Matthew Dellavedova

Getty Images

Three Things to Know: Giannis Antetokounmpo spoils Boston home opener

5 Comments

Every night in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, especially on this, the real opening night of the NBA with 22 teams in action. 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. Tonight, that includes a few historic numbers… good and bad.

1) Brad Stevens, Celtics have no answer on how to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo either. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re getting mentioned in the record books with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you’re doing something very right. Monday night, the Greek Freak was rolling to the rim and finishing alley-oops over defenders, hitting floaters and leaners in the lane, and generally using his length to get any shot he wanted against the Celtics on his way to a 37-point, 13 rebound night in Boston. The only other Buck to have an opening night of at least 35 and 10? Yup, one Mr. Abdul-Jabbar.

Put a smaller defender on Antetokounmpo and he shoots right over them. Put a bigger defender on him and he goes around them — or just over them too. Brad Stevens tried a lot of things on defense, and while Al Horford had a little first-half success slowing him nobody did all game as he shot 59.1 percent on his way to dropping 37.

Notice all those shots are close to the rim. Antetokounmpo was a ridiculous 10-of-12 at the rim and 12-of-18 in the paint overall, but just 1-of-4 outside the key. It’s easy to say “make him a jump shooter” but good luck finding anyone who can stay in front of him, or that he can’t just finish over. The man was dunking over Aron Baynes, how do you get anyone much bigger in front of him?

Boston was up four points entering the fourth quarter when the second night of a back-to-back seemed to hit them, they scored just 20 points on 8-of-25 shooting in the final frame, 4-of-21 outside the restricted area. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo went off for 16 in the fourth as he ramped up his aggressiveness and Brad Stevens and the Celtics had no answer. Marcus Smart was fiery and got into it with Matthew Dellavedova, that may have exemplified Boston’s spirit, but Celtics looked physically and emotionally worn down by the end. Hard to blame them.

Rough start to the season for Boston, who lost Gordon Hayward just minutes into the opener (he’s out for the season), they fell to the Celtics Tuesday night and now are off to an 0-2 start. They will bounce back, but just now how the team with all these new players thought things would start.

2) Jeremy Lin injures knee and there is “tremendous” concern it is serious. Midway through the fourth quarter against the Pacers, Jeremy Lin drove the lane and finished a layup at the rim that looked ordinary — except when he landed he went to the ground grabbing his knee and did not get back up.

This isn’t good. Neither were the reports during and after the play.

Brooklyn was counting on Lin to help stabilize the point guard position and the backcourt with D'Angelo Russell (who had 30 on the night in a losing effort). If Lin is done for all or most of the season, it’s a huge setback for a team that, while bad, was expected to be a little better than in previous seasons. Remember, the Cavaliers have Brooklyn’s first-round pick this season unprotected (part of the Kyrie Irving trade from Boston).

• While we’re on the injury front, Boston’s Gordon Hayward underwent surgery on his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia on Wednesday, and according to his agent he is “unlikely” to return this season. Hayward did send a video message to Celtics fans thanking them. Boston will try to move on, but it’s been a difficult and emotional start to the season for the Celtics.

3) Suns’ season opening performance wasn’t just bad, it was the worst ever. The record for worst opening night loss in NBA history belonged to the 1987 Los Angeles Clippers coached by Gene Shue, who were blown out by Denver by 46 points.

No more. That record now belongs to the Phoenix Suns, who fell at home to the Portland Trail Blazers 124-76 — a 48 point loss. The Suns shot 31.5 percent as a team — Devin Booker was 6-of-17 and didn’t hit a three, Eric Bledsoe was sloppy and reckless all night and finished 5-of-18 with five turnovers and three assists, while Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss combined to go 1-of-10 off the bench. The Phoenix offense was about as in synch as the left shark, and many possessions ended with a terrible shot being jacked up because, well, somebody had to shoot it.

I’d like to say this was a good omen for the Trail Blazers’ defense, but really it’s impossible to judge how good it was against this offense. It was still a win the Blazers will gladly take, Damian Lillard had 24 points while Pat Connaughton came off the bench for 22.

Report: Bucks, Derrick Rose set to meet for second time

rose
Getty
4 Comments

We could be getting even closer to the Milwaukee Bucks signing free agent point guard Derrick Rose.

According to report published by ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Milwaukee is looking to meet for a second time with the former NBA MVP.

Despite already having Matthew Dellavedova, 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton on the roster, the Bucks appeared to be interested in Rose.

Via ESPN:

The main obstacle on an agreement to relocate to Milwaukee has been compensation.

Milwaukee is approximately $1.6 million over the tax. The Bucks have $7.6 million of the full mid-level exception available but can use only $4.4 million to sign a free agent. Exceeding a salary of $4.4 million would trigger the NBA hard cap and restrict the Bucks from exceeding salaries of $125.2 million. Currently, Milwaukee has a payroll of $120.7 million. In order to make a more lucrative proposition, the Bucks have to shed salary via a trade.

Big man John Henson could be a prime trade candidate.

It seems like the best fit for Rose at this point would be a team where he would be a contributor off the bench to a backcourt. That could certainly be the case in Milwaukee if they keep their current roster lineup, especially with the three players listed above.

The compensation issue listed by ESPN has to draw concern for Bucks fans given that Rose doesn’t seem deserving of a larger contract. What Milwaukee currently has available feels about right.

Meanwhile, I think where Rose ends up will be one of the more interesting storylines of the last half of July. His role and fit on whatever team he signs for could really sway how we view the eventual contract outside of his individual performance.

