Kurt Helin

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Five takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Should Warriors think rest not record?

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What you missed from a night around the NBA while cooking breakfast for yourself and 10,000 of your closest friends….

1) Warriors blow lead at home and lose to Timberwolves, should Steve Kerr start thinking rest over record?
I know that Steve Kerr said the Warriors are not pushing for 73 wins. I know after Tuesday’s loss Kerr denied that fatigue was an issue and part of the reason they have lost two-of-three at home. But the reality is the Warriors have been sloppy with the ball of late — 23 against the Timberwolves Tuesday — and if Stephen Curry‘s shooting can’t bail them out (21 points on 25 shots Tuesday, 0-of-8 in the first half) they are vulnerable. Curry looks tired to me, and that’s why the shots aren’t falling. Which brings us to the issue of rest.

It’s not necessarily physical, but Draymond Green admitted the team has seemingly been distracted by the chase for 73 wins — a number that will be hard to reach after the Warriors blew a 17-point lead and fell to Minnesota in overtime 124-117 Tuesday. Golden State is now 69-9 and would need to go 4-0 the rest of the way to break the record. They have two games left against beat up Memphis, and two left against the Spurs. But if they are serious about winning a title, a little mental break and some rest before the playoffs start may be what the team needs.

The Warriors finally got healthy Tuesday — Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut were back — but the bench had its worst outing in recent memory. The Warriors defense was not sharp all night, allowing open looks and space for drives — particularly by Andrew Wiggins, who had 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Curry and the offense could not cover up that play one more time, not against an improving Timberwolves team. The Warriors need to get right before the games get more serious in a couple of weeks, and if rest is part of that it should come as a higher priority than a regular season wins record.

2) Bulls playoff dreams on life support after loss to Grizzlies (while Memphis’ look solid again). Let’s be honest: The Chicago Bulls are not making the playoffs. Chicago is two games back of Detroit with four to play — and the Pistons have the tiebreaker. Chicago would need to win out — including beating Cleveland and Miami the rest of this week — and hope the Pistons lose three out of four so Chicago can get in the postseason. While technically not impossible, that’s not happening.

That’s the reality of Chicago’s 108-92 loss to Memphis Tuesday. Jimmy Butler is trying to play through pain but is clearly not right (2-of-8 shooting for 5 points), Derrick Rose is never going to be the guy who can carry a team again, Pau Gasol is solid but at age 35 is past his prime, and the Bulls defense is terrible. That’s not a playoff team.

The win ends Memphis’ six-game losing streak and should stop talk of them falling out of the playoffs — the Grizzlies are 3.5 games up on nine-seed Houston with four to play. Zach Randolph‘s 27 points and 10 boards secured the crucial win. That said, the banged up Grizzlies are the team everyone in the top half of the West would prefer to play in the first round of the playoffs, this team is a shell of its former self.

3) Kawhi Leonard hits the game winner as Spurs edge Jazz. Utah is a feisty team that will not go quietly, something the Spurs — the full complement of Spurs, the big names all played — learned the hard way Tuesday night. Utah fought from 16 back to make it a game, but in the end, there was Leonard hitting the contested shot to win the game. This could be a first round series preview, and if so I’ll take it — this would be a fun matchup.

4) This year’s Sixers will not be the worst team in NBA history, win 10th game. The Sixers are bad — 10-68 on the season — but they are not historically bad. Which is something, I guess. Tuesday the Sixers beat what’s left of the injury-ravaged Pelican’s roster 107-93 thanks to 22 points from Carl Landry. That gives the Sixers 10 wins on the season, better than the all-time low for an 82-game season (9-73 by the 1972-73 76ers). Not sure that’s a reason to throw a party, but avoiding ignominy is a good thing.

5) Another day, another Russell Westbrook triple double. Westbrook now has 17 triple doubles on the season, after grabbing another — 13 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists — in the Thunder’s 124-102 win against Denver. As I noted in the last PBT Podcast, Westbrook would be second on my MVP ballot, he’s been that special this season.

Zach Randolph’s double-double leads Grizzlies past Bulls, 108-92

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies solidified their grip on a Western Conference playoff spot, while the Chicago Bulls saw their postseason chances slip further away.

Despite missing several key players, the Grizzlies forced the Bulls out of their offense, stymied Chicago’s leading scorer and captured a 108-92 victory on Tuesday night.

Memphis snapped a six-game losing streak and remained in the Western Conference’s fifth playoff spot.

“It was a great win,” said Zach Randolph, who led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 10 rebounds. “We’ve been searching, and we’ve been desperate for a win.”

Vince Carter added 17 points as Memphis displayed a strong defense missing in recent games. The Bulls, who had won three of four, never got the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter of a loss that damaged their playoff hopes.

Chicago remained two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons lost 107-89 at Miami.

