DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on Eastern Conference contenders and more

David Aldridge

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number … unless you’ve gotta guard KD. From Melvin McCoy:

Do you think the Cavs are struggling because of too many veterans on the team or lack of a rookie on the squad?. A lot of teams around the league are doing good with rookies and 2/3-year players, but the Cavs have majority of vets that don’t like to run.

If you look at the play with Kevin Love vs Raptors in the 3rd qtr where the guy was on the three-point line and gave a fake and drove to the rim for a slam he didn’t even try to play defense. That seems to be the whole theme with this team.

Who on the Cavs could be on the tradimg block as I don’t see any other team giving up a solid player a few years into the league for a vet? It makes no sense.

How can DeAndre Jordan help out the Cavs? I don’t see that happening.

A lot to unpack there, Melvin. To your first point: yes, at present, some — not all — of the Cavs’ vets are struggling. J.R. Smith is having a terrible season; not only is his current 7.6 points per game the lowest of his career, but more important, he’s shooting just 37.5 percent — which is actually a little better than he shot last season. Iman Shumpert has been hurt most of the season, as has Derrick Rose. Jae Crowder, part of the Isaiah Thomas-Kyrie Irving trade, is still looking for his footing offensively; he’s shooting just 30 percent on threes this year after shooting 40 percent for Boston last year. (Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver have been solid; in fact, they compose some of Cleveland’s better three- and four-man defensive units.)

I disagree with you about Love, even if he had one bad defensive sequence in Toronto; he’s been an All-Star this season. The bad defense is team-wide, a function of little in the way of rim protection, bad shooting on offense which leads to transition opportunities for opponents, and almost no on-ball pressure from the Cavs’ guards. They just don’t have anyone who can stop people at the point of attack. That’s why you hear so much about Jordan; if Cleveland’s not going to stop people from getting in the paint, the Cavs need someone who can erase those mistakes at the front of the rim. Tristan Thompson would obviously be in any potential deal for Jordan; the hangup, as everyone knows, is the unprotected 2018 Brooklyn first Cleveland got from Boston. The Cavs want to hold onto it; the Clippers want it. We’ll see who blinks.

Drake is all in. How ‘bout you? From Asif Haque:

… As a fan of the Raps, should I be excited? Or is this all just regular season nonsense, leading to a similar ending in the playoffs? Thanks!

I get the reluctance to go all-in on Toronto. The Raptors seemed to have plateaued over this three-year stretch — a 50-win team that had no chance of beating Cleveland. But I think they’re different this year, and I thought that before they pounded the Cavs last week. DeMar DeRozan is a legit MVP candidate and they really have changed the offense to incorporate threes and get more ball movement — without sacrificing at the defensive end. What I don’t know is what O.G. Anunoby and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl are going to do in the playoffs. History would lean toward their production tailing off, as happens with most young players when they’re truly counted on in their first postseasons. That would be cause for concern. But they got C.J. Miles for a reason, and I think he’s going to be a bigger piece to the puzzle down the stretch than he’s been so far.

Just good, clean fun. From Eddie Diener:

Clearly the Matthew Dellavedova foul was intentional. But trying to hurt Beal? No. He was just trying to keep Beal from getting an easy layup. How would you have done it?

Maybe start by not sticking out a forearm to the guy’s chest and neck, for starters. Perhaps try grabbing/hugging him with two hands. Delly’s not some weekend ham and egger; he’s a professional basketball player. They know how to foul people without hurting them or putting them in physical danger. I’m not buying the excuse that he’s “slow” or “not athletic;” those are buzzwords. He’s in the NBA. And as part of the fraternity, you don’t do things that could keep another man from taking care of himself and his family. He was thrown out of the game for a reason.

The points don’t count the same because … why, again? From Evan Sponseller:

Does anyone else remember when Steve Nash won two MVPs that, in retrospect, both belonged to Kobe Bryant? Now, Nash was incredible and is a top 5-10 PG all-time, but don’t we all know that any offense on a Mike D’Antoni squad is going to 1. Heighten stats 2. Maximize highlights 3. Accomplish 1-2 primarily for the point guard? Whether you’re a Kobe lover or hater, he was more deserving.

Fast forward to today. James Harden was and will (upon returning) play out of his gourd, but let’s learn from past mistakes and not give him an award without seriously accounting for the D’Antoni factor. LeBron, Durant, the Greek Freak, and Steph all come out on top in my estimation.

Then again, maybe this is just one part of the larger question about how to define the MVP award.

Mike D’Antoni was 253-136 (.650 win percentage) in his four-plus seasons in Phoenix. The Suns are a collective 348-417 (.455) in the nine-plus seasons since he left. I’m not sure why you’re devaluing D’Antoni’s wins and/or record because you like Kobe. You can make a case for him in each of those Nash MVP seasons; Bryant led the league in scoring (35.4 ppg) the second season, 2005-06, and the Lakers went 45-37 (it was the first year of Phil Jackson’s second go-round in L.A.) But Nash’s Suns went 54-28 that year — and beat Bryant and the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs! The Suns changed the way the NBA game was played, and Nash was a great, great point guard. That they didn’t make a Finals doesn’t diminish what they, and he, did in those regular seasons. As for Harden, he’s been pretty good in Houston no matter who’s been coaching, so I’m not going to penalize him for some vague “these stats aren’t real” reason.

Send your questions, comments and other primates ready for their close up to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!


(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)

1) James Harden (DNP: strained hamstring)

2) Kevin Durant (30.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5 apg, .643 FG, .667 FT): Became the second-youngest player in league history (LeBron was the youngest) to reach 20,000 career points, during Golden State’s unexpected loss on Wednesday to the Clippers.

