PBT Roundtable: Who is your League Pass team this season?

7 Comments

Each week the PBT writers sit at a virtual roundtable, just like the knights of King Arthur, drink mead and discuss the NBA topic of the day. This week’s question:

Who is going to be your League Pass team this season (the team outside the brightest spotlights that you keep finding yourself drawn to when there are other games on)?

Kurt Helin: I tend to be drawn to the teams that have a little flair, that entertain me (Golden State last season, Minnesota the one before
that), which is why this season it’s going to be the New Orleans Pelicans for me (just edging out the Detroit Pistons). Eric Gordon is back and he looked good attacking the rim in his preseason debut (that may just set him up as trade bait, but still). Anthony Davis is a physical freak poised for a breakout season and he has started attacking off the dribble as well as showing the ability to finish on the roll. Tyreke Evans will make plays, they have Jrue Holiday setting the table, plus Ryan Anderson spacing the floor. This is young team with the potential to find its groove and be in the playoff hunt, or to just self destruct. Either way it’s must watch. (Also, they have the solid Joel Meyers on play-by-play — your League Pass team has to have an announcer you don’t hate and want to tune out.)

Dan Feldman: Denver Nuggets. Two words: JaVale McGee. McGee, for better or worse, is one of the most entertaining players in the league, as long as he’s not on your favorite team. If I were a Denver fan, he’d drive me nuts. But I’m not, so I can just enjoy the antics. Plus, Ty Lawson is a blur, and Kenneth Faried is the closest thing we have to Dennis Rodman. This team has personality, and that’s what I want to watch.

D.J. Foster: The Atlanta Hawks! I’ll be issuing plenty of Teague Pass Alerts this season, because I want to see how the Tony Parker clone plays in a similar offense. Even if Jeff Teague isn’t your bag, though, there’s something here for everyone. Al Horford is one of the smartest bigs in basketball, Paul Millsap has that awkward effectiveness that keeps you guessing, Kyle Korver’s jumper is perfection and Dennis Schroeder is an exciting young ball-hawk (okay, no more bad puns). Watching all the pieces mesh should be a blast.

Brett Pollakoff: I can’t watch Nuggets games just hoping for McGee to do something stupid with so many other teams in play, and if Lucas Nogueira was with the Hawks this season instead of playing overseas, I’d be fully on board with Teague Pass Alerts. Instead, give me the Timberwolves. They were on my list last year even with the constant injuries (sue me, I enjoy Alexey Shved), and with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love both healthy and doing what they do best, to me they’re guys who are must-watch on a nightly basis.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
2 Comments

MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

2 Comments

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

AP Photo/Eric Gay
1 Comment

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.