Paul Pierce Passes Jerry West For 17th Place On All Time Scoring List

Washington Wizards small forward Paul Pierce passes Jerry West on the all time scoring list Tuesday night vs. the Atlanta Hawks to move into 17th place. At the end of the night, Pierce’s career point total is now 25,202 with Reggie Miller next on the list at 25,279 points meaning he’ll likely pass Reggie at some point in the next week or two.
While a great accomplishment, Pierce did not have a great game finishing with 16 points on 6 for 16 shooting as the Wizards fell to the Hawks 106-102.
The post Paul Pierce Passes Jerry West For 17th Place On All Time Scoring List appeared first on Basketball Bicker by Joey.

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Kevin Garnett Names His Top 3 Trash-Talkers of All Time

Kevin Garnett has been barking at NBA opponents for nearly two decades, so he’s something of an authority on hardwood chatter. When he offers up his thoughts on the mouthiest opponents he’s ever played against, we should probably listen.

Per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com, KG first named two players who seem to come up whenever historically great smack-talkers are the topic of discussion:

“Gary Payton and Michael Jordan, by far,” Garnett told Youngmisuk.

No surprise there. Payton’s career featured a nonstop string of snarling, psyche-crushing verbosity. He backed up his words with action, too; there weren’t many defenders capable of clamping down like The Glove. Basically, Payton told you how terrible you were, then made you feel even worse with his suffocating D.

Jordan, of course, was also a ruthless talker—probably because he had the unmatched ability to (in his own mind) contort even the least threatening opponents into challengers who needed vanquishing.

Again, not a shock on either count.

Then, KG tossed out an unexpected name: “And believe it or not, Hakeem Olajuwon.”

Know what’s more fun than remembering Olajuwon befuddling defenders with an endless array of spins, pivots, fakes, shakes and bakes? The thought of him doing all of that while letting his man know how bad he was about to make him look.

Perhaps the best part of Garnett’s thoughts on trash talk were his final ones, in which he denied his own place among the all-time greats: “Me? You just hear stories about me talking trash. You never have living proof that I talk trash.”

Oh, really, KG? How about this?

And this:

And this:

And this:

Garnett is currently averaging 7.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Brooklyn Nets, both mild upticks from the numbers he posted a year ago. Brooklyn is just 5-8 on the season and faces a rough upcoming seven-game slate that includes the Chicago Bulls (twice), the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets would prefer some vintage play from KG during that stretch, but that’s probably hoping for a bit too much. At least we know Garnett is still capable of talking a good game.

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LeBron was right: Cavaliers need more time

LeBron James’ realism was met with rolling eyes, but the young Cavaliers are taking time to jell.

      
 

 

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LeBron was right: Cavs need time

LeBron James’ realism was met with rolling eyes, but the young Cavaliers are taking time to jell.

      
 

 

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LeBron James was right: Cavaliers need more time

LeBron James’ realism was met with rolling eyes, but the young Cavaliers are taking time to jell.

      
 

 

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Return of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Could Save the Thunder Just in Time

It seemed on the surface like such simple-happy news: Following a frustration-fraught first month of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder could welcome back their superstar duo—Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook—as early as next week, per The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater.

Few doubted the Thunder’s climb would be a trying one, especially after a 3-11 start put them squarely in the Western Conference basement.

The question is whether Durant and Westbrook’s much anticipated return might be an avalanche too late.

Start with the obvious: With the gap between the conferences wider than it’s ever been, even securing the No. 8 seed—currently occupied by the always-plucky Phoenix Suns—is far from assured. Particularly not with upstarts like the Sacramento Kings (No. 9) and New Orleans Pelicans (No. 10) waiting willfully in the wings.

And that’s before you get to the murder’s row of forces further up the ladder: the Los Angeles Clippers (No. 7), the San Antonio Spurs (No. 6) and Houston Rockets (No. 5) being just a few of the faces not liable to shy away anytime soon.

It’s never wise to project final pictures from 17 percent of the season, of course. Wider gaps have been surmounted under far weirder circumstances.

But nor have the Thunder done themselves any favors, either by their poor play or their cursed injury woes. With respect to the latter, the luck is almost ludicrous: Beyond Westbrook and Durant, Perry Jones and Reggie Jackson—stopgap starters both—have missed chunks of time with maladies of knee and ankle, respectively.

That, it can safely be said, is beyond OKC’s control. How the team has managed its superstars’ absence, however, has been far from encouraging.

Things started off innocently enough, with the Thunder plodding off to an eminently manageable 3-6 start. That’s when the wheels officially started flying off. In the five games since, OKC has registered the league’s 28th-ranked offense (92. 1 ORtg) and 23rd-ranked defense (101.3 DRtg) en route to its current 0-5 slide (NBA.com stats require subscription).

