Notes from around the NBA.
The new $863-million Little Caesars Arena in Detroit has a ceiling with lighting that can change colors, but the most vivid feature at the Pistons and Red Wings’ new downtown home is the preponderance of empty red seats during games.
The Pistons have been on a long-term attendance slide since the afterglow of the 2004 NBA championship team wore off. The franchise banked on a move from the suburbs (Palace of Auburn Hills) to Detroit’s core to revive or revise the fan base.
On one hand, the Detroit Free Press reported an increase of 3,000 season ticket sales. On the other, Detroit’s season of surprise success has not kept the Pistons from challenging Atlanta’s doormat season and dormant fan base for a league attendance low, based on percentage of arena capacity filled.
More than a one-month evaluation is needed to know the move’s impact but the eyeball test does not bode well. Either suburbanites do not want to make the trek downtown (the Pistons’ old and new arenas are 32 miles apart) or city center dwellers are not on board yet. Or both.
Kobe to Isaiah
The Players’ Tribune documentary series “Book of Isaiah II” debuted its first chapter Thursday, showing behind-the-scenes footage of Isaiah Thomas’ trek from last season’s playoffs with Boston to his current hip injury rehabilitation for Cleveland.
The first chapter included a look back to when Thomas’ sister, Chyna, died in an automobile accident one day before the playoff opener in April. Thomas said he took advice from Kobe Bryant to heart before tallying 33 points, six assists and six rebounds in a Game 1 home loss to Chicago.
“Nobody can tell you what to do,” Thomas said Bryant told him. “But if you do play, play to be the killer that you are and leave it all on the court.”
Power of contract year
Tyreke Evans started his career on a four-year, $17-million contract. He played the next four seasons for a $44-million contract.
He never has been a better player or bargain than the early parts of this season, when he is playing on a one-year, $3.3-million deal for Memphis in his college town.
Evans is an early sixth man of the year contender for posting his best scoring average (18.5 entering Saturday) since he was 2010 NBA rookie of the year over Stephen Curry. He is shooting better than 50% from the field and better than 40% from three-point range for the first time in his career.
Although Memphis faded back to .500 with recent struggles, Evans opened November with six consecutive games of 20 points or more. The 28-year-old guard always had a knack for willing his way into the paint with an array of moves, but his perimeter shooting has been a must with Mike Conley shooting less than 40% and averaging a career-low in assists.
Curry apparently is to basketball what Garry Kasparov is to chess, Jane Goodall is to conservation, Steve Martin is to comedy, Herbie Hancock is to jazz or Martin Scorsese is to filmmaking.
Like those other stars of their domains, Curry is teaching an online basketball course through MasterClass. For $90, students will get 15 lessons with mechanics drills, technique videos, a workbook and more.
“I’m still searching for perfection and full potential in this game,” Curry said in an overview video. “The time is now for you to start your journey to find ways to get better. That’s why we’re all here. You need to get in the gym and get to work. Time’s ticking.”
How much more can Utah sustain?
Gordon Hayward’s free agency departure was a sour Jazz note long before Dante Exum’s season-ending shoulder surgery and Joe Johnson’s sidelined status for a wrist injury.
But losing center Rudy Gobert for four to six weeks is just unfair to Utah. Gobert still gave the Jazz an identity as a defensive team because his ultimate rim protection allowed perimeter players to defend aggressively. He became a viable offensive threat and a second-team All-NBA center last season with his ability to finish on rolls to the basket and improved free-throw shooting.