Former Knicks player Harthorne Wingo has died

Former Knicks player Harthorne Wingo has died. Via New York Newsday:

The names of the players on the last Knicks championship team, the 1972-73 squad, still echo through Madison Square Garden, with six of their jerseys hanging in the rafters. And while he was not one of the stars like Walt Frazier or Willis Reed, Harthorne Wingo was for a time nearly as familiar.

As the Knicks moved from a powerhouse to a struggling franchise, the chants of “De-fense” were swapped with a cry of “Harthorne Wingo,” for the popular 6-9 forward. The Knicks announced on Monday that Wingo passed away Saturday at the age of 73.

It was no coincidence that he captured the hearts of New Yorkers and not just for his name. Wingo, who had grown up in North Carolina, was one of the early students to integrate high schools and sports in the state. He then played a year at Friendship Junior College before deciding to move up to New York, where he displayed his athleticism on the courts at Rucker Park. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in the Rucker Pro League.

Via the New York Post:

Wingo, a North Carolina native, played four seasons with the 1970s Knicks before going overseas. Wingo was a bit player on the 1972-73 championship team playing in 13 games, averaging four minutes.

But later on, the undrafted 6-foot-6 forward became a fan favorite and was immortalized in the Beastie Boys song “Lay It On Me” with the lyric: “My favorite New York Knick was Harthorne Wingo.” …

Wingo was tall and gangly and known for an awkward jump shot that captivated fans when it actually went in. His career scoring average was 4.8 points, but he played in all 82 games in the 1974-75 season, shooting 46 percent.

Wingo’s NBA career was short, but he was well-liked and a fan favorite. He will be missed.

Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic named NBA Players of Week

The NBA announced today that Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played between Monday, Jan. 18 and Sunday, Jan. 24.

In his fifth NBA season, it’s Embiid’s fifth career Player of the Week selection. Embiid joins Hall of Famers Charles Barkley (six times) and Allen Iverson (20) as the only players ever to earn the award at least five times as 76ers since its inception in 1979-80.

Embiid led the 76ers to a 3-0 week, with two wins over Boston and one over Detroit, producing at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in each contest. He posted no fewer than 33 points and 10 rebounds in any game. The last Philadelphia player to tally 33-10 in three straight games was Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain from Dec. 16-20, 1967.

He made 12-or-more free throws in all three games last week and attempted at least 15 in each. For the week, Embiid led the NBA with 113 total points (37.7 per game) and 43 made free throws, while shooting .611 from the field, .444 from beyond the arc and .811 from the free-throw line. On the season, Embiid’s average of 8.9 made free throws per game leads the league, while his 27.7 points per contest rank fifth and his rebounding average of 11.5 sits seventh. He, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokić are the only NBA players averaging at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.

In last Wednesday’s 117-109 home win over Boston, Embiid posted 42 points (12-19 FG, 17-21 FT) and collected 10 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. It was his second 40-point game in eight days, and he, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Boston’s Jaylen Brown are the only NBA players with multiple 40-point efforts this season. Embiid is the only player to post 40 points and 10 rebounds in game this season, and he’s done so twice. He turned the ball over just once against the Celtics, the second time since 1979-80 a 76er has posted 40 points and 10 rebounds with one-or-fewer turnovers. The only other such performance was also by Embiid on March 17, 2019 at Milwaukee.

The 76ers hosted the Celtics again last Friday night to complete a two-game series. In a 122-110 victory, Embiid notched 38 points (11-15 FG, 2-2 3FG, 14-15 FT), collected 11 rebounds and handed out three assists. It was his fifth straight game (regular season or playoffs) against Boston with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, dating back to Aug. 19, 2020. Embiid and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only players since 1976-77 with five straight 30-point, 10-rebound games against the Celtics.

Embiid closed out his week with a 33-point (10-20 FG, 12-17 FT), 14-rebound, two-block effort in a 114-110 win at Detroit, kicking off a two-game road series. It was his third consecutive 30-point, 10-rebound performance, marking the fourth time in his career he’s posted at least 30-10 in three-or-more straight games. The only other 76ers ever with as many such three-game streaks as Embiid are Barkley and Chamberlain. Further, it was the 50th 30-point, 10-rebound effort of Embiid’s career, a mark he reached within 223 career games. The only player to reach 50 such career games sooner than Embiid is Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who did so in 190 contests.