With their depth demolished, it was only a matter of time before the Thunder started swooning hard. All the while, the play of Jackson—who currently leads the team in both points (19.9) and assists (7.7)—has become a much-needed silver lining about an ominous cloud, even while questions of chemistry loom large in the distance. From SB Nation’s Jesus Gomez:

A more confident and aggressive Jackson is proving to be a great asset for this watered down version of the Thunder. In many ways, him embracing the role of leader is their best hope of remaining competitive while Westbrook and Kevin Durant are out. But how will the chemistry be affected when the superstars return and Jackson has to be reined in? Jackson’s emergence could catapult OKC to a title or harm the delicate balance of the locker room. It’s impossible to tell what will happen.

And it’s because of that unpredictability that the Thunder and especially Jackson are so fun to watch.

At this point, “fun” has become something of a relative term. Even with Durant and Westbrook raring for a much-heralded return, the road to redemption stands to be a rancorous one indeed for these Thunder.

After a three-game homestand the week of Thanksgiving, seven of OKC’s next 10 games are on the road—a stretch that includes away dates with conference foes the Pelicans, Kings and Golden State Warriors.

The big picture doesn’t look much rosier: With the 8-5 Suns currently on a pace similar to that of the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks a season ago (49-33), the Thunder would have to finish 46-22 (a winning percentage of .676) just to match that theoretical feat. And that’s before even knowing the exact date of Durant and Westbrook’s return.

For a team with a .709 win clip over the past four seasons, such a pace is more than doable, of course. It’s when you factor in the Xs—the shedding of injury rust, a recalibration of chemistry—that OKC’s prospects start to assume a murkier hue.

One thing the Thunder won’t entertain, however, is calling off the dogs in hopes of some draft-day coup.

“I don’t really pay much attention to other people’s thoughts on our team,” Brooks said, according to SportingNews.com. ”I know what we’re about, I know what our organization is about. Everybody has their opinion and they’re entitled to that. Tanking is not something that we will consider.”

Had Durant and Westbrook suffered more serious setbacks, OKC’s tune may well have been different. As it is, the Thunder—steep though the stakes may be—have more than a few factors working in their favor: from relative roster continuity to loudly loyal fans to their dynamic duo’s peerless basketball pedigree.

Indeed, for all the bruised bones and egos, there is scarcely another team (save perhaps for the Spurs and Chicago Bulls) better equipped to bring its foremost faces seamlessly back into the fold.

The story of the Oklahoma City Thunder is one with no shortage of curious turns and dramatic detours. A disappointing ending, even, had the book been closed already.

The degree of difficulty Durant and Westbrook now face—to not only scratch and claw their way back above the conference fold, but to exorcise years worth of deep-Spring demons—is starker and scarier than perhaps any that have come before.

Good thing, then, that that’s how some of the best tales end: their heroes forever forging ahead, pages and pages after first being left for dead.

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Time to panic after 5th straight loss

Before the season began, it was only a matter of who the Oklahoma City Thunder will face in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Now questions surface if they will even make the playoffs after losing five in a row. Is it time to panic in Oklahoma?
The Brooklyn Nets put an end to their five game losing streak displaying a masterful performance late in the fourth defensively and handing the Thunder their fifth straight loss with a 94-92 victory Friday night as they continued their offensive slump.
Led by Jarret Jack who scored 23 points going eight-for-fifteen shooting off the bench. Jack seem rejuvenated, turning the time clock a couple years back to his playing days with the Golden State Warriors when he was causing havoc for teams late in the playoffs.
Completely being shut down in the 4th quarter, the Brooklyn Nets exposed yet again a struggling Thunder team who could not seem to get into rhythm offensively in the 4th quarter. The Thunder could not buy a basket down the stretch and were hel

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Daily fantasy basketball: Carmelo’s time to shine

There are a couple of struggling stars tonight whose fortunes could change with great matchups.

      
 

 

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Daily fantasy basketball: Time for Carmelo to shine

There are a couple of struggling stars tonight whose fortunes could change with great matchups.

      
 

 

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It’s Time for the Utah Jazz to Prioritize Dante Exum over Trey Burke

To say Trey Burke‘s in a sophomore slump would almost be an insult to the phrase.

His numbers have tragically bottomed out through roughly one-fifth of the season, and he’s been thoroughly outplayed by backup Dante Exum, who’s already proven he deserves the bulk of the minutes at the point.

It’s been tough to watch Burke this season, and not just from the standpoint of a writer or fan. He’s gone from savior to scapegoat for this franchise in just over a year.

This was the general sentiment when he was drafted in the summer of 2013.

This is now.