Report: Lonzo Ball’s father seeking signature shoe deal, shoe would have $200 price tag

9 Comments

The list of active NBA players with a signature shoe from a top brand is short and elite: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose (his old deal with Adidas).Also, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have shoes in their name under the Jordan brand.

(There are other deals with Chinese and overseas companies, too: Rajon Rondo and Klay Thompson through ANTA; Dwyane Wade through Li-Ning; Tony Parker, Dwight Howard, and Matthew Dellavedova through PEAK.)

Notice any rookies or young players on that list? Nope. The days of top picks — even can’t miss top picks — getting massive shoe deals are gone. Rookies sign smaller deals — three-or-four years, around $1 million a year, for the top picks — then need to establish themselves not just as players but as crossover brands that break out of basketball before signature shoe deals start coming down.

Don’t tell LaVar Ball that.

The father of likely top three pick Lonzo Ball is trying to use that hype to promote his Big Baller Brand — and at the heart of the plan is a shoe deal. Except he went to the major shoe manufacturers — Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour — offering a co-branding strategy with Big Baller, and all three took a pass. Nick DePaula of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports wrote about the Ball shoe plan.

So far, Big Baller Brand has primarily sold screen-printed T-shirts, sweatshirts and embroidered hats on its web store, with prices ranging from $50-$100 per piece. The brand is targeting the $200 tier for its debut Big Baller Brand basketball sneaker, an industry source told The Vertical, which would presumably be Lonzo’s signature shoe for his rookie season. LaVar and associate Alan Foster reportedly have been developing the shoe over the past year.

Should Lonzo not reach an endorsement deal with any footwear brand and instead wear the family’s inaugural Big Baller Brand sneaker, it would be a first for a potential top-five selection. There’s no denying that LaVar’s push for a co-branded partnership with potential major brands has stifled what would otherwise be a highly competitive market for Lonzo, an industry source told The Vertical.

Forget that he hasn’t earned a shoe deal, but a $200 price point? That’s the very top of the market, more than the LeBron XIV (at full price on the Nike site), and LeBron has an established track record of being able to sell shoes. LeBron’s most expensive shoe is $220, and the latest KD’s go for $195. But again, those are established international stars who can sell shoes both domestically and overseas (especially China).

It’s not that shoe companies don’t want Lonzo Ball on their team, just not on his father’s terms. How good a point guard Ball will be as a pro is up for debate, some scouts and teams are high on him as a future All-Star level player, but another told me recently he sees a future average starting NBA point guard. Not bad, but not signature shoe deal good.

Don’t tell LaVar all this.

DePaula’s story notes that the two younger Ball brothers — LiAngelo and LaMelo — play for teams sponsored by Adidas (LiAngelo will attend UCLA next year, another Adidas school, but he is said not to be as good as his older brother). Maybe that cracks the door open with that company.

What frustrated people about LaVar is he seems to put making money and marketing ahead of success on the court. That’s not necessarily true, and to his credit Lonzo seems able to tune out his father’s “marketing” maneuvers, but there’s a sense of unearned entitlement that LaVar is unfairly placing on Lonzo. One plenty of NBA players will be ready to wipe out of Lonzo the first chance they get on the court.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

Getty Images
5 Comments

Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.

 

Kyle Lowry bounces back, Raptors edge Bucks to even series at 1-1

1 Comment

TORONTO (AP) Kyle Lowry scored 22 points, including the clinching basket with less than 10 seconds to play, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 106-100 on Tuesday night, evening their first-round playoff series at 1-1.

DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Serge Ibaka added 13 of his 16 in the second half and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 5-1 when playing Game 2 of a playoff series on their home court.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks. Khris Middleton scored 20 points and Greg Monroe had 18.

Lowry scored just four points in Saturday’s Game 1 loss, missing all six of his 3-point attempts.

He was much better in Game 2, going 6 for 12, including 2 of 5 from long range. His step back jumper with 8.9 seconds remaining gave Toronto a 104-100 lead.

Toronto went 5 for 23 from behind the 3-point line in Game 1, but nearly tripled its output in Game 2, finishing 14 for 29.

Leading 84-83 through three quarters, Toronto opened the fourth with an 11-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Ibaka, and a third from P.J. Tucker.

Milwaukee battled back, and a layup by Antetokounmpo cut it to 98-97 with 2:46 remaining, leading to a Raptors timeout.

Ibaka made a jumper to put Toronto up three but Antetokounmpo answered with a 3-pointer, tying it at 100-all with 2:03 left.

DeRozan broke the tie with a jumper and, after missed 3-pointers by Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova, Tucker missed a pair of free throws.

DeRozan grabbed the rebound on a missed jumper by Middleton, setting the stage for Lowry’s decisive basket.

DeRozan scored 12 points in the first and Antetokounmpo made just one of six field goal attempts in the opening quarter as Toronto led 28-25.

Lowry scored 12 points in the second but Milwaukee scored the final five points of the half to keep it close. Toronto led 55-52 at the break.

DeMarre Carroll scored seven points in a 13-0 Toronto run that gave the Raptors a 73-60 lead midway through the third but the Bucks answered with a 15-4 run over the next three minutes. Toronto led 84-83 heading to the fourth.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Antetokounmpo missed six of his first eight field goal attempts. His only made basket in the first quarter was a dunk. … Antetokounmpo finished with seven assists.

Raptors: Ibaka started despite a sore left ankle sustained when he stepped on Antetokounmpo’s foot in the third quarter of Game 1. … Lowry had four rebounds and five assists. … Former Toronto C Bismack Biyombo attended the game.