Dan Feldman

NBA: Nuggets got away with eight-second violation before key FT in win over Pelicans

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The Nuggets are hanging in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

They’re a game behind the Trail Blazers, who own the tiebreaker – but also lost their starting center. Portland has lost two straight, to the Timberwolves and Jazz, without Jusuf Nurkic. Meanwhile, Denver beat the Pelicans, 134-131, Tuesday.

However, the Nuggets benefited from a key late officiating error in that victory.

Danilo Gallinari should have been called for an eight-second violation with 42.9 seconds left, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Gallinari (DEN) does not advance the ball from the backcourt into his own frontcourt during the allowed 8 seconds.

A correct call would have meant a Denver turnover. Instead, the Nuggets kept the ball, and Nikola Jokic drew a foul and made a free throw.

Denver led by one, the value of Jokic’s free throw, when New Orleans began intentionally fouling.

The Nuggets are still unlikely to make the playoffs, but this missed call certainly boosted their odds. It also increased the likelihood Alvin Gentry, who’s reportedly coaching for his job, gets fired.

Duke star Luke Kennard declares for NBA draft

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When will Duke’s best player get drafted?

Jayson Tatum, an intriguing freshman, will be the first Duke player selected. But Duke’s best player this season? That was Luke Kennard, and we’ll learn how the NBA views the difference.

Duke release:

Duke sophomore Luke Kennard will enter the upcoming NBA Draft. He will sign with an agent and forgo his remaining college eligibility.

The shooting guard has a fairly wide draft range – from the middle of the first round to early second round. Athletic testing will determine when a team is ready to bank on his offensive skills.

Kennard looks like a swell outside shooter, making 44% of his 3-pointers last year. But shooting just 32% on 3-pointers as a freshmen weights down his career average (38%) and causes a little concern. At least his free-throw percentage, a good indicator of shooting ability, was strong both years (89%, 86%).

In addition to shooting better, Kennard developed more of a complete game this season. He used his improved ball-handling and court vision at 6-foot-5 to create for himself and teammates.

As well as he played in college, he didn’t silence the questions about his translatability to the next level: Is he fast enough? Is he long enough? Can he defend?

Kevin Durant cleared for full practice after knee injury

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Kevin Durant has been medically cleared to resume full practice beginning Friday and is scheduled to play in Saturday’s home game against New Orleans if he experiences no setbacks.

Coach Steve Kerr had been optimistic of KD’s return from a left knee injury before the end of the regular season, and he will join a Warriors team riding a 13-game winning streak and that just locked up the No. 1 seed in the West with the NBA’s best record for a third straight year.

The Warriors said Durant completed several workouts in recent days.

Golden State’s co-leading scorer and top rebounder, Durant was hurt Feb. 28 at Washington when Marcin Gortat pushed Zaza Pachulia and Golden State’s center fell into Durant, who has missed 19 games since with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bruised tibia.

Thabo Sefolosha will get $4 million in NYPD lawsuit

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Thabo Sefolosha settled his lawsuit with New York City.

How much money will the Hawks forward receive?

James C. McKinley Jr. of The New York Times:

New York City has agreed to pay $4 million to Thabo Sefolosha, a forward with the N.B.A.’s Atlanta Hawks, to settle a federal lawsuit in which he accused five police officers of false arrest and using excessive force during an encounter outside a Manhattan nightclub, the city’s Law Department said on Wednesday.

The police officers and the city did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, Nick Paolucci, a Law Department spokesman, said in a statement.

This is, sadly, too often how it works. Police brutalize citizens then settle costly lawsuits – with money from taxpayers – while not admitting wrongdoing, allowing the same conditions that see the brutality to persist.

Creighton’s Justin Patton declares for NBA draft

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The NBA is deemphasizing centers. The 2017 draft is strong at other positions, particularly point guard.

But someone will be the first center drafted this year, and it might be Justin Patton.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Creighton freshman Justin Patton, a possible lottery selection, will enter the 2017 NBA draft and sign with an agent.

The 7-foot Justin Patton shot a blistering 81% at the rim, per Hoop-Math. He attacks the rim hard – in transition, as roll man, as a cutter. Patton needs a point guard to set him up, but the NBA is in an era of standout point guards. Odds favor him landing with a team that has a point guard who can, or eventually will be capable of, get him going.

Patton also has some post moves and just enough passing ability to believe that typically low-efficiency play will become useful for him at the next level. He even made 8-of-15 3-pointers (53%) – an incredibly small sample, but another hint there’s more of his game to unlock.

His 52% free-throw shooting should also say something about his stroke, and the fact that he generated just 2.5 free-throw attempts per game is a concern. Patton, who turns 20 before the draft, isn’t yet strong enough. He rebounded at less-than-ideal rate for a player his size.

But at least he showed flashes of rim protection, suggesting he has the requisite big-man skills once he gets stronger.

A team that drafts Patton should give him time to improve his body and pair him with a capable passing point guard. That’ll give him the best chance of panning out — and maybe even turning into a more diversely skilled player, though that’d just be a bonus.