging too far already, in my opinion, at the very real risk of making regular-season ticket buyers feel like chumps. I like seeing the champs put it out there every night, regardless of foe or city.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI think we can safely rule out complacency or the absence of the coach as potential pitfalls. The Warriors are not chasing records, just playing the game with talent, joy and crunch time ferocity that nobody else can match. The only thing that can slow the Warriors down before the playoffs is the big word nobody wants to mention — injury.

Scott Howard-Cooper, There is no downside to chasing records as long as a team does not over-extend itself to get there. And the Warriors are not. They need to dial down the minutes for Stephen Curry, but not by a lot. They’re not going crazy to win the championship of November. Can anyone slow this team down? Of course. There’s still forever to go before the playoffs, the only time that matters for teams at their level, and West challengers will be waiting. Golden State is the favorite of the moment and may have the same role in mid-April, but it’s impossible to imagine an easy road through the postseason.

Shaun Powell, The Warriors are the only contender that hasn’t played against the most formidable force in the NBA: injuries. Every time you mention how they’ve been blessed with great health, the Warriors recoil and take it as a slap to their ego, but it’s true. A significant injury, at this point, is the only thing that can trip them. As for chasing records early, it doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with getting their rest in springtime, should they clinch best-record.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey’re the best team in the league by a pretty wide margin and they will win at least 65 games. But there will be nights when they don’t have the energy and/or the focus. Heck, they should have lost to Brooklyn last week, but the Nets made a couple of late mental errors and missed a bunny at the buzzer in regulation. There’s no real downside to pushing for a record this early in the season. Most injuries that occur at this point can be recovered from in time for the playoffs, there are 66 more games to be used for rest days, and the champs have already built a three-game cushion in the loss column for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Sekou Smith, They will lose a game … at some point. But as far slowing them down, I don’t know who or what could other than the dreaded injury bug, which always serves as the great equalizer (just check with our friends in Oklahoma City). This is a team on a historic pace and I have no problem with them pushing it to the limit right now. I know there will be people lined up to pick them apart if they don’t finish this season in championship fashion, if they burn out in pursuit of 73 wins or whatever other lofty goals they pursue. But eternal greatness requires a bit of tunnel vision and relentless drive that doesn’t come along often. And to come from where the Warriors were as recently as four years ago is an astonishing rise. Don’t interrupt their groove. Not now!

Ian Thomsen, I’m probably not alone in guessing that the length of the regular season and the threat of injury will be their biggest obstacle. Can they maintain their focus and still peak at the right time months from now? Health will have everything to do with that answer. In the meantime, as they chase the record of the Bulls, ask whether the NBA was less competitive in the 1990s. In those terms I think Curry may have a tougher assignment than was faced by Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogTo me, the only thing that can slow down the Warriors is — and I really, really hate to say this out loud — is an injury to one of their key components. Right now they understand their system, the parts that they have, how it all fits together, and they know that if they stick to the system, they can beat anyone. They unlocked the blueprint that works uniquely with this roster, and there’s no downside, no problem, no issues. They are absolutely rolling right now. And it sure is fun to watch.

Blogtable: What are you thankful for at this point in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season

VIDEORookie Kristaps Porzingis has given Knicks fans something to be thankful for

> One month into the season, what are you seeing in the NBA that you’re most thankful for?

Steve Aschburner, I’m thankful that Charles Barkley still laughs loudest and longest at his own expense when his studio mates (and the rest of us) poke fun at him. I’m thankful that – in a league that can admirably come together for the likes of Lamar Odom and Flip Saunders – there still are guys like Draymond Green, Matt Barnes and Jimmy Butler who bring the “we don’t like them, they don’t like us” attitude that keeps game night from becoming one big ice-cream social. Mostly I’m thankful for current labor peace and the possibility that NBA commish Adam Silver and union chief Michele Roberts might nail down the next CBA in 2017 without games-lost rancor. Nothing would look sillier than two sides, used to divvying up a Large pizza, sharing an XXL and still fighting over the last piece.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDo you mean beside the Blogmaster? It’s easy to say I’m thankful for any night that I can turn on my TV and see the beauty, joy and sheer fun of the Warriors. On an individual basis, I’m thankful that we’re getting a chance to see Paul George pick up his career right where he left off prior to breaking his leg. He might be having the best season of his NBA career and that possibility had some serious doubt when crumbled to the floor in Las Vegas.

Scott Howard-Cooper, For long memories, so we can remember the previous Kobe Bryant, the old 76ers and the one and only Flip Saunders, the best memory of all. For the memories the established Warriors and the mostly un-established Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are creating. For Gregg Popovich’s long-term commitment to stick around the Spurs and USA Basketball. For still having Lamar Odom.

Shaun Powell, Personally? That LeBron James keeps avoiding injury, that Kevin Durant is back on the floor after a brief brush with the trainer’s table and Steph Curry’s ankle issues are far behind him. The game is only as healthy as its stars, and one month into the season, these three are upright. Also, the next generation is off to a decent start with Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, et al.

John Schuhmann, Paul George playing the best basketball of his life. Given what he’s been through, it doesn’t get any better than that. And holy cow, is he killing it.

Sekou Smith, Obviously, the Warriors make tuning into their games a Christmas present every night. But I’m most thankful for the bountiful rookie class. From the big cats, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, to the surprising Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson and, really, all over the place, these youngsters have impressed. That’s always a good sign, when the rookie crop comes in and has multiple players making an immediate impact wherever they are. It strengthens the overall talent base of the league and provides some fresh faces and storylines for us to focus on.

Ian Thomsen, For the competition and its ongoing unpredictability. Every season the NBA race becomes more wide open. The Warriors, as good as they are, will be facing many obstacles and threats over the next seven months.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI live in New York City, and for the last 15 years I’ve had to watch as the Knicks continually attempted to rebuild on the fly, constantly sacrificing their future to get incrementally better in the moment. Which didn’t work, and it didn’t feel like the turn around really started until Phil Jackson stripped the thing down to its bones and hung onto a lottery pick and drafted young Kristaps Porzingis. Now the “Porzilla” has stormed Gotham, and Knicks fans finally have what looks like a young superstar who can be a long-term pillar of the franchise. For once, it’s sorta nice not to have a turkey on Thanksgiving.