Kurt Helin

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.

Report: Sixers Joel Embiid “very likely” to undergo off-season surgery on knee

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When the Philadelphia 76ers formally announced they were shutting down Joel Embiid for the season, the team’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said:

“The assessment of Monday’s follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid’s left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

That meniscus may require off-season surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

As described, this would be a minor surgery that likely has a 4-6 week recovery period. That said, you know the Sixers will bring him along slowly after this. Also, that’s just time Embiid is not on a practice court or in a pick-up game with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and the rest of the team’s young core. That’s the time the foundations of chemistry on a team are built.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.

Hopefully getting his knee cleaned up now means Embiid will be able to play in more games next season.

Report: Kevin Durant’s recovery going well, could return before end of season

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Back on Feb. 28, the Warriors’ leading scorer Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, an injury that happened when Zaza Pachulia fell into his knee. They planned to evaluate him at the end of the month, but this injury is often a 6-8 week issue, which would have him back around the start of the playoffs or in the first round.

The Warriors are optimistic it will be earlier than that, probably by the end of the season, reports Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors aren’t scheduled to formally update the status of Kevin Durant’s left knee until next week, but there is cautious optimism within the organization that Durant — should he maintain his current recovery arc — will indeed be able to return to the court before the end of the regular season, according to league sources.

While noting that Durant is roughly at the halfway stage of his recovery journey, sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors are encouraged by the progress Durant has made in the 22 days since he suffered a sprained MCL and tibial bone bruise in his left knee on Feb. 28.

Durant was getting in some on-court work before the Warriors took on the Mavericks Tuesday.

The Warriors lost Durant at the start of their toughest schedule stretch of the season, and they stumbled some through that. However, after getting home (and playing some lesser teams in that stretch) the Warriors have gotten right, Stephen Curry is shooting well again, Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw are playing well enough, and the Warriors have won five in a row. They are in the driver’s seat to be the No. 1 seed in the West (the biggest challenge to that is a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week, get a split there and the Warriors become tough to catch).

Between the end of the season and an easy first round — neither Denver nor Portland play enough good defense to slow the Warriors — the Warriors will have time to blend Durant back into the fold. If the Warriors can find their stride again with him, they are the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.

Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford both drained half-court buzzer-beaters vs. Lakers (VIDEO)

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The Clippers beat up on the Lakers Tuesday night, in a game where one team looked like it was trying to find its playoff form and one team was looking like it wanted to secure its lottery spot. The thrashing was so complete CP3 had his kids with him on the team bench by the end.

The win included two Clippers’ buzzer beaters.

The first just before halftime was somewhat on the Lakers — they let Paul dribble into a long shot and take it uncontested, in rhythm. While the odds are still against him hitting it, give a guy an open look and the chances go up.

The second one was a ridiculous, high-arcing, never should have had a chance for Jamal Crawford that fell. Because it was that kind of night for the Clippers.

How charter flights and Tinder helped reduce home court advantage in NBA

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If you played on an NBA team on the first night of a road back-to-back around 1990, your schedule went something like this: Game ended around 10:30, after that you showered and grabbed a beer in the locker room (the team provided them), then you and some teammates went out and got a bite to eat, then likely hit up a club looking for some drinks and a one-night stand. You probably left the club at 2 a.m., got to sleep whenever if at all, then at 5:30 a.m. you were on a bus to the airport to catch a commercial flight to the next town. You got almost no sleep before you took to the court for that second game, and you were not going to play near your peak.

Today, right after the game the bus heads to the airport for a charter flight to the next city that lands an hour (or whatever) later. Once there a hotel room is waiting for you. You likely don’t drink anything, and if you’re looking for a tryst you just head to Tinder or another social media app and find one. Either way, you get plenty of sleep at night, plus likely a nap the next afternoon.

Charter flights, Tinder, and guys taking care of their bodies (because of how much money they make) has lessened home-court advantage in the NBA. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN broke it all down in a must-read story for their magazine.

One general manager calls it the “Tinderization of the NBA….”

Indeed, various apps have done for sex in the NBA what Amazon has done for books. One no longer needs to leave home to find a party. The party now comes to you. And lifestyle judgments aside, the NBA road life is simply more efficient — and less taxing — when there aren’t open hours spent trolling clubs.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting laid on the road today versus 15 years ago,” says one former All-Star, who adds that players actually prefer Instagram to Tinder when away from home. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”

Let’s not pretend for a second that NBA players don’t go out and party. They do. Just less than they used to. Along those same lines, you can be sure they find a way to altered states plenty of nights. But they don’t drink like they used to. Alcohol is dehydrating and impacts athletic performance for days after getting drunk. None other than George Karl – who used to drink with players at halftime in the 1970s — said you don’t see near as much alcohol around teams now.

However, the biggest change was chartered flights.

“Home-court advantage was huge because of commercial flights,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers says. “It was the travel. And nightlife was a little different back then. You knew you were staying overnight, but you were also at the airport at 5:30 in the morning.”

Do yourself a favor, go read the entire story.

This season, home teams are winning 57.4 percent of home games, an all-time low and 10 percent less than three decades ago. Players are better prepared to win on the road now than ever before, because they are better rested.

And they’re still finding plenty of ways to have their fun on the road.