Orlando had already lost four in a row and looked a mess before its “Dwightmare” began on Thursday — when coach Stan Van Gundy threw Dwight Howard under the bus because Howard had spent the year trying to throw Van Gundy under the bus. It was a struggling team now distracted by a soap opera with its star and coach.
Those to factors — combined with a surging Knicks team growing in confidence — led to a perfect storm and Orlando getting routed 96-80 at the hands of New York. The loss dropped the Magic back into a tie with Atlanta for the fifth/sixth seed in the East. Meaning no homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. The Magic are just 2.5 games up on the seventh-seed Sixers — and the Magic do not want to slide back to the seven or eight seed and get the Heat or Bulls in the first round.
Which means they need to figure things out quickly.
They thought getting Howard and Jameer Nelson back from injury would spark the offense again, but it didn’t — the Magic shot just 41.7 percent. They did okay from three but they scored at an efficiency of just 94.9 (points per 100 possessions). Howard had 2 points through three quarters. Which is better than Nelson did inside the arc (0-8).
The Magic offense has been pretty pedestrian this season, they are 16th in the league in efficiency. But this was a new low.
Credit the Knicks for some of that — they have the personnel to match up with Orlando. They can single cover Howard with Tyson Chandler so guys can stay home on the Magic’s shooter — Mike Woodson changed things up and the Knicks doubled Howard much more in this game and gave up more threes. But it still worked. Orlando was unimpressive.
It’s hard to see how this team rights the ship and gains momentum now — the locker room is divided and there will be a cloud of questions following their every move. A couple months ago they seemed a solid three seed in the East — they were not contenders but they were better than the rest. As their defense has slipped so have they.
Meanwhile, the Knicks just keep racking up wins. New York got 19 points from Carmelo Anthony (but it took 16 shots to do it), plus they got 15 each off the bench from J.R. Smith and Toney Douglas. The Knicks are 1.5 games up on the Bucks who are the nine seed, they also are 1.5 games back of the slumping 7 seed Sixers.
Things are far from perfect in New York, but it had to be nice to go into a game where they had the more stable coaching situation and were less of a soap opera.
Chris Bosh was putting videos on Instagram of himself out shooting on the court. His wife had taken to social media using the hashtag #letBoshplay. Bosh had reached out and gotten the players’ union involved. Bosh wanted to play, the Heat and their team doctors were not about to let him after he went back on blood thinners due to a clotting issue that can be life threatening.
It was becoming a distraction to a team up 1-0 in the second round of the playoffs.
Wednesday afternoon the two sides put this to rest.
This was never Bosh’s decision to make alone, it had to be him and the organization on the same page. And the Heat organization was not changing its mind.
Miami had to go small and change their style of play without Bosh, but it has worked — Goran Dragic found room to operate, the Heat offense took off, and the emergence of Hassan Whiteside as a rim protector has kept the defense from slipping much.
The Heat needed seven games to vanquish the Hornets in the first round. While technically underdogs in the second round against Toronto, the Heat have real matchup advantages that could see them advance to the conference finals — likely against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
It is unfortunate that is happening without Bosh, but there are things more important than basketball. Bosh’s long-term health has to be on that list.
Not that they need him yet, but Stephen Curry has been doing everything he can to get back on the court for the Golden State Warriors by Game 3 on Saturday.
That includes getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy on his sprained right knee, reports Diamond Leung of the Mercury News.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Tuesday he received platelet-rich plasma treatment as part of his treatment on his sprained right knee.
PRP, which is said to promote healing, was given to Curry on the second day of his recovery process, he said.
While thought to be exotic when Kobe Bryant used to go to Germany for this treatment on his knees a few years back, now this treatment is relatively common among professional athletes.
The question remains (and likely will until game day) whether the Warriors will bring back Curry for Game 3. On one hand, they aren’t pressured to do so up 2-0 on the Trail Blazers and with some matchup advantages Portland is not going to be able to solve. The Warriors don’t need to rush him back to make sure they win this series.
On the other hand, between the ankle and now knee injuries Curry has missed a lot of time and there is a rust factor — the Warriors want to shake that rust off against Portland, not in Game 1 of the conference finals against a much tougher opponent. Meaning even if you don’t see Curry in Game 3, you will see him in Game 4 (unless something is more wrong with him than is being let on).
Unable to present a quality team, it seems the Kings are trying to woo fans by hiring old favorites.
Vlade Divac is general manager. Peja Stojakovic is director of player personnel. Corliss Williamson is an assistant coach. Sacramento also tried to hire Bobby Jackson.
What about Mike Bibby?
The Kings might settle for his dad.
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Bibby made a name for himself as a coach at USC, where he hovered around .500 from 1996 until 2004. Since, he has coached in the WNBA and bounced between the 76ers, Grizzlies and Pistons as an assistant. He’d be a pretty underwhelming hire.
Ditto Borrego, who looked in over his head when the Magic named him interim coach last season. But that’s not an easy situation for an unproven coach. Returning to the Spurs, coupled with lessons from Orlando, might have Borrego more prepared for his head-coaching job.
Sacramento’s interest in Ettore Messina was already known, and he’d be a solid hire. But would he leave San Antonio for this job? Unlike Bibby and Borrego, Messina comes up for most openings.
The Kings continue to search far and wide for a coach, and that’s smart. Get smart basketball people in a room and ask how they’d fix the franchise. Take notes.
Then, eventually, hire one of them.
The Lakers might not even have a first-round pick this year.
Thanks to the ill-fated Steve Nash sign-and-trade, the Lakers owe the 76ers (via the Suns) a top-three-protected first-rounder. As the No. 2 seed in the lottery, the Lakers have just better than a coin-flip chance of landing in the top three and keeping the pick.
But if the Lakers land the top selection, they might not engage in the Ben Simmons-or-Brandon Ingram debate.
Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports:
Is this a good idea? The answer, as usual, is it depends on what they could get.
There’s a logic to adding another young player whose peak would align with Lakers’ core. D'Angelo Russell (20), Julius Randle (21) and Jordan Clarkson (23) aren’t ready to win. It might be better to add someone who will enter his prime when they do.
But the Lakers’ market and prestige make them a popular free-agent destination, and free agents value winning. Moderate improvements that would stick many teams on the mediocrity treadmill could open the door for the Lakers signing a star.
The Lakers should weigh these factors and trade offers logically and decide what to do if they get a top pick.
Of course, there are other factors. Jim Buss faces a somewhat-self-imposed deadline for contending. To the person in charge, what’s best for the franchise’s long-term outlook might not matter as much as a potential quick fix.