Let’s bounce around the league after another seven days of madness.
Joel Embiid, efficiently insane
Think about how far Philadelphia have come in one month. From five years of tanking, processing and losing to suddenly a team with potential to be all-time greats.
This applies specifically to Joel Embiid, who is being compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, a man who recorded two quadruple doubles during his career. In Staples Center on Wednesday, Embiid nearly pulled that off, putting up 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocks.
In 36 minutes, that’s efficient and insane. Embiid is about to hit one million Twitter followers and is always looking to stir the pot, achieved after the game by posting a picture of him flying over Lonzo Ball, who was benched for the fourth quarter after a miserable display.
As Embiid explained afterward, it was more a shot at his father LaVar Ball and he respected Lonzo’s game. Even so, he’s towering over all the other young players and there were a lot of them featured in this game.
Embiid shot 16-of-19 from the charity stripe and when you add that to a three-point shot and deep skillset to match both Shaquille O’Neal and Olajuwon, it’s scary to think he’s only ‘at 69%’ conditioning-wise.
No qualifier is more daunting in sports than “if healthy”. But if healthy, Embiid has a chance to become one of the greats.
LeBron James, subway enthusiast
When you have everything in life, it can be fairly straightforward to have yourself a stand-out week.
LeBron James turned it up a notch by first proclaiming that Dennis Smith Jr, currently residing and thriving in Dallas, “should be a Knick”.
He then took his Cavaliers teammates on the New York City subway, filming the entire thing and capturing a man sat next to him who clearly had no idea who he was. Not hard to guess the occupation of those surrounding you if they’re all seven feet tall, mind.
‘48 Hours’ with LeBron continued inside Madison Square Garden, which hosted its unofficial Game 7 for the season as the millennials were shown what that arena can be like when the game is exciting.
James shoved Frank Ntilikina around, bumped heads with Enes Kanter - a guy we assume wasn’t intimidated given he had an arrest warrant from the Turkish government this summer - then flexed his bicep to the courtside club after an and-1.
Kanter forgot whether James was the King, Queen or Princess, to which James confirmed he was the King, his wife the Queen and daughter the Princess, then more interestingly took a shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson.
James said: “With the release of the old fella, Jeff Hornacek is finally able to implement what he wants to do.” Your official NBA ambassador, LeBron James. He does it all.
Steph Curry, available to buy online
Have you seen the news? Curry will be an online basketball teacher starting next year, and you can access these classes for $90 per video session or $180 for the year (it isn’t difficult to work out which is better value).
The videos will be hosted on the website MasterClass.com, which already has Serena Williams and Christina Aguilera on board and now its first basketball player. I love this idea.
If you’re a 13-year-old beginner or intermediate player, having access to this kind of fundamental training and the feeling your idol is speaking directly to you is pretty cool.
Beware, parents. Soon your kids will be able to shoot three-pointers, smash a forehand down the line and sing, all at an incredibly high level.
Jayson Tatum, the better half of ‘Jaywatch’
The next time Boston play, just watch Jayson Tatum. You may come away with observations such as ‘smooth’, ‘in control’, ‘floating’ and ‘calm’.
Tatum and the NBA just fit naturally, and the guy is JUST 19. The game never looks too fast for him, as if he had a previous life playing in Euro League as Jaysono Tatum (not sure what country that is).
When on the ball in open space he doesn’t hesitate to shoot, and that high release point makes any contested shot difficult to block. He is patient on the ball, waiting for screens or using them to misdirect an opponent before unleashing those massive strides to get to the basket in little time at all.
He’s strong at the basket and on defence uses that seven-foot wingspan to jump out to shooters, snag blocks and is generally switched on with his eyes and feet.
The most impressive thing? He understands the situation, particularly scoring. If time needs to be taken off the clock, he won’t charge to get himself a basket. If the extra pass needs making, he’ll move the ball. Savvy guy. Savvy teenager.
Kyrie Irving looks fantastic in a mask. There’s something very Phantom of the Opera about it. More fun, however, is watching him take it off at every possible opportunity during a game.
Whether after a foul, during a substitution or even running into the crowd, the damn thing is coming off. Irving is a master finisher at the basket so when he misses with the mask on, we know it’s just the Phantom and no other external factor, like a huge defender getting in the way.
