Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers beat Lakers in 2002 home opener


Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers beat Lakers in 2002 home opener

 We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-2020 NBA season by looking back at each of the home opener wins (the streak is now at 18). Here is a look at what happened back in 2002 when the Portland Trail Blazers faced the LA Lakers for their home-opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2002? Let’s paint the picture:

  • Tim Duncan was the reigning MVP
  • The Lakers were the defending champions
  • The Nets were still in New Jersey and were the best team in the East
  • Allen Iverson was the league’s top scorer
  • Yao Ming was the No.1 overall pick in 2002
  • The Blazers first pick that season? Qyntel Woods.

The Lakers/Blazers rivalry was as heated as ever and the Blazers welcomed the defending champs to town to start the season. Shaq wasn’t in action on this night, as he was sidelined while he recovered from toe surgery, and the Blazers took advantage.

Without Shaq to defend in the paint, Blazers power forward Rasheed Wallace had a day. Wallace led all scorers with 28 points and paced the Blazers to an 84-61 lead after three quarters.  The Lakers outscored the Blazers 29-18 in the fourth, but the lead was too much for LA to claw back. The Blazers beat the Lakers, 102-90, winning their second home opener in a row.

Notable stats: 

Laker  -

Kobe Bryant – 25 points, 10 rebounds

Stanislav Medvedenko – 15 points, 9 rebounds

Robert Horry – 12 points, 4 steals


Blazers –

Rasheed Wallace – 28 points, 6 rebounds

Damon Stoudamire – 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists

Antonio Daniels – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists

The Blazers would go on to finish the season 50-32, good for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. However, despite the stellar record, the Blazers would lose their opening round series to the Dallas Mavericks, 4-3.  The 2002-’03 NBA season ended with the San Antonio Spurs beating the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.

Some other random facts about the world in 2002:

  • The Eminem Show was the best selling album of the year
  • Disney’s Kim Possible made its TV debut
  • Disney also released the now classic Lilo & Stitch
  • Men in Black II, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Signs, xXx, The Ring, Jackass: The Movie, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Super Troopers, Blade II,  and SpiderMan all hit theaters.
  • Gamers were playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Kingdom Hearts, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and NBA 2K3.
  • Friends was still making new episodes, while American Idol, The Bachelor, and CSI: Miami all debuted.

Purple, Gold and Chaotic: LeBron James and the Lakers makes for a frenzied atmosphere

USA Today Images

Purple, Gold and Chaotic: LeBron James and the Lakers makes for a frenzied atmosphere

Two hours before tip-off hundreds of purple and gold clad fans poured into the lower bowl of the Moda Center.

They crowded in the corner nearest to the visitor’s bench, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Los Angeles Lakers’ newest star. It had the anticipatory feel of a rock concert. Only instead of tour t-shirts the fans were adorned with No. 23 jerseys with a few No. 8s and No. 24s dotting the crowd, signifying fandom from a previous iteration.

On the edges of the court, media members waited, too. More than 90 minutes before the Portland Trail Blazers played host to the rival Lakers everyone in the arena was anticipating a pregame shooting routine, a sound check of sorts, for a rock star that never showed.

LeBron James didn’t go through an on-court shooting routine before the game. He did finally arrive, of course. But he waited to make his entrance with a couple emphatic dunks in the first quarter, and by that time the visiting fans were outnumbered 10 to 1 by the Blazers faithful.

There is a certain amount of mayhem that will inevitably follow James and his Lakers all season. Not just on the court, where their first performance of the year ended in a 128-119 defeat and showed some of their obvious deficiencies, but behind the scenes as well.

Before Damian Lillard (28 points), Nik Stauskas (24 points) and Zach Collins (six blocks) spoiled James' debut, there were Blazers employees scrambling behind the scenes to prepare for a uniquely chaotic night.

There were more than 120 credentialed media members in the arena on Thursday, nearly twice as many than an average regular season night when the team credentials between 60 and 70 people. For the first time since anyone working with the Blazers could recall, the team opened up an auxiliary media section at the very top of the arena, creating press seating above the 300 level. There was also an additional media workroom put together to accommodate the horde of reporters’ and photographers’ postgame needs.

