World Peace: Melo-Phil tension good for Knicks | Bucks rookie Brogdon eager to prove himself against best | Trail Blazers dealing with new problem: late-game power outages | Oubre earning his wings with Wizards | Walker toughs out knee injury
No. 1:World Peace: Melo-Phil tension good for Knicks -- Everyone, it seems, has advice for Carmelo Anthony on how to deal with Phil Jackson. And that includes Kobe Bryant and anyone else who has ever been in Phil's crosshairs. Metta World Peace, who played for Jackson alongside Bryant and on a championship team, believes that the creative tension in the workplace between Anthony and Jackson works for the Knicks. He would know. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News has more:
Metta World Peace understands Phil Jackson likes to motivate through criticism. After all, there were times in Lakers practice when he and coach would curse each other out, Peace recalled Sunday.
So while watching from afar, Peace, a former Knick, believes the tiff between Jackson and Carmelo Anthony is productive. Even necessary to jar something loose from the stifling Garden atmosphere.
"Phil's going to push you. He is going to see where your mind's at," Peace said. "And Melo responded well. I've seen the comments. I like the fact that Melo didn't back down. I like the fact that Melo had some competitive comments and he went back at Phil. So it reminded me of when Kobe went back at Phil.
No. 2: Bucks rookie Brogdon eager to prove himself against NBA's best -- They've come up with an interesting nickname for rookie Malcolm Brogdon in the Milwaukee Bucks' locker room this season. It's a most appropriate moniker for a player beyond his years and one as bent on proving himself against the NBA's best (he'll get that chance tonight in Toronto when the Bucks take on the Raptors and their All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry). Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel explains:
Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked recently about the play of guard Malcolm Brogdon.
“You mean the President?” Antetokounmpo said.
That’s a friendly nickname some of the Bucks players are calling the 23-year-old rookie, who has not played like a rookie.
Instead, the cerebral point guard has embraced the challenges that come from facing some of the league’s best on a nightly basis.
On Saturday it was Washington’s John Wall and the other night it was Portland’s Damian Lillard. In Toronto on Monday night it will be the red-hot Kyle Lowry of the Raptors.
But to get an idea of Brogdon’s approach to his first year in the NBA, consider this. He recently walked into Bucks coach Jason Kidd’s office and asked to guard a certain player on another team.
“There have been a few guys,” Brogdon said. “Kawhi Leonard was one of them.
“There are guys every night who are really good players. I love to take on the challenges.”
Brogdon asking to guard San Antonio’s versatile Leonard is a challenge of the first order. It had to make Kidd smile.
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No. 3:Trail Blazers dealing with new problem: late-game power outages -- As if Terry Stotts hasn't had enough to deal with this season, the Portland Trail Blazers' coach now has to deal with a team that routinely loses its way offensively during crunch time. This is not the way to kick off a week that starts with a visit to Staples Center tonight for a date with the Los Angeles Clippers. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian provides the details:
The defense has been a mess. The bench has been underwhelming. The road has been unkind. The season has been inconsistent.
And now a new problem has inflicted the Trail Blazers on top of everything else: They suddenly aren't very clutch.
The Indiana Pacers overcame a 20-point deficit and punked the Blazers with a dominant fourth quarter, beating them 118-111 Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"This wasn't a normal loss," CJ McCollum said. "We've had a lot of these games we should win, games we're up double digits and they make more plays than us down the stretch, they make more hustle plays. They make aggressive moves toward the basket, they get fouls. They finish the game and we don't."
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No. 4:Oubre earning his wings with Wizards -- Sure, it's taken a little longer than some expected. But Wizards swingman Kelly Oubre is finally earning his wings on a team that needs the boost. Candace Buckner of the Washington Post explains:
However through a strong four-game stretch, capped by a career offensive night during 110-105 win over the Bucks, Oubre has shown glimpses past his first-round potential. He’s proving himself as a rotational player, a progressing spot-up shooter, a nagging defender and an energetic force through his first meaningful stretch of games as a professional.
“Just my focus,” Oubre responded, when asked how his game has changed for the past several weeks. “Focusing more on the game plan, focusing more on what I need to do, focusing more on what I can do and can’t do out there on the court.”
In 29 minutes against the Bucks, Oubre scored 19 points (7 of 11) with three three-pointers. Oubre also snatched nine rebounds, tied for second most on the team, and played the entire fourth quarter as the Wizards closed out Milwaukee with a late 11-0 run.
Not too long ago, Coach Scott Brooks was rather bluntly explained to a room of reporters why Oubre had remained glued to the bench. Now, Brooks had to start his post-game press conference with praise for Oubre.
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No. 5:Walker toughs out knee injury -- Kemba Walker should be in any conversation about the pound-for-pound toughest players in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets' point guard survived a knee-on-knee collision with LeBron James, all 6-feet-8 and 250-pounds of him, and is expected to play tonight when the Hornets face the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer caught up with Walker after he had his left knee examined and gave the all clear:
Walker is 6-1 and 184 pounds, which would make him an NFL kicker. James is 6-8 and 250 pounds, which would make him an NFL defensive end. So it was obvious who was going to get the worst of these two making contact.
Walker was "showing," an NBA strategy for defending the pick-and-roll. Walker’s left knee collided with James’ right knee. When he was finally helped off the court, he sat at the end of the bench, clutching his knee.
Diagnosis: A contusion. Coach Steve Clifford started formulating what he’d do if Walker missed games. He had veteran alternatives in Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts, but as Clifford acknowledged, you can’t go much more than half an NBA game without a starter-quality point guard before the effects start showing.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Austin Rivers is in the league's concussion protocol and might not be available for the Clippers tonight against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers ... Boston big man Al Horford gave strong consideration to the Oklahoma City Thunder during free agency, with a potential reunion with his college coach Billy Donovan serving s one of his main motivations ... LeBron James is taking advantage of every bit of technology he can during games ... The "new NBA" will prevent us from ever seeing another point guard like John Stockton, so says one Denver writer ... The Warriors needed their new "potent" second unit Sunday night in Minnesota ... And yes, Russell Westbrook's triple-double streak ended at seven games, but the Thunder got back to their winning ways ...