Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Durant’

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.

Kevin Durant to return tonight for Oklahoma City Thunder

VIDEO: Kevin Durant grabs his left hamstring vs. the Wizards two weeks ago

HANG TIME BIG CITY — After missing the last six games while recuperating from a hamstring injury, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is set to return tonight against the Utah Jazz (9 ET, League Pass), according to reports…

The Thunder were 6-3 when Durant strained his left hamstring in a game against his hometown Washington Wizards. Without Durant, the Thunder posted a 3-3 record, as Russell Westbrook averaged 32.7 points, 9.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game over that stretch.

Durant was averaging 28.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game when the injury occurred. The added offense will surely be helpful tonight against a stingy Jazz defense, which is ranked second in the NBA in points allowed per game, at 92.4 points per game.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 23

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 22

Kobe, Lakers stand in way of Warriors and history | Clippers in disarray after third straight loss | Forget Bradley comparison, Porzingis more like Pau and could be better | Warriors more than just 15-0, better than ever

No. 1: Kobe, Lakers stand in way of Warriors and history — The only thing standing in the way of the Golden State Warriors and a history-making triumph is Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors are hunting a 16-0 start, which would rank as the best season-opening sprint in NBA history, and need to whip the Lakers Tuesday at Oracle Arena to accomplish that feat. The Lakers’ dreadful 2-11 start would suggest that they are probably not the team capable of slowing down Stephen Curry and the machine that is the Warriors, but don’t tell Kobe, who suggested otherwise to Baxter Holmes of

“I’ve seen stranger things happen,” Bryant said Sunday after his team’s 107-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center here. “We’ve been playing like s—. We might go up there and we might play like gangbusters up there. You never know. ”

Lakers coach Byron Scott was asked for his thought on the matchup. He laughed.

“That’s my thought right now,” Scott said. “They’re the best team I’ve seen in the league and it’s not close … . They’re the best team I’ve seen in a while.”

With the Warriors chasing history, Scott said he expects the Warriors to be ready.

“They haven’t had a whole lot of lulls in any of the games that they’ve played,” Scott added. “When they do [have a lull], they’ve got so much confidence in the way they play and how they play that they don’t panic.

“You can be up by 23 [against the Warriors] and it doesn’t matter, especially if they’ve got two quarters left. It’s a difference if you’re up 23 with five or six minutes left; then you’ve probably got a great chance of winning that game. But if you give them 24 minutes left in the game, there’s not a whole lot of leads that are too big for them [to overcome].”

Scott admires the way the Warriors play, but he isn’t exactly looking forward to facing them.

“Basically I look at them as a fan, when I watch them play,” Scott said. “Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury Tuesday. I love watching them play because they do all the things we talk about. They share the ball. They play for one another. They play as a team.”


No. 2: Clippers in disarray after third straight loss — Losers of three games in a row and seven of their last nine, it’s easy to see why the Los Angeles Clippers are reeling right now. But things bottomed out after Sunday’s loss to Toronto at Staples Center, a game that saw the Clippers trail by as season-high 29 points and commit season-highs in turnovers (20) and personal fouls (30). And all of this came before Josh Smith‘s locker room meltdown and shouting match with an unspecified Clippers assistant coach. Simply put, the Clippers are in disarray right now and as Kevin Baxter of The Los Angeles Times points out, there no easy solutions in sight:

Just who yelled at whom and about what, no one would say.

“That’s for us in our locker room,” point guard Chris Paul said.

What’s obvious, though, is that when the shouting finished, the Clippers were right back where they had been when it started: in a deep funk for which they can’t find a solution.

“If we had pinpointed it, then it would be resolved,” said forward Blake Griffin, whose nine points were the fewest he has scored in a full game since 2013. “So I think we need to find that. Whether it’s playing harder, whether it’s having a sense of urgency, whatever the case may be, we need to find it.”

It wasn’t hard to identify the Clippers’ problem Sunday: It was a first half in which they fell behind by 29 points, their biggest deficit of the season. Griffin, the team’s leading scorer, had more fouls and turnovers (three of each) than he did points (zero) in the opening 24 minutes before the Clippers, who looked disorganized and bewildered, left the floor to a chorus of boos trailing, 63-34.

It was the team’s lowest-scoring half of the season, something for which Paul and Rivers shared blame.

“It starts with me,” said Paul, who saw his team outscored by 21 points during his 18 minutes on the court.

“This is on me,” countered Rivers. “Players, we have to put them in a better spot to perform better. And that’s my job.”