It was a perfect confluence of events to be a memorably chaotic scene in every corner of the building.

It was a season opener, meaning every local media affiliate was there with a full crew. It was a nationally televised game, meaning TNT cameras and on-air talent arrived early to capture the scene. It was a game featuring the Lakers, a global brand that also happens to be an NBA basketball team.  And it was LeBron James’ debut with the aforementioned brand, the sport’s brightest star donning his latest jersey for the first time.

The LeBron circus was magnified even more in the postgame press conference. Instead of the usual five cameras filming the postgame interviews, there were 16, not including TNT, lined up inside the Harry Glickman Media center. With such a massive crew, James’ postgame media session was moved out of Portland’s’ notoriously cramped visiting locker room into the media center where reporters and camera crews mobbed six and eight deep, standing on chairs and step ladders to crane for a sound bite from James.

As one cameraman walked away from the massive scrum, he sang “I haaaaaaated that.”

There won’t be many more nights like this inside the Moda Center this season. It was a one-off chaotic mess. But this could be close to the norm for James and Lakers on the road all year. Regardless of what happens on the court for the Lakers, their traveling show will include a behind the scenes media maelstrom at every stop. It’ll start with fans in Lakers jersey getting to arenas around the country hours before the games start and end with over-crowded interviews.

OUTSIDERS PODCAST: Blazers extend streak over Lakers, win home opener

OUTSIDERS PODCAST: Blazers extend streak over Lakers, win home opener

Lakers. LeBron. Lonzo. They all start with an L. So does LOSS, which is what the Lakers were handed by the Blazers in the season opener. The Blazers Outsiders Dan, Shain, and Joe break it all down. 

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is THE app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Shootaround Notes: LeBron with high praises for Dame & CJ

Shootaround Notes: LeBron with high praises for Dame & CJ

The Portland Trail Blazers open up the season at the Moda Center tonight against Western Conference rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s a few notes from the Lakers shootaround this morning. 

LeBron James:

On what to expect from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum...

"They’re great every night. Two of the best 1-2 punches as far as a point guards, two guards, right there with Steph, Klay, Brad, and Wall. They just create so many match up problems for your team, because they’re able to play off one another. They shoot the ball, they penetrate, so they’ve been good for this franchise for awhile."

He's still focused on another ring...

“It’s my goal. It’s always been my goal. For the last 10 years, maybe last 10-11 years, I feel like it’s been championships. I put my mind into that. I think when you have championship habits you have championship thoughts and obviously there’s only one champion at the end of the road and you can't dictate wins and losses of that nature, but you can approach everyday like a champion. If you do that, you put yourself in a position to be successful, either individually or as a team.”

Luke Walton: 

Walton on the late Paul Allen...

“He was part of the NBA family obviously. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Paul. It’s sad to hear the news. Young, 65, relatively young, someone who does so much good for the NBA for at least the whole region up here. It’s sad…it’s going to be emotional. We’ll pay our respects and we have to be ready to match that type of emotional start that Portland will have tonight.”

Lakers in beginning steps of a season-long journey...

“It’s always challenging when you get a new group of guys together. From last year’s team, we lost a lot of guys that played big minutes for us. Getting the new guys in, into a system, playing together, feeling each other out, getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses, it just takes time.”

On playing in Portland...

"I shouldn’t say I love to play here, because it’s hard to win here. But I love this city. We have family friends that still live up here. Obviously, my Dad, Maurice Lucas, guys like that are still a big part of our family."

On how many minutes LeBron will play...

“LeBron will play a lot of minutes. I told him he’s a player that his legs seem to be getting younger as training goes on. He’s jumping higher, he’s moving quicker as we get out there and play.”

Video Essay: Payton's pursuit to steal a roster spot

Video Essay: Payton's pursuit to steal a roster spot

TUALATIN – Gary Payton II got an invitation to participate in the Portland Trail Blazers’ training camp this season – but all that did was ensure that he’d have a real fight on his hands.

It’s been a week in camp now for Payton – son of a Hall of Famer and a former star at Oregon State just like the elder Gary Payton. He went undrafted out of college and signed a contract with Houston, which assigned him to its G-League team.

