Kurt Helin

NEW YORK - MAY 03:  Oscar the grouch attends the Clearwater Benefit Concert Celebrating Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
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Rockets have green guy with popcorn tub on head pop out of trash can to distract shooters

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I’ve seen some pretty creative attempts to distract free throw shooters (usually at the college level), but what the Houston Rockets went with Wednesday night — a modern day Oscar the Grouch if he let himself go? — was right at the top of the list.

Sorry, you can’t unsee that.

It didn’t work, Rodney Hood hit the free throw. And it mattered, as the Jazz went on to beat the Rockets 89-87 to pass them and take over the eighth seed and the final playoff slot in the West.

Manu Ginobili to play for Argentina in Rio Olympics

Olympics Day 12 - Basketball
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Argentina has qualified for the Rio Olympics this summer; they came in second at the FIBA America’s tournament last summer. The did with a roster led by Luis Scola of the Raptors and former NBA player Andrés Nocioni, plus some quality players making their money either in Europe or the Argentinian leagues.

Now you can add Manu Ginobili to the list.

Ginobili helped lead Argentina to the Gold Medal in 2004, but last year said he was “98 percent sure” he would not play internationally again. Clearly he has changed his mind, something confirmed on the official Argentinian national team site.

Ginobili, who will be 39 at the Olympics, has had a fantastic season off the bench for the Spurs, averaging 9.4 points a game and shooting 36.5 percent from three, plus he’s still one of the more clever passers in the game. Him playing is a boost to Argentina (although they are not expected to medal).

The question is, will this be Ginobili’s graceful exit from the game? He was expected to retire at the end of this season. He could be looking to exit on an international stage.

PBT Podcast: What is up with LeBron? We ask Dan Feldman.

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 09:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands on the court during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on March 9, 2016 in Sacramento, 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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LeBron James is too smart, too calculated to be doing this randomly.

He sends out cryptic tweets, unfollows the Cavaliers on Twitter, is longingly talking about joining up with his buddies ‘Melo/Wade/CP3 — this is all part of the message. That message is not “I’m leaving Cleveland” but it is a message.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports discuss what is driving LeBron’s clear frustration. They also talk Warriors going for 73 wins and the playoff races at the bottom of both conferences.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Jazz, Pistons move into playoff positions

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12), forward Trevor Ariza (1) and guard James Harden (13) walk off the court during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Oklahoma City won 111-107. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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What you missed around the league Wednesday while shedding a tear over the lost beer (and chips)….

1) Utah comes from behind to beat Houston, take over final playoff spot in West. You can make an argument that Houston is a dangerous first-round playoff opponent — they still have James Harden, Dwight Howard, a decent supporting cast, and they have put together stretches of excellent basketball this season. The problem is, first you have to make the playoffs, and right now Houston is on the outside looking in.

Utah came from 18 down to beat the Rockets in Houston Wednesday night, 89-87. Gordon Hayward had 22 points, Derrick Favors 17 including the game winning dunk — yes, he was standing on the baseline and should have been called out of bounds right before that dunk, but that’s not why the Rockets lost. James Harden wasn’t the reason the Rockets lost either, he had 26 points, 10 assists, eight steals and seven rebounds. But the Rockets played a terrible third quarter shooting 32 percent, and that has been the problem all season — they can’t string together four good quarters, or four good games, in a row. Inconsistency. The Rockets are just half a game back of both Utah and Dallas, they can get in the postseason, but their playoffs start now — and they need four quarters of solid play a game to make it. Because Utah is healthy (well, except at the guard spots), defending, and making enough plays to win nightly.

2) Pistons move into eight seed in The East on night Bulls, Wizards fall. Detroit is putting it together at the right time with Tobias Harris — despite a triple-double from Elfrid Payton, the Pistons beat the Magic 118-112. That’s four straight wins for Stan Van Gundy’s crew, who are so hot Reggie Jackson is bouncing in threes (this didn’t count, but damn):

While that was happening, the Bulls were losing to the Knicks at home. How does a team fighting for a playoff spot fall to New York at home? How does a team fighting for a playoff spot lose to a team that starts a Jose Calderon/Sasha Vujacic backcourt? Because Jimmy Butler is clearly still not healthy but is trying to play through a bum knee. Because the Knicks frontline owned Pau Gasol and the Bulls the glass. Because the Bulls did not defend the three-point line. Because the Bulls just are not a very good team and not one their new coach seems to inspire quite like the old coach did. Chicago is now one game behind Detroit and Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East (with the second game of a home-and-home against the Knicks tonight).

3) Warriors thump Clippers 114-98, move closer to 73 wins.
Golden State wants 73 wins — even Steve Kerr finally admitted it after the Warriors swept the season series from the Clippers 114-98 Wednesday. Now they just need to go 9-2 the rest of the way to make that happen. This was vintage Warriors — Stephen Curry dropped 33, but it was Klay Thompson‘s sharpshooting in the third quarter that helped the Warriors pull away (Thompson was 7-of-10 from three on the night). Clippers starters not named DeAndre Jordan struggled against the Warriors defense — Jordan had 19 points (and 20 boards), the rest of the Clippers starters had 27. It was an off game for Chris Paul, and that’s not going be enough against Golden State. (The Clippers miss Blake Griffin, but it’s difficult to see them beating the Warriors in a likely second round matchup.)

4) Emmanuel Mudiay hits ridiculous game winner for Denver. When you’re the Sixers nothing goes your way. Also, Emmanuel Mudiay had 27 points and 11 boards on the night, and he’s starting to develop into the point guard Nuggets fans hoped he would be.



5) Delaware guard Russ Smith sets D-League record with 65 point game.
Russ Smith played well when it mattered in March for Louisville — maybe March is his month. Smith is playing for the Delaware 87ers in the D-League and on Wednesday Smith dropped 65 points on 24-of-42 shooting — and his team still lost 140-129 to the Canton Charge.

Smith was attacking the rim — he had 32 points on layups and was 16-of-20 at the free throw line.

Draymond Green, Becky Hammond at forefront of NBA’s #LeanInTogether campaign for gender equality

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We men have a responsibility to support the women in our lives and help them reach their goals and dreams.

For the second year in a row, the NBA is promoting the #LeanInTogether campaign to support gender equality, with Draymond Green, Chris Bosh, Gordon Hayward, and Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammond taking a part in the new PSA (which you can see above).

“Men leaning in is a win-win proposition,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.Org. “When men are dedicated fathers and partners, they have healthier, happier children and stronger relationships. When they stand up for gender equality at work, they outperform their peers. Equality is not just the right thing for men—it’s the smart thing.”

The goal is to promote men as good dads, 50/50 partners, and people willing to stand up for women in the workplace. Things we should be doing already.

You can learn more at leanintogether.org.