No. 3:Forget Bradley comparison; Porzingis more like Pau and could be better — The Kristaps Porzingis show takes its talents to South Beach tonight to face the Miami Heat (7:30 ET, NBA TV) and the New York Knicks’ prized rookie shows up with momentum on his side. He’s had a stellar start to his season and has quickly changed the narrative surrounding who and what he could become in the future. Knicks boss Phil Jackson uttered the name Shawn Bradley in comparison to Porzingis over the summer, a name that “KP” balked at immediately. After seeing the big fella in action this season, the chatter has shifted to a different international big man, Pau Gasol, who thrived in the triangle offense. Frank Isola of The New York Daily News explains:

Long before Phil Jackson compared Kristaps Porzingis to Shawn Bradley — which in retrospect may have been Phil playing one of his notorious mind games — the Knicks president admitted that Porzingis reminded him of Pau Gasol.

Of course, by the time Gasol helped the Lakers and Jackson win their last two NBA championships, the Spanish forward had already established himself as one of the league’s top players. Jackson coached a finished product. Jose Calderon, however, remembers Gasol as a skinny teenager when they first played together with Spain’s national team. Calderon also sees similarities but admits that right now, “Kristaps is better.”

“If I’m not mistaken it took Pau a little bit longer to get those big numbers,” Calderon added. “But also remember, Pau was the Rookie of the Year. Let’s see where we are at the end of the year. But this is a good start.”

Porzingis has been nothing short of a revelation. And it didn’t take long for him to produce one of the best all-around games for any rookie. In fact, it happened in Game 14 as the 7-foot-3 forward scored 24 points with 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots in Saturday’s win over the Houston Rockets. The last 20-year-old to put up comparable numbers was Shaquille O’Neal during the 1992-93 season.

Gasol was 21 when he broke into the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2001-02 season. By the fourth game of Gasol’s career, he scored 27 points against Phoenix and in his next game he scored 24 against the Clippers. Memphis, though, started that season by losing its first eight games. In his first 20 games, Gasol recorded four double-doubles.

Porzingis has six double-doubles through 14 games, including Tuesday’s 29-point, 11-rebound performance against Charlotte. Moreover, the Knicks have already won eight games.

“The surprise is he’s doing it right away,” Calderon said of Porzingis. “He’s been pretty consistent. That’s what surprises me the most; he’s putting up big numbers now. Nobody expected that.”


No. 4:Warriors more than just 15-0, better than ever — Chasing history is one thing. But doing so the way the Golden State Warriors are doing it, well it’s something more, much more. And their critics called their championship run last season “lucky.” It seems foolish to suggest anything of the sort given the way the Warriors are waxing the competition so far this season. The Warriors handled their business in Denver Sunday, showing off perhaps the greatest trait any defending champion can display in pursuit of an encore: they’ve simply forgotten how to lose. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group makes the case for a Warriors team that is better than ever:

The Warriors are too good — even better than last season.

Sounds crazy, huh? The champs taking a step forward. But it’s only a shocker to those who believe last season was some kind of miracle.

It wasn’t luck, but a prelude. The Warriors didn’t max out, they took the next step in a steady progression.

Why are the Warriors’ better? Because Stephen Curry is better, because Draymond Green is better, because Festus Ezeli is better, because the team’s chemistry and execution are better.

The reigning MVP doesn’t usually improve his game. But with Curry, it makes perfect sense.

He has made a habit of turning his game up a notch after the all-star break. The next step was to turn it up from the start of the season. And that’s what he’s done.

Curry averaged 23.8 points per game last season. This season, he’s up to 32.7 points per game — and that’s despite defenses focusing on him more than ever.

He has sculpted his body, honed his skills and developed his strengths. But there’s a cerebral part of the game Curry has been developing. His enhanced understanding of the game has him playing more to his unique strength: long-range shooting. Curry is taking 11.3 shots per game from behind the arc, up from 8.1 last season. Oh, and he’s making more of them: 4.9 per game, up from 3.6. Overall, his shooting has improved to 51.5 percent — absurd for someone who doesn’t stand under the basket.

And here’s a scary thought: “I can still get better,” Curry said last week.

Draymond Green is better. Getting a fat contract — $82 million for five years — didn’t make him fat. Not that anybody thought it would. Like Curry, Green has a work ethic that is off the charts.

Last year was Green’s first as a full-time starter. This year, he’s clearly more comfortable in his role and better at using his skill set, a benefit of experience.

Green improved his 3-point shooting. He’s making 43.9 percent from deep, making opponents really pay for double-teaming Curry. Green’s ball-handling is much improved, too. He pushes the tempo and regularly leads the fast break. He also leads the team in assists at 6.7 per game.

And he’s the key to one of the Warriors’ lesser-known lethal weapons: the small lineup. With the 6-foot-7 Green at center, and four perimeter players around him, the Warriors have five players on the court who can score and still defend.