Jokić wins the award for the first time this season and has now earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors seven times in his career, tying him with Alex English for the second most in franchise history.

Jokić, 25, averaged 29.0 points, 14.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.70 steals while shooting .522 from the field and .778 from the charity stripe. He helped lead the Nuggets to a 3-0 week, including a home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and back-to-back road wins over the Phoenix Suns on consecutive nights. The 3-0 week also moved Denver’s record over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Jokić started the week by registering 27 points (12-21 FG’s), 12 rebounds, six assists and one steal in a home win over the Thunder, his first career game with 27+ points, 12+ rebounds and 6+ assists in 28 minutes or less. Denver then headed to Phoenix for a back-to-back where he put up a stat-line of 31 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in 40 minutes as the Nuggets won in overtime. Jokić followed that performance up the next night with another massive game, finishing with 29 points, a career-high 22 rebounds, six assists and one steal in 42 minutes as the Nuggets prevailed in double overtime. He became one of five players all-time to record 350 points, 125 rebounds and 125 assists in the first 15 games of a season.

Jokić leads the NBA in total assists and is second in assists per game, while averaging 25.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.90 steals in 35.7 minutes. He has also produced a double-double in all 16 games, becoming one of five players since 1976 to record a double-double in each of the first 16 games (Walton, Antetokounmpo, M. Malone, D. Sabonis).

Bulls vs. Grizzlies game scheduled for January 27, 2021 is postponed

The National Basketball Association game scheduled for this Wednesday, January 27, 2021 between the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum has been postponed in accordance with the league’s Health and Safety Protocols.

The game is being postponed due to contact tracing within the Grizzlies and the length of time preceding the game during which Memphis will be unable to practice.

Hawks holding few full practices so far in this unusual NBA season

It’s been a season of adjustments for all 30 NBA teams, including the Hawks. Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The last time the Hawks had a full-on practice, they were in Phoenix and had the opportunity to do so only because their game against the Suns on Jan. 13 was canceled because of contact tracing…

With nine new players on the roster and largely a young roster, at that, the Hawks could use more practice time to build up chemistry and simply iron out any kinks. But, because of the new schedule, they’ve probably had only four full-on, live-contact practices since their season started Dec. 23, Pierce estimated.

Of course, every team is in a similar situation to the Hawks, in that adhereing to safety standards and keeping life simpler than usual is more important than trying to squeeze in as many practices as possible.

The Hawks are 8-7 this season. In yesterday’s 116-98 win over the Timberwolves, two Hawks put up monster games: Trae Young had 43 points, four rebounds and five assists, while Clint Capela had a special kind of triple-double of 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks.

Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball playing limited minutes lately

Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has played limited minutes lately. Via the Charlotte Observer:

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego says rookie LaMelo Ball playing as he did Friday costs him minutes, regardless of Ball’s huge potential.

“If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me,” Borrego assessed Saturday of Ball’s performance against the Chicago Bulls.

“If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively.”

Ball, the third overall draft pick, has been occasionally spectacular in his first 15 games, including a triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks Jan. 9. However, his performance slipped the past two games, and Borrego has trimmed back his minutes: To 23 against the Toronto Raptors Jan. 16 and 16 1/2 against the Bulls Friday.

Ball is currently third in scoring among rookies, but just 0.2 ppg out of the top spot. He’s also leading all rookies in rebounds, assists and steals per game. He’s been the main rookie to watch this season, along with Warriors center James Wiseman.

Wizards sign Alex Len and Jordan Bell

The Washington Wizards today signed free agent center Alex Len and free agent forward Jordan Bell.

Len (7-0, 250) has averaged 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting .512 from the field in 474 career games (185 starts) over eight seasons with Phoenix, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Toronto. He appeared in seven games this season for the Raptors.

