HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just so we are absolutely clear, there is nothing wrong with Kobe Bryant‘s knee.
He wishes people would leave him alone about it. And so do we.
After what we saw from Kobe (17th career triple double) and the Lakers in a win over the Kings in Sacramento on Wednesday night, no one should question the readiness of that crew to grind through this season.
Back to Wednesday night’s 12-game slate of games … there was a lot more drama and action than what we saw on the court. From coast to coast. And the hideout crew didn’t miss a thing.
The only question is Did You See What We Saw?
Looking good: It’s someone different every night carrying the 5-0 Hawks. Josh Smith did the honors in this win over the Pistons, helping the Hawks overcome their own lethargy to send the Pistons to a fifth straight defeat. Smith’s 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks led five Hawks in double figures.
Sound the Alarm: Pistons coach John Kuester blasted his team’s lack of leadership Tuesday night. Wednesday night he called on Rodney Stuckey twice early in the third quarter and was ignored by his point guard. Kuester benched him for the rest of the night and then cut off a postgame media session after one question. Did we mention the Pistons are off to their worst start since the 1980-81 season? Drama.
HT’s Take: While the Hawks are adjusting well to their new head coach (Larry Drew), it’s clear there is something amiss in that Pistons’ locker room. Charlie Villanueva‘s Twitter spat with Kevin Garnett was old news by the time the Pistons exited Philips Arena. This was clearly a snapshot of two teams headed in totally opposite directions.
Looking good: D.J. Augustin’s free throws with 30.9 seconds to play provided the winning points but it was Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw that did the heavy lifting to finally get the Bobcats a mark in the win column. Larry Brown still wasn’t particularly impressed with his team’s sloppiness, but we’re sure he’ll take the win.
Sound the Alarm: Stephen Jackson‘s a shadow of the force he was for the Bobcats last season, when he averaged 21.1 points and spearheaded the first playoff run in Bobcats history. His minutes and rebounding numbers are down but his scoring dip (14.8 so far this season) is the most dramatic dip in his performance. Something’s amiss.
HT’s Take: Even in defeat we continue to like what we see from the Nets. Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are grinding through the tough times, playing through the pain of injuries and keeping this team in every game. Rookie forward Derrick Favors is making it hard to ignore him with the way he works on both ends, and above the rim. Avery Johnson‘s fingerprints are all over this team.
PHILADELPHIA 101, INDIANA 75 (Prime Minister Special Report)
Looking good: Two things that surprised in this one for the Sixers. First, they got a big lead (26 points at halftime) and kept control of the game from there, something Philly has struggled with all season as our man Andy Jasner points out here. Second, Elton Brand went for 25 points and 12 boards in 42 minutes … stats not surprising in and of themselves, but moreso when you consider this was just the seventh time he had 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in a game in his three seasons as a Sixer.
Sound the Alarm: Not to incite undue Hideout panic, we are a little concerned about Doug Collins‘ well-being after he suffered dizzy spells related to vertigo at halftime. He said after the game that he’s “all good,” but also said that as the team headed to the locker room for halftime, he had to hold on to assistant coach Michael Curry so he wouldn’t fall over.
HT’s Take: After looking so sharp three nights ago in their home win over the Sixers, the Pacers looked stuck in the mud. There were plenty of missed shots (Indy shot 31.5 percent), the stars disappeared (Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison all struggled) and Indiana rarely seemed to let its offense run a play before someone jacked up a shot. Jim O’Brien summed it up best: “”Sometimes you’re the pounder; sometimes you’re the poundee,” O’Brien told the Indianapolis Star. “We were the poundee tonight.”
ORLANDO 128, MINNESOTA 86 (PMSR)
Looking good: Orlando’s 78 first-half points against Minnesota were better than an entire night of offense from the Indiana Pacers (who managed only 75 points), and the Magic’s outburst set a franchise record for points in a half. The usual suspects did the damage for Orlando, but there was plenty of help off the bench with some particularly strong play by Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat in the paint that overpowered the Wolves.
Sound the Alarm: Though this game was a blowout early, the Wolves have some work to do on defense. They’ve given up 105 points or more in four of their five games and haven’t been able to keep up with up-tempo teams like the Magic or Heat. Every player on the Wolves but one — Maurice Ager — is averaging at least 10 minutes a game, but no one is averaging 30 minutes a game. There might be too many guys playing.