And the change didn’t come without reason. Through just over one season’s worth of games, he’s barely looked like an NBA player. The eye test says he’s too small and not athletic enough.

Friday night, the Golden State Warriors trounced the Jazz, 101-88. In a 13-point loss, Burke was a team-worst minus-28. Exum was plus-15.

Golden State did what almost every other opponent has: Put Burke on an island—in the post, on the perimeter, whatever—and go to work.

And that’s just on defense. The numbers tell the story on the other end, where he’s rarely able to create an even decent look for himself.

In his first season, the numbers were rough (as you just saw), but there were at least flashes of solid IQ and playmaking ability. Maybe he could one day morph into a pass-first 1 like Andre Miller or Kendall Marshall.

But in year 2, Burke is still trying to be a scoring guard. And the picture gets even uglier when compared to what Exum‘s doing.

In all honesty, this is what should be happening. Exum is clearly the higher-upside asset. It’s unquestionable. Tune into any Jazz game and you’ll see it for yourself. Exum is taller, longer and more athletic. Plus, his vision and IQ are way ahead of schedule.

Obviously, there are still things to work out with Exum. His catch-and-shoot game has been better than expected, but his dribble pull-up is a mess. He’s yet to make a single shot off the dribble outside of 10 feet.

He gets out of position at times defensively, but he has the length and quickness to recover. Just imagine what he can do once he irons out those fundamentals.

He can also tighten up his handle a bit, even though he’s figured out that keeping things simple generally helps him stay out of trouble.

Thing is, the learning process could be accelerated by playing Exum more minutes with the first unit. There’s a theory in basketball that’s akin to exposure therapy. Just like you can help people with a fear of heights by taking them to the Empire State Building, a basketball player can adapt in difficult circumstances.

The skyscraper is a controlled environment. There are security guards and really tall fences. You’re not going to fall off. While playing with the starters, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors can be Exum‘s safety net as he truly adapts to the speed of the NBA.

The move is starting to come up among experts all over the NBA, but it’s a delicate process. Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan is worried what it would do to Burke.

ESPN’s Chad Ford has been asked about the debate as well. Twice, actually. In his weekly Q&A with SportsNation, Ford was asked, “When does Quin Snyder move Trey Burke to the bench in favor of Exum?”

He responded:

Great question. Exum, who was supposed to be the rawest of the lottery guys, has really outplayed him all year. In fact, Exum ranks second among all rookies in PER right now. And he’s going to get better. A lot better. It’s hard to watch that team with an objective eye and think Trey Burke is even in the same league as Exum as far as elite potential goes. Now, the Jazz may want to keep bringing him along slowly. There’s less pressure coming off the bench. But long-term? He’s going to be the Jazz’s starting PG. Combine him with Gordan Hayward and Derrick Favors, both of who have been excellent this year and the Jazz have a scary core for the future.

The next week, he went into the specifics on why Utah is hesitant to make the move:

I mentioned this last week and feel even stronger about it this week after talking to sources close to the Jazz. They know Exum is going to be amazing and quite possibly their franchise player. He’s not ready yet. He has to get stronger to handle all the contact he gets. But he’s got the tools, has the basketball IQ, has the work ethic to be GREAT. And his jump shot is dramatically improving. Fast forward two years and he’s likely Utah’s No. 1 option. But it’s early and I think they are erroring on the side of patience right now. He doesn’t need to be, nor is he ready to be THE guy right now. I think Burke might start the whole season. But by next year, or the year after, this will be Exum‘s team to run.

The question here isn’t whether or not Exum‘s ready to be the guy this season. That’s still Hayward, and to a lesser extent, Favors.

This is about who’s the better option to help the 2014-15 Utah Jazz win games. The numbers say it’s Exum. And he fits logistically.

He’s pass-first all the way, almost to a fault. That makes more sense with Hayward, Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter, all of whom can score. With a second unit devoid of scorers, Exum‘s unselfishness can contribute to a stagnant attack.

Now, think about what the move does for Burke. Yes, there’s the fear that it negatively impacts his psyche, like Duncan pointed out, but it could also go the other way.

It could be difficult for him to accept at first. But after adapting, Burke could settle into the opportunity to be aggressive in a lineup that actually needs him to be, and against other players without top-tier physical tools.

All that said, there’s still no indication from within the organization that a lineup change is coming. So the most we can ask for now is more minutes, including some with the starters.

Exum is clearly the point guard of the future, and he’s earned more time to develop cohesion with the other core members of the team.

And if it means rewriting the next few months of Burke’s career from a tragedy to some kind of buddy-cop flick with his up-and-coming backup, even better.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and salary figures are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com, and are current as of Nov. 22, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him @AndrewDBailey.

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