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#pounditTuesday, October 26, 2021

Basketball

Watch: Lauri Markkanen stared down Nikola Jokic after big dunk on him

Lauri Markkanen dunks on Nikola Jokic

Lauri Markkanen smashed on Nikola Jokic on Monday, and then he did some celebrating.

Markkanen, who is in his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, scored the first points of his team’s game against Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.

Markkanen got a steal then went coast-to-coast and took off for a dunk attempt from a few feet in front of the free throw line. He dunked over Jokic, who was trying to draw a charge.

After dunking the ball, Markkanen stared down Jokic.

Look at the disrespect! That’s the reigning league MVP, and Markkanen showed no regard for him!

Jokic isn’t a big dunker, so maybe he’ll have to settle for recording a triple-double to get revenge.

LeBron James’ ankle is still cause for concern?

LeBron James in his Lakers uniform

LeBron James’ ankle injury derailed his 2020-21 season, and now there are some indications that the Los Angeles Lakers star is still not fully over it.

The Lakers added James to the injury report for Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs with soreness in his right ankle. It is the same one where James suffered a high-ankle sprain last March, costing him 20-plus games.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell notes that James referenced the ankle after Sunday’s win over Memphis. The four-time MVP collided with Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane in the second quarter. He was down for several seconds but was able to finish the game without issue.

At almost 37 years old with over 60,000 career minutes already under his belt, it makes sense that James might not heal as quickly and may be more prone to reaggravation. He did only manage to score a season-low 19 points on 7-for-19 from the field against the Grizzlies despite the Laker victory.

We know that the Lakers entered the season already wanting to limit James’ workload. Any flare-up in his troublesome right ankle will only add to their concerns about The King.

Trae Young has clever strategy for dealing with NBA’s new rule change

Trae Young in his Hawks uniform

Trae Young is among those with the biggest adjustment to make amid the NBA’s new rules. But fortunately, the Atlanta Hawks guard is prepared.

Young spoke with veteran NBA writer Marc Stein on Monday and revealed his clever strategy for dealing with this season’s rule changes that make it tougher for offensive players to draw fouls — going straight to the source.

“I think it’s a more an adjustment on both sides, but also just me playing my game,” said Young. “I’ve been in a lot of meetings with [NBA head of referee training and development] Monty [McCutchen], trying to make sure what’s a foul and what’s not. Lot of the [contact I draw] is a foul. Me going in front, stopping on a dime, defenders continuing to run into me, that’s still a foul.”

The All-Star guard was quick to point out though that he is probably not the only player who has contacted the league to clarify the new rules.

“The league is good at that — being open to communicating about anything,” Young went on. “Especially if a guy has questions. It’s not just me. I’m sure a lot of other guys have called and just tried to get more clarification on what’s a foul and what’s not.”

Regardless, it is still plenty resourceful from Young, who had become one of the NBA’s more notorious whistle-baiters. True, his numbers are down from 25.3 points on 8.7 free throw attempts per game last season to 21.5 points on 6.0 free throws attempts per game so far this season. But Young is not quite struggling with the new rules as much as some other players are.

The 23-year-old is right that there will definitely be an adjustment period for both players and referees. But Young is doing his part to put himself in the best position to succeed, which is the mark of all the truly great players.

Photo: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Delonte West made wild claims in troubling arrest video

Delonte West

Delonte West was arrested last week outside a police station in Florida, and police have released body camera footage of the incident.

Officers responded after West went to the Boynton Beach Police Department building last Tuesday and began yelling and banging on the glass doors. He was holding an open can of beer and open bottle of vodka. The former NBA star was arrested after he did not cooperate with police.

On Monday, TMZ released footage from the arrest. West was shown handcuffed on the ground spewing incoherent thoughts. He repeatedly said he is the President of the United States and insulted the officers, who told him they wanted to get him help. The 38-year-old claimed he came to the police station because he was being jumped.

At one point, West began talking about his basketball career and said he was better than LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

“N—-, I was better than LeBron James. I’m better than Jordan,” West shouted at police. “I was the best n—- to play every sport. Shut the f— up!”

West was charged with resisting an officer without violence, disorderly intoxication and having an open container. He is set to appear in court next month.

West has a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban helped locate him last year after West was spotted panhandling in the Dallas area. Cuban set West up with a rehab treatment program, and West was said to be doing well as of earlier this year.

In 2019, West refused to accept assistance after a video showed him fighting someone in the middle of the freeway. He is clearly in need of help once again.

Ben Simmons no longer being fined by 76ers due to CBA provision

Ben Simmons on the court

Ben Simmons informed the Philadelphia 76ers last week that he is not mentally ready to play in games, and as a result he is no longer being fined by the team.

The Sixers had been fining Simmons during his holdout from training camp and the preseason. However, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on Monday that the situation changed when the star point guard told the team he is dealing with a mental health issue. There is a provision in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement that states teams cannot withhold a player’s salary if the player is unable to practice or play due to his mental health.

Shelburne says the 76ers have offered to make resources available to Simmons and are taking him at his word that he is working on his mental health issues.

Simmons also told the Sixers last week that he was dealing with tightness in his back, though he was cleared by doctors. One report claimed the team is furious over the situation and does not believe Simmons has any physical or mental issue.

The 76ers simply need to lower their asking price and trade Simmons. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey is obviously trying to get as much in return for the former first overall pick as possible. Rival teams know that Simmons has no intention of ever playing for Philly again. That has left the Sixers in a tough spot, but they need to move on sooner rather than later.

Former teammate has surprising revelation about James Harden

James Harden on the court

James Harden is now getting buckets for the Brooklyn Nets, but one of his former teammates is making a surprising relevation about where Harden nearly ended up instead.

