Embiid Makes History
No player in NBA history had ever dropped 50+ points, nabbed 10+ rebounds, 5+ assists, and 5+ blocks in a game…
Until Joel Embiid did it on Sunday night versus the Utah Jazz.
Embiid finished with 59 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 blocks, including 26 points and 5 blocks in the 4th quarter.
He becomes the 3rd Sixer ever to notch 55+ points in a game (only Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain had done it before).
He is the first player in NBA history to nab 55+ points and 5+ blocks since blocks began being tracked in 1973.
It was, legitimately, one of the best performances in NBA history.
Embiid had started out the season rather slow but this performance was a great reminder for people who may have forgotten: he is an MVP-caliber player.
The NBA Jersey Endemic
Look, folks. I’m not here to trash your favorite team. In fact, I don’t want to. I own over 50 NBA jerseys. I love them. Some would even call me a collector.
And every damn year I find myself buying fewer and fewer jerseys.
It’s not just because my wife complains about closet space. It’s not just because I am an adult and people look at me weirdly when I tell them how many jerseys I have. It’s not just because they’re expensive and I got to start saving more money because, uh, life?
It’s because, quite simply, NBA jerseys nowadays just suck.
All 30 teams unveiled their ‘city’ edition uniforms this week and safe for a few, they all lack imagination. Most uniforms are exactly that… uniform.
Their worst aspect is this minimalistic style that tries to make NBA jerseys look like some silicon valley tech company designed them. Heck, maybe they did.
Even some of the retro-looking jerseys are just their ways of pulling at our nostalgia-ridden heartstrings. There are no real risks being taken.
And it’s not just the NBA, by the way. We are in a jersey endemic in professional sports. And as a jersey enthusiast, it makes me sad.
There’s an expression in sports that is used to describe a change in a player’s approach:
“The game has slowed down for him.”
What it usually means is that the player looks, feels, and plays with a level of control and poise that makes it seem like the player is assessing and dissecting things on the court in slow motion.
It’s probably over-used and it’s a bit of a cliche, but that 100% applies to the way Jayson Tatum has started this season.
Tatum is averaging 32.3 points per game (3rd best in the league) on almost 50-40-90 shooting (actually 50/39/87). He’s doing so by shooting a career-best (by far) at the rim, hitting 80% of his shots around the cup. He’s also shooting a career-high on his long mid-range shots, knocking down 44% of them.
Offensively, he’s more decisive, boasting the lowest turnover % of his career and acting as the Celtics’ pseudo-lead playmaker. He’s getting to the rim and to the free-throw line more often, all while still being comfortable in his playground of that mid-range area.
Perhaps what might be even more impressive is his effort on defense, where he’s been an absolute juggernaut.
He’s guarding the best player on the opposing team on-ball and he’s still as attentive as ever off-ball (a HUGE area of growth of his).
He has become a more complete player. An even better superstar. A player that is comfortable no matter the coverage.
And that’s helped thrust him into the MVP convo early in this season.
Washed King? I Call Bull
I have seen a bunch of think pieces and threads over the last couple of weeks about LeBron, the Washed King. Some say father time has finally caught up to him. Has him beat.
I call bull.
Yes, LeBron has injured his groin, yet again another injury in another season for him in a Lakers uniform. Yes, he is shooting a CAREER-low 23.9% from 3 and this season is the least efficient he’s been since his rookie season. In some games, his explosiveness is there. Some days it isn’t.
But… the dude is still averaging 25-9-7 when he plays. He is still making plays, creating advantages out of thin air. He still has the ability to take control of a game.
The thing is… the Lakers are bad. Bad enough that LeBron is not allowed any slippage in his play. He’d have to do a carry job like the 2007 or 2018 playoffs just for this team to have a chance to win – and even then it might not be enough.
He’s playing with scrap parts. And at age 37 – that can be tough.
It’s really a shame, to be honest. One of the greatest players of all time (arguably the greatest) has to play the final years of his career, the final years where he can contribute to winning basketball, for an organization that isn’t willing to invest in him.
For an organization that seems content letting him turn into “Washed King” instead of helping him potentially win some more basketball games and go out on a high note.
But I call BS on any true ‘washed’ claims. Throw him on a team that is actually trying to win and then we’ll see.
More Drama, No Problems For The Suns
The Suns had every excuse in the playbook heading into this season to just mail it in and give up.
A racist and misogynistic owner. A disgusting blowout loss at home in Game 7 to the Mavs. Kevin Durant trade rumors. Deandre Ayton and Monty Williams are not on the best terms. Jae Crowder is mad he’s not starting.
There was a nimbus cloud hanging over the Suns’ heads entering this season.
But you wouldn’t be able to tell by how they’ve started the year.
Phoenix is 8-4 with the 2nd best net rating in the league, the 5th best offense, and the 2nd best defense.
Devin Booker has been electric, averaging 27-5-5 on 48-38-86 shooting splits. Mikal Bridges is more comfortable creating off-the-dribble. Ayton has been his usual solid self, although probably needs to get involved more. Chris Paul still mostly doing Chris Paul things.
They still have a depth issue and losing Cam Johnson to a meniscus tear doesn’t help that cause – but make no mistake, this Suns team, despite all their drama is still unbelievably good at basketball.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re at or near the top of the West again when it’s all said and done.
No Kyrie, Legitimately No More Problems?
(This was written before the Nets got clapped by the Lakers on Sunday night)
Kyrie Irving has finally helped the Brooklyn Nets to wins.
