The Collective Bargaining Agreement requires All-Stars – which LeBron will surely be – to participate in at least one Saturday-night event (not including the dunk contest) if the league so chooses. So, LeBron could be pressed into the 3-point contest against his wishes. That said, LeBron hasthe ear of commissioner Adam Silver. Would the NBA really make LeBron compete if he doesn’t want to?
Three Things to Know: Cavaliers, Celtics just keep on winning
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) Cavaliers win streak up to 10, while Celtics knock off Sixers. This is the NBA: We get excited about teams that are better than we expected (Pistons) or worse (Thunder) but in the end, things tend to play to form. Going into the season we thought that Cleveland and Boston would be the top two teams in the East, and as we head into December that looks to be the case (with all due respect to upstart Detroit, still technically second in the standings, but come the playoffs they will not hang with the other two).
On top are the Boston Celtics, who handled another upstart team in the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Kyrie Irving had 36 points on 21 shots, and as a team shot 41.4 percent from three. Al Horford had another strong night with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, plus had eight rebounds and five assists — Irving is the guy Boston fans are pushing for MVP (he’s on the second tier in that chase right now at best, sorry) but Horford may be the most valuable to this team. His ability to pop out off a pick opens up the Celtic offense and gives Irving and the other Celtics room to operate.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers pushed their win streak to 10 games, handling the struggling Hawks 121-114. Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds, LeBron James had 24 points, 12 assists, six boards, and a few highlight plays of his own. The key for this streak — and for the Cavaliers return to prominence — is they are playing defense again, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions during the streak (sixth best in the NBA in that time). It was their last in the league defense that held them back early, but Cleveland has turned that around.
It’s going to be Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. Just as expected. And now the season is following form.
2) Nicola Jokic’s ankle injury doesn’t seem to be that bad…*knocking on wood*. For the second day in a row, the league has dodged a bullet on a serious ankle injury to a young star. Wednesday it was the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who is day-to-day with an ankle sprain.
Jokic may miss a little time, he is day-to-day also, but it doesn’t appear to be as serious as first feared. Which is good for us fans.
3) With Jokic out, Will Barton drained game-winner to lift Nuggets past Bulls. A thrilling end to the game in Denver, where Kris Dunn made a difficult driving layup that put the Nuggets up, then Will Barton came to the other end and just drove right through a scattered Bulls defense. Robin Lopez helped at the rim, but Barton made the difficult shot for the win.
Slow motion replay of the last two possessions, Dunn hits a go-ahead shot but Denver wins on the Barton layup. pic.twitter.com/NIA5W9PTFC
The Denver Nuggets were without Nikola Jokic for much of the game against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. The talented big man left at the end of the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury and according to coach Mike Malone has an ankle sprain. But Will Barton? He was still around.
As the game wound down and the teams traded baskets, it was first Chicago’s Kris Dunn who came up big. With just nine seconds to go, Dunn gave the Bulls the lead thanks to a layup, 110-109.
It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.
Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.
Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.
But the forward is landing on his feet.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Free agent forward Richard Jefferson is closing in on a one-year, $2.3M deal with the Denver Nuggets, league sources tell ESPN.
Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.
He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.
But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.
Report: Gary Harris agrees to four-year, $84 million extension with Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets love what Harris brings at the two-guard spot — he plays well off Nikola Jokic, he averaged 14.9 points per game last season, shot 42 percent from three, averaged an impressive 1.2 points per possession on spot-up attempts, and he is a good defender as well. All at age 23.
Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris has reached agreement on a four-year, $84 million contract extension, league sources told ESPN.The deal includes $74 million in guaranteed money, and team and individual bonus clauses worth the remaining $10 million, league sources said.
That guaranteed number makes more sense than the agent-friendly first number, $74 million is an average of $18.5 million per season (it does depend on how achievable those bonuses are). A contract that averages $21 million would be steep. The Nuggets could be flirting with the tax line in the 2018-19, especially considering they will have the contract extensions for Jokic and Will Barton due.
The Gary Harris extension now has Denver with $113M in guaranteed salary next year. The Nuggets could be a tax team in 2018-19.
This is a good move by Denver, the Nuggets lock up a crucial part of their young core along with Jokic, Jamal Murray, and, for the next few years, Paul Millsap. Harris provides the defense and floor spacing the Nuggets need with Jokic and Millsap inside.