HT’s Take: What helped Orlando more last night, having an extra day off thanks to their Tuesday night game in New York being postponed or simply having the Wolves come to town? Hard to tell in this one. The Magic’s reshuffled depth chart — namely giving more minutes to Bass, Chris Duhon and J.J. Redick — seems to be paying off.
Looking good: Rajon Rondo is just showing off now. Another 15 assists to go with his 17 points. But Paul Pierce stole the show on this night, reaching the 20,000-point plateau and then outscoring the Bucks all by his lonesome in overtime to help the Celtics claim the victory.
Sound the Alarm: Kevin Garnett’s elbow shuffle with Andrew Bogut (who led six Bucks in double figures with 21 points to go with his 13 rebounds) was his latest dust-up with an opponent this week. He claims he didn’t say what Charlie Villanueva Tweeted he said, but it doesn’t really matter at this point. Garnett’s “tough guy” reputation is bordering on silliness at this stage of his career.
HT’s Take: We’ve been forced to dine on a little crow where the Bucks are concerned. So far they have not lived up to the lofty expectations we and many other placed on them heading into this season. Fear the Deer? Not right now. They’ve still got that deer in the headlights look right now. But we’re a patient people. We can wait a little longer.
Looking good: So this is what we all get for doubting Chris Paul? He’s not only playing like an All-Star and the best point guard in the league, he’s back to playing like the MVP candidate he was as recently as three years ago. It’s early still, and we still don’t know what to make of his supporting cast. But Paul is back to his old self, which spells trouble for about 29 other point guards around the league.
Sound the Alarm: We heard all summer from Rockets fans that were outraged that we didn’t rank them higher on the Western Conference totem pole. What were we thinking, so many of you asked? We were thinking that the same team we saw last year, even with Yao Ming playing limited minutes, would struggle to become an upper-tier team in the league. And we’re sticking to that theory.
HT’s Take: The Hornets have been searching for years for a quality running mate for Paul and seem to have found a most unlikely fit in Marco Belinelli, who is having a splendid time working off of Paul on the wing. Clearly we underestimated what general manager Dell Demps and Monty Williams have going on in the Big Easy.
Looking good: This was easily the best game of the night (hope you saw it) and came complete with superstars playing up to their reputations and a thrilling finish that was decided at the buzzer. Dirk Nowitzki was magnificent for the Mavericks, finishing with 35 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony went for 20 and 15 but couldn’t avoid the sour ending when his 22-footer with 2.1 seconds left missed the mark.
Sound the Alarm: The Nuggets need someone tall to get healthy, as soon as humanly possible. They didn’t have a single rotation player taller than 6-foot-9 available to defend against the Mavericks, who can play Nowitzki anywhere on the floor (and they love getting him in mismatches with undersized wing players and guards).
HT’s Take: For a team that was supposed to be ravaged by turmoil surrounding Anthony’s status, the Nuggets have managed to play without that having a negative impact. Credit Anthony for doing his work without fail, for being the ultimate professional. But you also have to credit George Karl for keeping his crew on track.
UTAH 125, TORONTO 108 (PMSR)
Looking good: Utah’s offensive disharmony we brought up in this space last week? You might wanna forget that. The Jazz looked like their old flex offense-running selves, with Deron Williams dicing up Toronto with seemingly little-to-no effort at times. Paul Millsap is settling in as a stabilizing force in the offense until Al Jefferson gets everything under his belt, but both big men ran roughshod over the Raptors.
Sound the Alarm: Is Gordon Hayward disappearing from the Jazz rotation? The rookie didn’t do much stats-wise (no points, two boards in eight minutes) and C.J. Miles‘ big night from deep didn’t exactly give coach Jerry Sloan a reason to play Hayward more. Might have just been due to matchups, but the Jazz went with a dual point guard lineup of Ronnie Price and Earl Watson often and used Miles — not Hayward — as the No. 1 backup for Andrei Kirilenko.
