Tag Archives: Bradley Beal

Triple Zeros: Role Players Play Better at Home

Triple Zeros

Role Players Play Better at Home

In this episode of Triple Zeros: The Milwaukee Bucks have knotted up the NBA Finals, but they haven’t completely seized the momentum from the Phoenix Suns…yet. All eyes should be on Chris Paul after his poor performance in Game 4. Also, is Giannis Antetokounmpo the best player in the NBA? He’s certainly playing like he thinks he so.

Elsewhere around the Association, Team USA Men’s Basketball lost Bradley Beal and Jerami Grant to health and safety protocols, but it was the reactions of Ja Morant and Trae Young to being left off that were most surprising.

On the NFL side, Tom Brady reportedly played the entire 2020-21 season — that ended in his seventh Super Bowl victory — with a torn MCL. Travis Kelce pulled a fast one on all of us, including his own teammates. Plus, Jalen Ramsey talks about his time under Tom Coughlin, and so much more!

Be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter (@JoshGBuck, @3ZerosPod, and @ClockerSports) today!

Anchor | Apple


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It Needs to Actually (Finally) Be ‘Dame Time’

Perhaps for the first time in his career, following another early exit from the NBA Playoffs, it needs to actually be Dame Time. Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers otherworldly point guard, has been the consummate professional. It would take an entirely separate article to list all he’s done for the city of Portland and his hometown of Oakland. He even won the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award this season too, so…yeah.

Damian Lillard Needs to Be More Selfish After Early Exit from NBA Playoffs

There isn’t anything else he could do to be a better face of the franchise or role model.

Now that all of the pleasantries are out of the way, he needs to be more selfish and either demand better help or a ticket out of town.

Lillard has always said the right things in the public eye; never fully condemning coaches or teammates despite the numerous times they’ve let him down. We may have gotten a bit closer to him speaking out against his current situation after being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the fifth time in eight years.

He also posted this quote from the late Nipsey Hussle on Instagram.

The fact is this team has a ceiling even when they are at full strength. It’s time to go in a different direction. You’re going to hear all about potential destinations, Boston and Los Angeles among them.

Can They Keep Him and Actually Get Better?

One idea could be pairing Lillard with his friend, and fellow super-team naysayer, Bradley Beal. He too is suffering in an organization that is toiling away in anonymity. Washington made the playoffs this season but was unceremoniously dispatched by the 76ers, who were without Joel Embiid for most of Game 4 and all of the decisive Game 5.

Beal finished second in the NBA in scoring behind Stephen Curry and is/was eighth in the postseason. He (like CJ McCollum) is a scorer before anything else. But in addition to just being better at it, he has a more diverse scoring profile than what McCollum does.

This is obviously suggesting McCollum has to go to bring Beal West.

This is where it gets complicated, though. The Blazers don’t appear to have the requisite firepower to make it happen outside of McCollum. They don’t own their first-round pick this season and, one would assume, any future picks would be well outside of the lottery with a Lillard-Beal tandem.

Could Lillard make his way to Washington?

They do hold their own first-round pick and could include one or both of their last two first-rounders, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, in any potential deal. Would that be enough to sway the Blazers?

Probably not barring a demand from Lillard himself and even then, once it’s made known he’s available, the teams chomping at the bit to get him will surely drive the price right out of the Wizards price range. It would take some sort of “do-right-by” agreement between the Blazers and Lillard which just doesn’t make much sense organizationally.

A Blazers-Wizards pact is certainly within the realm of possibility though that roster wouldn’t be viewed as a threat to the Bucks or Nets as currently constructed.

Indeed Boston is among the top expected bidders. But the Knicks have reportedly already started calling and don’t discount the Philadelphia 76ers should Embiid’s absence lead to Ben Simmons not being able to carry them through the next round.

Something Needs to Change for Lillard after Losing Early in Playoffs

Head coach Terry Stotts is a likely head to roll but the roster needs to be re-worked as well.

And, at this point, Lillard has proved all that he can on an individual level. It’s time for greater team successes. He can see what the Portland front office can do but after eight years, a change of scenery for him could be in order, wherever that may be.

