NBA Playoffs: Billups just one of many Knicks, Celtics questions

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About the only prediction I feel safe about making for this game is that it will be entertaining. This entire series will be.

After that, there are nothing but questions about Game 2 of Boston vs. New York, on the Knicks need on the road to even the series.

How will the Knicks deal without Chauncey Billups? The Knicks starting point guard is out with a sprained knee suffered late in Game 1. That means a whole lot of Toney Douglas, matched up on Rajon Rondo. It’s not as bad as you think — Rondo and Douglas have been on the court for 42 minutes this season and Rondo shot more often but only hit 31 percent in that situation, and he really struggled from three (thanks Statscube). The reverse also has been true — Douglas shoots just 29 percent overall and 18 percent from three when Rondo is on him. This may not be the game where Rondo takes over.

Will Carmelo Anthony heat up? Anthony was 5-of-18 overall rarely got in deep on the stout Boston defense. The result was a 4-of-15 night shooting jumpers, with plenty of key misses down the stretch. He cannot have another cold night like that again if the Knicks plan to get a win.

Will the Knicks go away from the hot hand again? This was their biggest mistake in Game 1 — Amar’e Stoudemire was on fire, killing Kevin Garnett off the dribble, yet he didn’t get a touch in the final two minutes so Carmelo Anthony could take and miss contested jumpers. Mike D’Antoni talked about this, but the Knicks have to go with what works. And they need another big game from Stoudemire.

Can Boston get Garnett going? He struggled to a 4-of-12 shooting night with Ronny Turiaf on him most of the night. As Zach Lowe pointed out at The Point Forward, Turiaf on the floor was a defensive advantage for the Celtics as that is who they helped off of all night. Turiaf’s energy will probably be able to keep Garnett in relative check on offense, but is that worth the offensive trade off for Boston. If they go with someone other than Turaif look for a lot of KG.

Can Jermaine O’Neal have another big night? Jermaine O’Neal was the kind of defensive presence, good rebounder Boston needs in Game 1 plus he went 6-of-6 from the field. Can he replicate that? History suggests otherwise, but Boston could use it.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?