Here is what we know:
• All 16 teams that will be going to the playoffs. With Memphis beating a resilient Suns team on the field is set in both the East and West.
• Indiana (1) vs. Atlanta (8). With the Heat resting LeBron James and Chris Bosh then promptly losing to the Wizards the top two spots in the East are set. The Hawks were already locked into the 8 seed. This is great for Indiana in the same way Florida State’s football home opener is against the Citadel — it’s a tune up round where they can work out the kinks.
• Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5). Out west the middle of the field is set (as are the Spurs in the top slot), but everything else is up for grabs. This is a pretty interesting series. Can Portland slow the James Harden train with Nicolas Batum? Do you play more Jeremy Lin to exploit the “defense” of Damian Lillard or do you need Patrick Beverley on the court to try and slow Lillard on offense? How does Houston match up with LaMarcus Aldridge?
Aside that, pretty much everything is still up in the air.
In the East, Monday night’s win by the Wizards over the Heat not only set Miami as the second seed, it kept the dream of the Wizards slim chance of getting to the five seed alive. That Wizards win also kept Charlotte one game back in the battle not to be the seven seed and avoiding Miami in the first round. If the Wizards beat Boston on Wednesday they can finish no lower than 6th. The Bulls and Raptors both won on Monday keeping Toronto as the three seed. If Toronto beats the Knicks on Wednesday they are the three seed, if they lose and Chicago beats Charlotte then the Bulls are the three seed.
Out West, the Clippers slim hopes of the two seed are alive but they need to win their last two games then hope Oklahoma City loses to Detroit on Wednesday. Good luck with that. Locked in out West are the Spurs at No. 1, the Rockets at No. 4, the Trail Blazers at No. 6 and the Warriors at No. 6. Winner of the Dallas/Memphis game Wednesday is No. 7, loser is No. 8.
There are just two games on Tuesday night’s board but both have playoff Implications.
If the Nets beat the Knicks, the Nets become locked in as the five seed in the East.
If the Clippers beat the Nuggets, their slim hopes of being the two seed are still alive, lose and they are locked in as the three.
Craig Sager couldn’t be in Rio covering the Olympics for NBC, his cancer wouldn’t allow it. That didn’t stop Team USA from reaching out to him before they left. Or from Nike designing a sweet pair of shoes for him.
Now there is good news on his battle against leukemia — he will have a third bone marrow transplant, according to his son Craig Sager II.
This is fantastic news for a man and family who have been through a lot. Hopefully, this treatment is a step forward for Sager, a man beloved by everyone around the NBA.
The Oklahoma City frontcourt is crowded. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will start, and they will have Nick Collison, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, and now Joffrey Lauvergne behind them.
Which likely means Mitch McGary‘s done as a member of the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.
McGary has battled injuries his two seasons in the league and got on the court for only 72 minutes total last season for the Thunder (he played in more games and put up solid numbers in the D-LEague). He was not part of the future there regardless. He’s an undersized five trying to play the four and what he brought as a rookie — energy — was not enough as a sophomore.
McGary will make $1.5 million this season. He may be tough to move because he’s suspended for the first five games he’s eligible to play next season for failing the league’s drug policy (five games is the standard suspension for testing positive for marijuana three times). Maybe a team looking to develop players will give him a shot, but there is little trade value for him.
If you can knock down a 19-foot shot, then a 15-footer should be easier. Right?
Apparently that — and just basic muscle memory — is the latest attempt to improve Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting. And, he seems to be knocking down those shots.
It’s not hard to see the logic in this approach.
The challenge is form and reps are not the problems for Howard — or DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond or others — when it comes to hitting free throws. Anyone who says “why don’t they just practice the shot” doesn’t pay attention, these guys put in a lot of work on the shot. Pregame and in practice (I’m Los Angeles based), Jordan probably hits 65 percent from the line. At least.
The problem is mental. That can be a tougher hurdle to clear. Maybe taking 19 footers and knocking them down will have Howard feeling more confident at the stripe this season.
But we’re going to need to see it to believe it. Just like we’re going to have to see a rejuvenated Howard in Atlanta before we believe this season will be different from the last few.
Until this season, Jason Thompson had never been to the playoffs. He spent seven seasons in Sacramento before getting traded to the Warriors last offseason, and then signing with the Raptors midseason when Golden State waived him to make room on the roster for Anderson Varejao. His NBA days appear over, at least for now. International basketball reporter David Pick reports that Thompson has agreed to a deal to play in China.
Since the CBA’s season ends in March, Thompson could theoretically join an NBA team for the stretch run next year. But he didn’t appear to have much interest on the free-agent market this summer.