The Warriors play together better.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Philadelphia 76ers are chasing a little history of their own, but not the good kind … Why in the world did LeBron James remove the Cleveland Cavaliers from participating in the pregame introductions? … Avery Bradley is coming off of the bench for the Boston Celtics and thriving in that rolePatrick Beverley is on the way back to the lineup for the Houston Rockets, who need all hands on deck if they want to turn things around under J.B. Bickerstaff … It hasn’t been easy, of course, but Alvin Gentry is trying to make the best of a great opportunity in New Orleans

Morning shootaround — Nov. 20

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 19


Rose a game-time decision vs. Warriors | Scott: Lakers’ offense ‘more settled’ with Kobe | The deep, shared bond of Westbrook and Durant | Embiid chats with Ilgauskas

No. 1: Rose a game-time decision vs. Warriors — If you’re not pumped about tonight’s Bulls-Warriors showdown in Oakland (10:30 ET, ESPN), you may not have a pulse. Undefeated and 13-0 Golden State squaring off against a Chicago team that, in its own right, has the look of a title contender, is enough to get most to tune in. Throw in a potential matchup between Warriors star (and reigning MVP) Stephen Curry and Bulls guard Derrick Rose and you’ve sold us on the game already. However, whether or not Rose actually plays tonight remains in doubt, writes Nick Friedell of

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose will be a game-time decision for Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) because of a sprained left ankle.

“He did a little bit,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after his team’s light Thursday practice. “He didn’t do anything on the floor. It was all just warm-up stuff. So it’s still too early to tell if he’ll be able to go [Friday].”

Rose initially sprained the ankle during the fourth quarter of Monday’s victory over the Indiana Pacers, and he sat out Wednesday’s win over the Phoenix Suns.

“He’s going to try [to play],” Hoiberg said. “There’s no doubt about it. He wants to be out there. He wants to play. But again, we’re going to be smart with it.”

Rose, who hit an overtime winner last year in Oakland, California, to deal the Warriors a rare home loss, is getting a little more movement in the ankle than he did Wednesday.

“He was moving around a little bit more today,” Hoiberg said. “Just doing some lateral slides, but not with a lot of speed right now. He’ll get probably two more treatments today and get a couple [Friday] and then we’ll see where he is.”

VIDEO: Derrick Rose reflects on some of his career game-winners in the NBA

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Morning shootaround — Nov. 19

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 18


Durant closing in on return | Nash lauds Curry’s play to date | Ainge: McHale has a ‘spot’ with Celtics

No. 1: Durant closing in on return to lineup — Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Kevin Durant hasn’t played in the last four games, but OKC has held down the fort pretty well in his absence. They are 2-2 in that stretch after last night’s win against the New Orleans Pelicans and may not have much longer to go until Durant returns to the fold. The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne has more:

Kevin Durant looks like he’s getting closer to making a return to the court with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A week after he was diagnosed with a left hamstring strain, Durant was seen after Thunder practice Wednesday taking some jump shots and showing more mobility than the last time we saw him on the practice court late last week. Last week, Durant was only seen taking a few set shots, but on Wednesday, he went through a series of drills with assistant coaches Monty Williams and Royal Ivey.

In addition to jumpers, Durant also went through a drill with Ivey and Williams in which he had to beat the double team while dribbling from halfcourt then pull up for a 3-pointer in transition. Williams and Ivey also did some light jogging with Durant the length of the court.

“I hadn’t really talked to anybody medically about him,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think he’s doing more than certainly he was a week ago. How close he is to being able to return, I’m not really sure; I haven’t been updated on that, but I know that he’s doing more physically just me watching and seeing what’s happened over the last week.”

The Thunder initially said last Wednesday that Durant would be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days following the MRI on his strained hamstring.

“Looking good,” Anthony Morrow said of Durant. “Looks like Kevin Durant.

“I think that our staff is doing a good job with him. He’s doing a great job of being patient. I’m glad to see him getting up shots, taking it one day at a time. One thing he’s doing is really staying in guys’ ear, even from the sideline when he’s out. To me, that’s a sign of growth and leadership. He’s doing that even more so than last year.”

Durant’s return could come in the next two games. The Thunder plays the New York Knicks on Friday and the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, both at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

VIDEO: Russell Westbrook discusses OKC’s win against New Orleans

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Blogtable: Best comeback story?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes 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: Fallout in Houston? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?

VIDEOPaul George puts in a monster effort in a loss to the Cavs

> The better comeback story so far this season: Kevin Durant, Paul George or Carmelo Anthony?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: PG13, by a mile. Not belittling KD’s or Melo’s surgeries/injuries, but we all witnessed that horrible night in Vegas in 2014 when Paul George’s leg snapped. It was gruesome. I know he played at the end of last season, but he didn’t look anything like the old, dominant player he’d been. Now he’s rounding back into form (it may or may not be coincidence that the Pacers have effectively ended the PG-at-four experiment, with C.J. Miles now the primary power forward). The Pacers are still playing small, but they got their best player playing where he’s most comfortable and effective. Good coaching, and good adjustments.

Steve Aschburner, Happy for all of them, but Paul George’s level of play has been nothing short of remarkable considering where we all were, emotionally and intellectually, on that August night in Las Vegas in 2014. Whatever, say, a guy like Jay Williams did with a motorcycle and a light pole to end his NBA career, it looked as if George had done against that basket stanchion, splintering his leg in two place. The initial sense was, he’d never play again. And even when the doctors said he would, a lot of us wondered how far back George really would get. Looks now to be all the way and beyond.

