A look at the trending topics around the #NBA:
Hell hath no fury like a scorned point guard who doesn’t get a contract extension and therefore needs a big season as he approaches restricted free agency next summer.
“It’s all good,” said Brandon Jennings.
Actually, no, it’s not.
Jennings saw the Oct. 31 deadline disappear without an acceptable offer from the Bucks, who obviously have reservations about a point guard who’s built like spaghetti and can’t shoot. Meanwhile, he watched Steph Curry get four years and $44 million from the Warriors despite a history of ankle problems. Also, Ty Lawson, taken eight spots lower than Jennings in the 2009 draft, got four and $48 million from the Nuggets.
Jennings is the most gifted player from that draft to be denied an extension from his rookie-scale deal. While Curry, Lawson, James Harden and Blake Griffin cash in with max or near-max contracts, the player whose nickname is Young Money could only press his nose against the glass and stare at the riches he didn’t get. The Bucks say Jennings is part of their future, but when it came time to put up, they shut their wallet.
“Now I guess I’m kind of auditioning for other teams,” he said.
Jennings could still stay with the Bucks beyond this season but the summer now invites all sorts of possibilities. The Hawks, Mavericks and Jazz are the three teams with money to spend who’ll be hunting for point guards and could make it tough for the small-market Bucks to match an offer for Jennings.
He’s not a max-contract player, though. Jennings has been the starter since he arrived, and while he’s fun to watch and delivers the occasional big play, there are issues. He doesn’t create enough shot opportunities for teammates (he’s a career 5.4 assists guy) and his jumper, which has since improved from 37 percent as a rookie, still needs polish.
Of course, he can rewrite everything with a big season, and, already, he appears to be on a mission. He led the league after the first week in steals and assists. He outplayed Rajon Rondo in the opener when the Bucks surprised the Celtics, then out-dueled Kyrie Irving on Saturday with a pair of big shots late in the game, including a fallaway buzzer-beater that won it. Jennings knows he can only increase his bargaining position against the better guards, so he has a schedule in his pocket and a checklist in his head.
“Every time you approach those guys you’ve got to go at ‘em and you’ve got to show ‘em,” he said. “You’ve got to prove you’re the top player in the draft class.”
Monta Ellis can also opt-out of the last year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. So this is the right time to watch the exciting Jennings-Ellis backcourt. Both players are super-quick, and their remaining time as teammates in Milwaukee could be quicker.
Last week was probably the biggest of Daryl Morey’s life in Houston. Definitely the most enjoyable. The Rockets’ GM saw his big-money offseason moves pay off, at least initially, when Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik all hit the floor running.
Harden went for 37 points just days after being acquired from Oklahoma City and getting a max deal, then 45 two nights later, his career high.
Lin has looked smooth at the point and is showing an all-around game that doesn’t quite capture the jolt of Linsanity, but close.
Asik grabbed 15 rebounds in the opener, then 19 against the Hawks, and when the season ends he could be a top-five rebounder and a Most Improved candidate.
Morey gambled $130 million on those three when he remade the roster, and that’s the good news. The better news is he’ll have money to spend next summer either on a free agent or to get an A-list player through a trade. In a best-case scenario, Morey gets an impact forward and the Rockets have a foundation that’ll last a half-decade. And if they don’t make the playoffs this season, they’ll have a lottery pick.
Ray Allen will have nights when the stroke isn’t there, where he goes 3-for-12, where LeBron James will drive the lane and toss him the ball and Allen will chip the paint off the rim.
But that won’t happen too often.
Is there a free agent who landed in a more ready-made spot than Allen? With LeBron and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh around, Allen’s job is to make a decent percentage of the open jumpers he’s sure to see. For someone who’ll go into the Hall as perhaps the greatest shooter of all time, this is why Allen feels young again at age 37.
When Allen beat the Nuggets with a three-pointer Saturday from deep in the corner, after LeBron sucked in the defense, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: “We’ve been on the other end as the recipient of that sort of pain.”
If Allen keeps shooting at a reasonable rate, he’ll ease the burden on LeBron and Wade and keep them fresh for the post-season. More than ever before, Miami is built for June.
Last spring the Nets surrendered their first0round pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace because Deron Williams was pouting over losing so many games in a giveaway season, and they feared losing him as a free agent.
