Three games on Wednesday night, two series where Game 1 followed form and one — Portland beating Houston — that could be shaping up as one of the best first round series in either conference.
Charlotte Bobcats at Miami Heat (Heat lead series 1-0). Al Jefferson says he is going to play, but after two injections in his foot to kill pain and a couple days in a walking boot, how effective he can be remains to be seen. If he is off his game, the Bobcats are in trouble because you know the Heat will continue to attack the rim, and if that goes well and the defense is drawn in they will kick out for good look threes. If Jefferson is off his game, expect to see a whole lot of Chris Bosh featured by the Heat (he was 4-of-13 shooting despite advantages in Game 1). Without peak Jefferson the Bobcats need to find offense from somewhere — that could be a lot of Kemba Walker, but it needs to come from somewhere. It’s going to be a tough series for Charlotte, but expect the Bobcats to put up a fight, They did all season.
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (Spurs lead series 1-0). The question for Game 2 is the same key one we had before the series: How can the Mavericks slow down the Spurs offense? In Game 1 the Spurs leaned on its biggest names — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili accounted for 65 of the team’s’ 90 points, and 25 of the team’s 35 field goals — but in Game 2 you can expect more from Kawhi Leonard and others. Expect less isolation and for Danny Green to have a better game.
On the other side Dallas has to keep Tony Parker out of the paint, he broke down their defense off the pick-and-roll all night — Dallas switched everything and Parker just tore apart the mismatches. Shawn Marion will again get the start on Parker, but expect more Devin Harris in that role as well. With Dirk Nowitzki and an expected better game from Monta Ellis the Mavericks will get points. The question remains can they get stops, or will they go home down 0-2.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets (Blazers lead series 1-0). Is LaMarcus Aldridge ready to put the Portland Trail Blazers on his back and keep them there?
Aldridge returned to early season MVP-ballot-worth form with 46 points and 18 rebounds in Portland’s Game 1 overtime victory, and the Trail Blazers might need another heroic effort from their power forward to win Game 2 tonight. With Dwight Howard and James Harden both pledging to get more aggressive offensively, Aldridge’s defense could be pivotal. He can double team Howard with Robin Lopez and rotate to help cut off Harden’s drives.
If that saps Aldridge’s energy on the other end, Damian Lillard should test the hobbled Patrick Beverley. How healthy Houston’s top stopper is could go a long way in determining Game 2 and the series.
NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.
Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.
Darren Rovell of ESPN:
An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.
Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.
In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”
Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.
But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.
On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.
The Clippers have four sure-fire starters: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and DeAndre Jordan.
The fifth spot is up for grabs with Blake Griffin‘s season-ending injury.
Marreese Speights started Games 4 and 5 against the Jazz. Paul Pierce started the second half of Game 5.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
When asked if Marreese Speights or Paul Pierce would start against the Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in which the Clippers trail 3-2, Rivers said, “Yeah, one of them.”
“Paul was good,” Rivers said. “He’s been good throughout the series overall, I will say that. But he’s got to play better too, especially with his second effort, getting out to the shooters and stuff like that.”
There are no good options here.
Pierce, 39, has looked washed up most of his time in L.A. That the Clippers have outscored Utah by nine points in his 58 minutes seems like a product of small sample size.
Speights starting leaves the Clippers vulnerable at center when Jordan sits, and rather than staggering, maybe they ought to just start differently.
Rivers wants to ease the ball-handling burden on Paul, but one choice to do that – Raymond Felton – would be a defensive liability. Another possibility – Jamal Crawford – would present the same defensive issues and sabotage second-unit scoring.
Austin Rivers could bridge the gap, but he’s just returning from his own injury.
Doc Rivers clearly doesn’t trust Wesley Johnson, and the forward’s Game 5 gaffes won’t change that.
The Clippers’ central problem: They have only one player – Luc Mbah a Moute – who can guard Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson. When those Jazz forwards share the court, especially in crunch time, the Clippers face one massive mismatch.
Is relying on Pierce a good option? No way. But it also might be the Clippers’ best option.
The Cleveland Browns are trying something new: Making smart decisions. That included drafting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Garrett has NBA ties. His half brother, Sean Williams, was the No. 17 pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2007. Williams played just four years in the NBA, also spending time with the Mavericks and Celtics. He serves as a cautionary tale for Garrett.
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated in a 2015 profile of Garrett:
Then there’s Sean Williams, Myles’s older brother by almost 10 years, a pro athlete who accompanied him on an official visit to College Station and served as a role model and mentor. More important, he offered a cautionary tale. “Myles looks up to Sean and loves Sean but knows the things Sean went through and how my mom hated watching her son self-destruct,” says Brea. “Myles never wanted to let my mom down. Honestly, the best thing Sean could have done for Myles was to f— up.”
Myles remembers approaching a Chevrolet Avalanche with smoke pluming from its windows. He was around 12, and as he pleaded with the man inside to stop smoking weed, tears streaked his face. Sean, then a 6’10”, 235-pound shot-blocking power forward for the Nets, had heard his little brother make this request many times before but never heeded him. “Definitely not,” Williams, 28, says when asked if he maximized his potential. “I let bad decisions get in the way, [let] smoking so much get in the way.”
As he got older, Myles played a lot of basketball with Sean, and despite the gaps in age and size, they went at it hard. Along with the stellar genes, Audrey gave her children an edge: “There was no allowing the kids to win in our house, be it Uno or tic-tac-toe. They could have been bums, but they would have been competitive bums.”
Myles idolized Sean. After the Nets picked Sean, Myles spent vacations in New Jersey with him, celebrating when he finally won in video games and when he first dunked on his big brother by grabbing onto him with one arm and tomahawking the ball with the other. In 2011-12, when Sean was playing for the Mavericks, the brothers often squared off at the team facility. One day Sean’s agent, Bernie Lee, got a call from Dallas GM Donnie Nelson. “You have to tell Sean to stop bringing his friend in to play one-on-one,” Nelson told Lee. “We’re scared they are going to hurt each other.” Nelson didn’t know who the friend was but guessed he was Sean’s bodyguard. Myles had just turned 16.
Check out the rest of Thamel’s story for a fuller basketball-colored introduction to Garrett.
Isaiah Thomas has played – and played well – in all five games of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Bulls, which Boston leads 3-2.
But he has done so while travelling more than his teammates, flying home to Washington to be with his family after Game 2, following his sister’s death in a car crash. He’ll again make the extra trip after Game 6 tonight.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
After the Celtics and Bulls play Game 6 at the United Center on Friday night, Thomas is scheduled to fly to Tacoma to attend his sister’s funeral at noon on Saturday. If the Celtics win Game 6, this series will be over. But if Chicago wins, Game 7 will be played in Boston at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Teams up 3-2 with a road Game 6 in a 2-2-1-1-1 have won Game 6 just over half the time. The Celtics have been inspired to play for Thomas, who is admittedly emotionally exhausted, and I suspect this will only intensify his teammates’ desire to win for him.
I can’t imagine how Thomas has handled such a heavy burden, but it’d be nice if he had a little relief rather than the pressure to return to Boston by early Sunday afternoon.