Shootaround (Feb. 11) -- No cooling white-hot Heat while the drama rolls on at Madison Square Garden
Hot, hot Heat | As New York turns | The Magic Show | Maker is on the make
No. 1: Hot, hot Heat — After getting off to a terrible start this season, all of a sudden the Miami Heat can’t lose. Last night they took a 12-game win streak into Brooklyn and came away with their 13th consecutive victory, as Manny Navarro writes in the Miami Herald:
The Miami Heat extended the NBA’s longest winning streak this season to 13 games, and James Johnson added another chapter to his growing legacy as one of the best finds in the league this season.
The 29-year-old forward, who is having a career year on his fifth NBA team, scored a season-high 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and dished out two assists — he basically did it all — as the Heat rallied past the Brooklyn Nets 108-99 at Barclays Center on Friday night.
On a night when Hassan Whiteside struggled to score against and defend Brook Lopez, who went off for 30 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, Johnson moved to center late and did damage on both ends of the court.
“I don’t know if there’s another guy in the league — maybe LeBron [James] and him — who can play the position one to five,” said Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who had 21 points, four rebounds, five assists and several big buckets in the fourth quarter to help relieve Johnson, who did most of the heavy lifting with 17 points in the second half.
“J.J., he’s such a good player. He can handle the ball. He can get us into our offense. He’s a great passer, great finisher and on defense most of the time he was guarding Brook Lopez. It’s nice to have this kind of player on our team.”
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No. 2: As New York turns — The New York Knicks hosted their first home game since the ejection and arrest of former Knicks forward Charles Oakley, and the Knicks did not come to play. The Knicks gave up 131 points to the Denver Nuggets, losing 131-123, while the crowd made their feelings known all night, as Marc Berman writes:
The Knicks are showing rock bottom has no deep end as they tumbled again, this time to the pitiful Nuggets, 131-123 at the Garden. With the loss, they fell to 0-4 on one of the worst homestands in team history.
The Nuggets shot 57 percent and incredibly the Knicks hit 56 percent of their shots in a loss.
Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points in the loss. The Nuggets (24-29) even had the best second-year European on the floor — at least for the night. Serbian center Nikola Jokic hit for a career-high 40 points, making 16 of 22 from the field with eight rebounds. By contrast, Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis scored 17 points with four boards.
It never seemed to be about the basketball Friday night in the aftermath of Charles Oakley’s Garden ban following his arrest in the arena on Wednesday night.
The first “We Want Oakley’’ chant occurred with six minutes left in the first quarter — and that was only after the Knicks were booed at the first timeout after falling behind by six points.
With Dolan sitting in his baseline seat, he heard about a half-dozen various chants in the first half, including “Free Charles Oakley” and just “Chaa-rles Oakley.”
There was also a faint “Fire Dolan’’ chant from the upper deck in the first half and another one at the final buzzer.
The Oakley chants didn’t exactly spark the home team, which fell to a season-worst 11 games under .500 at 22-33, in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. They have lost 20 of their past 26 games.
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No. 3: The Magic Show — The Los Angeles Lakers recently announced the return of Magic Johnson to the organization as an advisor to owner Jeannie Buss. And in an interview with USA Today, Magic said he hopes his role will be a critical one:
Magic Johnson said he wants to “call the shots’’ for the Los Angeles Lakers, a week after it was announced he has rejoined the team as an adviser to owner Jeanie Buss.
“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?
“So, we’ll see what happens.’’
Johnson, the former Lakers great, said the decision about his role rests with Jeanie Buss, whose brother Jim has been in charge of the franchise since their father, Jerry, died in 2013. During the 2013-14 season, Jim Buss said he would step down after three to four years if the franchise was not yet competing for NBA titles again.
The Lakers, winners of 16 NBA championships, are 18-37 this season and a combined 65-181 during the three previous seasons.
“Look, Jim knows where we are, Jeanie knows where we are, as a franchise, and so some decisions have to be made,’’ Johnson said, adding that he thinks his role will be determined by the end of the season. “I may only be in this role for a short term, I may be here for a long time. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I can’t tell you that right now.’’
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No. 4: Maker is on the make — The Milwaukee Bucks used a first round draft pick on Thon Maker, with the intention of allowing him to patiently develop. But while they wait, as Howard Beck writes, Maker is showing all the signs of being a special player:
Thon Maker ambles over, head bobbing over narrow shoulders, with a smile as easy as his stride, and the first thing you notice is the distance between you and that grin.
The Milwaukee Bucks rookie seems impossibly tall, even in a sport defined by height. Taller than his official listing of 7’1″.
You notice his arms. They seem impossibly long, as if he could wrangle an actual buck.
You remember the video. The one from 2015, in Las Vegas. The one in which Maker unleashes a series of moves that send his defender stumbling like a drunken tourist, then casually sticks a deep step-back jumper. The one that closes with giddy fans slapping their cheeks and falling over each other, mouths agape.
In that moment, the obscure international prospect became an internet sensation — and from there, a curiosity, a subject of wonder and intrigue for the NBA.
Even now, in an age of basketball unicorns, where big men move like Jagger and shoot like Steph Curry, the sight of a 7-footer executing crossovers and deep jumpers tickles the senses every time.
Last spring, the Bucks considered the enigma of Maker — a 19-year-old with just six years of basketball experience, an athletic marvel with still-raw skills, a globe-trotting vagabond with a cloudy bio — and in defiance of nearly all projections, made him the 10th pick in the NBA draft.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Draymond Green put up a triple-double last night without scoring in double digits … Kevin Durant is reportedly traveling with enhanced security on his return to Oklahoma City …Mike D’Antoni is back … Brett Brown can’t wait until he can stop talking about injuries and trades … LeBron James has nicknamed Kyle Korver “American Eagle” … Uncle Drew may be hitting the big screen.