Watching NBA rookies from week to week really shows you how difficult it is to play in this league. The inconsistency is a part of growing up, so it's fascinating to see a week like the one Donovan Mitchell just had. We'll have more on him later, but Mitchell has answered the emergency siren the Jazz sounded with Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson all out of the lineup. If he wasn't already before, Mitchell is now officially in the Rookie of the Year conversation. On the other side of the coin you have Lonzo Ball, who's taking a more traditional rookie path. From game to game, even quarter to quarter, Lonzo can look like two completely different basketball players. But the talent is there, and we get to see it come out in bursts from time to time. And then ever...
What started as 34 players with incentive bonuses in their contract in early September has now increased to 39 with the late September signings of Nikola Mirotic, JaMychal Green and rookie extensions of Joel Embiid, TJ Warren and Gary Harris. While there are five months for teams to improve upon their early-season record, the first six weeks of the season have begun to separate which players are trending toward likely and unlikely bonuses (and which have been eliminated because of injury). Once again, the media will have an impact with All-Star and postseason honors, votes that could change the landscape financially for some players and potentially even decrease cap space in July for one team.
This is how much has changed for the Philadelphia 76ers in the past month. Before the season, head coach Brett Brown said he thought his team should make the playoffs and there was widespread concern he was getting way too far ahead of himself. Playoffs? After five years of the outright tanking, processing and losing, it seemed a bit early for Philadelphia's young 20-somethings to start talking about turning the corner, let alone winning enough games to make the playoffs..... Story Continues
USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick and AJ Neuharth-Keusch break down the drama between LeBron James and the New York Knicks. Isaiah Thomas knows he can't control where his underdog story goes next. Does he come back better than ever from the hip injury that forced him off the floor back in May, when his Boston Celtics fell in the conference finals to the very Cleveland Cavaliers team that would trade for him less than three months later? Does he get sweet revenge with LeBron James at his side, maybe even beating Kyrie Irving's Celtics in a conference finals rematch that leads to his first chance to win it all? “Oh, that would be lovely,” he says with a laugh. “That would be a special moment. Story Continues
The head coach of any team, in any sport, is always tempted to play his best players the most—and the NBA is no exception. Last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook is averaging 34.1 minutes per game this season, the second highest on Oklahoma after Paul George at 36.3. At Golden State, Kevin Durant edges the most time on the court with 34.3 minutes over Klay Thompson on 32.9 and Stephen Curry on 32.4. Over in Boston, at the top of the Eastern Conference, the work is being shared out: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart are all averaging between 30 and 31 minutes per game. But that’s not the case in Cleveland where everything's clearly about one man: LeBron James. Story Continues