NBA News and Notes: DeMar DeRozan continues torrid scoring pace, Serge Ibaka hits game-winner

November 14, 2016

We have often seen young players spend a summer competing internationally at the Olympics for USA Basketball, and then using that experience as a launching point for an outstanding season a few months later.

If there has been one such player who has benefitted from practicing day in and day out against the best over the summer it has been the Raptors DeMar DeRozan, who has been putting up Jordan-like scoring numbers to start the season.  For this and other NBA news, read below:

Unsung Standouts

The Cavaliers are 8-1 thanks in large part to the sterling play of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.

James already has two Eastern Conference Player of the Week nods and is close to averaging a triple-double. Irving has scored at least 25 points in five of nine games, and Love is one of two NBA players (along with New Orleans Anthony Davis) averaging at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds.

Cleveland has also gotten a big early-season lift from Channing Frye. The 33-year-old big man, acquired at the trade deadline last season, is averaging 11.6 points in 18.6 minutes while shooting 48.8 percent from three-point range (fifth in the NBA).

Frye, who made six three-pointers and scored 20 points in a win over the Hornets on Sunday, has helped the Cavaliers become the first team in NBA history to sink at least 10 threes in each of its first nine games of a season.

Here are some other players who, like Frye, are quietly enjoying solid starts:

Lou Williams, Lakers: The 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man Award winner is leading the Lakers in scoring (16.5 ppg) despite coming off the bench in all 11 games and ranking sixth on the team in minutes (23.0 mpg). Williams is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three-point range for a Los Angeles team that leads the NBA in bench scoring (51.3 points).

Sean Kilpatrick, Nets: Undrafted in 2014, the 26-year-old guard is the Nets’ second-leading scorer with 15.8 points per game. Kilpatrick has picked up where he left off last season, when he averaged 13.8 points in 23 games with Brooklyn after flourishing in the NBA Development League.

T.J. Warren, Suns: The third-year forward, who missed 35 games last season after breaking his foot in late January, is averaging 20.0 points. Warren, the 14th pick of NBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm, also leads the team in steals (2.1 spg).

Tim Hardaway Jr., Hawks: The fourth-year swingman was not a regular part of the rotation in 2015-16, his first season with the Hawks. This year, however, Hardaway is averaging 12.3 points in 20.9 minutes as one of the team’s first subs off the bench, sparking a stellar second unit that also features early-season standouts Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Muscala.

Ibaka strikes back at former team

The Magic (4-6) defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-4), 119-117, last night at Chesapeake Energy Arena behind a career-high 31 points from Serge Ibaka, including the game-winning field goal with 0.4 seconds remaining.

The last three matchups between the Magic and Thunder have been decided by a combined eight points, including a 139-136 (2OT) contest last season in Orlando.

The Numbers

James Harden, Rockets: The early-season accolades keep piling up for Harden (30.0 ppg, 13.0 apg, 8.0 rpg), who has become the first player in NBA history to record at least 24 points and 12 assists in six straight games. With back-to-back triple-doubles in his last two games, he has joined Elvin Hayes as the only players in Houston history to accomplish the feat.

DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: The NBA scoring leader (34.0 ppg) is the first player to score at least 30 points in eight of his first nine games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. DeRozan leads Toronto (7-2) into Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Atlanta Hawks: Winners of four in a row, the Hawks (7-2) rank second in the NBA in point differential (+10.7), field goal percentage (48.2), scoring offense (109.6 ppg) and defensive rating (95.8 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Isaiah Thomas, Celtics: He has joined Kevin McHale and Sam Jones as the only players in franchise history to score 20 or more points in his first nine games of the season.

Gordon Hayward, Jazz: The 26-year-old forward (24.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.2 apg), who made his 2016-17 debut on Nov. 6, is the first Utah player to score at least 20 points in each of his first five games of the season since Karl Malone in 2000-01. Behind Hayward, the Jazz (7-4) went 4-1 on a recently completed five-game road trip.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Minnesota leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 41.8. Last season, the Timberwolves tied for 25th at 33.8 percent.

Jimmy Butler, Bulls: In his last four games, Butler has led Chicago to a 3-1 record by averaging 29.0 points, 7.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 steals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, Bucks: Milwaukee’s 21-year-old starting forwards are averaging a combined 40.4 points and 14.4 rebounds. Antetokounmpo is also contributing 5.3 assists, while Parker has made eight three-pointers after hitting nine in 76 games last season.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs: The San Antonio coach (1,096-488) needs three victories to pass Larry Brown (1,098-904) for seventh place on the NBA’s all-time wins list. Popovich is four victories from 1,100.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder: He recorded his 40th career triple-double in Sunday’s game against Orlando, becoming the eighth player in NBA history to reach that total. Westbrook ranks second among active players behind LeBron James (43).

DeMar DeRozan and James Harden earn Player of the Week honors

The Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 13.

