Feb. 4 Shootaround -- Draymond teams up with LeBron against Barkley
Draymond backs LeBron | Westbrook does it again | Rockets retire Yao jersey | Curry wants back with Team USA | Celtics pass Lakers
No. 1: Draymond teams up with LeBron against Barkley — Talk about your strange bedfellows, your unlikeliest of teammates. When most of us think of Draymond Green and LeBron James it’s of a kick to a certain tender spot and a resultant suspension that might have cost the Warriors the 2016 NBA championship. But when it comes to having an opinion on Hall of Fame TNT analyst Charles Barkley, Green says he’s got James’ back, according to Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News:
“I’m all for destroying Barkley,” Green said. “You know, Barkley talk a lot. A whole lot for a guy who has not won a championship. … I think Shaq should talk about the champions. Kenny (Smith) should talk about the champions. Ernie (Johnson) can talk about the champions. When it comes time to speak about someone who has a championship, Barkley should be muted. You know how on … “Around the Horn” where they just ice somebody out on the screen? They should be be able to do that with Barkley any time the name of a champion come up.”
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No. 2: Maybe it was the shoes for Westbrook — He’s done it with such regularity all season long, that sometimes we might take Russell Westbrook’s latest heroics for granted. But Friday night in ringing up his 25th triple-double of the season, the Thunder main man took over completely in the fourth quarter and Royce Young of ESPN.com wonders if maybe it wasn’t about a change of shoes:
It’s something to say Westbrook played one of his best games, because the portfolio is so full of them, but Friday’s against the Memphis Grizzlies is up there. The final line was 38 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists — his 25th triple-double of the season — but it really was more about the “how” than the “what.” It was the defensive rebound he snared in front of two Grizzlies late in the fourth. It was the two dagger 3s he hit in the final two minutes. It was the incredible steal he made that sealed the victory.
“My closeout speed’s not bad,” Westbrook said.
In the end it was the 15-0 run he went on by himself in the final 2 minutes, 34 seconds of the game to give the Thunder a win they desperately needed, 114-102.
Maybe it was just about the shoes, though. Westbrook started the game in some orange Jordans but switched to a blue pair for the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a superstitious move or anything.
“Yeah man, that s— was rubbing my toe,” he said. Whatever it was, it worked. Westbrook scored 19 of his 38 in the fourth.
Following their completely limp effort against the Bulls on Wednesday, a 28-point loss on their home floor that looked worse than even that, Thunder players talked about needing not necessarily a win, but just a performance. To play with more focus, more energy, more desire. And with the rough and rugged Grizzlies up next, they faced with the prospect of a four-game losing streak, the lowest point of their season getting a little lower.
But Westbrook was having none of it. It was the kind of thing, ahem, an MVP does.
“I thought the times he picked to go score and try to make something happen when our team needed it was really invaluable,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
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No. 3: Yao’s joyous jersey retirement comes with a touch of sadness — Yao Ming had his parents, his wife, his daughter and a virtual bench full of ex-Rockets’ greats on hand to see his jersey placed in the rafters Friday night at Toyota Center and our Fran Blinebury says the former All-Star hopes fans will remember all of the stories behind No. 11, along with the regret of having a career cut short by injuries:
“I remember the first time I watched (an) NBA game, randomly saw a shot the cameras gave on those retired jerseys,” Yao said. “After I read stories, I know that the highest honor a player can reach for himself and an accomplishment for the team. Today I think I’ll always ask myself what is the story behind it.
“I hope people see the jersey there and remember the story, not only about myself, but also my teammates, my opponents. We created the story together, just like the other jerseys created the story for (us.)
“I wish I could have a 10-day contract,” he said wistfully.
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No. 4: Curry says he’ll play at World Cup, Olympics — While Stephen Curry was part of a long list of NBA stars who did not compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the Warriors guard says that doesn’t mean his days wearing the red, white and blue are over. In fact, he recently told FIBA.com that he plans to rejoin Team USA for the World Cup in 2019 in China and the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo:
“The way it went down this past year with the injury, it was the right decision,” Curry said to FIBA.com in his hometown of Charlotte, where he recently played for the Golden State Warriors against the Hornets.
“It was a tough one because I put a lot of equity into playing for Team USA and was looking forward to playing for the Olympic team for the first time.
“The decision for me personally was that it was best not to play, and to get ready for the season, to get healthy.
“Going forward, I do plan on playing at the World Cup (in 2019 in China), being healthy and being in a good position to be in Tokyo.”
“I love playing for the USA,” he said. “It was taking a lot not to be out there (last year). It’s just different and you get to play with the best in the NBA against the best in the world.
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No. 5: Celtics take all-time NBA lead in wins — If it seems like the Celtics and Lakers have been rivals since the days when dinosaurs were roaming the earth, that’s just about true. And so it was quite fitting that L.A. went into the T.D. Garden Friday night with the exact same number of all-time wins — 3,252 — as Boston. Baxter Holmes of ESPN was there to see Isaiah Thomas scored 38 and give the Celtics the all-time lead in the classic series:
“It is crazy, it is crazy,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said before the game.
The Celtics, in a fact sheet distributed to the media, calculated the probability of just such an event at 1 in 8,252.
In the grandest terms, the Celtics’ 113-107 win crowned Boston as the winningest franchise in NBA history, though Walton pointed out before tipoff that such a title for either team was, of course, only temporary.
“If they lose the next game [and] we win, we’re having the same talk again,” Walton said. “It’s definitely crazy it’s happening on a night that we’re playing, but in the big picture, it doesn’t mean that much unless one team takes it and runs with it.”
However, for the first time since the end of the 2000-01 season, the Lakers do not at least share the all-time NBA lead in wins by a team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Pierce said an official goodbye to Boston…Bucks Khris Middleton says he’ll make season debut on Wednesday night…Brad Stevens will coach the Eastern Conference team at the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans…James Harden scored his 10,000th point as a Rocket…After getting snubbed for All-Star berth, Bradley Beal snubs the Three-Point Contest…Isaiah Thomas says you need to slow down with any comparisons to Kobe Bryant…Kevin Love expects to be in Cleveland for a while…Salary cap projections for next two seasons are declining.