A Big Week For NBA News

The Cavaliers made a first round draft pick; the Eastern Conference is tanking but the Western Conference has only two bad teams; and Nets Coach Jason Kidd earned a free timeout by spilling soda on the court. Host Rachel Martin talks with NPR's Mike Pesca for his take on the NBA's week.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: It's Thanksgiving weekend - a time for food, family and football, of course. Did you see that game last night? Auburn beat Alabama in an unbelievable last-second play in the Iron Bowl. I am serious - it was an amazing game. But NPR's Mike Pesca, he likes to go against the grain, so to speak. So, we're not talking about football this morning. We're talking about basketball.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Yeah. This time of year, when you go against the grain, instead of mashed potatoes and stuffing, you go for couscous, right? But, no, I'm going for the NBA.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: So, the NBA season's about 20 percent done. We can't jump to conclusions. But, you know what, let's jump to conclusions. First of all, we can get a sense of things, and I'll tell you one of the more fascinating stories in the NBA, is the number one overall draft pick - a guy named Anthony Bennett.

MARTIN: Tony Bennett.

PESCA: Yeah. Another guy named Tony Bennett once sang the best is yet to come, and let's hope that's true for this Anthony Bennett, because he's 20 pounds heavier than he was in college. He didn't really start off so well. First game - 0-5 from the field,, then 0-3, then 0-4, then 0-3. He was 1-21. And they did some calculations. They kind of got all the guys who started their career as 1-21, and it's a list of really bad NBA players. And then they went back and said, all right, how about anyone who's ever had a 1-21 streak in the last five years, and it's a list of really bad players. So, there are a few reasons why Anthony Bennett might not be doing well. And, yes, let's not say that means he'll never be a good pro. But I do have to tell you, if NBA scouts saw this terrible level of performance, he never would have been the number one pick.

MARTIN: OK. So, that's thing number one.

PESCA: All right. Let's talk about other things that aren't going well in the NBA. 'Cause the things that are going well are what we expected - you know, the Heat, the Spurs. Those are good teams. But the Eastern Conference is terrible. They have two winning teams - the Heat and the Pacers. The Western Conference has all but three winning teams. So, the Heat are doing well, the Pacers are doing well. You know, you have teams like the Knicks just doing awfully. You have teams like the Nets just doing awfully. Yeah, the Nets just got into an interesting situation where their coach, Jason Kidd, intentionally spilled a drink on the court to slow down the game so he can draw an extra play. It didn't work and he was fined $50,000.

MARTIN: I mean, that's an expensive play.

PESCA: Yeah. He got some compliments from other players from being savvy. But if you follow his career, he has been called by some NBA observers, guys who put their names to it - David Thorpe - he's a coach, called him the worst coach in the NBA. They just say that he doesn't really do much during a timeout. He was this great player. He just retired. He's been hired to coach the Nets. The Nets are terrible. You do the math. The NBA did - $50,000 is the answer.

MARTIN: OK. Quick, you've got a curveball?

PESCA: I do. Let's go back to that game, that Auburn-Alabama game. So, the last play was an attempted field goal attempt. It was short. The rules say the returning team can in fact be the returning team, and that's exactly what happened after a 57-yard attempt. The Auburn...

MARTIN: Field goal attempt.

PESCA: Yeah, field goal attempt. The Auburn player ran it back and it was totally amazing and it won the game. Afterwards, I heard an Auburn player say it shows that we play until there are zeroes on the clock. But you know what? There was one second on the clock when the attempt was tried.

MARTIN: They put it back.

PESCA: Well, I went back and timed - they did; that was a controversy - I went back and timed it. The entire play - he didn't score until 18 seconds after there were zeroes on the clock. So, I don't know if that needs to be a new idiom or a new calculation. But if they just played until there were zeroes, that game would still be tied.

MARTIN: We don't stop until there's 18 seconds.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Yes.

MARTIN: NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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