A bunch of games on Sunday could have a big impact on playoff seedings — and for the Lakers and Jazz, who makes the playoffs. Let’s take a quick look around the league at what is at stake.
The big game is Pacers visiting the Knicks — the Knicks win and they lock up the two seed in the East. That’s huge. The Knicks may not have won a playoff series since 2001 but expectations are they win more than one this time. The Pacers will not be an easy out in the second round so having home court would be huge. The Knicks have a three-game lead over the Pacers so they likely get home court anyway, but this win would make a nice statement.
If the Pacers lose and the Nets can beat the Raptors, then Pacers will have a new problem — Brooklyn will be one-game back of Indiana for the three seed. The four seed gets the Heat in the second round and maybe the Bulls in the first round. You’d like to avoid that difficult path.
Chicago faces a Miami team playing it’s big three, but the Bulls need the win to get back into the fifth seed in the East (they would be tied with the Hawks).
Kobe or no Kobe, the Lakers control their own destiny — win their final two games and they are in the playoffs. But on Sunday night they play a Spurs team that is still fighting for the top seed in the West. A Lakers loss and Utah can retake the eighth seed Monday night. A Spurs loss and they are not going to catch the Thunder (they would be one game back and OKC has the tiebreaker).
Denver will host Portland and with a win the Nuggets will be on the verge of locking up the three seed and holding off the Clippers and Grizzlies. Home court means more to Denver than maybe any team in the NBA.
Houston controls its own destiny, it can be the six seed in the West if they win out — that starts with beating the Kings on Sunday. Honestly, I am rooting for this because and Houston vs. Denver 3/6 matchup in the first round — two teams that want to run — might be the most entertaining series of the playoffs.
LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.
Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”
Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.
Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.
On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.
LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.
While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.
Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.
The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.
The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.
But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.
In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.
The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.
Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.
Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.
And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.