Wednesday And-1 links: Do the Hawks, Lakers struggles with playoff teams matter?

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Here is our regular 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 like Jack Bauer loves danger (sorry, got sucked into a “24” rerun the other day)….

• The Lakers and Hawks are the two playoff-bound teams that have struggled the most beating other playoff teams this season. In the Lakers case, it’s hard to read much into that because they are playing with a better sense of identity and health lately. As for the Hawks… they’re still the Hawks.

• Houston’s Thomas Robinson talks about how he puts his family before everything else.

• Pau Gasol could be back practicing with the Lakers next week.

• Dennis Rodman was in Vatican City for the papal conclave. I’m sure Rodman believes that’s why they got a selection done so quickly.

• Caron Butler starts for the Clippers at the three, but they are better when Matt Barnes plays. That makes Barnes the potential key to any long Clippers playoff run.

• Brandon Bass has been the whipping boy of some Celtics fans, but he’s played well for a few games and they are going to need him come the playoffs.

• The Blazers Nicolas Batum is playing through a lot of wrist pain.

• Kentucky’s star center Nerlens Noel underwent knee surgery Tuesday. That’s not going to impact his draft status much if at all — this was a fairly routine knee surgery and you’re drafting the player for who he will be three years from now, not who he is draft night.

• Speaking of surgeries, Austin Rivers had his wrist surgery this week and according to reports it went well. He is done for the season but he should be ready to go for Summer League.

• A lot of people wondered exactly what the Jazz were doing not moving Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson at the deadline. Zach Lowe at Grantland has a good explanation.

• Sixers coach Doug Collins met with new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. And didn’t try to talk him out of the job.

• Chris Kaman doesn’t like his lack of playing time in Dallas.

• Up in Seattle, Chris Hansen (the guy trying to buy the Kings and move them north) is compiling a potential season ticket holder list to impress the league.

• Here’s some thoughts on who future top-5 pick Cody Zeller could have as an agent.

• Aquille Carr is a potential future NBA player and is going the Brandon Jennings route of skipping college ball (Seton Hall) to play overseas for a year.

• The Cavaliers assigned Kevin Jones to the D-League.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.