Every night from here on out games will dramatically impact the playoffs — who gets in, who is on the outside looking in, and of course seedings. Let’s take a look at what’s on the line tonight.
Pacers at 76ers: Indiana is quietly one of the hottest teams going (won nine of last 10) but they are basically locked in as the three seed in the East. Philly, on the other hand, needs to play with some desperation — they are two games up on the Bucks for the 8 seed in the East (those two play next week). The Sixers are tied with the Knicks for the 7/8 right now, but the Knicks are playing well. Having won just two of their last eight the 76ers just need a few wins to keep the Bucks at bay. It doesn’t really matter if they get the Bulls or Heat in the first round, they just need to fight to stay in the dance.
Grizzlies at Timberwolves: The Grizzlies appear headed for the five seed out West, but a win keeps some pressure on the two Los Angeles teams ahead of them and would push Denver two games back of them at the six seed.
Celtics at Knicks: New York is not going to catch Boston for the Atlantic division crown, nor are they going to catch Orlando for the six seed (4.5 games back with 6 to play). But a win for New York keeps the Bucks well behind them (currently 2 games) and might get them the seven seed (if you would prefer the Heat over the Bulls in the first round). For Boston (locked in at the four seed) it’s all about home court in the first round — they will face Atlanta or Orlando to open the playoffs and right now all three of them are tied at 36-25.
Spurs at Lakers: Who is going to play in this game? Kobe is out, and on the middle night of a back-to-back-to-back who knows what lineups Gregg Popovich will throw out there (none of his big three played more than 13 minutes last night). The Spurs are in a virtual dead heat with Oklahoma City for the top spot in the West and home court up to the finals. The Lakers are one game up on the Clippers (two really, the Lakers have the tiebreaker) for the Pacific Division crown. Why that really matters — whoever comes in second between the Lakers and Clippers gets the red-hot Grizzlies in the first round. Nobody wants that.
Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.
Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.
We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.
This was expected. It still sucks to hear.
Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.
Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.
San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.
In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.
Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.
Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.
Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.
Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.
That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as
Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.
Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.
He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.
When the Boston Celtics head to training camp next fall, all eyes will be on
Markelle Fultz whoever the Celtics take with the No. 1 pick. He will be the guy expected, in a few years, to lead the Celtics to the top of the mountain in the East (assuming LeBron James ever leaves that space).
But they will have another high first round pick coming in: Guerschon Yabusele, a 6’8” power forward out of France. The Celtics drafted him No. 16 a year ago, then had him go get a year of seasoning in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Yabusele is having foot surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp, reports Chris Forsberg of ESPN.
Guerschon Yabusele, a 2016 first-round pick of the Boston Celtics, underwent surgery recently to remove bone spurs from the top of both feet and will not participate in summer league, according to a league source.
Yabusele, the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, spent much of his first professional season stashed in China. He came stateside in March and latched on with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate.
For a team that lacks rebounding, Yabusele could be a fit in Boston. He has the build of an old-school power forward, but he has a face-up game on offense, a quicker first step than people think, and he can shoot the three.
The Celtics also have Ante Zizic, last year’s No. 23 pick, who played last season in Turkey. The Celtics are a deep team, will they have a roster space for Yabusele or Zizic next season? Or will at least one of them play another year overseas, stashed away and waiting for their chance? There are a lot of questions about the Celtics’ plans this summer, that is just one of them.