Five things I’m thankful for in the NBA today

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I’m thankful for a lot of things today.

I’m thankful for a job that lets me watch as much basketball as I want. I’m thankful to live in a country where this is possible (and I’m thankful for the people who defend it). I’m thankful for a family that is the best part of my life and is understanding about the crazy hours that can come with my job and passion. I’m thankful for a really good Pad Thai. I’m thankful for all of you readers and commenters who make this site both fun and entertaining.

But this is an NBA blog, so I should be thankful for some NBA things, too. Here are five.

• Watching Chris Paul be a floor general. For me it’s not about the assists, it’s not about the midrange jumpers or the crossovers, it’s the way CP3 orchestrates the offense that is a thing of beauty. He is a maestro. This year Doc Rivers has CP3 making his decisions quicker, earlier in the shot clock rather than just surveying everything, and it has taken Paul’s game and the Clippers’ offense to another offensive level. He’s playing chess when most point guards are playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is just a joy to watch as a basketball fan.

• Kevin Love outlet passes to Corey Brewer. This was a masterful pairing by Flip Saunders — take the king of the outlet pass in Love and pair him with the NBA’s leak-out king in Brewer and you end up with some touchdown passes. It’s a threat every game and you anticipate it every time Love comes down and starts scanning up court. A full season of this is just a beautiful thing.

• The NBA twitter community. No pro sport has taken to twitter the way the NBA has — not only are all the best media members (and myself) active on twitter there is fun interaction with a massive fan base. Every night during games it’s like a huge live chat with updates, analysis, jokes and endless commentary. It makes game nights so much more entertaining.

• Watching Anthony Davis blossom into a superstar before our eyes. So often hyped players come into the league with the tag “they just need a couple of years to develop” but they never do. Maybe it’s because the player was overhyped, maybe because they didn’t work hard enough to reach their potential. Anthony Davis is neither of those — he had a good rookie season but one that was almost subtle. He is athletic and long but his game is about being smart on the court. This season he has shown marked improvement in his faceup game, his awareness on defense, and with that has started to come a confidence that he is the Pelican’s best player and can take over games… when his guards remember to get him the ball. Davis is second in the league in PER right now (behind LeBron James) and he is still just scratching the surface of how good he can be. This is going to be a fun ride.

• NBA Summer League. It’s not about getting to spend a week in Las Vegas — my in-laws live in Las Vegas, my entire family including my elementary school age daughters come out for the week. Trust me, if you ever want to suck the fun out of Vegas, marry somebody from there. But what I love is he basketball, raw and flawed though it is, and the sense of this as a convention for all things NBA. The superstars are not there (unless it’s before their rookie year, or they are in street clothes watching), but mostly it’s guys fighting to get noticed and get a spot on the end of an NBA bench. Or, more likely, get noticed by a European scout and get a job getting paid to play the game. It’s a big job interview and it has all pressure that can come with that. Plus everyone is there — GMs, coaches, agents, media (including bloggers), die-hard fans — in a setting where mixing and mingling is part of the course. Put it all together and you have a great experience, if not always great basketball.

NBA fines Chicago’s Rajon Rondo $25,000 for attempting to trip Jae Crowder (VIDEO)

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Rajon Rondo‘s end-of-season performance may have helped him earn a little extra coin this offseason. He’s certainly going to need it given that the NBA has fined the Chicago Bulls PG $25,000 after he attempted to trip Boston Celtics wing Jae Crowder.

The league released the decision in a statement on Sunday morning.

The incident occured with 31 seconds left in the first quarter of Game 3, a game the Celtics won, 104-87. Rondo was on the bench, and as possession changed Crowder took a wide sweeping angle along the sideline, right in front of Rondo.

Rondo casually stuck his leg out as Crowder passed by, but didn’t seem to make any contact.

Chicago leads the series, 2-1.

Thunder’s Taj Gibson providing scoring help for Westbrook

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Taj Gibson often describes his role for the Thunder as doing whatever the team needs.

