This is the reality of the Eastern Conference — you don’t want to be the seven or eight seed. You don’t want to face the Bulls or the Heat in the first round. That promises a short stay in the postseason.
The Knicks are currently the eight seed. The easiest route out of that hole is to leapfrog the Celtics and pass the 76ers, who lead the Atlantic Division but are only four games ahead of the Knicks. (Don’t look behind you Knicks, but the Bucks are just half a game back as the nine seed and have won 6 games in a row.)
Win the Atlantic and you are the automatic fourth seed (at worst) and avoid real trouble until the second round.
So the Knicks game against the 76ers Wednesday night is huge for them — win and they are three games back, something that can be made up in the 19 games that remain (although the 76ers have the easier schedule the rest of the way). Lose, fall five games back, and that dream is pretty much shot.
This four game winning streak of the Knicks — all by 14 points or more — has inspired dreams in New York because of the way they are doing it: sharing the ball, playing hard on defense, executing. All the things they didn’t do under Mike D’Antoni. Carmelo Anthony all but admitted he is trying harder under Woodson. We could discuss what that says about ‘Melo as a leader but fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter — right now it is working on the court. These Knicks are actually fun to watch. And seem to be having fun again.
Wednesday night is the measuring stick for the Woodson era — the 76ers blew the Knicks out of the water the last time these two played (March 11, the fifth loss in the Knicks six-game losing streak that led to D’Antoni leaving). It was one of those typically sad Knicks efforts where the team seemed to go through the motions without passion. Things are radically different now.
The Knicks are 0-6 on the second night of a back-to-back when the other team has rest (which is the case Wednesday night). But the Knicks have been breaking all kinds of trends lately.
Break this one and they have a chance of getting out of the 8 seed, getting out of the way of the two best teams in the conference. They get a real chance at advancing out of the first round.
Lose and the Knicks will find themselves in a fight with the Bucks just to make the playoffs and get the joy of the Bulls or Heat in the first round.
It’s a big game for the Knicks hopes Wednesday.
NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.
Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.
Darren Rovell of ESPN:
An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.
Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.
In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”
Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.
But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.
On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.
The Clippers have four sure-fire starters: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and DeAndre Jordan.
The fifth spot is up for grabs with Blake Griffin‘s season-ending injury.
Marreese Speights started Games 4 and 5 against the Jazz. Paul Pierce started the second half of Game 5.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
When asked if Marreese Speights or Paul Pierce would start against the Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in which the Clippers trail 3-2, Rivers said, “Yeah, one of them.”
“Paul was good,” Rivers said. “He’s been good throughout the series overall, I will say that. But he’s got to play better too, especially with his second effort, getting out to the shooters and stuff like that.”
There are no good options here.
Pierce, 39, has looked washed up most of his time in L.A. That the Clippers have outscored Utah by nine points in his 58 minutes seems like a product of small sample size.
Speights starting leaves the Clippers vulnerable at center when Jordan sits, and rather than staggering, maybe they ought to just start differently.
Rivers wants to ease the ball-handling burden on Paul, but one choice to do that – Raymond Felton – would be a defensive liability. Another possibility – Jamal Crawford – would present the same defensive issues and sabotage second-unit scoring.
Austin Rivers could bridge the gap, but he’s just returning from his own injury.
Doc Rivers clearly doesn’t trust Wesley Johnson, and the forward’s Game 5 gaffes won’t change that.
The Clippers’ central problem: They have only one player – Luc Mbah a Moute – who can guard Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson. When those Jazz forwards share the court, especially in crunch time, the Clippers face one massive mismatch.
Is relying on Pierce a good option? No way. But it also might be the Clippers’ best option.
The Cleveland Browns are trying something new: Making smart decisions. That included drafting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Garrett has NBA ties. His half brother, Sean Williams, was the No. 17 pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2007. Williams played just four years in the NBA, also spending time with the Mavericks and Celtics. He serves as a cautionary tale for Garrett.
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated in a 2015 profile of Garrett:
Then there’s Sean Williams, Myles’s older brother by almost 10 years, a pro athlete who accompanied him on an official visit to College Station and served as a role model and mentor. More important, he offered a cautionary tale. “Myles looks up to Sean and loves Sean but knows the things Sean went through and how my mom hated watching her son self-destruct,” says Brea. “Myles never wanted to let my mom down. Honestly, the best thing Sean could have done for Myles was to f— up.”
Myles remembers approaching a Chevrolet Avalanche with smoke pluming from its windows. He was around 12, and as he pleaded with the man inside to stop smoking weed, tears streaked his face. Sean, then a 6’10”, 235-pound shot-blocking power forward for the Nets, had heard his little brother make this request many times before but never heeded him. “Definitely not,” Williams, 28, says when asked if he maximized his potential. “I let bad decisions get in the way, [let] smoking so much get in the way.”
As he got older, Myles played a lot of basketball with Sean, and despite the gaps in age and size, they went at it hard. Along with the stellar genes, Audrey gave her children an edge: “There was no allowing the kids to win in our house, be it Uno or tic-tac-toe. They could have been bums, but they would have been competitive bums.”
Myles idolized Sean. After the Nets picked Sean, Myles spent vacations in New Jersey with him, celebrating when he finally won in video games and when he first dunked on his big brother by grabbing onto him with one arm and tomahawking the ball with the other. In 2011-12, when Sean was playing for the Mavericks, the brothers often squared off at the team facility. One day Sean’s agent, Bernie Lee, got a call from Dallas GM Donnie Nelson. “You have to tell Sean to stop bringing his friend in to play one-on-one,” Nelson told Lee. “We’re scared they are going to hurt each other.” Nelson didn’t know who the friend was but guessed he was Sean’s bodyguard. Myles had just turned 16.
Check out the rest of Thamel’s story for a fuller basketball-colored introduction to Garrett.
Isaiah Thomas has played – and played well – in all five games of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Bulls, which Boston leads 3-2.
But he has done so while travelling more than his teammates, flying home to Washington to be with his family after Game 2, following his sister’s death in a car crash. He’ll again make the extra trip after Game 6 tonight.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
After the Celtics and Bulls play Game 6 at the United Center on Friday night, Thomas is scheduled to fly to Tacoma to attend his sister’s funeral at noon on Saturday. If the Celtics win Game 6, this series will be over. But if Chicago wins, Game 7 will be played in Boston at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Teams up 3-2 with a road Game 6 in a 2-2-1-1-1 have won Game 6 just over half the time. The Celtics have been inspired to play for Thomas, who is admittedly emotionally exhausted, and I suspect this will only intensify his teammates’ desire to win for him.
I can’t imagine how Thomas has handled such a heavy burden, but it’d be nice if he had a little relief rather than the pressure to return to Boston by early Sunday afternoon.