Good job he’s been wearing it too; I counted three separate moments he was whacked square in the face over the last seven days. If only the mask enabled him to project a lovely singing voice like that Phantom dude. MasterClass.com, Kyrie!
Karl-Anthony Towns, medicine man
Karl-Anthony Towns is not just a superb basketball player and lousy defender. He’s also a proponent of being able to use medical marijuana in the NBA, which has been an interesting topic of discussion around the league.
Towns, in a long Q&A, began with some words many don’t understand (me included). “You don’t actually need to make it ‘Mary J’ or ‘Half Baked’.”
Assuming we aren’t onto dough and flour at this point, he went on to say: “You could use the chemical properties in it to make a lot of people better.
“That’s something that Adam Silver has to do, maybe legalizing marijuana. Not fully legal, where people are chimneys, but using it as a beneficial factor as an athlete, as a person living daily.”
Former commissioner David Stern recently said marijuana should be removed from the NBA’s banned substance list, while this argument has been going on from players in the NFL for several years.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr admitted last year that he used marijuana twice to try and alleviate chronic back pain he was dealing with, and it’s absolutely a conversation players are having.
Knowing Silver, he will be involving himself in them very soon.
Watching former stars, awkward
Dirk Nowitzki is playing in his 20th NBA season, all with the Dallas Mavericks. That number matches Kobe Bryant, who was with the Lakers for two decades.
The German has said his status for next season depends on whether his body can handle it, not the Mavs’ record. I personally hate watching guys like Nowitzki and Bryant go out the way they have, some perhaps forgetting how bad the latter was over the last few years because of that epic 60-point outburst against Utah at his final dance.
Now we have to watch Nowitzki hobble around on an awful team, which isn’t fun. Does he really need to play another year? I
f anything, he could have retired in 2011 after Dallas’ title run.
The Nuggets, one superstar short
As Zach Lowe of ESPN reported from Denver this week, Nikola Jokic and head coach Michael Malone are not shy to tangle in shouting matches. The 22-year-old superstar wants to win his way, while Malone told him before the season that when he doesn’t get his way, he can often act like a baby.
It was definitely a good thing that Denver didn’t end up flogging Gary Harris for Kevin Love or acquiring Paul George for one season, but one player they should have considered was Kyrie Irving.
Denver are a superstar short of being a 55-win team in what is one of the toughest conferences in history. Jokic is a great passer and dominates smaller guys inside, but flaps around a little on defence and plays alongside a point guard tandem - Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay - that’s less than league average and still very much learning the game.
Jokic has failed to reach double figures in five of his first 14 games, a sign of both his high passing ability and troubles integrating with Paul Millsap on offence, who needs the ball more than Danilo Gallinari and wants it inside.
Where this team are concerned, there are more questions than answers.
Biceps, bigger in Canada
I had an odd moment last Sunday night folks. Settling in for the Toronto @ Boston game, I was staggered by what I saw when Kyle Lowry stepped to the line.
“Those biceps!”, I would have cried if not in the company of one other person. When did Lowry hit the gym?! That’s some ferocious gain right there.
I was so surprised I felt the need to tweet Mike Ganter, the Raptors beat guy for the Toronto Sun. Ganter said he couldn’t possibly confirm that they were bigger. I’m glad I could do it for him.
The Rockets, the new version of seven seconds or less
Ready? Ok. The Rockets scored 90 points in the first half of their victory over the Suns on Thursday, more than 39 teams have scored in an entire game this season.
They put up more points in that half than Golden State did against Boston (88) and are just the third team to hit that mark since the shot clock era began in 1954. 142 total points (so poor that they didn’t get to 180) is also the highest scoring total his campaign.
You want to exhale after all that, but there’s just no time! Mike D’Antoni’s offence is running and gunning just like his old Phoenix teams, and oh how the home fans must have thought back to that era on this night.
Chris Paul returned from a left knee bruise that has kept him out since Opening Night and he did exactly what’s needed, not turning the ball over and recording an efficient double double.
James Harden by the way? Leads the league in scoring and assists. The game is coming so easy to him and I therefore propose he shave his beard if he doesn’t win the MVP award.