Fran Blinebury, They’re all good stories, but I’m gonna go with Paul George here, just because of the horrendous nature and degree of the injury that we all saw replayed dozens of times. He’s returned this season to a team that has been stripped down, rebuilt and is demonstrating that he wants to and can lead. No excuses from George, just results.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Paul George, but because he had farther to come back. He had six appearances last season, after also losing part of summer 2014. That’s a very long road to recovery, compared to Durant playing about a quarter of 2014-15 and Anthony half. On 2015-16 play along, though, it’s KD. He looks like Durant, the greatest compliment of all. Actually, considering that 3-point shot, he looks better in some ways. To look this good this soon is impressive even by his lofty standards.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comPaul George and it isn’t even close. ‘Melo and Durant are coming off injuries but never had their careers threatened by them. George saw his leg break in two. For him to re-elevate himself to a franchise-player level this quickly — or at all — that’s borderline amazing.

John Schuhmann, Paul George, because of the severity of the injury and because of the level that he’s playing at. Seeing Anthony and Durant playing as well as they have isn’t much of a surprise. George is playing better than he ever has before. When George put up 36 against the Heat and 32 against the Cavs earlier this month, it was only the second time in his career that he’d had 30-plus in two straight games. And that was part of an ongoing stretch where he’s averaging 28.9 over the last seven, shooting 51 percent from 3-point range. Anthony is 31 and Durant has already been an MVP. George is 25 and still on the rise.

Sekou Smith, Paul George, by far. He’s resumed the ways that made him one of the league’s most dynamic and intriguing players before he suffered that broken leg that cost him most of last season. He also had the toughest road back, considering the severity of his injury. And he totes a load on both ends that neither Durant nor Anthony does (defensively) for their respective teams. I know Durant is out right now with that sore hamstring, but it’s good to see all of them get back to normal, so to speak.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comHaving suffered the most frightening injury, Paul George has returned to find that his team has been rebuilt — essentially downsized — to suit his talents at both ends. The Pacers are looking like a solid playoff team because George’s comeback as both a go-to scorer and lockdown defender has been spectacular.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogWell, considering Kevin Durant is out right now, I’m eliminating him from consideration. Which leaves Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And while George has shown flashes of the elite athleticism that made him such a transcendent player on both ends, it doesn’t seemed to have regularly returned just yet, which is understandable. And while it may seem like I’m choosing Carmelo Anthony by default, I truly think he’s been very impactful this season for the Knicks. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about “The Zinger”, Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s had his moments, but the Knicks will only go as far as Anthony can take them, and when ‘Melo is playing like he’s played thus far this season — taking on double teams, knocking down jumpers, getting to the free throw line, hustling on the defensive end — this Knicks team could very well mess around and make the playoffs.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 17

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 16


Rockets a mess after latest loss | Shumpert could return by mid-December | Durant says hamstring feeling ‘way better’

No. 1: Rockets a mess after latest loss — After reaching the Western Conference finals a season ago, the Houston Rockets entered 2015-16 with hopes of a Finals run. Eleven games into the season, they sit at 4-7 after last night’s home loss to the Boston Celtics and are searching for any kind of answers. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene in Houston last night and has more on the state of the Rockets:

The Rockets are a team that won 56 games last season without ever losing more than two in a row. Now they’ve already had a three-game losing streak, followed by the current four-game skid and, even worse, they’re making a habit of getting blown out, perhaps giving up. The second half at Miami, the first half at home against Dallas, surrendering a 32-13 third quarter to the Celtics.

“I wouldn’t say full effort all the time, no,” said coach Kevin McHale. “We’re hanging our heads. Things aren’t going our way and we hang our head. We haven’t put together really good basketball all year long.”

Can anybody remember the last time a team that had advanced as far as the conference finals less than six months earlier, fell this far this fast without suffering a major injury to a key player?

Have Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Kostas Papanikolaou ever been missed so much by anyone outside their own families? Should the acclimation to new point guard Ty Lawson be quite so difficult?

The Rockets are not just 4-7 on the season, but 2-5 at home in the Toyota Center, where boos are becoming a regular part of the fan experience. Of those seven losses, five of them have come by margins of 20, 20, 20, 18 and 16.

In case anyone’s wondering, the winless Sixers come to town on Nov. 27.

“There’s negativity all around,” said Dwight Howard. “Out there, in here. We have to stay away from it. We have to be positive. That’s my job.”

It should be the job of Howard and James Harden as co-leaders, yet neither is truly comfortable in the role of fully shouldering the responsibility. Harden is nonpareil in his brilliance at the offensive end, but has fallen back into many of his old defensive shortcomings. Howard plays confidently and aggressively at defense and rebounding, but at no point in his career has he ever been a tall flagpole to rally around.

