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NBA AM: Forthcoming NBA Milestones

LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dirk Nowitzki are among those due for big milestones this coming season.

Joel Brigham

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Every season, NBA players do incredible things, but few are as impressive as the long-term achievements of those active hoops legends that somehow have dominated the league over long stretches of time. While players like Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter appear on some very prestigious all-time lists despite waning abilities, others like Chris Paul and LeBron James are in the twilights of their careers and still are moving their way up all-time stat lists, perhaps with eyes on the top spots in some categories.

The following is a look at which milestones are ahead for NBA stars this season. With some all-time greats moving into the back ends of their careers (or in some cases, the way-back ends of their careers), the all-time stat lists are bound to see some big movement in 2017-2018. The following are the career milestones we can expect to see this season:

Career Points

Dirk Nowitzki is 1,159 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlin for 5th on the all-time NBA scoring list. Nowitzki would need to score 14.1 points per game for 82 games to surpass him, which doesn’t seem likely considering he only played just over 50 games last season, so while it isn’t impossible, it also doesn’t seem like Nowitzki will quite get there.

LeBron James, currently 9th all-time in total points, should easily surpass Moses Malone and Julius Erving this season, and it’s not impossible that he passes Nowitzki, too, depending on Dirk’s health. At worst, James should finish the season 7th on the all-time scoring list. At best, James could finish in 5th, ahead of Nowitzki and Chamberlin, if he scores 32 points per game for all 82 games.

Vince Carter, currently 27th on the all-time scoring list, is only 387 points away from moving into the top 25 scorers of all time. He scored 584 points last year in Memphis, so he could easily hop over Patrick Ewing and Artis Gilmore on the list this year.

While no one knows where Carmelo Anthony (30th on the all-time scoring list) will play next season, it seems likely he still will be asked to score quite a few points. Were he to score around 1,600 points in 2017-2018, a slight downtick from last season, he would jump nine spots on the scoring list to 21st, leapfrogging not only Ewing, Gilmore and Carter, but also Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Rick Barry and Alex English.

Career Rebounds

Dwight Howard (23rd all-time) is the active player with the most career rebounds, and he could make even more ground on those totals this year as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. In the past few seasons, Howard has hauled in somewhere between 800 and 950 rebounds, and if he repeats that in 2017-2018 it’s possible for him to finish the season as high 16th on the all-time rebounds list, passing Charles Oakley, Paul Silas, Dikembe Mutomobo, Charles Barkley, Bob Pettit, Jerry Lucas and Buck Williams. Next on the list, with 1,010 more career rebounds than Howard, is Shaquille O’Neal.

Nowtizki, meanwhile, is 31st on the all-time rebounds list. Assuming he hauls in another 300-400 boards this season, he should easily finish among the top 30 all-time, likely settling in at 29th ahead of Dan Issell and Bill Bridges.

Career Assists

Currently 10th all-time in career assists, Chris Paul looks primed to dole out a whole lot more of them this season in Houston. When healthy, Paul’s floor is usually around 600 dimes a season, while he’s only topped 900 assists in a season once in his career. Finishing the year with 750 would push him over 9,000 career dimes, which would jump him ahead of Andre Miller and Gary Payton on the all-time list. If Paul were to top 810 assists, he’d jump Isiah Thomas for 7th all-time as well, though he’d need another full elite season in 2018-2019 to have any sort of shot at Oscar Robertson, who currently is 6th all-time with 9,887 assists.

LeBron James is moving up the assists list, too. Currently 12th with 7.461, James could add another 500-600 assists this season, putting him over 8,000 for his career and likely moving him into the top ten on the all-time list by year’s end.

While Deron Williams could potentially retire, playing another season would potentially move him up a bit on the all-time assists list, too. Currently 19th with 6,819 assists, Williams is only 102 assists from moving up to 18th all-time. Another 38 and he’d be 17th all-time. This requires he not only land with a team but also be given enough minutes to tack on a few more, but Williams already has solidified himself among the top 20 all-time, regardless of what happens this season.

Career Steals

Chris Paul is currently 16th all-time in steals with 1,912. Only once has he failed to steal fewer than 115 balls in a season, and he has a couple of seasons early in his career over 200. Conservatively, Paul should be penciled in for around 150 steals this season, which would be enough to push him over 2,000 career steals and into 13th place all-time. With exactly 200 steals, Paul would finish the season tied for 10th all-time with Alvin Robertson.

LeBron James is currently 22nd all-time and usually ends up with around 100 steals per season. If he does that again, perhaps topping 115 steals this year, he could surpass Isaiah Thomas and settle in somewhere around 17th or 18th on the all-time list.

Career Blocks

Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both are on the low end of the top 25 all-time for career blocks, and both should see some upward movement on that list this season. Howard (23rd all-time), has blocked between 90 and 130 shots when healthy over the last four seasons, and doing so again would get him to 2,000 blocks all-time and jump him a few spots on the all-time list. He could finish the season 20th all-time if he were to swat away 112 blocks this year.

Meanwhile Gasol, currently 25th on the list with 1,847 all-time blocks, only swatted away 70 last year in San Antonio after two seasons with 145+ as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Blocking another 100 would move him to 23rd all-time, into Howard’s old spot.

Career Games Played

Nowitzki and Carter are the only active players currently among the top 20 players all-time in terms of games played. Carter (14th all-time) could jump as high as 8th on the list this season, while Nowitzki (8th all-time) could tie Karl Malone for 4th all-time if he played all 82 games.

***

While watching Nowitzki and Carter this year might be as exciting as watching their athletic rookie teammates, the numbers they continue to accrue are incredible. Big milestones await for several future Hall-of-Famers this season. It’s just a matter of how much higher those numbers go.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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