Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James

With one day left, plenty still to be decided in playoff race


Thursday is it — the final day of the NBA regular season. And fitting with the condensed schedule, there are 13 games.

And there still is a lot to be decided. While we know the 16 teams in the playoffs, who plays whom is not fully set in either conference. David Stern loves this, his schedule makers do not.

Let’s take a closer look.

Eastern Conference:

Series locked in:

Indiana (3 seed) vs. Orlando (6): This became locked in Wednesday when Orlando beat Charlotte. It would have been a bigger story if the Magic lost.

Celtics (4) vs. Hawks (5): This matchup has been set for days but who has home court is still not decided. And no, the Celtics don’t get it just because they are the four seed and won the Atlantic — the team with the better record still gets home court advantage. The Hawks have a one-game lead over the Celtics but the Celtics have the tiebreaker. Thursday night Boston needs Atlanta to lose to Dallas and for Boston to beat the Bucks. If either of those games goes the other way the series starts in Atlanta.

What we find out Thursday:

Chicago is locked in as the one seed, Miami as the two seed. What we don’t know is who they play.

New York and Philadelphia are tied for the seven/eight seeds at 35-30, and New York has the tiebreaker. Which means when the Knicks beat the Bobcats Thursday they become the seven seed. I think saying when is safe there, but if the Knicks were upset and the Sixers beat the Pistons, Philly would be the seven seed. Not likely, however.

So look for:
Chicago vs. Philadelphia
Miami vs. New York.

Western Conference:

Series locked in:

San Antonio (1) vs. Utah (8): When Denver won Wednesday Utah got locked in at the eight. San Antonio would have preferred Denver, but it’s not going to matter much.

Memphis (4) vs. L.A. Clippers (5): While this series is set home court advantage comes down to Thursday — if Memphis beats Orlando they get home court, lose and the Clips get it.

What we find out Thursday:

Oklahoma City is locked in at the two seed, the Los Angeles Lakers are the three seed, those are locked.

Denver gets the six seed and a date with the Lakers if they beat Minnesota or if Dallas loses to Atlanta. However a Mavs win and a Nuggets loss and Dallas is the six seed.

So look for:
Oklahoma City vs. Dallas
L.A. Lakers vs. Denver

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

Greg Smith
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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.