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

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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.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.