News, notes, numbers and quotes from around the NBA.
Today’s Three Points highlight three players who are making a big impact in their first season as full-time starters.
1. READY TO RIP:Even when he wasn’t logging steady minutes while playing for a veteran-laden contender, Portland’s CJ McCollum continued to prepare for his moment. That work began taking shape late last season, when he averaged 15.6 points in April. It continued during the Trail Blazers’ first-round playoff series against the Grizzlies, when he averaged 17.0 points and 33.2 minutes. This season, the 6-4 McCollum has started all 23 games and is second to backcourt mate Damian Lillard in team scoring (19.5 ppg) and minutes (35.2 ppg). In his first two seasons, McCollum appeared in 100 games (three starts) and averaged 6.3 points in 14.5 minutes. His scoring has increased by 12.7 points from last season, the highest jump among players who appeared in at least 50 games in 2014-15, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. McCollum and Lillard (24.5 ppg) make up the NBA’s fourth-highest-scoring duo (44.0 ppg), trailing only the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (54.3), the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (50.4), and the Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Kevin Love (44.7).
2. CROWDER PLEASER:Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes Jae Crowder is the type of player who can fit with any team. Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, who coached Crowder for two-plus seasons before he was traded to the Celtics, often talked about his relentless motor and natural basketball energy. That’s high praise for a former second-round pick, who has blossomed into the ultimate glue guy. The 6-6 Crowder has started all 22 games at small forward for Boston (13-9) this season after starting only 41 games over his first three seasons. He is third on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and minutes (30.6 mpg), and first in steals (2.1 spg, fifth in the NBA). According to NBA.com/Stats, Boston ranks third in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 97.0 points per 100 possessions. That number drops to 95.3 points per 100 possessions when Crowder is on the floor and rises to 99.9 points per 100 possessions when he is off the floor.
3. EVAN ALMIGHTY:As a young star in the French League in 2012, Evan Fournier was known for being self-assured. His confidence wavered, though, during his rookie season with the Nuggets in 2012-13, as the 6-7 swingman appeared in only 38 games. After playing more in his second season in Denver, Fournier was traded to the Magic in June 2014, and he averaged 12.0 points in 58 games, including 32 starts, in 2014-15. Fournier became a full-time starter this season and has rewarded Orlando’s confidence in him. Despite a recent shooting slump, he leads the Magic in scoring (15.5 ppg, tied with Nikola Vucevic), three-pointers made (47) and minutes (32.9 mpg). Fournier already has six 20-point games, which matches his output from last season. He has helped Orlando to a 12-10 record, a four-game improvement from the same point last season.
Stats & Stuff
1. The NBA and Verizon tipped off NBA All-Star Voting 2016 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. The all-digital program gives fans everywhere the opportunity to vote for their favorite players as starters for NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto. All current players are available for selection. New to the voting program this year, NBA fans are now able to cast their daily votes directly through Google Search on their desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Click here for a full list of voting options.
2. With 18 assists in the Clippers’ win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, Chris Paul (7,097) passed Tim Hardaway for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
3. Timberwolves power forward Kevin Garnett (11,405) needs two defensive rebounds to supplant Karl Malone as the NBA’s all-time leader. Minnesota’s next game is Friday at Denver (9 p.m. ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS).
4. The Suns’ last seven games have all been decided by five points or fewer, including Wednesday’s 107-104 victory against the Magic. Phoenix is 3-4 in those games.
5. Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is shooting career bests of 44.6 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from three-point range, up from 38.5 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range last season. Walker and the Hornets (13-8) have the second-best record in the East.
6. Jazz power forward Derrick Favors is averaging career highs of 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and shooting a career-best 54.7 percent.
7. Hawks center Al Horford’s 26 three-pointers (in 23 games) this season are five more than he made in his first eight seasons combined (496 games).
8. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s next game will be the 1,300th of his career, which would tie Ray Allen for 15th all time.
A look at major upcoming anniversaries:
Dec. 14, 1965 (50 years ago): San Francisco Warriors rookie Rick Barry scored 57 points in a 141-137 loss to the Knicks. Barry finished one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game record for a rookie.
Dec. 14, 1975 (40 years ago): Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar grabbed an NBA-record 29 defensive rebounds in a 110-100 victory over the Pistons.
What They’re Saying
Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: “Gary Vitti isn’t the face of the Lakers franchise. He’s the one fixing it up if an errant elbow gets thrown. He’s also retiring after this season, though not as many people know it. Take Kobe Bryant’s 20-year NBA career, add 12 and you get Vitti’s years of service as the Lakers’ athletic trainer.”
Stan Van Gundy, Pistons coach: “There are four teams, maybe five, that are top 10 at both [offense and defense], and Charlotte is one of them. Those teams in general are capable of making deep playoff runs. If you just look at the numbers, you have to look at Charlotte as being a true contender in the East.”
Anthony Slater, The Oklahoman: “On Wednesday morning, Kevin Durant’s charity foundation presented $35,000 to Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City, an elementary school serving homeless children. It’s the third time Durant has donated to this particular school, which he said caught his attention when he was researching on the web a few years back. … [Durant] went room to room within the small school surprising the kids, shocking them with his height.”
Jimmy Butler, Bulls shooting guard: “The other night I was at dinner, and two kids walked up to me and all they wanted to do was just talk to me. They didn’t want to take pictures, they didn’t want any autographs, they just wanted to talk. Say hello because they were fans. And that, that’s the biggest point for me, man. Those things. When all they want to do is give me a hug or shake my hand or talk to me for five minutes, because they know who I am and I play basketball. It changes peoples’ lives. You never know it, you never think that someone would say, ‘Oh, if I meet this person,’ that it could change everything. You never know what people are going through. And you can tell it means something because their faces just light up. It makes you feel like their night, their year, their lives have been made just off of that one interaction.”
NBA News is a newsletter produced by the NBA Communications Group.