The criticism and the fingers have already pointed at Kevin McHale for his inability to pull the Rockets out of the ditch, though he’s changed lineups, tried different tactics, done virtually everything but consult a Ouija board. A year ago McHale guided a team that played without Howard for 41 games to the Southwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, then pushed them all the way into June.

Has this team suddenly tuned him out and, if so, why? McHale, who is in the first season of a new three-year contract, is the winningest coach by percentage in franchise history. In his four years in Houston, he’s established a reputation as a players’ coach, one that cajoles, relates, inspires and does not grab at the spotlight to bask. If he is being rolled under the bus by anyone inside the locker room, it would only be to cover up their own deficiencies.

The Rockets have fallen into the habit of letting one or two bad possessions snowball until it starts an avalanche. The Celtics fed off the on-court sniping and squabbling that resulted in a 34-point turnaround from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the third.

“I think every game that we’ve lost it’s been something like that where they go on these crazy runs,” Harden said. “It’s kind of hard to get out of them. I don’t know what the case is … but you have to fight through it. It’s pretty bad, but the good thing about it is it’s still early in the season.”

As for Lawson, Calvin Watkins of reports Lawson may soon be out of a starting job

VIDEO: Kevin McHale talks after Houston’s loss to Boston

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Morning shootaround — Nov. 16

VIDEO: The Fast Break: Nov. 15


Kobe to sit again with sore back and legs | LeBron rips Cavs | Marcus Smart stands up to Russell Westbrook and wins | Battle of the future … Davis vs Porzingis

No. 1: Kobe to sit again with sore back and legs — Father Time is winning his battle against Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar will sit for the third time in four games and miss today’s game against the Phoenix Suns to rest his aching body. Apparently 37 is not the new 27, as Baxter Holmes of writes:

“Right now, I’m barely standing up. My back and my legs, man, it’s killing me,” he said Sunday after playing a season-high 36 minutes in a 97-85 win over the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center.

Bryant, who is in his 20th season with the Lakers, finished with 17 points on an inefficient 6-of-19 shooting from the field. He added a game-high nine assists and eight rebounds.

“I’m not looking forward to walking to the car right now,” Bryant said. “Seriously.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott said he and Bryant agreed Bryant, whose past three seasons have been cut short by injury, would play the entire fourth quarter because the game was close.

“We needed this [win],” Scott said. “I just wanted him to go the rest of the game and see if he could get the [win].”

Bryant agreed with the approach.

“We hadn’t won one at home,” Bryant said. “To lose another one at home would be disastrous.”

Bryant said he was mildly concerned about playing too many minutes, given his injury history.

“But we talked about it … we had to push through,” Bryant said. “We had to get this one done and take a day tomorrow.”

The Lakers improved to 2-8 and avoided tying their worst 10-game start in franchise history, a mark they set last season.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks after the Lakers’ win over the Pistons


No. 2: LeBron rips Cavs — The words came from the mouth of the man running the show in Cleveland, so they should not be taken lightly. “We’re not a great team right now,” LeBron James said of his Cavaliers the day after  double-overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, it’s only their second loss of the season, their first since the season opener against Chicago. But if LeBron sees signs of slippage in his team, perhaps we should all listen. Joe Vardon of has more:

LeBron James is worried about the Cavaliers.

Or maybe he isn’t, maybe “worried” is too strong a word. Perhaps he’s challenging them. Or he’s using Saturday night as a teaching tool, an opportunity that has rarely presented itself in this young season because, for once, the Cavs lost.

Whatever the case, after Cleveland fell to the Milwaukee Bucks, 108-105 in double overtime, for its first loss since the season opener, James made one point very clear to the reporters whose attention he held around his locker afterwards:

“We’re not a great team right now.”

“I think we’re a good team. I think we expect we’re a great team, and we’re not,” James said, following his eye-popping 37-point, 12-rebound performance. “We have to get better in every facet of the game, and that’s every single facet of the game.”

It was just one loss. After eight consecutive wins. The Cavs equaled their best record (8-1) through nine games in team history. And they have injuries.

Isn’t this all a little, harsh?

“Records are meant to be broken, but that don’t mean you’re great,” James said. “It’s for us, we have to play a lot more sustainable effort throughout the 48 minutes. And we don’t do that.

“We give a half-ass effort sometimes and expect that we can just make a run at the end. We’re not good enough to do that right now.”


No. 3: Marcus Smart stands up to Russell Westbrook and wins — Has the NBA found a Russell Westbrook stopper in Marcus Smart? The Boston Celtics’ young guard certainly played that part Sunday in an impressive road win for his team over Westbrook and the Thunder, who are still playing without Kevin Durant (hamstring). It was a revealing performance from Smart, a defensive-minded competitor who was more than up to the challenge of dealing with one of the league’s most mercurial talents. Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman was impressed with Smart’s resolve:

Westbrook is always up for a mental macho game and usually prevails. Not Sunday night. Smart, picked sixth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, rarely has been tougher. He matched Westbrook’s physicality and intensity, and though no one can match Westbrook’s explosiveness, on this night, it didn’t matter.

