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Celtics first playoff team to win draft lottery

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Yesterday, the Celtics won the lottery.

Tonight, they play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“It’s really been a magical season,” said Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who watched the ping-pong balls drawn live.

An unprecedented season, in fact.

Boston is the first playoff team to win the lottery. A few other playoff teams have landed the No. 1 pick, but those all came in the pre-lottery era. Most top-picking teams were coming off dismal seasons.

Here’s every team that entered the draft with the No. 1 pick and its record in the prior season, playoff teams with filled green bars. The Celtics tower above everyone else in the last 25 years.:

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How did those playoff teams get their No. 1 picks?

2017 Boston Celtics (playing conference finals)

In 2013, the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets for three first-round picks and a pick swap. Those aging stars promptly declined, leaving Brooklyn in disarray. Boston executed its pick swap with league-worst Brooklyn this year and reaped the No. 1 pick.

1982 Los Angeles Lakers (won NBA finals): James Worthy

During the 1979-80 season, the Cavaliers traded their 1982 first-rounder to the Lakers for Don Ford and a 1980 first-rounder, which became Chad Kinch. This trade actually predates Ted Stepien, the horrible owner who led to the NBA to enact rules limiting trades. But Stepien bought the team a short while later and sunk it to an NBA-worst 15-67 in 1981-82 – earning the No. 1 pick and conveying it to Los Angeles, which happily picked Worthy.

1979 Los Angeles Lakers (lost conference semifinals): Magic Johnson

After struggling to make their mark in their first couple seasons of existence, the New Orleans Jazz thought they were onto something in 1976. They paired Pete Maravich in the backcourt with Gail Goodrich, who was only one season removed from being an All-Star with the Lakers. A problem: Signing Goodrich meant sending the Lakers compensation, a requirement in the formative days of free agency. The Jazz’s compensation included their 1979 first-round pick. The bigger problem: Goodrich was 33 by the time the Jazz signed him and far less effective in 1978-79. Maravich, also on the wrong side of 30 by then, couldn’t stay healthy. In their final season in New Orleans before moving to Utah, the Jazz finished an NBA-worst 26-56 and sent their pick to the Lakers, who drafted Johnson.

1978 Portland Trail Blazers (lost conference semifinals): Mychal Thompson

While most of these other No. 1 picks were results of trades  years before gone bad, Portland acquired the No. 1 pick in 1978 just a day before the draft. The Trail Blazers traded the No. 3 pick (which became Rick Robey) and Johnny Davis (a solid guard who’d just finished the second of what’d be a 10-year career) to the Pacers for the top pick. Thompson played well for Portland but is better remembered for winning a couple championships with the Lakers.

1953 Baltimore Bullets (lost division semifinals): Ray Felix

In the NBA’s early days, teams had the option to execute territorial picks. By forfeiting its first-rounder, a team could claim a draft-eligible player who played at a nearby college. The league-worst Philadelphia Warriors went this route in 1953, grabbing Ernie Beck from Penn. This was also a time four of five teams in each division made the playoffs. So, the Bullets – with the NBA’s second-worst record but fourth-best record in its conference – both made the playoffs and landed the top pick without a trade.

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If any of these situations is similar to Boston, it’s the Lakers getting Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The Celtics have already drafted Jaylen Brown (and James Young) with Brooklyn picks – and get the Nets’ first-rounder next year – to join Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, et al. The Lakers, who already had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in place, won titles in 1980 and 1982 and another three once Worthy arrived.

There’s no guarantee Boston achieves such success, but the potential clearly exists.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?

Report: Warriors “perplexed” by Kevin Durant’s offseason fighting old battles

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Kevin Durant made his move to Golden State last summer — it was an emotional, wrenching decision for him — and it went as well as he could have dreamed. He felt at home. He’s got a ring (or will have one on opening night), he was Finals MVP, and he not only strengthened his legacy with a title, but also helped it out by taking a paycut that made it easier for the Warriors to keep their core together this summer.

So why is he living in the past? Why release a shoe line taking shots at his detractorsWhy did he blast his former organization on Twitter? Sure, he apologized, but why slide back down that rabbit hole? For that matter, why take a shot at Stephen Curry’s shoe line?

Chris Mannix at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said some with the Warriors are wondering the same thing.

But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

This will all blow over. Soon the season will start, Durant and the Warriors will look dominant, and this will all seem like a minor distraction in the deadest part of the offseason. The focus will be on the rings.

But if you want an answer as to why, Durant’s response to a YouTube comment to someone who told him “who cares what other people think, just do you.” (Hat tip For the Win.)

…of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

Durant still can be a little immature, still wants to be a regular guy, and just like a regular guy he wants to be liked. And like a lot of people, he snaps at people when he knows he should just let it go and rise above. Maybe that will come with the lessons of this offseason.