He’s since gotten playing time for the Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks but hasn’t found a lasting landing spot. How is he doing in Portland’s camp?

Let’s ask Damian Lillard about that:

“In camp, if you ask me who has had the best camp, I would say he’s in the top two. Top two in the camp,,” Lillard said.

Whoa. What?

“He has been great,” said the Portland captain. “He’s been like GREAT. I’ve been knowing him for a while now. I remember him working out at Merritt College in Oakland and he was tough then – a real good defender, “He’s strong, athletic.  I remembered him for that.

“But when he got here and started playing I was really impressed. He’s always making a big play – not just a bucket, but a steal, an offensive rebound and he’s just always there.”

GP2, as he’s called, says he’s been comfortable in the Portland camp.

“I feel like this has been my best camp out of my three years,” he said. “Every year getting accustomed to different systems has been tough, but I think I’ve picked it up pretty fast here. I just come out and give it all I’ve got.”

But this is an almost impossible situation. The Trail Blazers have 15 guaranteed contracts, including at least five proven NBA guards. There just isn’t an obvious roster spot.

‘At this point, I’ve got to take somebody’s job,” he said. “I come out every day and battle with all the guards. I try to pick up Dame or CJ every day to show Coach Stotts I can guard the elite guards.

“It’s going to come down to taking somebody’s spot.”

And if he doesn’t win a spot here, perhaps he’s caught another team’s eye during an exhibition game.

Can he have an NBA career?

“I expect him to,” Lillard said. “There is definitely a place for him in the league. If we didn’t have 15 guaranteed contracts and I were competing for a job, I would be nervous.”

CSN Insiders Notebook: Warriors just keep scoring, Rockets shoot the 3... a lot


CSN Insiders Notebook: Warriors just keep scoring, Rockets shoot the 3... a lot

Welcome to another week of the CSN Insiders notebook where we give you the lowdown on all the happenings in the NBA courtesy of our band of Insiders.

While trade rumors never take a day off, most of the league at this point is in wait-and-see mode as far as what they’ll do to (hopefully) bolster their roster.

And then you have teams like the San Antonio Spurs whose growth seemingly every season is organic.

Off to one of the more impressive starts in their franchise’s history, the Spurs are once again finding impact talent from unlikely sources that many teams passed over.

CSN California’s James Ham sheds some light on the latest where-did-he-come-from talent that the Spurs consistently find and soon develop into a steady contributor in what’s shaping up to be yet another NBA title run.


San Antonio has built a franchise mining the world for diamonds in the rough. Their latest find appears to be Latvian rookie David Bertans. The 6-foot-10 forward has caught fire from the perimeter over his last five games, hitting 10-of-18 from behind the arc.

He was among the key players in San Antonio’s 109-103 win over Boston on Nov. 25, coming off the bench to score 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting which included 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

The Spurs have quietly won nine straight and they sit at 14-3 on the season. But head coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t exactly happy with his team’s effort in their 96-91 win over the Mavs on Monday night - “I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent,” Popovich told reporters following the game. “A very pathetic performance at both ends of the court. Both in execution and in grunt, in fiber, in desire. It was an awful performance.”

He had similar comments following their win at Boston on Friday, a game in which the Spurs’ bench outscored Boston’s second unit 56-30 in part because Popovich went to them early and often during the afternoon matchup. “Our first group was still in bed,” Popovich said. “It was hard to watch.” – by James Ham


DeMar DeRozan surprised many when he re-signed a long term deal with Toronto without even giving his home town teams – the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers – a chance.

The two-time all-star recently spoke with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated about his decision to stay with the Raptors who selected him with the 9th overall pick of the 2009 NBA draft.

For DeRozan, he has a clear and undeniable goal in re-signing the Raptors.

He wants to be the franchise’s greatest player ever.

“Without a doubt. No question,” he told the Undefeated. “How many people get to say they hold one record for an organization, or were on the winningest team in Raptors history, or did this with one organization? All of those things last longer than your playing career. It took time for me to get out of the second round (of the playoffs) in Raptors history. And we did that (this year), and that’s something that is going to be there.

