Tuesday And-1 links: Heat/Pacers Game 7 draws largest TNT game audience ever

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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 more than Americans like cheese… and we like cheese…

Game 7 between the Heat and Pacers drew the largest audience ever for a TNT game, 11.5 million viewers. That, however, is still down from last year when the the Heat’s Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals was against the larger market Celtics and drew 13.1 million to ESPN.

• Flopping is again the buzzword of the NBA playoffs. People think it’s a recent phenomenon, or one brought over by Vlade Divac and the European players of the 1990s. Wrong. Here’s a great find at Grantland about how players on the 1960s Celtics title teams used to sell calls.

Phil Jackson says the 2004 Pistons flopped to help beat Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers.

A look at the best wing players available as free agents. Andre Iguodala rightfully tops the list, but there’s a good chance he and Denver work out a multi-year deal (just at less per year than the $16 million he is opting out of). Then the drop off is pretty steep, down to O.J. Mayo next.

• Along those same lines, a look at the top free agent ball handlers. Like with the wings, it’s the top player (Chris Paul) then a steep drop off.

• There was some buzz that the Celtics had made a first-round draft promise to Dennis Schroeder. That appears to not be the case, but it feels like somebody did.

• Roy Hibbert had to pay $75,000 for throwing “no homo” into his postgame comments, and he issued an apology. Times have changed, LeBron James did it a few years back and nobody really noticed.

• The Maloof family took out a full page ad in the Sunday Sacramento Bee to thank Kings fans. All Kings fans want now is for the Maloofs to go away.

• Here is a Q&A with Damian Lillard.

• Here is a Q&A with Canadian-bord Cavalier Tristan Thompson.

• If the new Kings ownership wants to bring in Monta Ellis, then Ellis is up for that. But I think the new Kings brain trust is smarter than that.

• I like reading Scoop Jackson, but he could not have been wider of the mark when he blasted the Grizzlies after they were eliminated saying lost because of the Rudy Gay trade. Memphis was provably better after the trade. I say they wouldn’t have made it out of the first round with him. Tom Ziller over at SBN soes a good job ripping Scoops’s “logic” apart.

• I have no idea why anybody buys into the rumors that he would, but Spurs GM R.C. Buford is not going anywhere.

• The Orlando Magic have let go of television color analyst Matt Guokas. Which sucks. Trust me, as someone who watches a whole lot of League Pass and announcers from all across the NBA, he was a breath of fresh air because he was honest, smart and not a pure homer for his team. Why was he fired? Probably because he wasn’t enough of a homer. Ugh.

• Is Erik Spoelstra on track to be a Hall of Fame coach? The Magic 8 Ball says “ask again later.”

John Stockton has written an autobiography titled “Assisted.” Karl Malone wrote the forward, for once giving Malone the assist.

• Former NBA player Fred Jones has launched a new NBA social media site, plus an app to go with it.

• Finally a great feature at NBA.com of the guy I am most rooting for to get drafted this year: James Enis of Long Beach State. Guy is a good risk in the second round.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

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The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

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Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

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The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.

Suns use youngest starting lineup in NBA history

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The Suns have shut down their veterans or been shut down by their veterans with two goals in mind – developing young talent and tanking.

Incidentally, Phoenix also made history.

Against the Nets last night, the Suns started:

ESPN:

Elias on ESPN:

The previous youngest was the Clippers’ starting five consisting of guards Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 21 years and 143 days old in a matchup with the Nets on November 15, 2010.

The young Suns gained quality experience – and helped their team to an important loss, 126-98 to Brooklyn.

Phoenix is still 1.5 games “behind” the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the lottery, but the Suns are within striking distance in case the Lakers screw up and win too much down the stretch.