Atlanta @ New York, 12 pm. The Hawks, second in the East, just keep churning out good, young rotation players, year after year — a much tougher task than it sounds. This year’s graduate from the Mike Budenholzer Wing Academy is Tim Hardaway, Jr, who has scored 20 points off the bench on three separate occasions. Hardaway didn’t see much court time last year behind Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore, and Justin Holiday, but the 24-year-old shooting guard has hit at least five three-pointers 11 times in his young career; he can heat up quickly, and is showing at least marginally-better discipline and defense than the, well, none we saw from him in New York. Even rookie Taurean Prince is getting in on that sweet swingman action; in his first chance at sustained playing time, the 12th overall pick scored 8 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots in 19 minutes Wednesday against Milwaukee.
Just in case you forgot, Kristaps Porzingis is 7-foot-3. And he’s just 21. And he’s shooting 40 percent on more than five threes a game. Wednesday night, in a 105-102 win over the Pistons, Porzingis scored a career-high 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting, pulled in seven rebounds, and dapped some Madison Square Garden fans mid-game after a blocked shot:
Porzingis is averaging 20.3 points per game, on a 49/40/79 shooting line, and is still in the early stages of figuring out how to take over a game; his 22-shot night against Detroit was the most aggressive he’s been this season.
Portland @ Brooklyn, 3:30 pm. Not only is Billy King the reason that Boston’s arrow is pointed so far upwards, he also gifted the Trail Blazers a path to success — the only problem is, he worked for the Nets at the time. Prior to the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, the Nets (then in their last season playing somewhere in the swamps of Jersey) had a deal in place to acquire Dwight Howard, who at the time was the best defensive player in the game, an MVP candidate, and in the middle of a run of five straight All-NBA first team appearances. According to JJ Redick, Howard’s Orlando teammate at the time, the big man even said his goodbyes and told the Magic that he was going to be a Net.
When that trade fell through, and King failed in his first attempt to add Paul Pierce, the Nets still were desperate to add some veteran talent - enter Portland’s Gerald Wallace. Crash was just 29, and had been a very good player, but he’d made just one All-Star Game and played a balls-out style that left him susceptible to a variety of injuries - Wallace missed 195 games to that point, playing 73 games only once in his ten years. For Wallace’s 85 games as a Net, signing a 4-year, $40 million contract extension, averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds, then getting sent to Boston as part of an even worse trade, the Blazers picked up Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur, and a top-three protected pick in the 2012 draft. That pick became Damian Lillard, the heart and soul of Portland and a top-15 player in the NBA.
Indiana @ Oklahoma City, 7 pm.
Toronto @ Sacramento, 9 pm.
Utah @ Denver, 9 pm.
Chicago @ LA Lakers, 9:30 pm.