DeRozan added, “If we don’t do it and someone else wins a championship, they are still going to revert back to the 2015-2016 team as the best team until then. Ten, 15, 20 years from now, whatever it might be, those things last longer. It’s something you put your all into.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely


When the Warriors added Kevin Durant to the NBA’s highest-scoring team, scoreboards around the league were put on notice. With the four-time scoring champ now on board, how high could they go?

They’ve issued a warning, scoring 149 points in a 43-point win over the Lakers last week at Oracle Arena and surpassing by 13 points the most they had previously scored in two-plus seasons under Steve Kerr. Though that was the most points by any team this season, the Warriors believe they can go higher. Can they get 150? They believe it’s within reach.

“I don’t think a team I’ve been on has ever scored 150 points in a game,” Klay Thompson said. “I thought that would be cool. But I can settle for 149.”

Settle? That’s what Thompson said. Maybe he was aware that came within a point of 150 despite missing six layups and 11 free throws. – by Monte Poole


The Boston Celtics have a roster full of bargain-priced talent, a group that includes their $5 million man Jonas Jerebko. He finished off the season as a starter in the playoffs, with a return to the bench this season likely.

To his credit, Jerebko has not allowed his reduced role to affect his impact on the team’s success.

Boston has won four of the last six games with Jerebko being an instrumental part of that run. In that span, his effective Field Goal Percentage of .974 is tops on the team in that span. And by grabbing 19.4 percent of his defensive rebound opportunities, that too is tops on the roster.

“He’s really a solid player for them,” an NBA scout told “And at the price tag, toss him into that bunch of really great bargains Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) has going for the Celtics now.”

Indeed, Jerebko’s recent stretch of play has caught the eye of head coach Brad Stevens.

“This past week has been a really good week for him,” Stevens said. “His greatest strength is his ability to space the floor on offense for us, then mix up his cuts and energy to get baskets. And on defense, to guard multiple positions.

Stevens added, “we just need everybody to be great at what they do best. Especially in the past week to 10 days, he’s been great at what he does best.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely


The chances that the Wizards make a roster move now? Despite a sub-.500 record, that still remains very unlikely.

League sources told that the Wizards had discussions about Archie Goodwin, released by the New Orleans Pelicans, but that didn't go anywhere.

Goodwin, a 6-5 guard who orchestrated his release from the Phoenix Suns before the season when he was unhappy with his role, spent one season in Kentucky like John Wall and was a late first-round pick in 2013.

The defensive effort has gotten better and with Ian Mahinmi back to help bolster the second unit, team president Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t seem likely to make a decision this early. Giving up on rookies such as Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan and Daniel Ochefu, all three on non-guarantees that are a minimal hit on the salary cap, to clear a roster spot wouldn’t make sense at this stage either. – by J. Michael


The (sprained right thumb) injury to George Hill was supposed to be Dante Exum’s opportunity to establish himself as a player head coach Quin Snyder could lean on going forward.

Well, the Jazz lost four of those six games and upon Hill’s return, Exum found himself back – way, way back – on the Utah bench. Shelvin Mack has remained the team’s backup while Exum’s minutes have diminished significantly.

The 5th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft has played just 13 minutes in the last two games – both Utah wins – since Hill’s return.

In the six games prior to that as a starter, he averaged 29.8 minutes while scoring 9.5 points to go with 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

While there will be some who will question Snyder’s decision to sit the former lottery pick, here’s what you have to keep in mind.

Snyder and that entire Jazz front office understands that, while developing young players is important, winning has to come first and foremost for this franchise.

Not only in terms of being successful, but also because it will play a factor in whether they can retain Gordon Hayward who is expected to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent this summer.

And while Exum may have more upside than Hill, the reason Utah acquired Hill was in large part because of his veteran experience and track record of success – two things that Exum does not have going for him. – by A. Sherrod Blakely


Cumulative statistics are often grouped in five-game segments. In the case of Kristaps Porzingis, let's stretch it out to his last six to include two 30-point performances.

Dating back to Nov. 16, Porzingis is averaging 23.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. During that stretch he scored a career-high 35 points in 40 minutes against the Pistons and another 31 over 40 minutes against the Trail Blazers. 

