VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday’s action
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Steve Nash might be Steph Curry’s biggest fan — Steve Nash is an advisor with the Warriors and therefore has a point-blank view of one of the greatest shot artists of this generation, and maybe ever. That would be Steph Curry, who once again is proving that he belongs among the NBA’s elite shooters, both active and retired. Nash belongs in such company, too, and recently he discussed Curry with Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star:
Steve Nash wonders, in both senses of the word. He has spent some time around the Golden State Warriors this season as an instructor, but he hasn’t spent a lot of time with Stephen Curry. They’ve spoken, talked about a few things, on and off the court, but Nash doesn’t want there to be any mistake.
“I would cringe if I got any credit for what he’s doing,” says the two-time MVP, on the phone from Los Angeles.
But the Victoria, B.C. native watches Curry play and, like the rest of us, has difficulty finding words to describe what’s happening. Curry is doing more than lighting up highlight shows, animating Vines and laying waste to the NBA one year after winning a title and the MVP as a significantly lesser player. Curry is going places no basketball player has ever gone, and it almost looks inevitable.
“It looks easy, but the shots he takes are insane,” says Nash. “The speed, range, dexterity, going left, going right, leaning, fading. It feels like the possibilities are limitless. I feel like I could shoot the ball in as wide an array of ways as anybody, but he’s been able to do it with more range and more speed. It’s remarkable. It’s the evolution of the game. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody be able to do this.”
Curry comes to Toronto Saturday as a circus. The seventh-year point guard has become the best show in sports, the most joyful player since Magic Johnson, and it starts with his peerless ability to shoot the basketball. His own league record for three-pointers in a season is 286. That broke his own record, set two years ago, of 272. He is on pace for 418.
Just eight players have shot .500 from the field, .400 from three-point range, and .900 from the line in a season; Nash and Larry Bird did it twice. Curry is shooting .524/.459/.943 while taking more shots, harder shots, longer shots. He is letting three-pointers fly through closing subway doors, over flailing giants, from the outer reaches of the NBA galaxy. Sometimes he, or a teammate, is walking back before the ball lands. Basketball is, as much as any sport, an evolutionary game.
“It’s a leap,” says Nash. “When you take all factors in, even without the accuracy, just to be able to take those shots at an acceptable rate is itself an evolution. We’ve had a lot of gunslingers, a lot of volume shooters. but to take the shots he takes, even without the accuracy, is a revolution. And then, the accuracy: it’s remarkable.”
No. 2: Byron Scott heard about Kobe Bryant’s retirement in an unconventional way — You would think the first person, or among the first, to hear from Kobe Bryant about the star’s retirement would be the coach, and such was the case recently. But the way Kobe broke the news to Byron Scott was, well, probably an NBA first. Kobe and Scott go way back and their relationship is solid. Yet, did Kobe pull Scott aside in his office or after a practice or maybe on the team charter? not quite. We’ll let Baxter Holmes of ESPN tell all about it:
In an interview with ESPN on Friday, Scott revealed the details of that exchange, which he said occurred at the start of the third quarter of the Lakers’ 108-96 loss to the Trail Blazers on Saturday.
“I said, ‘KB, I played you 20 minutes in the first half. I’m going to cut those minutes down. I’ve got to cut them down,'” Scott said after his team’s morning shootaround ahead of their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. “He said, ‘That’s good, coach. That’s all right. I’m going to announce my retirement after the game.'”
Scott said he was stunned.
“I said, ‘What?!'” Scott recalled. “That was the shock part. I was in that state for the rest of the game. Even when I was watching him play [and] I was watching him running up and down, I’m going, ‘Did he just tell me [that]?'”
Scott said he had no idea Bryant was going to give him that news, much less at that time.
“I told him the next day, ‘You know you shocked the s— out of me when you told me that,'” Scott said. “He just started laughing. I said, ‘You really did.’ He said, ‘I know. I could see it on your face.'”
What was most striking to Scott was Bryant’s demeanor in the moment.