A native of Antratsit, Ukraine, Len averaged 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in 55 games during the 2019-20 season with the Hawks and Kings. He averaged a career-high 11.1 points in 77 games for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2018-19 season.

Len played two seasons locally at the University of Maryland (2011-13) before being selected fifth overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Bell (6-8, 216) was acquired by the Capital City Go-Go prior to the suspension of the NBA G League season in March before being signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in June. He has played in 154 games (16 starts) in his three-year NBA career with Golden State, Minnesota and Memphis, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Bell was originally selected with the 38th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Oregon by Chicago before being traded to Golden State on draft night.

Sixers sign Rayjon Tucker to two-way contract

The Philadelphia 76ers have signed guard Rayjon Tucker to a two-way contract.

Tucker earned an NBA Call-Up last season with the Utah Jazz. He appeared in 20 games with Utah after starting the season with the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League. In 16 games (all starts) with the Herd, he averaged 23.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.8 minutes per game. Tucker was named NBA G League Player of the Month for December 2019 and was also selected to the Eastern Conference Midseason All-NBA G League Team.

The 23-year-old Charlotte native finished his college career at UA Little Rock in 2018-19 after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast. In 30 games (all starts) with Little Rock, Tucker averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 36.6 minutes per contest. He was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team.

Per NBA rules, teams are permitted to have a maximum of two players under two-way contracts in addition to the players under standard NBA contracts. A two-way player for the 76ers will provide services to the team’s G League affiliate – the Delaware Blue Coats – but may not be active for more than 39 NBA games, a prorated amount down from 50 at the start of the regular season.

Atlanta Hawks statement on Hank Aaron, who has passed away

The Atlanta Hawks released the following statement on the passing of MLB and Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron:

“The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Atlanta Braves legend Henry “Hank” Aaron. His greatness transcended sports. “Hammerin’ Hank” was the epitome of class and grace, breaking barriers and records with the swing of his bat.

In an interview, Hank once said baseball was not about breaking records but simply playing to the best of one’s potential. We are thankful that Hank not only played but that he lived to the best of his potential, leaving an example for our city and the world to follow.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his family, the Braves organization and the entire sports world.”

R.J. Barrett having good season for Knicks

Young Knicks swingman R.J. Barrett is turning some heads lately. Via the New York Newsday:

When the offensively challenged Knicks won at Golden State on Thursday to begin a four-game road trip, it seemed worth noting that RJ Barrett had led the way with a career-high 28 points.

But when Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau talked about Barrett after the game, he made his way through a number of compliments and never got to the scoring output as something worth praising…

While Julius Randle has been the offensive leader for the Knicks, Barrett has emerged as a steady sidekick. His offense has not always been steady, but his play has been. After Thursday’s game, they were tied atop the NBA in total minutes played at 593 (37.1 per game). They have teamed up for a heavy workload, helping spearhead a defensive unit that has allowed the fewest points per game in the league at 102.8.

The Knicks are a solid 8-8 this season, and have played better than many people expected. They are being lead in scoring by Julius Randle at 22.4 points per game, Alec Burks at 18.3 ppg (though in just four games played), Barrett at 17.8 ppg, and Elfrid Payton at 13.3 ppg.

Cavs trade Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets, who waive Chris Clemons

The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded guard Kevin Porter Jr. to Houston. In exchange, the Cavaliers will receive a future second round draft pick from the Rockets, General Manager Koby Altman announced from Cleveland Clinic Courts.

In a related move, the Rockets have waived guard Chris Clemons, who appeared in 33 games as a rookie last season.

“After careful and thoughtful evaluation, we made the very difficult and collective decision to make this trade,” said Altman. “Given the culture and environment we have worked to cultivate here in Cleveland, we feel this move is in everyone’s best interest. Kevin has a bright career ahead of him as a professional basketball player and, at his core, is a good person. We wish Kevin and his family well in Houston.”

Porter Jr. (6-4, 203) was the 30th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by Milwaukee and was acquired by the Cavaliers in a trade with Detroit on June 26, 2019. He went on to appear in 50 games (three starts) with Cleveland last season, averaging 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.92 steals in 23.2 minutes.