Monday night NBA grades: Time to stop shoveling dirt on Anthony Bennett

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking this may be the best soccer goal celebration ever….

source:  Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers. You don’t know how a draft pick is going to pan out for three years. You just don’t. Some guys start fast but never really develop beyond that (Tyreke Evans, for example) and some guys start slow and find their game. Anthony Bennett is finding his game — 19 points and 10 boards as the Cavs beat the Kings. Bennett showed a real variety in his game — he knocked down threes, he attacked the rim and drew and and-one on DeMarcus Cousins. Bennett was injured all summer, was nowhere near in shape for the season, doesn’t bring his best energy every night, but he has skills. And he’s young, he has good shooting form and he could turn out to be a good pick for the Cavs.

source:  Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls. David Thorpe likes to say “energy is a skill” and Joakim Noah has it in bunches. That skill brought him a triple-double Tuesday — 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 dimes to lead the Bulls past the Hawks. He may be the ultimate Tom Thibodeau player with his defense, his grinding style and an ugly shot that just works.

source:  Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte was really moving the ball well against the usually stout Memphis defense — 42 assists on the 45 made baskets — and the big beneficiary of that Tuesday was Al Jefferson. He finished with 30 points on 14-of-23 shooting, he was getting the ball where he likes it — on the block, preferably left, about 8-10 feet out with his back to the basket — and was getting in close and finishing. He has played very well this year.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. He apparently enjoyed his vacation in Utah — did you see him that game? — because he came back refreshed and with a new energy on Tuesday night. He played like a guy who might someday belong on NBA’s Mount Rushmore. LeBron finished with 37 points on 22 shots, plus he pulled down 9 boards. With Dwyane Wade out (migraine) more is expected of LeBron, and he delivered.

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City. His hot streak continues — 36 points on 15-of-28 shooting. It’s almost just expected. Durant gets his grade dinged a little for the 8 turnovers he had, but the man got buckets. He was just 5-of-9 inside eight feet but hit 7-of-13 from the midrange.

source:  Michael Jordan. Congratulations, new father. His wife gave birth to twin girls Sunday. Savor every moment, your daughters will grow up fast and you want to be present (in the Zen sense of the word Phil Jackson used to tell you about in meditations before games) for every minute of it. Also, I hope you can get by on less sleep.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.