Smart scored a career high 26 points, making nine of 14 shots to go with eight rebounds and three assists. Better yet was Smart’s defense — that’s his specialty, after all — which got plenty of help from Celtic teammates like Avery Bradley. Westbrook had 27 points, but he made just five of 20 shots, and his playmaking was minimal. None of Westbrook’s five assists came in the final 181/2 minutes, when a nine-point Thunder lead disintegrated.

Westbrook got to Smart early. Even drew a technical foul on Smart when Smart argued a call in which he wasn’t even involved. But Smart’s confidence grew the longer the game went.

“That’s the type of guy Russ is,” Smart said. “He loves challenges and he’s going to try to do his best every time. Vice versa with me. You put two guys like that going against each other, obviously you’re going to knock heads.

“Russ knows that and understands it. I know it. I love those type of challenges.”


No. 4: Battle of the future … Davis vs Porzingis? — Is it too soon for the Anthony Davis vs. Kristaps Porzingis comparisons? Probably, given that Davis is mentioned in MVP conversations and Porzingis is still working to complete his first full month in the league. But that won’t stop folks in New York from projecting a future involving the two. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News details their historic first matchup:

So what was biggest takeaway from getting outplayed by Anthony Davis? At least the Knicks won.

“He had a great game, but we got the win,” Porzingis said after New York snapped a two-game losing streak Sunday by beating the Pelicans, 95-87. “That’s the important thing.”

Davis, the next super-duper star in the NBA, was as good as advertised while matched head-to-head with Porzingis, finishing with 36 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in 40 minutes.

Davis had missed the previous two games with a bruised hip, but returned just in time to give a lesson that included a block on Porzingis’ running hook in the second quarter.

Porzingis, meanwhile, struggled offensively while missing 11 of his 15 shot attempts, scoring 10 points with four rebounds in 22 minutes. He did block one of Davis’ attempts.

“He’s one of the guys that I look up and try to learn the game from,” Porzingis said. “He proved once again why he’s so good. He just — all the baskets he got, he knows what he’s doing. He shoots at the right time. He’s running fast breaks. It’s hard to stop him, his all-around game. I try to be aggressive at the beginning. He came back to me. I think he’s the best power forward right now in the NBA. It’s tough for sure, but it was a good experience for me.

“It was a bad shooting game for me. I shot the ball bad,” Porzingis added. “There’s other things that I can do on the floor without trying to score every shot I take. On the defensive end, offensively, try to get my teammates open, little stuff like that. Coach sees that, not everybody sees that, but coach sees it.”

Davis left impressed with a future nemesis.

“Porzingis is a great player. He can shoot, he can drive and he is active,” the Pelicans forward said. “It is going to be fun battling him.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Lakers got the win but remain behind the Pistons in the rebuilding effort … The Knicks paid tribute to the victims of the attacks in Paris with their hair … Where are they now? Zan Tabak is coaching in Israel … The young Utah Jazz are doing their best to turn the corner so many predicted they would this season … All DeMarcus Cousins has done since the Kings aired their issues is dominate, on and off the floor … Derrick Rose could have double vision for months, per Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg

Morning shootaround — Nov. 11

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 10


MRI next for Durant | Davis’ status for next game unclear | Kings air grievances in meeting | Cuban still has Jordan texts

No. 1: MRI next for Durant in wake of hamstring injury — Kevin Durant‘s return to his hometown of Washington, D.C., was a newsworthy one as expected. But it wasn’t because of what Durant said about his looming free agency and the Wizards’ expected courting of him. Instead, it was notable because Durant logged only 16 minutes and 45 seconds of game time before a hamstring injury forced him out of the game. He finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in OKC’s 125-101 romp and afterward, addressed his injury. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more:

For the Thunder, this night went almost ideally.

Likely due to Durant’s recent comments about the “disrespectful” nature of cheering for an opponent, the Wizards crowd barely made a peep when he was announced pregame. There was even a ‘KD stay in OKC’ sign spotted in the lower bowl.

Then every time he touched the ball during the first half, light boos sprinkled down.

“They were?” Durant asked of the fan’s booing. “I don’t care.”

Led by KD’s quietly dominant 14 points and 10 first half rebounds and Russell Westbrook’s loud 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists before the break, OKC burst out to 68-50 halftime lead. The Thunder lead only widened from there.

OKC’s offense looked crisp. Dion Waiters popped 25 points off the bench. Westbrook finished with a 22-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in only 28 minutes. All 13 active Thunder players scored.

But the tenor of the game changed late in the first half.

On a slicing drive with 54 seconds left, Durant was fouled by Kris Humphries and landed a bit awkwardly on his left leg. He immediately grabbed his hamstring, grimacing and reaching for it the rest of the half.