For now, scoring is playing a bigger part than usual. The versatile 6-foot-9 power forward has found his way since being traded from Chicago and has emerged one of Oklahoma City’s few consistent offensive weapons alongside Russell Westbrook in the playoffs. He may need to keep it up to give the Thunder a chance of winning the first-round series with Houston – Oklahoma City trails 2-1 heading into Game 4 Sunday at home.

Gibson built a sterling reputation in Chicago, but the Brooklyn, New York native is more concerned with the respect he’s earned since his arrival.

“They see I’m in here late nights, early mornings, just constantly working with my teammates, constantly putting work in,” he said. “The confidence is going to be there because they understand you do the work, but I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help my team.”

Gibson has done a little bit of everything since coming to the Thunder. He has provided experience and versatility to an already stacked frontline that includes emerging young players Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. He also has added toughness, and at times, scoring punch. His athleticism and ability to guard on the perimeter against outside-shooting big men and on switches fills some of the void created when the Thunder traded Serge Ibaka on draft night this past offseason.

“Great vet,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “Great man, first and foremost. Very positive and does what it takes to win. It was a great pickup for us.”

Domantas Sabonis was the starting power forward when Gibson arrived in Oklahoma City, but once he got settled and began to understand coach Billy Donovan’s system, the Thunder improved. Gibson replaced Sabonis for the first time March 9 against San Antonio, and the Thunder went 11-5 with him in the starting lineup. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21 regular-season games for the Thunder.

He is averaging 11 points on 65 percent shooting in the playoffs. He was effective on offense in Game 2, establishing himself early and helping put the Thunder in position to win. Oklahoma City went away from him late, and Houston rallied for the victory.

In Game 3, the Thunder went back to him consistently. a href(equals)’https://apnews.com/dab4b99c496a4450906c11a9c72132d1/Westbrook’s-triple-double-leads-Thunder-past-Rockets-115-113?utm-campaign=SocialFlow&utm-source=Twitter&utm-medium=AP-Sports’He finished with 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting in Oklahoma City’s 115-113 win/a on Friday night.

“Taj is a great post player,” Westbrook said. “He does a great job of getting in great position down low. When we see a matchup that we like we are going to keep going to him. Whether it is a miss or a make, it gives us the opportunity to score the basketball in the paint.”

Gibson did damage inside and out and punished the Rockets with his mid-range jumper.

“It’s no shock to me, just because that mid-range is automatic for him,” Thunder forward Doug McDermott, who also joined the Thunder in the trade with Chicago, said. “He’s tough to guard on that block too.”

Gibson also had a fast start in Game 2, but once the Thunder began to struggle, they went away from him. Gibson knew he didn’t need to change much going into Game 3.

“Just continue to be aggressive,” he said. “I felt like I had good shots in Game 2. Just got to stay with it and play the game as it flows to me.”

On defense, Gibson has been a better option than Kanter and Adams, who have struggled to keep up with the more athletic Rockets. Gibson performed well in all facets in Game 3, and Donovan needs more of that in Game 4.

“I was happy for him last night,” Donovan said Saturday. “I thought he gave us a great lift in both the first and second half. He’s professional, he’s a man, and he’s a reliable guy.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .

Watch Kawhi Leonard, Mike Conley in epic playoff duel Saturday (VIDEO)

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Kawhi Leonard scored 16 straight points for the Spurs at the end of regulation to give San Antonio the lead and a chance. Then Mike Conley hit a floater in the lane forced overtime.

There Mike Conley hit a floating bank shot that had the Grizzlies up three with :47 seconds left, only to have Leonard answer with a three to tie the game. Marc Gasol would break that tie and get Memphis the series-evening win.

Conley and Leonard traded blows through the clutch parts of Saturday’s epic Game 4 between Memphis and San Antonio. It’s worth checking out the highlights again.

John Wall goes coast-to-coast, behind-the-back for lefty dunk (VIDEO)

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There’s not going to be many plays better than this in the entire playoffs.

There wasn’t a lot for Wizards’ fans to cheer in Game 3, the Hawks took control early and routed Washington, making it a 2-1 series. But there was this, John Wall going coast-to-coast with the ball, going around-the-back and throwing it down left handed.

Wall is just so fast end to end.