In only his second season, Porzingis is on the heels of Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks' leading scorer. As of Saturday, Anthony was averaging a team-high 23.3 points per game with Porzingis close behind at 20.7. Porzingis edged him out slightly with a 21.7 PER to Anthony's 21.5. 

Still, the Knicks' remain Anthony's team. On Friday, his jumper with seconds left in overtime gave the Knicks a win over the Hornets. – by Jessica Camerato 


There are a bunch of teams that are just waiting for the call from Tom Thibodeau to say that he’s open to moving one of his promising, up-and-coming players. While most would agree that Minnesota’s roster has the most 21-and-under talent that you’ll find in the NBA, the pieces don’t seem like a natural fit which is why they have not been able to close out teams despite seemingly playing with a lead for large chunks of most games. Inquiries about Karl-Anthony Towns are a waste of time. The only way he’s leaving Minnesota is if one day he says he wants out, and that day isn’t anywhere close to being on the horizon.

Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine are intriguing talents who are both having career-best seasons. Do not be surprised if one of these two (Lavine the more likely) to be made available between now and the trade deadline if the Timberwolves continue to struggle at closing out games. They need at least one veteran player, preferably a defender in the frontcourt or a point guard who can shoot (Ricky Rubio does a lot of good things for them; shooting ain’t one of them) and run an offense.

One thing is clear: the idea that this team will stay as they are between now and the trade deadline is unlikely to happen if they continue to struggle so mightily at winning games. – by A. Sherrod Blakely


Who knows if the Chicago Bulls are for real in the context of being a Eastern Conference power but they’re sure wearing the uniform of a team deserving respect.

They finished perhaps two narrow calls away from sweeping the six-game circus trip, although the NBA’s two-minute report likely gave them no solace in losses to the Clippers and Nuggets.

At 6-5 on the road and 10-6 overall, the Bulls are second in the East, with signs this is sustainable. What’s really sustainable is the MVP-level play of Jimmy Butler, who’s raising the bar from his usual all-around performances.

In the six-game trip, Butler averaged 28.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists—numbers if were kept up, he would have to be in the conversation for most valuable. He reportedly tells his teammates, “I’m the best (bleeping) player in the world” and although one Mr. James would have something to say about that, he’s closer to telling the truth than anyone would’ve imagined. – by Vincent Goodwill


Just when the revival of the Lakers was going so well, the team 7-5 through 12 games, the injury bug bared its hateful fangs.

First-year coach Luke Walton suddenly was without three-fifths of his starting lineup: point guard D’Angelo Russell, power forward Julius Randle and shooting guard Nick Young.

Boom. The Lakers lose five of seven and Walton is left searching for the silver lining.

“When you try to find a bright side in a bad situation, you get to give guys opportunities to do things the right way,” he said.
The brighter side is this: Only Russell, who underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy on his left knee, will miss more than a couple games. He’s expected back by mid-December. – by Monte Poole


One of the hottest teams that no one is talking much about, is the Memphis Grizzlies. With Saturday’s 110-107 overtime win at Miami, the Grizzlies have won seven of their last eight games and six straight on the road.

And they’re doing it the way they always tend to do things which is to grind away opponents with their physical, grind-it-out defense.

The Grizzlies’ run has been fueled by their defense which has been among the NBA’s best during their last eight games.

In that span, Memphis has had a defensive rating of 95.6 which ranks 3rd in the NBA. They also rank among the top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage (.814, 2nd), opponent points off turnovers (13,8, 7th), opponent second-chance points (11.8, 8th), opponent fast break points (10.1, 6th) and opponent points in the paint (35.0, 2nd).

And while they are far from being an offensive juggernaut, they have used one of their great strengths – size – to create easier scoring opportunities via free throws.

In the last eight games, they average 19.6 made free throws which ranks 4th in the NBA while shooting 81.8 percent from line during that span which is the second-best mark in the league. – by A. Sherrod Blakely


Greg Monroe, the Milwaukee Bucks’ big man is averaging a career-low in minutes (17.7), points (8.4) and rebounds (6.6), although his per-36 minutes show he’s just as productive as he’s ever been.

