Friday, December 8, 2017 

The Cheerful 30, every NBA team cheered up

We look around and back and forward to what's right with every team.

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

ONE

TWO

THREE

Atlanta Hawks

Not the Hawks.

Not with rookie John Collins (11 points, seven rebounds and a block in 23 minutes) out with a bum shoulder.

Not without Dewayne Dedmon, out with a stress fracture for a few weeks, the dunking center that suddenly turned into Henry James in Atlanta.

(The Henry James you would expect Kelly Dwyer, college attendee, to know about and reference.)Dedmon nailed 14 of 29 three-pointers to start his season after hitting zero and shooting exactly one three-pointer in 3270 career minutes prior to coming to the Hawks.

This is wonderful progress, Atlanta.

Record entering Friday: 5-19

Boston Celtics

Jaylen Brown will lunge for a steal regardless of setting:

On a national TV game this year he’s going to pull some Kawhi shit, diving at a bad snap at halfcourt while ABC talks all over it, and it’s going to look like old hat by then.

In spite of Boston’s outrageous defense, the C’s only rank among the middle of the pack in causing turnovers.

Brown (who will try to play in Friday’s matchup against those Spurs, he’s got a junked-up right eye) probably gets the green light on reaches for deflections in the same way Stephen Curry is allowed to try two volleyball passes, in-game, per week.

Record entering Friday: 22-4

Brooklyn Nets

From our discussion of the Jahlil Okafor-to-Brooklyn deal at TSAChat (subscribe for access!):

The Nets receive what they have coveted since Sean Marks started ducking under doorways in Brooklyn:

Jahlil is a reclamation project with outside star appeal, something to shape up and buy into at the right time, and the same works with Stauskas. There are other general managers out there, still, to be fooled if the pair doesn’t turn out.

Marks can’t complete his slow turnaround just turning over Trevor Booker-types, the sort of players that the assistant to the assistant has to talk you into, and even that person has qualms about this Booker fella’s frontcourt fit in the modern era.

Record entering Friday: 10-14

Charlotte Hornets

From Tuesday’s Behind the Boxscore:

Kemba Walker just looks and plays as if he’s seen everything, and he’s only 27. It’s good to see such a settled, smart NBA brain get to work in such a consistent setting.

The Hornets aren’t going anywhere this year or next, but the in and out routine of teams flying in and out of Charlotte’s many stories has made it so Mr. Walker knows just about every set you run and where you are going in transition with that in and out dribble.

Kemba will get you in the air if he spies you sneaking a look at the shot clock on the other end of the court. He’ll roll right past you on the break because he knows that defenders can’t play perfect running defense while calling out assignments at the same time.

Record entering Friday: 9-14

Chicago Bulls

They knew:

Record entering Friday: 3-20

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs don’t foul anyone because until recently the team barely bothered to be play any defense, and they don’t foul anyone because the team is full of superstars that don’t have to pay for parking, so they get away with quite a bit.

We’ll visit with the team on Friday in Indianapolis to see if that’s a thing we can count on this winter, during all those nationally televised games. As if LeBron needs any help.

Record entering Friday: 18-7

Dallas Mavericks

At some point this will happen in Dirk Nowitzki’s 2017-18 season:

DNP – AUTOGRAPHED TOO MUCH SHIT PREGAME

Record entering Friday: 7-18

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are going to need a while, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap are both out with injuries that could linger far beyond their return dates and the club has gotten by of late on mostly guard play.

Because this is not what was expected, and because Denver has lost two in a row to begin a six-game Eastern road jaunt, we bring you two pictures of Nuggets assistant coach Bob Weiss, during his time with the NBA’s Buffalo Braves:Growl?

Record entering Friday: 13-11

Detroit Pistons

It isn’t just that Andre Drummond has improved his work as a passer, it’s not just that he’s passing. Andre likes it.

He’s passing well, people, he obviously enjoys watching a teammate’s good fortune unfold and it’s clear that he’s putting emphasis on hitting his receivers where it counts.

It’s fun watching NBA players live out their flat-footed quarterback dreams in shorts and sneakers.

