Your PBT Saturday Morning Opening Playoff Day Viewing Guide

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It’s time.

The NBA Playoffs begin Saturday as 16 teams begin their challenge for a championship. OK, only about seven of them think they actually have a chance. But still. Here’s what’s on tap today.

1 p.m. EST: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls. The Sixers actually do really match up better with Chicago than Miami, all the numbers indicate so, but Evan Turner openly saying the Sixers were trying to face Chicago was up there with was that time I told that girl in 8th grade the reason I wanted to go out with her was because everyone said she was easy. There is no situation in which that is the right decision. And the Sixers will likely pay for it the same way, only instead of getting kicked in the crotch, the Bulls will just run up the score on them. Over/Under on minutes for Derrick Rose when the team is up by 15+ in the fourth is 8.5.

3:30 p.m. EST: New York Knicks at Miami Heat. The big one for today, as the most hyped team in the land takes on the most hyped city in the land. The Knicks are facing the Heat with what feels like their 18th different incarnation. They’ve faced them without Melo, without Stoudemire, without Jeremy Lin. Now they’ll be facing them possibly without Tyson Chandler, who has the flu. Good times! Anyway, a lot of people are doing that “I’m not saying Miami’s going to lose, but…” thing with this series which is code for “I think they’ll lose but I don’t want to look horrendously stupid if they don’t.” The Heat in all likelihood won’t lose, but NY can steal a game and set the tone today. Over/Under on Melo Isolation shots when Steve Novak is wide open in the corner, waving flaming maracas while Mariachi music plays to try and get Melo’s attention: 10.5.

7 p.m. EST  Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacerzzzz No one cares about this matchup, and the Pacers will win easily. You can just cut and paste that sentence for the other three games in this series. (The Magic will now proceed to win by five in thrilling fashion. Hate you, hubris.) If you’re going to make a drinking game out of one of today’s games, this is the one. Over/Under on tequila shots you’ll need for every time Glen Davis does something which causes someone on the Magic bench to shake their head: 5.

9:30 pm. EST: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder. The reigning champs start on the road versus the team they beat last year. That’s awkward. This isn’t the same Mavericks team, but they’re still dangerous. Specifically, Delonte West is back in a starting role in the playoffs, so that could be fun. Delonte West + Russell Westbrook = must-watch television. Oh, and that Durant fella and the big German guy, too. Also, Kendrick Perkins faces Brendan Haywood in a battle of one player facing an earlier/later version of himself. It’s like “Back to the Future, Part III” only with more glaring. Over/Under on Ibaka Goaltends is 2.5.

The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

AP Photo/Winslow Townson
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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.

Rumor: Magic expected to fire Frank Vogel

AP Photo/John Raoux
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Magic president Jeff Weltman inherited an expensive and bad roster, limiting his options to shape it.

He also inherited coach Frank Vogel, and maybe there’s something Weltman will do about that.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

Orlando’s ongoing malaise, especially after the promise of an unexpected 8-4 start, make it a widely held assumption in coaching circles that Vogel will be dismissed after the franchise’s sixth successive season out of the playoffs.

Perhaps, these people in coaching circles are doing nothing more than connecting dots. Many coaches with poor records – only the Suns and Nets have been worse during Vogel’s two-year tenure – inherited by a new front office get fired.

Or it could be something more concrete, like Orlando putting out feelers for potential replacements. That possibility gives juice to this report.

Vogel has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Will ownership pay to oust Vogel? That seems likely. The alternative is paying Weltman to sit on his hands.

This would be a tough break for Vogel, who coached well with the Pacers. The Magic’s roster is just so lacking. Vogel hasn’t impressed in Orlando, but his opportunity to do so has been narrow.

At least it’d be more understandable if he got fired by a losing team. Last time, he got fired by a winning team.

Rumor: Bucks, Jabari Parker could part after season

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Jabari Parker is a confounding fit on the Bucks now and in the future.

Could he and Milwaukee part ways this summer, when he’ll be a restricted free agent?

Gery Woelfel on 105.7 The Fan:

At this very moment, I’d say the odds are slim to none it’s going to happen … that he’ll be on this team next year.

I just don’t see a good fit there. I didn’t bring this up, and I’ve been meaning to do so, but I haven’t. He came very, very close to being traded at the deadline. And I think that spoke volumes of they think of Jabari Parker and whether he’s a part of their future plans.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry denied it:

So did general manager Jon Horst. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Horst made it clear both on the radio and in a separate interview with the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that the Bucks never had any intention of trading Parker

Teams often discuss trading players then deny it to avoid offending the player. Whether or not they nearly traded Parker, the Bucks would probably respond now similarly.

As far as Parker’s future in Milwaukee, it’s unclear where the well-connected Woelfel’s reporting ends and his analysis begins. There’s a huge difference between trading Parker for value and letting him walk for nothing. Just because the Bucks came close to trading Parker wouldn’t mean they won’t re-sign him.

Shedding Parker would not open cap space without additional moves. It would probably allow Milwaukee to use the full mid-level exception and stay beneath the luxury-tax line. But that’s unlikely to land a player who combines Parker’s age and talent.

Because Parker will be a restricted free agent, the Bucks hold the cards. If he’s upset about trade talks or anything else, he can’t unilaterally leave.

Milwaukee must determine how much to pay Parker and how to utilize him with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those are hard questions. But the Bucks throwing up their hands and letting Parker walk in free agency isn’t the answer.

Tony Parker: My quad injury 100 times worse than Kawhi Leonard’s

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Tony Parker reportedly led a players-only meeting in which Spurs implored Kawhi Leonard to return.

Leonard injured his quad last season, has played just nine games this season and remains sidelined. The Spurs have reportedly cleared him, but he got second opinions and is waiting for his medical team to clear him.

Parker injured his quad last May then returned in November – and said at the time Leonard would return in 2-3 weeks.

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News:

It’s not hard to read between these lines.

Though some Spurs reportedly told Leonard to return only once he feels ready, Parker is clearly applying pressure. It’s not working, but he’s apparently not stopping.

These comments don’t befit a healthy organization, which is just so stunning for the Spurs, whose excellent culture has been exalted for year.

Maybe Parker will get his wish, and a shamed-into-playing Leonard will lead San Antonio deep into the playoffs. But it seems more likely these quotes will just increase tension.