By not playing.
Brooklyn is 4-2 with Irving serving a suspension, they have the NBA’s best net rating and defense through that stretch and they look like a completely different team.
Is all of that because they’re missing their conspiracy theorist teammate? Doubtful. But it’s not like the score-first point guard was much of a defensive juggernaut.
Letting go of Steve Nash and permanently hiring Jacque Vaughn has brought an air of stability to that team, though.
And if anything with Nash gone and Irving temporarily sidelined, the Nets have removed any unnecessary off-court drama that could have dampened the mood in the locker room.
Whether it is Irving or Nash doesn’t matter at this point. The Nets have found a winning recipe here. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
S.G.A (Should Get All-NBA)
Ladies and gentlemen, if you didn’t know… now you do.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets if you’re a casual observer. But not for long.
The Canadian guard has been turning heads this season, averaging 31.1 points on 54/36/94 shooting splits through 12 games. He put a masterful 37 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 2 block performance in a win against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon where his Thunder dropped a whopping 145 in Madison Square Garden.
What makes him so potent is his driving ability (leading the NBA on drives per game ahead of Luka Doncic and Ja Morant) and shooting 74%!!!!!! Near the basket, ranking in the 94th percentile for his position. When teams pack the paint on him? He’s developed a nice mid-range game as a counter. And he’s made some serious strides on defense this season as well.
SGA is performing like a top-10 player right now and once the Thunder get serious about winning, he’ll be recognized as such as well.
For as long as Damian Lillard has been in the NBA, the conversation around the Blazers and how they build around Dame-time surrounded one thing: a lack of wings.
It’s always been a prevalent talking point because Lillard and McCollum (and now Lillard and Simons) lacked size at the guard spot, which made them a lackluster point-of-attack defense. How to counteract that? Length.
The Blazers traded for Josh Hart and Justice Winslow last season. Nasir Little has developed into a very solid rotation piece. They drafted a hyper-athletic wing in Shaedon Sharpe. And above all else, they traded for Jerami Grant in the off-season.
Now? It’s a wing factory. And that helps them play more versatile basketball.
They can stay big with Jusuf Nurkic. Or they can go small and play Winslow or Grant at the 5, going all-in on offense while not necessarily having a drop-off on the defensive end.
In fact, the Blazers’ best lineup in terms of net rating is Lillard-Simons-Hart-Grant-Winslow which boasts a +73.9 net rating. The problem? That lineup has only played 12 minutes together.
It is an option, though. Something they can go to when they need to.
And that’s something the Blazers have rarely been able to do: Be versatile.
The Sacramento Kings Are Surprising Everyone BUT ME
This summer I made a video detailing why I believed in this version of the Sacramento Kings and, you know what man? I’m taking my victory lap 12 games into their season.
Sacramento has won 3 games in a row and 6 of their last 8. They’re a top-10 offense this season thanks to De’Aaron Fox having an all-star-level season. Why is Fox putting it all together this season? Because the Kings finally got some shooters around him and a legitimate playmaking big man to play off of. Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk have been immense on the wings for the Kings, adding a level of scoring and shooting threat that Fox hasn’t had so far into his career. Domantas Sabonis and Fox have developed a nice 2-man game that is tough to stop.
Their defense, which is bottom 10 in the league, still has a long way to go… but with defensive-minded Head Coach Mike Brown, their commitment and effort on that end has been much better.
Who knows if the Kings can snap the longest playoff drought in pro-sports history this season, but they’ve already succeeded in injecting excitement into the Kings fanbase that I haven’t seen since Mike Bibby was in California’s capital.
Putting together a good product on the court is already a win. Congrats Kings fans.
Desmond Bane, the regret of 29 NBA Teams, forever
Any time Desmond Bane has an impressive showing, you can hear an array of NBA fans outside of Memphis let out a collective depressing sigh.
It’s because Bane went 30th in the 2020 NBA draft. In fact, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics and was moved on draft night to Memphis, so all 29 teams really slipped up in missing out on Bane.
Over the last two seasons, Bane has only done more to prove skeptics wrong, becoming a worthy backcourt partner next to star Ja Morant.
And this season, he’s taken another leap. He’s averaging a career-high 24 points per game while shooting 45.5% on over 8 three-point attempts a game. The shooting is something that has always been there for Bane but it’s the types of shots he’s getting that have changed. Last year he took less than 3 pull-up threes a game. So far this season? Over 4 pull-up 3’s a game, knocking down 47.7% of them.
What may be even more impressive is that he’s handling more of the on-ball duties, serving as a secondary playmaker next to Morant and averaging a career-high in assists while doing so.
Bane has improved. Morant has also improved his outside shot, making him even harder to guard.
And the Grizzlies just might have the best backcourt in the league because of it.
The Oft-Under-Appreciated Jonas Valanciunas
I just want to take a second here to wax poetic about Jonas. The man is so often forgotten about and it’s just unfair because he is such a solid center in this league. It’s an embarrassment of riches, truly, for the New Orleans Pelicans to have a center that good as their 4th option behind Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum.
While he might not be the most versatile defender or offensive player, you know what you’re getting out of JV: activity on the glass, a few hook shots in the post, a couple of nice dump-off lay-ups and/or dunks, and an assortment of other regular big-man things.
I think you guys may have noticed by now that I appreciate it when a player understands his role and thrives in it.
And Valanciunas consistently does that.