Dudes like Drummond and LeBron love to make a grapefruit out of the ball before arching it into the perfect shooting grab for a teammate that just ducked behind the three-point line with tip-toe feet. Movement set to outfit Maid Marian with rosy cheeks, and the Pistons with three points.

Quadrupling your career assist averages (to four a game) and tripling your assist rate is ridiculous enough. Andre already has more dimes in 2017-18 than he had all last season.

Record entering Friday: 14-10

Golden State Warriors

From Thursday’s Behind the Boxscore, and the first Warrior game played in the space since Stephen Curry’s ankle turn:

Kevin Durant turned in a video game performance long before his statline finished its night with 35 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds and three blocks. He roved around the action, a big blinking star around his feet, just bored and waiting out the rest of the CPUs.

Plenty more of that to come in December, girls and boys. Remember that one healthy month that Penny had?

Record entering Friday: 20-6

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Houston Rockets

The Rockets have the best record in the Western Conference and, because we’re a little too engaged these days, worry exists in some pockets.

The team’s play when James Harden and Chris Paul share a court together hasn’t singed the nets in the same way as the burn does with the group that works when either one of them runs the show alone.

December has always been Mike D’Antoni’s time to sign books, and there is a real chance this could all turn into a pound-foolish exercise.

What if Houston can do this penny by penny, though? We don’t know, yet, if staggering won’t work in a playoff setting. Let’s let December ring a bit.

We don’t know anything about this league beyond the fact that the NBA makes it so you have to win four out of seven in a playoff series to advance, and if lineups featuring both Chris Paul and James Harden are Houston’s problem, then we should all be so lucky in the soup line.

Record entering Friday: 19-4

Indiana Pacers

From Thursday’s Behind the Boxscore:

The Indiana Pacers play the same basketball in the fourth quarter that they do in the first, and sometimes the pop-a-shots don’t fall in the first quarter, sometimes the booth in the bar you end up at is way better than the one you settled on when first you walked in.

If that sort of play isn’t a finer appreciation of Nate McMillan, especially in a town that adores a head coach that its players can go have a round with, then I haven’t watched one yet.

Record entering Friday: 14-11

Los Angeles Clippers

DGAF DeAndre showed up before Blake Griffin’s injury, even before Patrick Beverley’s sidestep, in the opening pangs of Los Angeles’ disastrous Eastern road swing late in November.

That’s not a dig, Jordan played well then as now, DGAF DeAndre just worked with the knowledge that everything is due to crumble.

This bodes well, because the center seems to be all anyone can talk about. That’s to be expected, Jordan is in his prime and his style of play lends itself well toward discussion, because all of us think we can turn the guy into a spring-changer in the right setting.

Doc Rivers thought that way, too, and he had the benefit of a training camp to work with. Several of them, in fact.

Doc had to say that stuff, though, and he should be credited for pulling expectation out of the staple he inherited.

There are a lot of good people here, and if everyone keeps a good sense of humor about things the Clippers could emerge from all this. We’re rooting for that.

Record entering Friday: 8-15

Los Angeles Lakers

From last Thursday’s Behind the Boxscore:

Brandon Ingram looked every bit a future All-Star in this one, it was fun to watch him go right at Draymond Green off of improv sets that didn’t seem forced, he turned the ball over seven times but he also added three steals and two turnovers.

Ingram had 32 points, he enjoyed seven free throw trips and drove with emerging grace many times in this game, but it’s his shooting elbow that is going to set him apart if this continues.

It’s right under the ball, as he lines up from distance, in a form that is only going to become more potent with time, because the honin’ is done.

Ingram turned 20 in September and he’s at 16 points with five assists and three assists in 34 minutes a night. He gets to the line a lot, too.

Record entering Friday: 9-15

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are the slowest team in the NBA and they’ve lost four of five since J.B. Bickerstaff took over as coach, but at least this team gets to the line a lot.

That’s good, for when you want a slow Memphis Grizzlies game to tack on for a few more minutes.