Durant slowly went to the halftime locker room with Thunder trainers by his side. He didn’t return, icing and watching the Thunder blowout from the bowels of the Verizon Center with what the team deemed a left hamstring strain.

“I mean, I can walk,” Durant said postgame. “It’s just a little sore.”

KD is scheduled for an MRI back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Thunder doesn’t play again until Friday and that comes against the 0-7 Philadelphia 76ers at home. So there’s a window to get some rest.

But at this point, he doesn’t know how serious a strain it is. Durant said he’s never had one before.

“I don’t know (if I’ll miss time) right now,” Durant said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. Can’t hang my head. Just gotta work to get back. I’ve been here before.”

One of the toughest parts of this setback for Durant is it came right as he was hitting a stride. Against Phoenix on Sunday, KD went for 32 points in 32 minutes, adding 11 rebounds and a 12-of-19 shooting line. On Tuesday, he had a first half double-double in only 17 minutes.

VIDEO: Kevin Durant addresses his hamstring injury


No. 2: Davis’ status unknown after suffering hip injury — The good news for the New Orleans Pelicans last night was that they finally got their first win after an 0-6 start. The bad news was superstar Anthony Davis had to leave the game with a hip contusion. Injuries have played a big part in the Pelicans’ awful start to 2015-16 and they’re hoping Davis doesn’t join a lengthy list of wounded players that already includes Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole and others. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:

Despite ending a six-game losing streak to start the season by beating the Mavericks, 120-105, Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis suffered a right hip contusion injury in the second quarter that forced him out from playing in the second half.

While his teammates were in the locker room explaining how they got their much needed victory, Davis was going through a series of tests after the game to determine the exact extent of his injury, but X-rays came back negative.

The injury occurred in the second quarter after Davis took a knee to his hip area.

”I just know he had some problems and I don’t know if it is a groin or hamstring,” Gentry. ”But we’ll just have to wait and see. Nothing surprises us here.”

Gentry could not say after the game if Davis would be making the trip to Atlanta for Wednesday night’s game against the Hawks.

Now, there is a chance Davis could be joining an injury list that already includes guard Tyreke Evans, who underwent arthrscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right knee Oct. 20. There is no timetable on Evans’ return, but he was initially projected to miss six to eight weeks.

Backup point guard Norris Cole has been out since last month with a high left ankle sprain, and there is no timetable on his return. Small forward Quincy Pondexter continues to go through rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his left knee in May. He could return later this month, but no set date has been released yet. Veteran center Kendrick Perkins said last week that he will miss two-to-three months with a right pectoral injury.

Starting center Omer Asik, though, made his return against the Mavericks after missing three games with a sore right calf. Asik played 15 minutes and scored two points five rebounds. Point guard Jrue Holiday remains under a minute restriction and will miss Wednesday’s game against the Hawks because he has not been cleared yet to play in back-to-back games to avoid any problems from recurring with his surgically repaired lower right leg.

VIDEO: Alvin Gentry discusses Anthony Davis’ injury and the Pelicans’ first win


No. 3: Kings hold team meeting to air grievances — Sacramento Kings superstar DeMarcus Cousins hinted after Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs that the team needed to have a “players-only” meeting to try and right the ship after a 1-7 start. That apparently happened … and some other folks had meetings, too, in an effort to fix what’s ailing the Kings. According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, players, coaches and the front office all held meetings yesterday:

A meeting that was supposed to be just for the players became a group therapy session for Kings players, coaches and the front office Tuesday.

With Cousins missing four games because of injury, the players lacking trust in the system and coaches unhappy with the players’ effort and attitude, there’s already been enough tension to force everyone to gather around the figurative campfire and speak their minds.

“Guys and the coaching staff and the front office talked about how comfortable players are with plays, coaches with the attitudes and stuff like that,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said. “When you have a problem in the family, you address it, you talk about it. I was very pleased how we talked about it openly.”

The player-coach dynamic is most likely between Cousins and George Karl stemming from their feud in the summer.

But the Kings’ issues go deeper than Cousins and Karl. Multiple players are concerned about the defensive schemes. The Kings rank among the worst defensive teams through eight games.

The Kings are giving up 110.6 points per game, third most in the league. Opponents are shooting 49.3 percent, highest allowed in the league.

Conversely, coaches had reason to be upset with the effort on some nights. The Kings have started games sluggishly, and some defensive performances have looked lackadaisical at best. Karl even noted last week the Kings had “lazy” defensive possessions.

Then there is the lingering notion of players not being all-in with Karl and his style of play. For some players, like Cousins, their only measure of success as a pro came last season, when the team started 9-5 under Michael Malone before Cousins became sick. The Kings fell to 11-13, and Malone was fired.