The Bucks are playing smaller and quicker, which makes the ground-bound Monroe an awkward fit in Jason Kidd’s system— and Monroe does have the option to opt-out of his three-year contract this summer so the Bucks have to be proactive.

If so, the New Orleans Pelicans would seem to be a good fit. Anthony Davis protects the rim as good as anyone, and they sorely need low-post scoring to complement Davis’ all-around prowess. Monroe is a New Orleans native as well. Big men who can average 16 and 10 don’t come around often, so if Monroe does come on the market, one would think he’ll have at least a few suitors. – by Vincent Goodwill


The Kings finished their five-game home stand Friday night with a loss to the Houston Rockets. Sacramento went just 2-3 over the stretch, but they played four division leaders and a solid Rockets team.

For one of the few times this season, veteran Omri Casspi got some burn. Out of Dave Joerger’s rotation, Casspi found his way onto the court against Houston, playing 28 minutes in the Kings’ 117-104 loss.

Sacramento-native Ryan Anderson made his first appearance at Golden 1 Center after choosing to sign with the Rockets in free agency over his hometown team. “Man, it really was the hardest decision of my life,” Anderson told CSN California. “Obviously, there are so many factors that go into free agency. For me, I was praying like crazy, like, where am I supposed to be, give me a clue or sign.”- by James Ham


If you had the Indiana Pacers as the first team in the “players’ only meeting” contest, give yourself a round!

The Pacers have struggled mightily in the early going after being pegged as a possible threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, and star swingman Paul George wanted to bring his team of new players together to get themselves back on track before a pattern of mediocrity is established.

“I wanted to get the guys together and kind of wanted to get them to just start seeing the game differently,” said George to the Indy Star on Thanksgiving, before the Pacers beat the Brooklyn Nets.

George’s ankle and back injuries—along with his mortal play (20.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) has seemingly kept the Pacers from taking the next step. Missing five games and on track to miss a few more is probably the biggest reason the Pacers have underachieved. – by Vincent Goodwill


The Suns love to shoot the 3-ball, but so far this season, they haven’t connected like you would expect. Phoenix ranks 29th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, knocking down just 31.5 percent from long range. Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are all shooting well below their career averages.

T.J. Warren is out indefinitely with a minor head injury. “He was feeling a little off in the Indiana game on Friday,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told a Phoenix radio station. “We took him out of the game and ran a bunch of tests. I’m not going to elaborate too much on it, but he’s going to be fine. He’s starting to get back in the flow. I think he’ll be out a matter of weeks; I don’t think it will be days but I don’t think it will be months. He’ll come back and play when he’s ready.” – by James Ham


Figuring out Kevin Love has been the biggest mystery for the Cleveland Cavaliers the last few seasons, considering his shooting skills and ability to rebound like few others in the NBA.

But it looks like they’ve unlocked Love this season, as evidenced by his NBA-record 34-point first quarter against the Portland Trailblazers a few nights ago, where Love scored 40 and hit eight triples.

Averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds, he and Anthony Davis are the only ones averaging 22 and 10 rebounds this season. If the champs have indeed figured out the final piece to an already-full puzzle, they will play second-fiddle to no one. – by Vincent Goodwill


Russell Westbrook continued his torrid early season pace this week, picking up three more triple-doubles, giving him six on the season. Westbrook is leading the league in scoring at 32 points per game, but he’s also averaging 10.9 assists and 9.8 rebounds.

“16 years in the league, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player like him,” Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters on Friday. “His strength, his size, his athleticism, his explosiveness, his attack mindset - just a phenomenal player. He plays like someone pissed in his Cheerios every morning.”

Despite Westbrook’s big numbers, the Thunder are just 3-7 over their last 10 games and sit at 9-8 on the season. – by James Ham


What’s wrong with the Detroit Pistons? Is it just the absence of point guard Reggie Jackson, who’s recovering from a knee procedure in the preseason? They’ve lost five of their last seven games, have just one win on the road and are 8-10 after entering the season with some lofty expectations.