He wouldn’t be the first superstar to leave the team that drafted him because they squandered years of his career. And he certainly won’t be the last. It needs to finally be Dame Time for real for Lillard. He needs to be more “selfish” to get what he deserves: a shot at a championship. He won’t get that in Portland the way things are.

The Washington Wizards Must Have Found Their Magic Spellbook

The Washington Wizards must have found some magic because they’ve been on a tear of late. Winners of seven of their last eight games, the once left-for-dead Wizards have turned things around after they stumbled coming out of the All-Star break. Washington lost their first five games and went 3-12 before this streak.

The Wizards Change Of Fortune Is No Magic Act

Impact Players

Everyone knows Bradley Beal is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Up until Stephen Curry dropped 40-plus in back-to-back games, Beal led the NBA in scoring.

It would be the second year in a row Beal finishes in the top two in scoring in the Association. Beal also missed the one game Washington lost in the aforementioned streak.

He averaged 27.4 PPG post-break but has averaged 29.7 points during the Wizards run. He also hasn’t done it all by himself.

Russell Westbrook might need to have an award created just for him to signify all the times he’s been written off in recent years. And while his numbers are certainly down on the year, his impact has not been.

Sitting on a 21.8/10.9/10.9 line, Westbrook is putting up 23.5/12.3/12.3 since the break has been at 21./13.5/13.1 during the recent string of wins. The most encouraging development might be his improved efficiency from deep.

He’s shooting better than 30 percent from beyond the arc on the season and 33 percent since the deadline. It’s a modest percentage but it’s a massive step up for Westbrook.

The “Other” Guys

Davis Bertans was a hot commodity on a watered-down free-agent market in an abbreviated offseason. He re-signed with the Wizards on a five-year deal after recording the best deep-shooting advanced metrics in the NBA.

The honeymoon didn’t last long though as Bertans averaged just over 11 points while shooting under 39 percent from outside.

Bertans, just like Beal and Westbrook, has been much better over his last seven games. He’s averaging 14.7 points and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.

On the less glamorous end, Daniel Gafford is providing a very nice return on Washington’s investment. Since joining the Wiz, the former Chicago Bulls big man is averaging 11.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG; both up substantially from his time in Chicago and mostly thanks to more playing time.

But it’s his 2.0 blocks per game that have caught the most eyes.

That’s because, as the Bulls have struggled with their rim protection even with Gafford in the fold, he’s been rejecting some of the game’s most notable dunkers in DC. It’s a testament to his work ethic to turn what could be damaging to a young player into an opportunity.

Wizards Re-Discovered Magic Spellbook

Washington is currently 11th in the East, just outside of the play-in tournament. But they have one of the easiest remaining schedules, per Tankathon.com, and have six games remaining against four Eastern Conference opponents that are set to make the playoffs themselves.

This is the perfect situation for the Wizards to take advantage of and the best time for the Wizards to re-discover their magic. How long can they keep this up?

With Friends Like James Harden, Who Needs Enemies?

Polarizing is a word that fittingly describes the kind of player James Harden is. Some view his style of play as innovative and unique; a skill set he has honed through practicing tough shots and understanding the rule book. Others would call it a detriment to the game. An abuse of poorly written and unevenly called rules. The amount of discussion coming from either side, though, shows just how high of a profile Harden has.

News broke on Wednesday that the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards had agreed to swap star point guards. Russell Westbrook to Washington and John Wall to Houston. It’s been reported that Harden and Wall have worked out and played in open runs together for some time now. The move has received all sorts of reactions, just like anything else Harden does.

Harden Running Out of Friends to Help Him

Okay, But Why?

Some say this is a move designed to keep Harden interested in staying in Houston. Recent attempts to get over the hump in the postseason have all fallen short. We can go back to the Dwight Howard experiment but let’s instead focus on Chris Paul’s time in H-Town. There was much consternation about how they would coexist being as ball-dominant as they are. They worked well enough for folks to hypothesize that if Paul doesn’t get hurt the Rockets might make some noise.

Well, Paul got shipped out after two seasons. One of which they lost to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in seven games. Injuries had always been a part of Paul’s history so an injury possibly derailing a playoff run is plausible. When Harden told reporters after they got bounced in 2018 that he knew what had to be done, the writing was on the wall.