It was the wrong move on multiple levels. First, the Nets were likely in no serious danger of losing Williams, since he stood to make the most money by staying put. Therefore, just for the sake of winning a few more games in a meaningless lockout-shortened season, they essentially gave away the No. 6 pick for an aging forward who shot 41 percent last season. Compounding matters, the Nets left themselves in a poor bargaining position with Wallace, who became an unrestricted free agent last summer. In order to justify the trade, they had to pay him, and he walked away with $40 million over four years.
Finally: Had the Nets kept the pick, they probably would’ve increased their chances of getting Dwight Howard in a trade because the rebuilding Magic surely would’ve preferred the No. 6 pick over any of the mishmash they would up getting for Howard.
Speaking of which, whatever became of that first-rounder? Well, one day the No. 6 pick might be as good as Williams.
The Blazers used it on point guard Damian Lillard, who has looked comfortable in his NBA skin as soon as he tied his sneakers. He’s leading all rookies in scoring, has a nice feel for a difficult position and has the guts to take a game-winning shot, as he did when he scored eight points in overtime against the Rockets. He became only the third rookie (after Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson) to get at least 20 points and 10 assists in his opener. Already, he might be Portland’s best point guard since Terry Porter.
Problem is, Lillard plays a stacked position right now. He won’t see too many easy games. There are only a few teams who aren’t strong at the point.
“He’s got a challenge every night,” said coach Terry Stotts.
Either the rest of the NBA’s elite point guards will figure him out, or even scarier, Lillard could figure them out.
Five months after the fact, nobody can figure out what the Nets were doing with that trade.
A year ago this time the status of Tim Duncan’s future was iffy. He looked sluggish in the 2011 playoffs, which lasted only six games for the Spurs, and there was the real chance he’d only sign for one more year. Not only did Duncan commit to two more years, his minutes this season are actually up. And so is his level of play, from a regular season’s perspective.
“I feel good, no problems,” said Duncan.
Duncan has turned back the clock at 36. He’s averaging 21 points, just under 10 rebounds and getting 33 minutes a night. He hasn’t averaged 30 minutes since 2009 and 20 points since 2007. Usually, the Spurs put a cap on Duncan’s playing time to preserve him for the spring, but unless he begins to grab his lungs and signal for a sub, his minutes may not change.
It all depends on his body and his health. Duncan has never had a serious injury, which is one reason the Spurs could ultimately return to the old formula, since it served a purpose. The Spurs have enough talent on the floor to afford to give Duncan an extended rest. No other franchise player can do that without putting his team’s season in jeopardy.
What’s really motivating Duncan is the Spurs’ recent failures. He’s stuck on four championships, and the Spurs, after winning 20 straight games, were swept by Oklahoma City last season.
“He gets better as he gets older,” said Stephen Jackson. “Don’t look at his age. Look at the way he’s still playing.”
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#KobeBeef: Not many can get away with telling own fans to “shut up,” but we’ll hear Kobe scream loudest if Lakers keep sinking.
#AussieRules: Warriors resting Andrew Bogut on back end of back-to-backs, still looking for first real center since Thurmond.
#IcedOut: With hockey on hiatus, Canadians have no choice but to follow hapless Raptors, who are still skating on thin ice.
#Buzzoff: Unhappy Eric Gordon to rest knee for six weeks, spirits could rise if Hornets trade him to Suns, where he wants to be.
#Sunset: Suns drew lowest opening-night crowd since moving to US Airways Arena in 1992, are now less relevant than AZ Cardinals.
#BringBackBullets: The Wiz’s frightening starting five on Halloween: A.J. Price, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Brad Beal, Trevor Booker.
#BringBackVanGundy: The Magic’s starting five on Sunday: E’Twaun Moore, Arron Afflalo, DeQuan Jones, Big Baby, Nikola Vucevic.
#JimmerDimmer: Jimmer Fredette now 3rd point guard in Sac, after Aaron Brooks, who was out of basketball, and Isaiah Thomas, 2nd-round pick.
#PineDon’tLie: After 2-year absence, Rasheed Wallace now riding the bench instead of the referees.
#Sterngreeting: David Stern booed in Nets’ historic opener; last person treated rudely by Brooklyn was Walter O’Malley.