DeRozan led the Raptors to a 3-0 week, averaging a league-leading 34.7 points to go with 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists.  On Nov. 9, he scored 37 points and added six assists and four rebounds in a 112-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  He followed that performance with 34 points, three assists and two steals in a 113-111 victory against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 11.

DeRozan leads the NBA in scoring (34.0 ppg) and has an NBA-best eight 30-point games this season. He is the first player to score at least 30 points in eight of his first nine games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87.

Harden helped the Rockets to a 2-1 week behind averages of 27.0 points, 14.3 assists (first in NBA) and 9.7 rebounds.  He opened the week on Nov. 7, finishing with 32 points, 15 assists and six rebounds in a 114-106 win against the Washington Wizards.  Harden added a triple-double on Nov. 9, recording 24 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds in a 101-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Harden has recorded at least 24 points and 12 assists in each of the past six games, the longest streak in NBA history.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder, Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the LA Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, and Utah’s Gordon Hayward.

Talkin' Smack

Jahmal Corner, Reuters: “The young 2016-17 NBA season is gaining momentum and the avid audience in China is keeping up and indulging a love affair with basketball through a vastly increased access to game action.”

Michael Grange, Rogers Sportsnet: “For a generation or more it seemed like all of the NBA’s tallest statistical peaks had been summited -- that no one would ever scale Mount Jordan or Mount Robertson again. It’s early, but in 2016-17 it seems like a number of elite players have set off from base camp with the determination to reach new heights.”

Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves forward: “I’m finding myself, finding things I’m good at and things I need to work on. The game has kind of slowed down for me a little bit. I’m able to read defenses better now and see how the defense is set.”

Retired General becomes Chairman of USA Basketball

In a surprising development, retired General Martin E. Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been elected USA Basketball Chairman for the 2017-20 quadrennium.

Dempsey, who was appointed Special Adviser to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in January 2016, has previous connections to USA Basketball.  He has spoken on leadership panels with members of USA Basketball, addressed the men's and women's national teams on numerous occasions and led USA Basketball's participation in the Hoops for Troops and TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) programs to connect the world's best athletes with the world's best military and their families.  

"I am excited to join USA Basketball and to become part of a legacy of excellence both on and off the court," said Dempsey. "Playing for USA Basketball is about commitment, sacrifice, and pride.  It's about developing young men and women who are exceptional athletes but also exceptional leaders.  It's about respecting the game and our international competitors. It's about representing our country with honor, and it's about winning.  I look forward to working with the USA Basketball staff, coaches, players, and families."

Dempsey succeeds basketball-lifer Jerry Colangelo, who announced earlier this month that he would not seek a third term as Chairman. Colangelo relinquished the role to focus on building the USA Men's National Team's player pool for the 2017-20 quad and leading the transition to a new coaching staff, with five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs replacing Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University as head coach.

Also announced as members of the 2017-2020 USA Basketball 12-member Board of Directors were: NBA appointees Kim Bohuny, NBA Senior Vice President, International Basketball Operations; and Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer;  NCAA appointees Danny Gavitt, NCAA Vice President of Men's Basketball Championships; Bernard Muir, Stanford University's Director of Athletics; and Chris Plonsky, University of Texas Director of Women's Athletics and Senior Associate Athletic Director of Men's/Women's Athletics External Services; scholastic representative Bob Gardner, Executive Director, National Federation of State High School Associations; national organizations representative Jim Carr, NAIA President and Chief Executive Director; at-large representative Jordan Schlachter, NBPA Chief Marketing Officer; and athlete representatives Chauncey Billups, 2010 World Championship gold medalist, and three-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith. Colangelo rounds out the board and will serve in an ex officio capacity as past chairman.

USA Basketball is No. 1 in all five of FIBA's world-ranking categories: men's, women's, combined, boys and girls.  USA teams are the current champions in men's and women's Olympics; men's FIBA World Cup and women's FIBA World Championship; men's and women's FIBA U19 World Championships; men's FIBA U17 World Championship; men's and women's FIBA Americas U18 Championships; men's FIBA Americas U16 Championship; men's Nike Hoop Summit; and women's World University Games.

Dempsey recently retired after 41 years of military service. During his years of military service, he served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army and as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2011-15).  As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he was the senior officer in the Armed Forces and the military advisor to the Secretary of Defense and to the President.

Dempsey will continue to advise Silver and chair the recently formed Jr. NBA Leadership Council.  In those roles, General Dempsey counsels the NBA on leadership and service and helps with the league's efforts to engage youth.

Dempsey has received numerous military awards and decorations both from the United States Government and from foreign leaders.  In 2015, TIME magazine named him one of the world's most influential leaders.  Most recently, Queen Elizabeth II honored him as a Knight of the British Empire.

A 1974 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he has a master's degree in English from Duke University and an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Notre Dame.

Knicks' Brandon Jennings fined

New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings has been fined $15,000 for directing inappropriate language toward a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection, it was announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 3:20 remaining in the Knicks’ 115-87 loss to the Boston Celtics on Nov. 11 at TD Garden.

By Staff of and news services

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