It’s all happening in the NBA this week as Ja Morant is in trouble off the court, Damian Lillard is dominating on it, and Russell Westbrook isn’t the answer for the Clippers.
Ja, Ja, Ja…
What a week for Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.
It was all going so well on the court but the inexperience and immaturity of this roster can’t be ignored despite their 38-24 record (2nd in the West).
At the minor end, Dillon Brooks was suspended for a game after being called for his 16th tech of the season. Not a big deal, but not ideal for the team given their current situation. Through no fault of his own, Brandon Clarke has been ruled out for the rest of the NBA season after suffering a left Achilles tear.
Ja Morant, however, is a worry.
We don't have to contextualize and rationalize the stuff with Ja. You don't have to hate him, you don't have to abandon him.
But we don't have to go to "he's under a lot of pressure, either." He was flashing a firearm at a strip club on social media. This is not a cry for help.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 5, 2023
For the second time in two months, Morant is being investigated by the NBA. In January, he “aggressively confronted members of the Pacers traveling party near the team’s bus in the loading area of FedExForum” according to The Athletic. This time – it beggar’s belief that somebody with a $200 million NBA contract and a massive Nike deal to boot would risk it all to desperately seek such strange validation – Morant displayed a gun on Instagram while at a nightclub. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not the first gun-related incident he has been part of or accusation he has faced now.
Social media has been in overdrive at all angles. Some can’t fathom the fact he brandished a gun at a nightclub. Meanwhile, others claim to see no issue. As usual, the right answer is somewhere in the middle. He didn’t do anything wrong, but it isn’t right either. Given how these things have turned out for other players in the NBA in the past, it’s a concern. If nothing else, the negative attention doesn’t help their quest to win the championship.
Nonetheless, Morant has apologised. He will be back on the court sooner rather than later and a highlight reel dunk will start to heal many of those he has hurt. One group he hasn’t hurt: The odds-makers. The Grizzlies ended last week at $18 to win the NBA championship and are unchanged despite the drama surrounding the franchise.
Lillard Doing Lillard Things
Damian Lillard is scoring points for fun at the moment.
60, 30, 42, 42, 29, 40, 28, 33, 38, 40, 39, 71, 25, 41, 33
His last 15 games:
49.7% from the field
39.3% from beyond the arc
Lillard dropped 71 points on the Houston Rockets last week. A performance so good that the NBA drew blood to complete a drug test shortly after the final buzzer. Crossing 50+ for the 15th time in the process, Lillard is now 6th in NBA history in 50+ point games behind Wilt Chamberlain (118), Michael Jordan (31), Kobe Bryant (25), James Harden (23) and Elgin Baylor (17).
Damian Lillard in Portland's win over Houston tonight: 71 points – becoming the eighth player in NBA history to score 70 or more in a game.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 27, 2023
Crossing 60 in the process, Lillard now has more 60+ point games than Steph Curry, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Bill Russell and Kevin Durant – combined.
Lillard’s 71-point outburst came following a plea to his teammates to fire up for the remainder of the NBA season as they fight for a spot in the play-in tournament.
“It has to happen now,’’ Lillard said to The Athletic. “The urgency has to pick up. This is it.’’
The Portland Trail Blazers managed to win that one, but have since lost their last three games to be 29-34 for 13th in the Western Conference. FiveThirtyEight.com puts their chances of making the playoffs from here at only 6%.
Unfortunately, Lillard’s heroics look set to go to waste again. Signed for another two seasons beyond this one at roughly $45 million a year, his name will again pop up as one that needs to leave over the summer if he’s to win a championship. It’s not happening in Portland any time soon.
CLippers & Westbrook StruggLing
Russell Westbrook finished up with 27 points, 10 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal as the LA Clippers fell to the Sacramento Kings during the week.
The steal puts Westbrook at 20th in the NBA’s all-time steals list ahead of Shawn Marion. However, it’s the loss that is more notable.
That makes it five on the bounce since Westbook joined the franchise. Westbrook himself, across time with the Lakers and Clippers, is winless in his last 15 games as a starter. Perhaps there is a trend here…?
A notably poor defender and not worth considering off the ball, Draymond Green sat back below the free-throw line as Westbrook dribbed above the three-point line. It’s a shot Green – and every defender in the NBA – is happy for him to shoot. With the lane filled, that effectively puts five defenders on four offensive players.
Draymond Green on Russell Westbrook: "It will make you think for sure because you're open every play and you're taught in basketball, you're open, take your shot, but if you're open every play, you kind of start questioning yourself." pic.twitter.com/6upI9PweXj
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) March 3, 2023
Westbrook’s addition didn’t do a lot for the Clippers’ price initially. Playing well already, they shortened into $12 from $13. However, having seen what it looks like on the court, the Clippers have drifted out to the 7th line of betting at $18.
They face the Grizzlies in an interesting matchup as $1.35 and -7.5 favourites. If they can’t win this one, serious questions will start to be asked about the fit.
Keeping An Eye On Lebron
The Los Angeles Lakers have displayed some promising signs recently but it’s all for nothing if LeBron James can’t get himself healthy for a possible play-in game.
Currently 30-34 and only one loss behind 9th, they’re not out of it. Their 41% to make the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight should be enough to keep them interested while waiting for James to return.
LeBron James has been evaluated by Lakers team physicians and medical staff, and it has been determined that he has sustained a right foot tendon injury. James will be reevaluated in approximately three weeks.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 2, 2023
Sun Is Shining In Phoenix
Shock: Kevin Durant is doing good things for the Phoenix Suns.
Durant 2nd game as a Sun:
Passes Oscar Robertson in all-time scoring. pic.twitter.com/KIBJADBrix
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 4, 2023
NBA Championship Odds
We don’t need to check in on the teams towards the bottom of the NBA championship list. Here, we keep an eye on those inside the Top 10 each week.
The Boston Celtics have drifted out ever so slightly from $3.75 to $4 throughout the week. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks are making moves to shorten into $4.20. They’ve always felt like a team that would turn it on late in the season. Winners of nine of their last ten to be at the top of the East, the Bucks are winding up at the right time.
Steph Curry’s probable return on the back of a five-game winning streak has the Golden State Warriors into $15 as one of the bigger movers of the week. Going the other way, the Philadelphia 76ers are out $17 from $14 a week earlier.
Top 10 Odds
|TEAM||WEEK19 PRICE||WEEK 20 PRICE|
|Golden State Warriors||$18||$15|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$12||$18|