Kurt Helin

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 27:  TNT reporter Craig Sager is seen on the sidelines during the NBA season opener between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans at ORACLE Arena on October 27, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Classy, fantastic tribute to Craig Sager from Miami Heat


The Miami Heat are a first class organization.

It shows in this video tribute to Craig Sager, which they showed at the game. It’s heavy on Heat highlights (as you’d expect), but there are other classic Sager moments in the video.

After it played, Sager got a standing ovation from the crowd in Miami.

Doug McDermott tackles Hassan Whiteside, earns flagrant foul


I don’t know why the referee threw the flag on this play, that was a clean tackle. Doug McDermott got low, lowered his shoulder, wrapped up his target and did not lead with the crown of his helmet.

Oh, wait, wrong sport.

The Bulls’ McDermott tackled Maimi’s Hassan Whiteside in the third quarter and with that earned a flagrant one foul. That seems fair. I don’t think McDermott intended injury, but that certainly met the criteria of “unnecessary contact.” It was on the border of a Flagrant 2, but I’m good with this call.

Hassan and the Heat went on to get the win, all but ending the Bulls slim playoff hopes.

Gregg Popovich says he plans to play regular lineups both games against Warriors

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 21:  Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to his team against the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Ask any fantasy player if you should trust what Gregg Popovich says about player rotations and minutes.

With that caveat, Popovich said before his Spurs took on the Warriors Thursday in the Bay Area that he plans to play his core guys in the two remaining games he has against Golden State, then likely rest all or part of the group in the other three games they play (Denver on Friday, Oklahoma City April 12, Dallas April 13).

From Jeff McDonald of the Express-News:

The Spurs will have every player available tonight against the Warriors. Popovich plans to rest a host of key players Friday night in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back. He will deploy his full lineup once more when the Warriors visit the AT&T Center on Monday.

Popovich said his approach has nothing to do with his team’s still-alive chase for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Nor does it have anything to do with Golden State’s pursuit of the Chicago Bulls’ single-season victories record.

“It’s not about opponents,” Popovich said. “It’s about minutes and time.”

My guess is Popovich will rest everyone he can against Dallas in the final game of the regular season; you can take your own guess about what he will do against the Thunder (the Spurs likely second round opponent).

In theory, the Spurs could catch the Warriors for the top seed in the West, but they would need to win out and hope the Warriors drop one of their two remaining games against Memphis. Good luck with that. Better to rest guys.

However, if Spurs knock the Warriors off the 73-win pace, it could help Steve Kerr convince key guys to get some rest and nights off before the playoffs start.

Report: 7’6″ college center Mamadou Ndiaye declares for draft

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 29:  Mamadou Ndiaye #34 of the UC Irvine Anteaters controls the ball as Wayne Selden Jr. #1 and Hunter Mickelson #42 of the Kansas Jayhawks defend during the game at Allen Fieldhouse on December 29, 2015 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Mamadou Ndiaye anchored the UC Irvine defense this season. Almost literally.

He’s 7’6″ — the tallest player in college basketball — with an 8’1″ wingspan, so the Anteaters would camp him out in the middle of their zone and let him just take away penetration in the paint. He almost never moved outside it. In the Big West it was mostly effective.

Would it be in the NBA? Senegal native Ndiaye wants to find out, he is declaring for the draft, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Ndiaye submitted paperwork to enter the draft on Thursday and has informed the UC Irvine coaching staff of his decision to leave school. He said he won’t hire representation immediately, but has made plans to do so later in the predraft process…. A shot-blocking, inside presence, Ndiaye averaged 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 37 games this season.

I’m no scout, but as a Big West season ticket holder — GO BEACH! — I have seen Ndiaye in person multiple times and can tell you what I saw.

He’s very tall, very long, and his entire game is based around using that length. He moves a lot better than he did as a freshman, but he still doesn’t move well — certainly not against NBA-level athletes — and his instincts for the game are not great.

He put up nice offensive numbers, and his shooting stroke is decent, but almost all his points come off alley-oops, lobs when he is next to the rim, or offensive rebounds. He can get away with that in the Big West because there are only a couple other bigs 6’10” and most team’s bigs are a couple of inches shorter than that. He will find it much harder against NBA level size and athleticism.

Defensively, when he can’t just camp in the paint, he’s not going to be effective. Teams could expose him in pick-and-rolls, and considering the direction the game is going he may struggle to fit. He just would not be quick enough or anticipate the play well enough, and he hurt Irvine against teams that could up the tempo because he couldn’t keep up.

That said, you can’t teach size, and if a team wants to take a flier on him in the second half of the second round, they could do a lot worse.

DeMarre Carroll returns to Raptors lineup Thursday after missing 41 games

DeMarre Carroll
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This is excellent news for Toronto Raptors fans.

After missing 41 games following having his knee scoped in January, DeMarre Carroll is returning to the Toronto Raptors lineup Thursday.

While it will take a little while for Carroll to get back to form (there are four regular season games left), this is exactly what the Raptors needed heading into the playoffs. Carroll is expected to play 15 minutes Thursday.

Toronto’s weakness has been the four spot. The Raptors have started Luis Scola there most of the season, with Patrick Patterson playing behind him. If one of those guys were getting bench minutes as a backup it would be workable, but as starters they are a big hole in the lineup. One Carroll can fill if healthy and able to play a small-ball four. That’s a key reason the Raptors paid him $60 million this past offseason (four-year deal). Carroll is a “3&D” guy who can space the floor on offense and, when healthy, lock up the best wing defender on the other team. He was a force for the Hawks in last year’s playoffs.

The Raptors, even without Carroll, set a franchise record for wins with 52 — but that’s not how their season will be judged. This team hasn’t gotten out of the first round since the Vince Carter/purple jersey era, and fans expect at least that if not a trip to the conference finals.

If Carroll is right, the Raptors get closer to that goal. And if he’s all the way back — and the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is healthy and playing well — the conference finals against Cleveland (most likely) would be far more interesting.