Knicks' Anthony and Heat's James embrace after their NBA basketball game in New York

Thursday And-1 links: First look at NBA playoff schedule


Here is our daily look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

A lot of things are still up in the air, but the NBA released a first look at the first games of the first round of the NBA playoffs. That’s a lot of firsts but it’s all we have — the times have not been set, neither have the rest of the games. We just know what teams are playing what days (which the coaches wanted to know so they knew to rest Thursday night).

In the East Chicago will host Philadelphia or New York Saturday, and Miami will host the other half of Philadelphia/New York Saturday as well. Orlando is at Indiana Saturday. Boston and Atlanta play Sunday, we just have yet to find out who gets home court.

• In the West, Utah is at San Antonio Sunday. Oklahoma City will host either Dallas or Denver on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the other half off Dallas or Denver on Sunday. The Los Angeles Clippers against Memphis will start Sunday, although which team gets home court will be decided Thursday.

• The Bulls need to win to clinch best record through the playoffs, and Tom Thibodeau said he planned to play his starters 20-30 minutes. With it now announced the Bulls play Saturday, his thinking might change.

• I really like the Jazz’s big lineup — Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors all on the floor at once — but let’s not start thinking they can do to San Antonio what Memphis did a year ago.

• Knicks coach Mike Woodson is hopeful he will have Jeremy Lin back for the second round of the playoffs. I say that’s not going to matter.

• Etan Thomas speaks for a lot of us in asking Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter to back away from the ledge they are on.

• Sasha Vujacic does want to return to the NBA but he does not have a deal with Toronto in hand, they don’t really want him.

• Antawn Jamison is not coming back to the Cavaliers next year.

• A Miami Heat fan did not find the antics of the Phoenix Suns Gorilla mascot funny and punched the guy in the face, giving him a bloody nose.

• Arena talks is Sacramento are not dead, but the doctors still say the prognosis is not good.

When NBA halftime show tightrope walking performances go bad.

• An interview with the former ESPN editor who made the Jeremy Lin headline mistake.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry
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The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.

Is Stephen Curry the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Lionel Messi

Stephen Curry has reached the transcendent point in his career. We’re now talking about if he has passed LeBron James as the best player on the planet (he has), and we’re starting to think about his legacy as the perfect point guard for a modern NBA small-ball, space-and-pace offense. Plus he’s just a joy to watch play.

Does that make him the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Curry was asked to compare himself to the Barcelona/Argentinian player who (arguably) is the greatest soccer player in the world, certainly as elite a finisher as that sport has ever seen. Here is his answer, via the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. Is Curry the bigger international star now?

“I don’t know – it’s a chicken and egg kind of conversation,” Curry said while laughing.

“We both have a creative style, a feel when you are out on the pitch or the court. I’m trying to do some fancy things out there with both hands, making crossover moves and having a certain flair to my game and that’s definitely the style Messi has when he is out there in his matches.”

I love Curry, but Messi is the bigger international star.

But I love the comparison in terms of the must-watch nature of the two stars, the flair in their games, the sense that you have to keep an eye on them at all times because the spectacular could happen any time they touch the ball. When the ball comes to them, everybody leads forward in their chairs. That is the sign of a real superstar.