HT’s Take: This win, plus Sunday’s over the Thunder in OKC, gives the Jazz two wins earned in impressive fashion. Might they be back in the West race before we know it? D-Will and Jefferson seem to be working out the kinks on offense, with Jefferson becoming more confident in his teammates and being more decisive in the low post. The Jazz also gave a how-to video on keeping Reggie Evans off the glass by making a point to box him out securely on each shot.
Looking good: You laughed at Richard Jefferson. You thought he was crazy. Foolish you. Jefferson’s doing all the laughing now. He’s playing out of his mind. He nailed a huge 3-pointer and two free throws late to lift the Spurs past the Suns in a fantastic game on both ends of the floor. Jefferson’s averaging 20 points on 65 percent shooting this season. How hilariously crazy is that?
Sound the Alarm: Anyone seen Hedo Turkoglu yet? We knew he was not going to replace Amar’e Stoudemire, but 8.5 points, 4 rebounds and 37 percent shooting is ridiculous. The Suns gambled that his ugly season in Toronto was just a glitch in Hedo’s matrix. Maybe … maybe not. But it’s clear that Hakim Warrick, not Turkoglu, is the the most valuable new addition to these Suns.
HT’s Take: It’s strange seeing the Spurs cast in this role as the aging underdogs. They’re still a formidable bunch and as deep as any other team behind the Lakers in the standings right now. And you know Gregg Popovich is relishing the opportunity to fly under the radar for at least another month while he gets everything in order. Beware of the old Spurs. Beware!
Looking good: Good for you Dorell Wright. Yet another castoff by the Miami Heat from last season, Wright has found a perfect fit for his game with the Warriors. He carried the Warriors early and finished with 25 points, courtesy of a career-high seven 3-pointers. Wright’s always been a fave here at the hideout, so it’s good to see him thrive in a new setting.
Sound the Alarm: If our Grizzlies can get anything out of the bench, anything at all on a night like this, they’re in a position to win. Rudy Gay is putting in work and Mike Conley‘s production is as good as it’s been. But there’s still something missing. Playing for an extended period without Zach Randolph doesn’t help, making life much tougher on Gay and Marc Gasol.
HT’s Take: Monta Ellis launched an all-out assault for the scoring title on opening night and hasn’t let up. He nearly managed a triple double in the win over HT’s Grizzlies. What’s really going to be interesting is if he can keep up his current pace (league-best 30 per night) for the duration of the season. The Warriors might need him to do just that if they want to stay competitive in the Western Conference.
Looking good: Clipper Darrell announced before Wednesday’s game that he would lose his trademark suit as a boycott to his team’s early season performance. Thanks to Eric Gordon’s breakout night (27 points), the work of Blake Griffin and Ryan Gomes up front and a woeful 6-for-24 shooting performance from Kevin Durant our guy Clipper Darrell can put his clothes back on.
Sound the Alarm: Now that the Clippers have finally won a game, you can turn the alarm off. The whole Baron Davis drama will rage on after Eric Bledsoe‘s 17-point, eight assist effort against Russell Westbrook. The Clippers don’t have much room for error, so they need all their main pieces in sync to get things straightened out.
HT’s Take: The Thunder have shown signs of weakness, particularly when their backcourt reserves don’t get into a good flow. James Harden and Eric Maynor combined for four points against the Clippers. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Looking good: You expect these sorts of things out of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But Lamar Odom is as big a reason as anyone that that the Lakers are a perfect 5-0. There is no reasonable explanation for Odom getting better with age like this, so Lakers fans shouldn’t bother trying to analyze it. Just sit back and enjoy this time before Odom moves back to the bench for Andrew Bynum‘s return.
Sound the Alarm: DeMarcus Cousins thought he left school early. Then he woke up this morning and realized he’s got work to do in Big Man 101. That’s what happens after you get worked over by Odom, Gasol, Ron Artest and the rest of the Lakers’ frontcourt rotation. He was hunched over at the foul line breathing heavily at one point late in the third quarter. He probably realizes now that being in good shape won’t cut it at this level. He’ll need to be in great shape.
HT’s Take: Back to Bynum and what the Lakers will do once he returns from injury: Does it make sense for them to bring Bynum off the bench and allow Odom to continue in his current role? We’ll be ready to argue for that scenario whenever Bynum returns, because Odom’s in a zone right now that could make this season for the Lakers, regardless of what happens with Bynum.