“It was so casual. It was kind of cool,” Scott said. “[As a] matter [of] fact, he said, ‘You’re the first to know.’ He said, ‘Coach, you’re the first to know that I’m going to announce my retirement.’
“He was at peace when he told me,” Scott added. “That’s the only thing I could say. During that game, when I was watching him and putting him [in the game] and taking him out, that’s the most relaxed and at peace that I’ve ever seen him.”
No. 3: Jason Kidd is starting to get concerned in Milwaukee — Admit it, you figured the Bucks would be lurking around the top 4 or 5 in the East right now, but they appear miles away at the moment, struggling during a season in which was designed for the young team to take the next step in its development. And maybe that happens soon. Just the same, coach Jason Kidd is concerned enough to lean more on his veterans and prod them for leadership, both on and off the court. Here is Ananth Pandian of CBS Sports on the issue:
After such a strong season, the Bucks were, seemingly, able to build on that success in the offseason by signing Greg Monroe to a long-term deal. Monroe had several suitors including big market teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks but he picked Milwaukee because he wanted to be part of the team’s burgeoning success.
However, the Bucks have started the season 7-12 and look nothing like a perennial playoff team. So what happened?
Well, Milwaukee was limited by injuries at the start of the season as Jabari Parker was still rehabbing from an ACL injury, O.J. Mayo was nursing a strained hamstring, John Henson was limited by an Achilles strain and Michael Carter-Williams had a sprained ankle. Monroe and Parker are also, at this point in their careers, liabilities on the defensive end contributing to Milwaukee’s status as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, giving up 102.8 points a game.
But perhaps the biggest issue for the Bucks, as head coach Jason Kidd repeatedly said at the team’s shootaround in San Antonio on Wednesday morning, is that Milwaukee is the second youngest team in the league and is still learning how to play together. With the Bucks overachieving last year, this may have gone overlooked, but this is an inexperienced team in many ways. Monroe, Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton are all under the age of 26 and, on average, have only been in the league for under three years.
Carter-Williams also joined the team at last season’s trade deadline and is still figuring out how to run the team from the point guard spot. The same can be said for Monroe, who is averaging roughly the same numbers (15.7 points and 9.4 rebounds) he was putting up in Detroit over the last couple of seasons but is now back to playing center, a role he wasn’t primarily playing with the Pistons.
“It takes time,” Kidd said when asked about Milwaukee’s early season struggles. “There is a process we have to go through, we are the second youngest team in the league and it’s going to take a little time. We have our good and bad but as long as we keep learning and understanding that it’s not easy to win in this league, no matter how good you are.”
The Bucks definitely had a bit of luck last year, surprising teams and playing with a tenacity that seems to be lacking now. The trade of Brandon Knight for Carter-Williams could be pointed at as one reason Milwaukee has taken a step back. But also last season Milwaukee had excellent veteran role players in Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley. In order to clear up the roster logjam, both players were traded in the offseason for second-round draft picks. In a separate earlier move, Milwaukee traded Ersan Ilyasova to clear up cap space to sign Monroe.
Now the only true veterans on the team are Mayo and Jerryd Bayless — who have each played eight seasons in the league. This has given Mayo and Bayless more responsibility on the team as Kidd is counting on both of them to help guide the young Bucks on and off the court.
“When you look at Bayless and Juice (Mayo),” Kidd said, “those guys have been in the league for a little bit and understand what we are trying to do. This is a situation where we are extremely young and we have to have our veterans be leaders and also be guys on the floor that the young guys can look at. They both are working at it. We ask them to do a lot and they’ve responded in a positive way. We are the second youngest team so our vets have to be responsible and also I think for them, they like this opportunity.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has suffered a setback to his back injury. Looks like he’ll return sometime in January at the earliest … Roy Hibbert‘s fortunes haven’t changed, just because he was traded from the Pacers to the Lakers … Look at the bright side, Sixers: Dario Saric is coming to the rescue, according to his father … Did Kobe Bryant come close to playing for the Bulls? … Zach LaVine is thrilled to get tutoring from his childhood hero, none other than Gary Payton.