Record entering Friday: 8-16

Miami Heat

IKE AUSTIN MIX.

Record entering Friday: 11-13

Milwaukee Bucks

Khris Middleton’s three-pointers aren’t falling with the same regularity that we’re used to, he’s shooting more but has briefly dipped below average from long range, but it’s been fun to watch him re-adapt to that secondary playmaker position.

With Matthew Dellavedova out and Eric Bledsoe asked to shore up so much at once, Middleton is starting to find joy in setting things up.

It takes a while for things to unfold in MKE’s offense, maddening, but at least Middleton looks to create where others in his slipstream (Allan Houston, Milwaukee’s own Michael Redd) have faltered.

He’s seeing things, and I want to see where this goes. Milwaukee hasn’t played nearly enough games.

Record entering Friday: 13-10

Behind the Boxscore runs several times a week, new pricing plans start at just five bucks a month.]

Minnesota Timberwolves

From Thursday’s Behind the Boxscore, and the Wolves’ needed win over the Clippers:

The Timberwolves fed their center, Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21 points and made half his shots for just the third time since Thanksgiving, which is insane.

More importantly, the family deigned to tell the youngest kid what time dinner was on Wednesday night.

Karl-Anthony was ready for the ball in his movement spots and not only did he react with greater precision on his catches and finishes, but the center responded with similar improved timing on the defensive end.

Record entering Friday: 15-11

New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday is up to over 20 points per game and four assists in his last ten games, he’s begun to find new life as more of a hybrid guard with the Pelicans, the space he should have been in all along, and you’d like to see that push to stay potent with Anthony Davis sitting for a bit.

New Orleans doesn’t need everyone to touch the ball and count one-two-three-NISSALKE before every shot, they’re just trying to survive game-to-game with this sort of roster. It’s a February roster, but we are having fun with it.

Record entering Friday: 13-12 

New York Knicks

Enes Kanter is on the hook for missing six of ten shots on Wednesday, which is strange because I don’t recall him missing an attempt in that or any other game so far in 2017-18.

Kanter has always been aware of his limitations, though his levels of recognition were the source of much consternation in Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City, things are working out in New York, where the stakes are clearly lower.

He fits within an offense that moves and also badly needs good players to finish the play that the less-talented workers may have fouled up.

Kanter does what he can on the defensive glass, which is quite a bit. He’s always been great there but these days he appears to collect each defensive board with the sort of panache that confirms that, yes, I am terrible at defense but maybe I can just hold this flashlight.

Enes also leads the NBA in offensive rebound rate alongside 61.8 percent shooting and a double-double in 26 minutes a night.

Record entering Friday: 12-12

Oklahoma City Thunder

Teams are still full of the summer and September, with the Thunder. Watch how they line up defensively against OKC, all full of NBA podcasts and 2017-18 season previews.

Teams will try to make Carmelo Anthony work for baskets through contact that hits well before he even touches the ball, teams try to take the ball out of Paul George’s hands before he even gets it, and teams are correct to try and bait Russell Westbrooks into taking the sort of shots that he’s not only hit before, but also shot before. Far more attempts than hits.

The Thunder have not responded well to this, the team is still in the 20s in offense, and injuries will pick away at this thin club all season.

OKC has sets to take advantage of the first page in the defense’s scouting report, but those sets also tempt the worst of the stars – Melo still has to bang on a play that may never even deliver him the ball, George has to want it on a curl, Russell has to settle down.

I still like them a lot. It’s December. I don’t even know what day of the week this year’s Christmas is on, yet.

Record entering Friday: 11-13

Orlando Magic

From Thursday’s Behind the Boxscore:

Jonathan Simmons, you are the secondary playmaker now, act that way the entire time that you are on the court. You are the guy that has been there before, everyone on this team expects you to act as a pinstriped amalgamation of Hannibal Smith and B.A. Baracus.

Elfrid Payton? Be crazier, for longer periods, because you are very long and you would like us to think that you are crazy.

Record entering Friday: 11-15

Philadelphia 76ers

From our top Sixers correspondent, comedian Geoff Tate:

The Sixers feel like a golden retriever puppy who is a little bigger and faster than he realizes and ends up crashing into the door occasionally.

The Sixers commit a lot of unforced turnovers, but most of those seem like they happen because they’re surprised the move worked, like they’re expecting the defense but there isn’t any, and it throws off their timing.

They look like 2007 LeBron James, but as a whole team. Imagine if they all got to be as polished as 2017 LeBron.

And if LeBron joined ‘em, they could beat the Warriors. And that is the only team that could.

Record entering Friday: 13-11

[Behind the Boxscore runs several times a week, new pricing plans start at just five bucks a month.]

Phoenix Suns

The Suns are going to go down now, Devin Booker pulled his groin and Tyson Chandler is taking some time away from the team to attend to a personal matter, the losses are going to pile up.

This roster has won nine times, somehow, in 15 attempts under Jay Triano. The NBA only pitches to entertain in the first few months, so you can always pick up a win or two just by acting your age, but none of the Suns can even rent a damn car.

Nine wins in 15 tries, and even the toppling of the Sixers was a team victory – Devin Booker’s 46 points was only part of the package.

None of these are answers, none of the elements here are franchise-changers scraping among the rust. I’m not promising that Jay Triano will someday turn Giannis Antetokounmpo into a six-time champion.

It’s just, good job, pros, for giving this much while everyone else’s nose was turned up in the air.

Record entering Friday: 9-18

Portland Trail Blazers

Corbin Smith, are you cool with the Trail Blazers?

Yeah. The Milwaukee loss aside, which was a total bummer but kind of expected (Length can torture the team's lack of wing depth) they just got through a successful-as-hell road trip and are flashing, for the first time in maybe more than a decade, a pestilent defense.

It would be just fucking awesome if they could do something about those wings, just get SOMEONE who can stake an honest claim to being better than Evan Turner, but even if they don't, they're still bringing "The Goods" so far and I suspect they will continue.

Sean Highkin?

[3:30] I have no idea why the Blazers are this bad

[3:31] the roster is good

[3:31] Terry's a great coach

[3:31] the defense is much better this year

[3:32] but they look awful in these games for weeks at a time

Brooke Olzendam?

I'm very cool with the Blazers.

Their improved defense has been a pleasure to watch. Their offense is finding its way. They're not concerned, so I'm not concerned. Dame and CJ continue to be one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league, and with Nurk getting into a groove offensively, I only see this team becoming more consistent. And I'm cool with them because I really like all of them. Ha!

Ian Karmel?

Karmando Iannucci@IanKarmel

Does anyone in Portland know a good mariachi band?

December 6, 2017

Record entering Friday: 13-11

Sacramento Kings

This team’s win over the Warriors will not be a highlight of the season, the Kings are run by a coach who is slowly learning how to be comfortable, and if the veterans stay healthy this team will remain required watching even though they will go games at a time without headbutting the ball.

Record entering Friday: 7-17

San Antonio Spurs

Best chyron:

Record entering Friday: 17-8

Toronto Raptors

From last Saturday’s Behind the Boxscore (because we do BtB every Saturday morning):

(It’s just good to see that dude hitting any buckets. I’d rather watch DeMar DeRozan in September with 500 shots in a hoodie over any skills competition with your stupid point guards, I’d watch him at 1000 shots over most Game 7s.)

Record entering Friday: 15-7

Utah Jazz

After the Jazz downed the Wizards on Monday evening:

The Jazz got at it, the lineups come in waves and they were always in good finishing spots after peeling off strong angles, and in rookie Donovan Mitchell the Jazz finally have a player that can finish broken plays.

All those touches and reps early in Mitchell’s rookie season have given the guard (21 points on 13 shots in 25 minutes) an unerring confidence with the shot clock winding down. Which is good, because Quin Snyder won’t even call a play until everyone has had a chance to count to 12.

Record entering Friday: 13-13

Washington Wizards

Bruises are cool and so is a 4-3 mark without John Wall, worked up mostly away from home.

Record entering Friday: 14-11

(Thank you for reading.)