3) LeBron James (21 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.7 apg, .490 FG, .706 FT): His 10 points in limited (for him) minutes during the blowout loss to Minnesota last week were the fewest he’s scored in a game since scoring 10 on the opening night of the 2007-08 regular season against Dallas — a span of 710 regular season games.

4) Kyrie Irving (20 ppg, 6 rpg, 7 apg, .350 FG, 1.000 FT): Highest usage rate (31.4) of his career, yet also shooting the highest percentage (.477, though he is down a tick on threes from last season) from the floor.

5) DeMar DeRozan (28.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, .447 FG, .783 FT): Posted third game with 40 or more points (42) in the last three weeks in Saturday’s loss to the Warriors.

Dropped out: Giannis Antetokounmpo


344 — Days since Zach LaVine, then with the Timberwolves, tore his ACL, before returning to action with the Bulls Saturday night. LaVine made 5 of 9 shots and scored 14 points in 19 minutes.

95 — Consecutive games in which Klay Thompson made at least one 3-pointer, a streak that ended in the Warriors’ game Friday against Milwaukee when he missed his only two attempts. Thompson’s last threeless game came on Dec. 10, 2016, against Memphis.

4 — Current NBA players — Dwight Howard (12,592), Dirk Nowitzki (11,137), Pau Gasol (10,892) and Zach Randolph (10,072) — with more career rebounds than Phoenix’s Tyson Chandler, who became the 40th player in league history to grab more than 10,000 career rebounds in Sunday’s loss to the Pacers.


1) Welcome back, Steve Clifford. Glad you’re taking, and will take, better care of you. The NBA is a better place with you in it.

2) Former player and Chicago native Quentin Richardson, with the soul of a poet, in The Players’ Tribune. (Very NSFW, but nonetheless very good, too.)

3) Joe Johnson, now between 71 and 74 years old, may not be a 30-35 minute player anymore, but he can still get buckets. And I’ll be shocked if he’s not in another uniform by March. Now, I’d be surprised if anyone traded for him because of his impending free agent status. But a buyout from Utah, prorated to less than half of his $10.5 million salary this season, would be minimal, allowing him to take IsoJoe ball to a playoff contender near you.


1) It is hard to fathom how much lower the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in my beloved Washington, D.C., can sink. To refer to Haiti and the African nations with the words he used and that I will not use here is to have complete and utter contempt for their people; you have to not only not know any history about the country/countries, you have to not be interested in learning about those histories. (Author Jonathan Katz, who’s written extensively about Haiti over the years, provides a brief, Twitter-chunk one of Haiti here.) It means having to believe that the people there are too stupid and/or corrupt to govern themselves, which allows one to feel superior. (Whether that’s intellectually, morally or racially, or some combination, only your heart knows.)

It does not matter if others feel that way; lots of people think the moon landing was faked, and that does not make them right. This isn’t political. I don’t support the president politically. This is about decency, and whether the man who occupies the White House is going to appeal to the best of our instincts and beliefs, or the worst.

2) The Orlando Magic isn’t meshing, other than coming together to be a sieve at the defensive end of the floor. I’m keeping Jonathan Simmons, who’s tough and physical. I’m keeping Elfrid Payton, who is continuing to figure it out on offense (career-high shooting across the board, including 50.7 percent overall from the floor, 37.5 percent on 3-pointers, .538 eFG). We can talk about everyone else. You heard me. Everyone else. All that “talent” is 41-83 the last year and a half.

3) The Heat’s on fire right now, but it’s hard to see Miami being able to sustain this the second half of the season without Dion Waiters. Can definitely see the Heat being aggressive at the trade deadline.

4) RIP, Keith Jackson, a great and consequential broadcaster who, while best known for his mellifluous calls of big college football games the last four decades (man, this is an incredible open to a Tennessee-Alabama game in 1992), was also a) the original play-by-play man for Monday Night Football in 1970 for ABC, and b) the play-by-play man on NBA broadcasts when ABC had the pro basketball package in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I never met him in person, but I had a very meaningful phone conversation with him a few years ago that was personal in nature and meant a great deal to me. Blessings to his family.


–Veteran NBA guard Anthony Morrow (@MrAnthonyMorrow), Sunday, 4:32 p.m. Yeah, can’t be wearing white and sitting poolside right about now most places.


“It’ll probably never stop. There’s people who think LeBron James sucks … so if that happens, I’m sure there will always be people who always think I suck.”

— Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, asked before his team’s playoff game Sunday with the Steelers how he deals with the relentless criticism of his play this season. This was before Bortles led the Jags to the upset win in Pittsburgh, getting them to the AFC championship game next Sunday in New England.

“I was very candid with him. I told him I would be happy to trade him. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant and I will drive you to the airport. I will pack your bags and I will drive you there,’ and he laughed. And I said, ‘Short of that I am your best buddy, and you are here for another year and you ain’t going nowhere because for you talent-wise, we are not going to get what we want, so let’s figure this thing out. And we did.”

Gregg Popovich, revealing Thursday that LaMarcus Aldridge asked to be traded during the offseason after a poor 2016-17 season. Popovich and the Spurs didn’t trade Aldridge, of course; the coach acknowledged at the start of this season that he used Aldridge poorly last season, and has changed the offense this year to get Aldridge more touches and shots.

“I went from the R to the star.”

— Rockets forward Gerald Green, to veteran Houston sports reporter Mark Berman, on his new look featuring the Houston Astros logo braided into his hair. Green had previously had the Rockets logo braided in after he signed with Houston late last month. This is nothing new for Green, who had a shamrock in his hair while with the Celtics last season. Green says he wanted to honor the World Series winning Astros and their role in helping bring happiness to his hometown after Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact last summer.

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Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here andfollow him on Twitter.

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