Some players still yearn for Malone’s defensive-minded approach that led to last season’s good start. Perhaps the Kings need similar success under Karl (he’s 12-26 since taking over last season) to gain confidence in him, even as he experiments with lineups searching for the right mix.

“I never said they don’t like the system,” Divac said. “They just didn’t buy in, yet.”

Karl did not speak with reporters Tuesday, but said he would Wednesday morning following shootaround. That’s noteworthy considering home coaches are not required to do so per NBA media access rules.

Caron Butler was signed to be a leader in the locker room for situations like this. He’s known to speak his mind. He and swingman Omri Casspi were the only players to address reporters Tuesday.

Casspi said Cousins’ outspokenness Monday night was part of being a leader. While some might fear the bad start again could spark trade rumors of Cousins going to the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics, Cousins still has never asked to be dealt.

And he reached out to his teammates Monday night to remind them he’s committed to playing with them.

“(Cousins) was the one to send out a text to the players (Monday) night about how he cares about the team, wants to win and he feels like he has the right pieces here,” Casspi said. “So we’ve all got to step up.”


No. 4: Cuban says he kept all his texts with Jordan — The free-agency signing saga between the Dallas Mavericks and DeAndre Jordan was the story of the offseason and tonight (8 ET, ESPN), things come to a head of sorts as Jordan’s Los Angeles Clippers visit the Mavs. It’s the first time the center will play against the team he famously committed to (and then spurned) in free agency, a move Mavs owner Mark Cuban hasn’t forgotten about at all. The Los Angeles TimesBen Bolch, via Twitter, reports that Cuban still has all the texts he exchanged with Jordan from the big man’s reversal of field:


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees some Dirk Nowitzki-like skills in New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis … Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson says he should have rested his back more to start the seasonKevin Durant heard some boos from the Washington Wizards’ crowd last night … Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow is impressing the team’s veterans with his defense … Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Sasha Kaun once shared a dinner of ‘meat jello’ when both men were in Russia … Rookie R.J. Hunter is turning heads in Boston

ICYMI of the Night: Lakers rookie Marcelo Huertas submitted a potential #ShaqtinAFool play last night … 

VIDEO: Marcelo Huertas’ buzzer beater goes all wrong

… and we loved this strong finish here by Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker …

VIDEO: Trevor Booker dunks with authority against the Cavs

Thunder, Wizards do best to manage madness

VIDEO: Wizards, Thunder square off tonight in NBA TV’s Fan Night game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The chatter is inevitable.

And it won’t go away anytime soon.

Never mind the seasons to be played for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Washington Wizards, combatants tonight at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., ET for Fan Night on NBA TV).

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is making his final trip home to the nation’s capitol before he hits free agency in the summer, when the Wizards (and all other interested parties) will pursue one of the best players in the game.

But what could be a season-long distraction for both sides should be anything but, given the way Durant and the Wizards are handling things. Durant has made a point of not entertaining the subject as best he can, going so far as calling it “disrespectful” for Wizards fans to prioritize him or any other free agent over rooting for their own team, which has been a rising force in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons.

To their credit, the Wizards are doing the same. Bradley Beal agreed with Durant, telling The Washington Post:

“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” Beal said Monday. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”

Once the final buzzer sounds tonight, both teams can put this media circus aside for the foreseeable future and return to the business at hand. For the Thunder, that means attempting to return to their lofty status among the Western Conference elite. For the Wizards, they want to occupy a similar place in the Eastern Conference.

Barring a matchup in The Finals, the only time this particular storyline will be revisited before the summer is in the lead up to a Feb. 1 matchup between the two in Oklahoma City.

That said, their seasons will be inextricably linked all the way until July, when free agency kicks off in its usual crazy mode. Then, and only then, will we get a full understanding of what the future holds for Durant and his hometown team.

Right now his focus is on the Thunder and how they navigate the early stages of this season under new coach Billy Donovan. There are chemistry issues that need to be resolved, adjustments to be made by role players and stars alike, a collective comfort zone to be located.

Durant will stay busy reminding us all that no matter where he plays, he remains one of the league’s most lethal weapons. For he and fellow superstar Russell Westbrook, chasing the Golden State Warriors for that No. 1 spot in the Western Conference is their first and only priority.

Beal, All-Star point guard John Wall and the Wizards have business of their own to tend to in advance of free agency, first and foremost proving that they are a force to be reckoned with in the East. And that’s with or without any additional superstar help, and no matter what kind of external hype is swirling around them.

“It’s the same I said last year,” Wall told The Post. “We can’t worry about what Kevin Durant’s doing. He’s worried about his OKC team and me and Brad and the other 13 guys on the team, we’re worried about the Washington Wizards.” We’re not here to tank and not try to make the playoffs and not try to win a championship and do those things.”

That’s the right attitude, because the chatter is inevitable.

And even if it’s absent from the headlines for a while, it won’t end anytime soon.

VIDEO: John Wall and the Wizards topped Kevin Durant and the Thunder in their matchup at Verizon Center last season