Kyle O'Quinn

Magic want D-League team in Jacksonville, Pistons want one somewhere

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Fourteen NBA teams have sole control of a D-League team. That means the other 16 NBA teams are sharing three D-League teams, a situation that won’t remain tenable for long.

We’re headed to a 30-team D-League with each NBA team either owning or have a one-to-one affiliation with a D-league team. Like in baseball, every player on the minor-league squad will have his rights owned by his major-league affiliate.

That will be good for both leagues, as fan have a reason to follow players who could be not only future NBA players, but future players for the fans’ favorite team. Right now, NBA fans don’t care about D-League players who weren’t sent down by NBA teams. But if a D-League player was the fourth-round pick of their favorite NBA team – yeah, I think the draft will expand, too – fans will want to follow that player.

Two of the six teams sharing the Fort Wayne Mad Ants are moving in the direction I see the leagues going.

Don Coble of The Florida Times-Union:

The Magic, who will play the New Orleans Pelicans at 7, have an interest in moving its NBA Development League team to Jacksonville, team CEO Alex Martins said Tuesday.

“We’ve made it clear to the [NBA] league we’d like to make this happen,” Martins said.

David Mayo of MLive:

The Detroit Pistons have engaged in discussions about acquiring exclusive control of an NBA Developmental League team, Joe Dumars said Friday.

The Pistons’ president of basketball operations was not specific about whom the team had negotiated with, where any such team would be based, or whether the pursuit focused on an existing or expansion franchise.

Jacksonville, two hours from Orlando, is a perfect location for a Magic D-League team. Fans in Jacksonville might spend money on the Magic and attend an occasional game, and a D-League franchise is a great way to engage them.

For the Pistons, Grand Rapids, two hours from Auburn Hills, would be a good location for the same reasons. If the Pistons draw fans there through a D-League team, some of those fans will spend money on the parent club.

There’s money to be made through the D-League, even if D-League teams themselves lose money. It will take affiliates in places like Jacksonville, and that’s where we’re headed.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.