Also, Andre Drummond is doing things we’ve never seen from him before, and DeMar DeRozan has a new secret weapon.
The Brooklyn Nets would need a miracle to make the postseason — they’re currently 6.5 games out of the No. 8 seed, and they’ve shown nothing this season that makes us believe there’s a 20-2 winning streak or something similar coming up. But despite their virtually nonexistent playoff hopes, Brooklyn has suddenly become worthy of your attention.
The first reason is D’Angelo Russell, who played his first game since early November on Friday, scoring just one point in 14 minutes while Brooklyn beat the Miami Heat 101-95. It was a rusty, uncomfortable debut, but Russell should settle back into NBA playing time before long after missing two months due to arthroscopic knee surgery.
Can Russell pick up where he left off? Brooklyn’s offseason acquisition from the Lakers was averaging nearly 21 points with a 54 percent True Shooting Percentage, a slightly-below-league-average figure but one that was still easily the best of his career, before his injury. Russell had dramatically improved his free throw rate and assist percentage, too — two optimistic figures for his future.
How Russell plays in his return may directly impact how Brooklyn finishes the season. The Nets aren’t tanking — they have no reason to, so they can gun for as many wins as possible. After all, Cleveland owns their first-round pick, courtesy of this offseason’s Kyrie Irving trade. With each potential win, Brooklyn would make Cleveland’s best asset just sightly less valuable. With the Cavaliers exploring the trade market, that’s incredibly relevant.
Brooklyn’s bad, but they remain interesting in their badness. That’s all you can really ask for.
Zach Randolph returned to Memphis, and it was DUSTY
Oh man, look at this tribute video.
THEY PUT HIS SCRAPPIN’ IN THERE. They even put the Blake Griffin headband pull! I’m laughing pretty hard at that. Here’s how the arena reacted to him — a standing ovation, of course.
And this is extremely amusing.
The best part of this in-arena, is when Blake Griffin tugged at Z-Bo's headband in the previous clip, the guys behind me got mad (*oh no he didn't*) all over again. https://t.co/nmBFjlRVpH— Chris Herrington (@ChrisHerrington) January 20, 2018
Also, Drake was at that game?
He’s just an NBA fan like the rest of us, man.
Look at this weird-as-hell Andre Drummond game
His line on Friday: 14 points, 21 rebounds, eight assists, five field goal attempts, 80 percent field goal shooting, 6-of-8 free throw shooting, two steals, two blocks, five turnovers, six fouls, plus-three from the floor in a game that Detroit lost by 10.
I sincerely cannot decide which part of that is the weirdest. It has to be the passing, I suppose, but the five shot attempts is amusing, the 75 percent free throw shooting is a continuation of the most dramatic shooting improvement I’ve ever seen, and the 21 rebounds says a lot about Washington’s problems right now.
But seriously: The Wizards tried to force Drummond into making plays, and he literally took on the challenge and did just that. Who would have ever imagined that was possible before this season started, when Drummond was just another athletic monster whose free throw shooting almost made him a liability to even play? Drummond had never even recorded five assists in a game before this season, something he has now done 16 times and counting.
Washington, meanwhile, has a center problem. They only played Marcin Gortat 19 minutes on Friday, and Ian Mahinmi eight. Neither were particularly effective. Instead, they played extra Markieff Morris and some Mike Scott, too, for good measure. The Wizards won, but that’s not ideal.
More trade rumors!
- Cleveland is interested in DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, AND George Hill. I really only think they have a chance at Hill, unless they’re really serious about giving up the Brooklyn pick and Los Angeles is ready to blow things up.
Rodney Hood might be on the trading block, per Marc Stein. He’s an interesting name that might benefit greatly from a change of scenery.
DeMar DeRozan’s floater game is filthy
No free throws, no problem
The Lakers missed an unbelievable 12 of their 14 free throws on Friday, their worst free throw percentage (14.3%) since at least 1963-64. But even with the charity stripe issues the Lakers were still able to beat the Pacers at home, the first NBA team to win while shooting under 20% at the line in at least the last 55 seasons.