Houston shocked the world again. They made another trade for what most considered an unmovable contract when they swapped CP3 for Russell Westbrook. After failing to click with the Point God, Harden now had his childhood friend for a running-mate. Unfortunately, Westbrook’s style caused the Rockets to change up their roster. They went with a small-ball approach. The tallest person on the floor for them often standing no taller than 6-foot-7. That ended with a five-game series loss in the second round. Again to the eventual champion, this time in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, even with Daryl Morey no longer in the fold, the Rockets have swapped unmovable contracts. The move is receiving mixed reviews. Some argue the Rockets won. On top of keeping Harden happy, they get rid of Westbrook whose style isn’t conducive to winning. Others will argue the Wizards won because of the off-the-court issues Wall has had as well as the complicated relationship with (and reaction to the team building around) Bradley Beal. Oh, and Wall, who hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season, is returning from serious injuries including a torn Achilles.

Same Difference

The tale of the tape is quite interesting. Wall is the bigger of the two and has the higher assist average. This is more than a little surprising given Westbrook’s three-year run of averaging a triple-double. But Wall had a three-year stretch where he averaged better than 10 dimes per game. The difference is Wall has never been the kind of shot-seeking scorer that Westbrook is.

Brodie has eight seasons (out of 12) averaging greater than 18 shots per contest. Wall, aptly nicknamed ‘Optimus Dime’, has but one. Westbrook is the more voluminous scorer too, but Wall takes the efficiency advantage everywhere but at the free throw line.

Perhaps ideally, in the mind of Harden and Rockets brass, is that Wall can be a happy medium between Westbrook’s explosiveness (a nice compliment to Harden’s lull-you-to-sleep style) and Paul’s pass-first mentality. That is if he is happy and focused. Going to a competitive situation in Houston after being in the tumultuous one in Washington will help. As will the singing of Demarcus Cousins; a friend of Wall’s going back to their day at the University of Kentucky.

We’re all missing the forest for the trees, though. It doesn’t matter if this will work for the Rockets (it won’t). Nor does it matter who won the trade (the blogosphere). No, what matters here is that Harden has cycled through a fair amount of friends for teammates and hasn’t figured out the right fit yet. At some point the question needs to be asked if building around him is worth it.

The Real Culprit

This isn’t an attack on his playing style, either, outside of his willingness to be complimentary. There aren’t many, if any, situations where Harden would be a second option but he could still benefit from being a better compliment on the floor to his team. Instead of standing in the corner watching the action when off the ball, become a better, more active cutter. Instead of dribbling out the shot clock on every possession, allow yourself to be more of a part of a system that get more guys involved.

Yes, star players are supposed to touch and shoot the ball more. Harden’s 36.3 usage rate in 2019-20 is second only to Michael Jordan’s ‘86-’87 season (38.3) in NBA history. With nowhere close to the hardware as ‘His Airness’, and a history of fading in the postseason, that number could stand to drop even if only a little bit. The last player to win a championship with a usage rate in the 30s was LeBron James in 2012-13 with the Miami Heat. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, two of the most efficient scorers in NBA history, haven’t even done it.

It’s a big deal that the Rockets and Wizards pulled this trade off. We just need to recognize what the real story is here: Harden is the problem, not his teammates. At some point, it is no longer everybody else, it’s you. We are seeing this response to Paul George who is implicated in reports of dysfunction in the Los Angeles Clippers organization and now taking thinly-veiled shots at former coach Doc Rivers.

Harden’s passing of the buck isn’t as blatant as George’s was. But, even with the statements before the CP3 trade, the constant cycling of supporting cast speaks volumes. Talking heads have just overlooked it because the Rockets keep putting together intriguing groups. This time though, with a move that might be best described as lateral, we might be reaching the end of this case study. It’s been theorized that the Wall and Cousins moves are independent of a decision to move Harden, though that seems unlikely.

Rough Being Friends with James Harden

We saw Harden slapping Paul’s hand away on the sidelines and read the reports that Harden and Westbrook had bumped heads on occasion. These incidents get viewed through the lens of isolated incidents or as the fault of the other guy. Maybe rightfully so, none of the aforementioned teammates were choirboys. But the common denominator, and dominator of the situation, is James Harden. As a player who has been vocal about his scoring accolades, he needs to be a leader and own up to and adjust his ways.

Unless, of course, he truly doesn’t care about winning