Three Game 6s, who is going on to Game 7?

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Game 6 — it means somebody will be punching their ticket to the next round, but others are headed to a win-or-go-home Game 7.

We’ve got three Game 6s tonight, a couple we didn’t expect to see. Who is going to push it to a Game 7? Here is a look at each of the games.

Atlanta at Boston (Celtics lead 3-2): This series changed when Al Horford returned — if he had been healthy (or healthy enough) all series things would have been different. But now with him back the Hawks are trying to win three straight against the veteran Celtics, and this one is back home in the Boston Garden where the Celtics play better. Paul Pierce has a banged up left knee but is a go and he needs to be the attacking Paul and not jump shooting Paul — he has to draw fouls and get to the line — if the Celtics are going to close it out.

Boston is just one throwback game from Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen from advancing as well. But they have to get points inside, not just as jump shooters. And they need to find a way to slow Horford, especially at the end of games. But you just kind of expect this is where the Celtics veterans step up and end it.

Chicago at Philadelphia (Sixers lead 3-2): After Derrick Rose went down in Game 1 we expected a hangover for the Bulls, we just didn’t expect it to last three games. Finally Tom Thibodeau seemed to snap them out of it in Game 5 and the Bulls defense was back shutting down the Sixers, seemingly contesting every shot. That was enough to get them the win, but now the Bulls have to do it with a slowed Taj Gibson (ankle) and likely without Joakim Noah (game timed decision).

The Sixers need to treat this like Game 7 because they do not want to go back to Chicago. The Sixers need to attack, not just settle for jump shots, and they need to get Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams going. Coach Doug Collins said he the goal is to generate offense from their defense — get stops and run. Still, you know the Bulls will play good defense — the question is can they find enough offense, Chicago needs good games from Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer or they will be on vacation far earlier than anyone expected.

Los Angeles at Denver (Lakers lead 3-2): Do you have any idea what Lakers team will show up tonight? Which Andrew Bynum? Do you have any idea what JaVale McGee will show up? Me neither. Plus, Kobe Bryant is a game-time decision with a stomach virus (although it’s Kobe, so you know he will play, he just may not be 100 percent). If you are in Las Vegas, stay away from this one.

The real thing to watch in this game is the Lakers outside shooters. Last game Denver collapsed and doubled on the Lakers bigs just daring somebody, anybody to beat them from the outside. No Laker could. If the Lakers make those shots they change the Nuggets defense, if they miss it’s long rebounds to get the Nuggets running.

As expected, Blake Griffin reportedly opted out of contract with Clippers

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Doc Rivers says he wants Blake Griffin back with the Clippers next season.

The bigger question: Does Blake Griffin want to be back with the Clippers next season?

The decision is in Griffin’s hands as he has done what was expected, opting out of his contract for the coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

A number of teams — Boston, Miami, and others — are expected to take a run at Griffin. (In Boston’s case, he’s a backup plan to Gordon Hayward, but there will be conversations.)

What Chris Paul — also expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer — and Griffin choose to do will help set the market. They are two of the biggest free agent names out there where they could switch teams (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are staying put). If they take their time making a decision, it leaves the Clippers in a bind — they have to wait to hear from these two before starting replacing or rebuilding, but by the time they know other players may have decided — and could bottleneck the free agent process.

The Clippers are going to be one interesting team to watch this summer.

Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suspended two games for DUI

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This is the standard penalty for coaches and players hit with a DUI. I don’t think the penalty is stiff enough in general for a serious issue, but this is the precedent that has been set.

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” the NBA announced. He will miss the first two games of next season.

This will not stop Caldwell-Pope from getting PAID this summer.

A quality wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, he plays a position of need for a lot of teams and he is a restricted free agent. Other teams with cap space — Brooklyn and Sacramento come to mind — could step in and give him a max or near max offer. Then Stan Van Gundy needs to decide if he is going to match. He may not have much of a choice, if he wants to keep Andre Drummond and build an inside-out team around him, he needs Caldwell-Pope, and the Pistons don’t have the cap space to replace him.

One way or another, Caldwell-Pope is in line for a massive pay raise. This suspension will not slow teams, it just takes a little money out of his pocket.

 

Lonzo Ball tops Rookie of the Year early betting odds

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If you are betting right now on next year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, you are a die-hard fan of your team and their new addition. Or, you have a problem and need to seek help. Maybe both.

Either way, the people at the gambling site Bovada have posted the early betting odds for the ROY award for next season.

Lonzo Ball (Lakers) 5/2
Ben Simmons (76ers) 3/1
Markelle Fultz (76ers) 5/1
De”Aaron Fox (Kings) 7/1
Josh Jackson (Suns) 9/1
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 9/1
Jonathan Isaac (Magic) 16/1
Malik Monk (Hornets) 16/1
Dennis Smith (Mavericks) 16/1
John Collins (Hawks) 20/1
Justin Jackson (Trail Blazers) 22/1
Lauri Markkanen (Bulls) 22/1

Yes, Ben Simmons is in the mix.

The two bets I like here, if I were a gambling man, are Jackson in Phoenix and Dennis Smith in Dallas. I doubt Smith wins it, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft Smith will start for them next year, which means he gets opportunities and can rack up assists feeding Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow for a year.

Jackson is going to be unleashed in an up-tempo Suns offense where he will be the defender they need on the wing, play with high energy, and get buckets in transition. Winning ROY is as much about fit and opportunity as talent, and Jackson has landed in a good spot.

Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

image

Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.