Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Grizzlies sit frustrated Gasol in fourth, lose 8th straight


Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Memphis has lost eight in a row, and benching Marc Gasol in fourth didn’t end that streak.
After today’s game — where Brooklyn beat Memphis 98-88 — the Nets and Grizzlies have the exact same record, 7-12. Let’s give the scrappy Nets credit — they are doing it without Jeremy Lin and now D’Angelo Russell. You have to be impressed with the way they compete (unless you’re a Cavaliers fan).

However, the wheels have come off in Memphis — they have lost eight in a row, Mike Conley is still out with a sore Achilles, and on Sunday Chandler Parsons went to the locker room after tweaking his knee in the first half and did not return due to “knee tightness.” Then, trying to ride the hot hands off the bench, coach David Fizdale sat his best player — Marc Gasol — for the entire fourth. So now Memphis’ best player is pissed off (and not in a good way).

David Fizdale is frustrated and grasping for answers — Gasol has been part of the problem as he has struggled to carry the offense in the wake of all the injuries around him, shooting 39.4 percent in his last 10 games, and he’s not the defender he once was. But is benching him and straining that relationship the right move? (Gasol handled it calmly and well postgame.) I don’t see how it is — struggling or not, Gasol is still their best player. With Conley sidelined, they need Gasol (and a better version of Gasol).

What they really need is more help around Gasol and Conley. The Grizzlies offense has been bottom 10 all season, they get a lot of shots at the rim but only one NBA team takes a higher percentage of its shots from the midrange, and the Grizzlies still are not a good three-point shooting team (32.3 percent as a team, 29th in the league). Bottom line, they don’t have enough shooting. Tell me if you’ve heard that before. Fizdale doesn’t have the piece he needs.

Their defense got them off to that 5-1 start and had the team afloat early, but in the last eight games that has come apart, too — 24th in the NBA over that stretch. Opponents are shooting well against them, getting to the line a lot, and getting the offensive rebound on 24.5 percent of their misses in the last eight games.

It’s too early to hit the panic button him Memphis, in a West with a lot of teams stumbling they are still just 1.5 games out of the playoffs. However, if the season continues like and other teams start calling to test the availability of Gasol and Conley, the Grizzlies have to listen to trade proposals. Not pull the trigger (depends on the offer), but listen and start to consider it is time to rebuild. The time for that is coming in Memphis, and the team’s play lately means that time may be sooner rather than later.

2) Tony Parker will be back with the Spurs Monday. Parker himself confirmed it on Sunday.

This is certainly good news for the 12-7 Spurs, adding depth to an already quality point guard core of Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray — and the Spurs have been better with Murray on the court this season (Mills has struggled with his shot, with a true shooting percentage of 47.9 this season). However, don’t think of this as season altering, Parker isn’t quite that guy anymore — last season his PER and True Shooting Percentage were below league average (and the rest of the starters played better with Mills than him). Still, it is good news in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich has more options now, and that could mean less Mills.

3) Derrick Rose is still not back with the Cavaliers, but he is talking to them. Derrick Rose’s existential crisis continues — does he want to battle through yet another injury, this time a sprained ankle, and get back on the court, or walk away — but meanwhile the Cavaliers have won seven in a row without him and their defense has improved.

The main revelation on Sunday was that this was not Rose going AWOL (as had been seen in New York), he’s in communication with the team. There still is no timetable for his return.

I still expect him to be back — he still has $80 million or so owed him by Adidas, if he walks away he leaves that on the table. As the kids say today, Rose is his own cat (okay, kids in the 1950s said that, not so much anymore), and he can be unpredictable. He is not money driven like some players… but $80 million? Still, see him returning. Now, whether another team will pick him up after this season is another question (probably, but it’s far from certain), but the question on this season should be about the timeline.


LeBron James’ triple-double lifts Cavaliers past Bucks

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue’s absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland’s next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field.

Milwaukee guard Jason Terry was given a Flagrant-1 foul for hitting Ante Zizic in the face with an open hand while the rookie center was putting up a shot in the lane. Zizic made both free throws, helping spark a run that built a double-figure lead.

Lue, 40, led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season.

The Cavaliers (41-29) are third in the Eastern Conference and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time.

No timetable has been given for when Lue will return. He missed the second half Saturday, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn’t feeling well. Lue also sat out a game against Chicago at home in December.


Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson has another surgery, will miss entire season now

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say rookie guard Frank Jackson won’t make his NBA debut this season after having follow-up surgery to remove residual scar tissue from earlier right foot operations.

The Pelicans say Jackson also received an injection in his foot.

The club says a specialist in New York handled Jackson’s latest procedure.

The Pelicans acquired the 6-foot-4 Jackson through a draft-night trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who selected the former Duke player with the first pick of the second round last summer.

Following the draft, the Pelicans signed Jackson to a three-year contract at the NBA minimum with two years guaranteed, but Jackson needed a second foot surgery last summer to address a setback following his initial surgery last May.

Jackson spent one season at Duke, averaging 10.9 points.


Giannis Antetokounmpo turns bad pass into ridiculous alley-oop (VIDEO)

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That is just not fair.

Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that was off the mark — high and behind him — but it just doesn’t matter. The Greek Freak gets up and throws it down.

It’s early, but it’s going to be hard to beat that one for dunk of the night.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press

Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.