News and notes around the NBA:
TRENDING . . .
The losing gets to Okafor
Following Philadelphia's Wednesday-night loss in Boston, 76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor lost his cool outside a nightclub, reportedly getting into a street fight with hecklers following his team's 16th straight loss to start the season. Footage of the melee quickly circulated on TMZ.
Okafor, who helped Duke win the NCAA tournament in April, later told reporters he was embarrassed, and his actions were "definitely dumb on my part." The 76ers drafted Okafor with the third overall pick in June. Okafor has impressed on the court, averaging 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for a team whose 0-17 start is within one loss of equaling the worst in NBA history. Philadelphia has lost 27 consecutive games, worst streak in major U.S. professional sports history, including 10 to end last season.
Roughing the refs
Atlanta Coach Mike Budenholzer was fined $25,000 by the NBA for "making incidental contact" with a referee in his team's loss last weekend to Cleveland. The National Basketball Referee's Assn. released a statement lambasting the NBA's decision not to suspend Budenholzer.
Milwaukee Coach Jason Kidd one-upped Budenholzer on Wednesday, slapping the ball out of an official's hands while disagreeing with a call in his team's loss to Sacramento. The NBA suspended Kidd for a game, another Bucks loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday.
The Indiana Pacers, who play the Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center, are 10-5 through the first month of the season. Two-time Pacers All-Star Paul George has dominated, averaging 30.3 points over his last 10 games — eight of which were Indiana victories.
George missed most of last season, suffering a gruesome broken leg in August 2014 while playing an exhibition with Team USA. With George back at full strength, Indiana Coach Frank Vogel decided to move the 25-year-old from small forward to power forward. At 6 feet 9, George is furthering the small-ball trend and helping to carry the Pacers on his 220-pound frame.
Denver rookie Emmanuel Mudiay and Coach Mike Malone exchanged heated words during a late timeout Tuesday in a loss to the Clippers. Mudiay, the seventh pick in June's draft, later apologized to his coach through the media, taking the blame for his outburst while writing it off to frustration. The defeat was the fourth straight in a skid that reached five games Friday with a loss to San Antonio. Mudiay is averaging 12.3 points and 6.0 assists through 16 games, but is shooting just 32.3% from the field with 3.7 turnovers a night.
Through Friday's games, Sacramento guard Rajon Rondo was leading the league with 11.2 assists a game, followed by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (9.9), Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (8.5) and the Clippers' Chris Paul (8.4). Fifth on the list is undrafted, 27-year-old guard Ish Smith, averaging 8.3 assists for New Orleans. Smith originally was signed by the Washington Wizards in September, but was waived before the start of the season. The Pelicans claimed Smith, and he's quickly become a valuable rotation player, as his 14th-place team tries to climb back into contention in the Western Conference.
Oladipo to the bench
On Wednesday, Orlando Coach Scott Skiles made a lineup change, moving guard Victor Oladipo to the bench, with veteran forward Channing Frye taking his place in the starting lineup. Skiles said the move wasn't to punish Oladipo, the runner-up to Michael Carter-Williams for 2013-14 rookie of the year. Instead, starting Frye allows both Tobias Harris and Evan Fournier to play their natural positions at small forward and shooting guard, respectively.
LOOKING AHEAD ...
LAKERS AT PHILADELPHIA: Tuesday at 4 p.m. PST. TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes.
The Lakers surprised many by skipping center Jahlil Okafor and selecting point guard D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Okafor had the skills to play well in the NBA and he was right. Meanwhile, Russell's learning curve on the court has been more erratic: some good shooting games that are offset by others in which he gives up on his dribble too soon, or is very slow to initiate plays while the shot clock ticks off. Here's a chance to compare the two young talents on the same court.