Appearing over the weekend on a Boston Celtics pregame show, ex-Celtic Kendrick Perkins said that then-president Danny Ainge consulted him last year about the possibility of a Harden-Jaylen Brown swap.

“I remember last year around this time when teams were calling about James Harden and Houston actually wanted Jaylen Brown,” said Perkins, per TalkBasket. “I was on the phone with Danny Ainge for an hour, and I remember how our conversation went. He was like, ‘Hey, Perk, would you trade Jaylen Brown for James Harden?’ And I was like, ‘Danny, you know how I feel about Jaylen Brown, but I would trade him for James Harden.’ He was like, ‘Are you kidding me? He’s not going anywhere. He’s not even 25 and he keeps getting better.’”

Perkins was teammates with Harden on the Oklahoma City Thunder for two seasons from 2011 to 2012. His comments here are surprising because they make it sound like the Rockets were willing to trade Harden to the Celtics. Ainge also apparently had people in his ear telling him to pull the trigger, but his belief in Brown may have been what ultimately nixed the deal.

Though he has since stepped down as president of the Celtics, Ainge has been proven right in the early going this season. Brown put up a ridiculous 46-9-6 line against the New York Knicks during Boston’s season opener and looks poised for his best year yet. Meanwhile, Harden is struggling in several regards so far this season.

The former MVP Harden is still one of the best players in basketball. But the Celtics were probably right to keep their homegrown star who is seven years younger and has plenty of upside of his own.

Photo: Feb 16, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) reacts against the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant shares great message after missing clutch free throw

Ja Morant

Ja Morant was the best player on the floor in Sunday night’s game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers, but it was a shot he missed that generated the most headlines. Morant appears to be taking that in stride.

Morant scored 40 points and had 10 assists in the Grizzlies’ 121-118 loss. Had he scored 41, the game likely would have gone to overtime. Morant was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left and Memphis trailing by three. He hit the first two free throws but missed the third.

Following the miss, Morant sent several motivational tweets. He said missing the clutch free throw will only make him stronger.

Morant, a career 75-percent free throw shooter, is one of the best young players in the NBA. He continued to prove that with his performance against the Lakers. He probably did the Lakers a favor by missing that third free throw, as they have already been getting roasted by fans and analysts at the start of the season.

Look: Warriors, Klay Thompson poke fun at anniversary team snub

Klay Thompson wearing warmups

The NBA clearly struck a nerve by leaving Klay Thompson off their 75th anniversary team, and now the Golden State Warriors know exactly how to clown the situation.

Thompson expressed his disgust this week at being snubbed from the NBA’s recent list of the 75 greatest players in league history. Over the weekend, the Warriors had some fun with the situation by presenting Thompson with a custom-made No. 77 jersey at their team facility. Warriors star Draymond Green posted videos to his Instagram Story of the funny scene with Thompson wearing the jersey and excitedly saying, “77th-best player of all-time, baby!”

Though it is the NBA’s 75th anniversary, they actually named 76 players to their list due to a tie in voting. That would make Thompson, who was not included on the list, No. 77 at best. Thompson’s backcourt partner, Stephen Curry, did make the list, so Curry can probably keep his usual No. 30 jersey.

The fun-loving Thompson is usually the one doing the trolling. But this time around, the Warriors got a chance to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Photo: May 14, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) stands on the court before the start of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo gives his side of incident with ejected fan

Rajon Rondo points at a fan sitting courtside

Rajon Rondo gave his side of the incident between him and a fan that resulted in an ejection.

Rondo’s Los Angeles Lakers lost on Friday night to the Phoenix Suns 115-105 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. During the third quarter of the game, Rondo pointed at a fan sitting courtside and asked security to remove the fan.

Rondo had his finger pointed very close to the fan’s face in a manner similar to the way one would point a gun. He even mimicked pulling the trigger a few times.

The fan didn’t like having Rondo’s finger pointed so close to his face and swatted it away (video here).

Rondo on Saturday denied making a gun motion at the fan intentionally. The Lakers veteran did not disclose what was said between the two men. He said that he wanted the fan ejected.

The NBA should weigh in on the matter. There needs to be a good reason for ejecting a fan from a game, well beyond a player’s subjective wishes.

Did the fan cross the line? Did they say something wholly inappropriate? Or was the fan just getting in Rondo’s head and he didn’t like that? That needs to be disclosed.

The fan may very well have crossed a line. But at this point, Rondo looks bad for pointing his finger in the fan’s face and getting him removed.

Nets coach thinks new foul rules are unfair to James Harden

James Harden on the court

The curtains have abruptly come down on James Harden’s Magnificent Foul-Baiting Circus this season. Now his head coach is complaining about the new rules that have adversely affected Harden.

After the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, Nets coach Steve Nash spoke out against the rule change that now disfavors awarding fouls to offensive players who create contact using non-basketball plays. He said that Harden has unfairly become the poster child of the rule change, per Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Nash added that Harden is still getting fouled but that referees are hyper-aware of the new rules when Harden has the ball.

The former NBA MVP Harden had arguably been the biggest beneficiary of the increasingly loose whistle with offensive players in previous years. It got to the point that Harden would just be flailing around theatrically without even remotely attempting to score yet would still be getting rewarded with free throws. We even got some truly ridiculous lowlights from him like this.

At his peak with the Houston Rockets in 2019-20, Harden was averaging 34.3 points on an absurd 11.8 free throw attempts a game. But now Harden is averaging just 18.3 points on 3.0 free throw attempts per game amid the crackdown on foul-baiting. Nash clearly believes Harden is being treated unfairly. But many others will see Harden’s struggles as pure karmic justice.

Photo: Feb 16, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) reacts against the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports