By Rob Mahoney
• The Washington Post has reported — based on information from an anonymous source — that the Wizards turned down a deal that would have potentially landed James Harden last offseason. Mike Prada, in turn, sliced and diced that rumor for thorough examination. Among the possibilities is that the Thunder floated the trade scenario, , as an examination of what kind of trade return might be possible:
[T]he Thunder were probably canvassing the league to gauge Harden's market value, and the Wizards, with a young shooting guard and additional trade assets, were a team that they called because the possibility of a deal was at least remotely high. The Wizards also probably weren't the only team they called. We know they called Houston, but maybe they also called Golden State about Klay Thompson, Toronto about DeMar DeRozan, Cleveland about Dion Waiters, Milwaukee about Monta Ellis, Philadelphia about Evan Turner ... I mean, the possibilities are endless.
Additionally, the Thunder, based on previous reports, were making these calls while simultaneously trying to secure Harden with a four-year extension that was below the max. They very easily could have been doing these things simultaneously, in which case, any team talking about a Harden trade could not have negotiated an extension with Harden's agent.
• The story of Chauncey Billups, whose career has been spent with bindle in hand. Even Billups' most memorable stops have been just that — the latest destinations in a career-long road trip.
• Danny Chau waxes on the significance of the Lakers' now-infamous 1-10 record when Kobe Bryant scores 30 or more points, as it relates to Bryant's basketball nature and newfound efficiency:
Chief among Kobe’s adjustment this season has been leaving the bread and butter off the table. Kobe’s favorite shooting distance on the court last season was from 15-19 feet, a zone that almost begs of Bryant to give into his most self-destructive vice: toying with the improbable. Last season, according to the NBA.com stats tool, almost a quarter of his shots (23 percent) came from that distance. This season, it’s down to 12 percent. Where’d the shots go? Mostly to the painted area, where 45 percent of his shots are coming from; a huge bump from 33.8 percent of last year. Bryant’s recommitment to the most effective spaces on the floor—around the rim and behind the arc—has given the mythical beast that is Kobe’s career a new shiny coat. Maybe Kobe’s staggering efficiency levels off a bit soon – that doesn’t really matter. He’s changed his approach in a way that invites efficient numbers; he’s not fighting against it in hopes of the same result. This latest battle in the ongoing war against age has been as inspiring as Tim Duncan’s over in San Antonio. If only it came with the same number of wins. Kobe’s always been the savior, but despite his best efforts, precious little is working. And that’s a very confusing, very humbling, thing to think about. Even kings are mortals.
• As Ming Wang suggests in his examination of the Rockets' defense for Red 94, it's not exactly surprising that a team of young players helmed by an inexperienced coach would translate to a lackluster defense.
• Beckley Mason reflects on the three-point-happy nature of the Knicks, and what that offensive bent ultimately means for New York's prospects:
The old N.B.A. axiom is that teams “live by the 3 and die by the 3.” The point being that teams that win by shooting 3-pointers are, to a degree, getting lucky. But that’s not the case with the Knicks. Though they’ve shot exceptionally well, it might be more accurate to say that their worst games have come when they couldn’t get enough 3-point attempts, rather than enough shots that went in the basket.
The Knicks’ defense must be consistent for a deep run in the playoffs (and it wasn’t Tuesday night), but don’t discount the power of the 3-point shot. The last two champions, Dallas and Miami, shot more 3-pointers in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. A bounty of shots from deep is hardly a cause for concern with a team like New York. The Knicks don’t just live by the 3, they thrive by it.
• Obvious criticism aside, this is — at the least — an interesting way to boil down a highly complex game (via Kevin Pelton). • Andrew Bynum's time in Philadelphia can't be declared a disaster yet, but we've seen enough warning signs to brace for the worst. That hasn't stopped Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers from going into his bunker full of hope, and for his sake — and that of all similarly minded Sixers fans — I hope this episode in Philadelphia sports history finds a rosy conclusion.