Dan Feldman

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Knicks lose pre-lottery tiebreaker to Timberwolves

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The Knicks create more than enough problems for themselves.

They’re getting bad luck, too.

New York lost a pre-lottery tiebreaker to Minnesota today. If neither the Knicks nor Timberwolves move into the top three in the lottery, Minnesota will pick one spot ahead of New York – 6-7, 7-8, 8-9 or 9-10

Tied for the NBA’s sixth-worst record, the Timberwolves and Knicks will split 106 of 1,000 lottery combinations, 53 apiece. The two teams each have an 18.3% chance of moving up in the lottery, which determines the top three picks then slots non-playoff teams in reverse order of record after that.

The league also broke ties for four sets of picks later in the first round, including one four-team tie:

15-16

15. Trail Blazers

16. Bulls

17-18

17. Bucks

18. Pacers

19-20

19. Hawks

20. Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies)

23-26

23. Raptors (via Clippers)

24. Jazz

25. Magic (via Raptors)

26. Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers)

Jusuf Nurkic out for Game 2 of Trail Blazers-Warriors

AP Photo/Steve Dykes
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I’m a little surprised we’re doing this game-by-game. Jusuf Nurkic broke his leg fewer than three weeks ago.

But here we are, with Nurkic’s return during the Trail Blazers’ first-round series against the Warriors a daily question.

Dwight Jaynes of CSN Northwest:

Portland, down 1-0, is unlikely to beat Golden State with or without Nurkic. But the Trail Blazers hit another gear with him late in the season, and they’d have a better chance with him.

A center hodgepodge of Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu is tough to overcome. The Warriors are adept at playing burly centers like Nurkic off the floor, but his presence would help when Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee play and/or force Draymond Green into major minutes.

First, Nurkic must get healthy, and it’s hard to believe he’ll do that during this series. But as long as Portland doesn’t rule it out, we’ll keep watching his status.

Joel Embiid: I was told before latest knee surgery I’d be out six months (but it’ll be far less)

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The 76ers said Joel Embiid‘s left knee had a bone bruise… then a contusion… then a torn meniscus. They called him out day-to-day… then indefinitely… then for the rest of the season.

Eventually, Embiid underwent surgery.

But even then, he was getting mixed messages.

Embiid, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“I feel very lucky,” Embiid said in his first public comments since his operation to repair a meniscus tear. “When I went into that surgery, I went in thinking I was going to have a six-month recovery. That’s what they told me: six months or more. I’m thinking, ‘No, not again.’

“When they did the MRI [before the surgery], it looked like my meniscus was fully torn. But when they got it in there, they realized that wasn’t the case. It really turned out to be nothing, just a small, little thing. So that’s very good.”

That’s fantastic news for Embiid and the 76ers. A six-month recovery period would’ve allowed him back for the start of next season, but it would have been close enough to raise questions. Instead, Embiid’s recovery is being measured in weeks.

But the bigger concern still exists: The 76ers can’t find someone who accurately diagnoses Embiid’s injuries? The process (lower-case p here, for sure) might yield less favorable results next time.

Statistical analyst Roland Beech leaving Kings

AP Photo/Mike Fuentes
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A couple years ago, the Kings parted ways with Dean Oliver, who literally wrote the book on basketball statistics.

That led to plenty of handwringing about Sacramento’s, especially general manager Vlade Divac’s, commitment to analytics. The Kings insisted they would replace Oliver and that his exit didn’t change their approach, and they backed it up by hiring highly respected Roland Beech, who previously worked with the Mavericks.

Get ready to relive that debate.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings’ problems run much deeper than analytics, starting with owner Vivek Ranadive. The inexperienced Divac barely has a chance to succeed, and a statistical specialist won’t significantly change that.

At minimum, Sacramento needs to overhaul its front office in a way it insists it won’t. Unless that happens or Ranadive suddenly gets a clue, it won’t matter much how – or even if – the Kings replace Beech.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey on Matthew Dellavedova’s Game 1 screens: ‘A lot of them weren’t legal’

AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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The Raptors lost yet another Game 1, falling 97-83 to the Bucks on Saturday. Toronto’s biggest problem was scoring, especially by its stars. Kyle Lowry (2-for-11, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers) and DeMar DeRozan (7-for-21, including 0-for-2 on 3-pointers) were, in what has become a concerning playoff trend for those two, lousy.

But Raptors coach Dwane Casey turned attention to another culprit: Matthew Dellavedova‘s screens.

Casey, via Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun:

“He’s not in our minds,’’ began Raptors head coach Dwane Casey on Dellavedova. “I mean, I didn’t go to bed last night worrying about Dellavedova. No, not at all. I was worried about the Milwaukee Bucks, not him.

“But he did set 18 screens and we did talk about them and looked at them and a lot of them weren’t legal. But again, hats off to him. Credit him. Now we’ve got to make sure we counter that and make the officials make a decision. The officials were saying that we’re not hitting him or running into him or whatever. So we have to make sure we have a confrontation and make the officials (see it).

“He’s one of the great screen-setters in the league, just like John Stockton was, so there’s no disrespect in saying that. It’s a respect factor for Dellavedova that he does set hellacious screens.”

“Yeah, they (officials) feel like they are legal, but you look at them in slow time and believe me they are moving, they are grabbing, they are holding. But again, that’s his M.O., and he set a precedent with it and they are not calling it.

“Now we have to make sure we set screens the same way and we show the officials those videos. Again, it’s a credit to him that he sets screens that way and gets away with it and it helps them execute what they want to do.”

Dellavedova, via Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“All people set illegal screens in the NBA,” Dellavedova said. “If you follow it to the letter of the law, the rule is that your feet have to be inside your shoulders. I mean big men are always kind of setting it wide. That’s just how it is.

“You have to be smart and adjust to what the refs are calling.”

I thought Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker might alleviate Toronto’s years-long postseason funk, but the Raptors are down once again and sound lost. It’s almost comical to hear Casey try to convince everyone – maybe including himself – that he’s not worried about Dellavedova. Everything the coach said after indicates he is.

That said, maybe Casey is just trying to take attention off his struggling stars. Lowry and DeRozan have taken major steps back in the playoffs the last two years, and another poor start only intensifies the pressure. Casey might be trying to protect them.

Either way, I got a kick out of Dellavedova essentially admitting Casey was right. Another fun response came from DeRozan. Lori Ewing of CBC Sports:

DeMar DeRozan laughed when asked about the legality of Dellavedova’s screens.

“If you pay my fine, I’ll answer that question. Will you?” DeRozan asked.

“I probably can’t,” the reporter answered.

“OK, so next question,” said DeRozan.