A look at what’s trending this week in the NBA:
Daniels rips Thunder
There is no company line with Oklahoma City broadcast analyst Antonio Daniels.
After the Thunder ended November with a thud, Daniels skewered the team on Fox Sports Oklahoma for falling far shy of the expectations created by teaming Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook.
Oklahoma City is outside the playoff picture after blowing several chances to win in second halves.
“You are representing your community,” Daniels said. “You are representing your city. You are representing your organization. And it’s embarrassing. It is embarrassing that teams continue to have their ‘coming out’ games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Dirk Nowitzki has been invisible all year. But then against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he looks like the Dirk Nowitzki of old. Yeah, Aaron Gordon has gotten in the lab and he’s worked on his game. But 40 points and 13 rebounds?”
Daniels added that the team “is about talk right now.”
Last season, David Fizdale’s first work as an NBA head coach turned downward sharply in Memphis when he went from a coach-of-the-year candidate to a 7-14 finish.
This one crashed. Memphis fired Fizdale, the South Los Angeles native, and promoted J.B. Bickerstaff on Monday after the Grizzlies’ 5-1 start turned into a 2-13 stretch with losses in Fizdale’s final eight games. For all the consistent success during this decade in Memphis, it was an unfamiliar rut but not an unexpected one with Mike Conley injured and out of the lineup. The Grizzlies were 7-5 with Conley.
Fizdale’s firing was unexpected, too, although maybe it should have been anticipated considering he coaches in a players’ league. Fizdale had a frosty relationship with Conley’s co-star, Marc Gasol, Memphis’ adopted son after he was reared in high school there and re-signed with the Grizzlies in 2015 when he would have been a hotly pursued free agent.
In his final game, Fizdale upset Gasol when he benched the three-time all-star for the fourth quarter after another lineup cut a large deficit.
Bickerstaff inherits a franchise facing the same issues — Conley’s and Chandler Parsons’ uncertain health, Gasol’s age (32), horrible three-point shooting and rebounding, and a locked-in, large payroll in a small market.
Feedback on ‘Flash’ back
Just as the Cavaliers have become the NBA’s hottest team, James divulged to theathletic.com that most of the Cavaliers were not on board this summer with adding a 12-time all-star who is 35 years old and more than four years removed from All-NBA status. And that did not please James.
“There was a couple guys with it,” James told theathletic.com. “But it wasn’t a lot.
“I still know what he’s capable of doing. Why wouldn’t you want another guy in the locker room that brings a championship mentality and a guy who can still play? So, of course, it bothered me, but (expletive) it.”
James is a front-runner for most valuable player in his 15th season with a career-high shooting percentage and his highest scoring average since 2009-10.
Wade adapted to a sixth-man role, became a consistent double-digit scorer recently and is the Cavaliers’ second-best playmaker with Derrick Rose injured and away from the team.
On the watch
The NBA season is off to a stellar start in the broadcast ratings. ESPN saw a 24% increase in viewership in its first 19 game broadcasts over a year ago.
TNT had its second-best rating for an opening-night broadcast in network history when 5.6 million viewers tuned in for the Cleveland-Boston game. ESPN also had its second best NBA opening night doubleheader ratings.
The Nov. 22 game between Golden State and Oklahoma City drew 3.3 million viewers, the highest-rated ESPN regular-season game since last Christmas.
Golden State at Detroit
Friday, 4 p.m. PST. TV: ESPN.
The Pistons’ surprise success looks legitimate, especially after Detroit rebounded from a rut to win Monday at Boston with monster nights from Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris. The first meeting with the Warriors will present an interesting dichotomy of styles, although Detroit’s three-point shooting team ranks only slightly behind Golden State’s clip. Omri Casspi has been an under-the-radar bench bonus to add to the Warriors’ riches.