Andre Drummond may be counted on to do more if the Pistons are to shake this sluggish start. Being intentionally fouled in the waning moments of a 99-96 loss to Houston put the spotlight on his critically-criticized free-throw shooting yet again, and he stayed after the game working on his shot well after everyone left the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Even when Jackson returns, the spotlight will still be on the man who signed the largest deal in franchise history—and he’ll have to live up to it. His numbers are down so far across the board, and although he’s playing fewer minutes than last season, he’ll have to take more upon his shoulders because of the added pressure. – by Vincent Goodwill


The Rockets were grateful for the three-point line the day after Thanksgiving.

They set a league record with 50 three-point attempts in Friday’s 117-104 win over the Kings. The Rockets connected on 21 of them for a 42.0 percent performance.

Eric Gordon led the way with 12 attempts off the bench (he made four). Trevor Ariza (six made) and James Harden (four made) each shot 11. Ryan Anderson (3 for 7), Patrick Beverley (2 for 4), Sam Dekker (1 for 3) and Corey Brewer (2 for 2) rounded out the rest.

The Rockets are atop the NBA with 37.1 attempts per game. They are second with 13.8 made and fifth with a 37.3 percentage.

The Mavericks held the previous three-point attempt record with 49 against the Nets 20 years ago in 1996. – by Jessica Camerato


Tiago Splitter has had yet another setback and this was to another body part. According to the team, Splitter has a “Grade 2 right calf strain” – essential a tear in the muscle – and will miss a minimum of six weeks.

Splitter hasn’t been on the court this season because of right hip surgery and a “related” hamstring strain. Since he was traded by the Spurs in the summer of 2015, Splitter has played in just 36 games for Atlanta.

The Spurs flipped him for a protected 2017 second-round pick and the draft rights to Georgios Printezis. It also created cap room to land LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency – by J. Michael


Marvin Williams went down with what the Hornets have called a hyper-extended left knee, and he left the court limping.

The Hornets have come down to earth after a 5-1 start, and if Williams is out for any prolonged period it will push his backup, Frank Kaminsky, into duty as the starting power forward.

A defensive-oriented team under coach Steve Clifford, the Hornets have allowed 100-plus points in four consecutive games – all losses – entering Saturday. – by J. Michael


The Heat already are without forward Justise Winslow (left wrist), and now have their best perimeter player, point guard Goran Dragic, ailing with a left elbow strain. 

"His elbow doesn't have a lot of movement, and I think you saw that the other night," coach Erik Spoelstra said before Dragic, who is left-handed, sat Friday's game vs. the Grizzlies. "It was really more of a hindrance. He wasn't able to be effective."

Rodney McGruder started for Dragic and Tyler Johnson had a major bump in his role off the bench. But with Wayne Ellington (right thigh bruise) yet to play this season, the Heat lack backcourt depth beyond that. – by J. Michael


After crushing the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas, the Clippers stayed in Big D for Thanksgiving. The highlight of the day was a trip to AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL Cowboys, where they hitched a ride on the bandwagon of America’s Team.
Oh, the fun the Clippers had. Blake Griffin, launching passes. DeAndre Jordan, in a Cowboys T-shirt, was running pass patterns. Chris Paul, wearing a Cowboys ski cap, posing for pictures with team owner Jerry Jones. The coach, Doc Rivers, also participated in this team-bonding session.

Ah, yes. There is nothing like having fun on the road.

The immediate results, however, were not good. The Clippers played Friday night in Detroit and took their worst loss of the season, 108-97, to the Pistons.
“They came out with so much more energy than we did in the first 10 minutes,” Rivers said afterward. “And it’s tough to dig yourselves out of a big hole on the road.” – by Monte Poole


When you look at all the injuries that the Dallas Mavericks have endured in this still-young NBA season, it’s not a surprise that they have struggled so mightily in the Western Conference.

But what is lost in their historically bad start, has been the fact that most of their games played have been on the road.

That’s about to change, and if they have their way, so will the trajectory of their season.

After having 10 of their first 15 games on the road, the Mavericks will play in front of their fans in six of the next seven

By no means will that be the elixir that’ll fix all their problems. But at least at home there’s a sense that maybe, just maybe, the Mavericks can at least tilt their season towards respectability after what has been one of the worst starts in franchise history. – by A. Sherrod Blakely