“It was very disappointing to throw away an opportunity like this, especially with Detroit losing,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Nikola Mirotic led Chicago with 20 points, going 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Derrick Rose had 12 points and eight assists, while Bobby Portis also finished with 12 points.

“They just played like they wanted to get into the playoffs,” Rose said of the Grizzlies. He added he was baffled by the Bulls’ lack of effort.

“I think everyone was surprised,” Rose said. “I still can’t believe it.”

Data curated by PointAfter

Bulls leading scorer Jimmy Butler was held scoreless through three quarters before finishing with five points, converting only 2-of-8 shots and missing all four shots outside the arc.

The Grizzlies caused 20 Chicago turnovers, leading to 38 Memphis points. Tony Allen, who guarded Butler much of the night, had four of Memphis’ 13 steals in the game.

“We know he’s prolific,” Allen said of Butler. “I thought I tried to limit his touches. . I just locked in, keyed in and tried my best to compete for the whole 48 minutes. Well, the minutes I was out there.”

Matt Barnes scored 16 points, and Jordan Farmar had a season-high 15 for Memphis, which has stumbled down the stretch, playing without key starters Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, both done for the season.

Memphis, which led by as many as 22 in the third quarter, still held a 91-70 lead after a pair of free throws from JaMychal Green with 8:45 left. But the Bulls clicked off the game’s next 10 points to make it interesting. Mirotic’s 3-pointer near the 6-minute mark capped the run and made it 91-80.

That was as close as the Bulls could get.

“If we come out and play like that every game,” Randolph said, “we give ourselves a chance to win even with the circumstances of our team.”

TIP-INS:

Bulls: Rose, who missed his previous two games with a left elbow contusion, played 35 minutes. … F Taj Gibson missed his fourth game with a rib contusion. E'Twaun Moore missed his second with a left hamstring injury. … It marked only the fourth time this season Butler was held under double digits. … The Bulls are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Grizzlies: Memphis avoided its first seven-game losing streak since November, 2009. … Randolph recorded his 17th double-double of the season. … Memphis reserve G Lance Stephenson, a contributor of late, did not play (coach’s decision). … The win assured Memphis of its sixth straight winning season.

RARE ROSE APPEARANCE

Rose, who played one season at the University of Memphis, made a rare road appearance against the Grizzlies. In his previous seven seasons, Rose played only twice in Memphis, during the 2011-12 season and his rookie year of 2008-09.

SPEAKING OF APPEARANCES

Pau wasn’t the only Gasol in the building. Marc Gasol, who is out for the season with a right foot fracture, was shown on the scoreboard sitting in a suite during the first half. It was the first time Gasol has been seen at a game since he injured the foot Feb. 8 against Portland.

Carmelo Anthony describes relationship with Kristaps Porzingis as “organic”

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If the Knicks are going to be good sooner rather than later, it’s most likely going to be in large part because Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis can make it work together. And Phil Jackson gets improved talent around them, including another elite star, but that’s another conversation for another day.

While there were early rumors to the contrary, the relationship between Anthony and Porzingis is a good one. They may not be banana boat level buddies, they work well together.

Here is what Anthony told ESPN’s Ian Begley about conversations on the bench with Porzingis during games.

“Sometimes throughout the course of the game, it’s a running conversation. Sometimes he has question: ‘What you think about this, what you think about that?’ I give my input. Obviously he accepts it because he keeps coming aback for the advice and the input. I’m more than welcome to sit there and talk to him. What we have is not forced, it’s organic. I try not to force it, he tries not to force it. it just comes naturally.”

Those two guys can work together, they can play together.

Whether that is what is best for building the Knicks for long-term success is a different discussion (I don’t think their career arcs intersect in a way that works for NY), but there is a connection between the two. They both speak basketball. It’s better than where the Knicks were a couple years ago.

 

As expected, Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere declares for NBA draft

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A year ago this time, Skal Labissiere was mentioned with Ben Simmons as the top prospects likely to enter the 2016 draft.

Both men are entering that draft. Simmons expected to go in the top two (mostly likely No. 1), while a rough start to the season at Kentucky saw Labissiere — projected as a four or five at the next level — slide down draft boards to the 10-15 range, and he is another big in this draft considered a bit of a project.

That didn’t change the big picture, Labissiere is coming out, something he announced Tuesday officially. He plans to sign with an agent, which means no changing his mind and returning to Kentucky.

“I want to thank my family, my coaches, teammates and most importantly I want to thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to represent and play for the University of Kentucky,” Labissiere said in a released statement. “I also want to thank the fans for their support through everything this season. I am excited to announce that I am entering the 2016 NBA Draft.”

As he does with all his guys going pro, coach John Calipari tried to pump up Labissiere on Twitter.

It’s not hard to see what scouts like in Labissiere — he’s long, with a good shooting stroke, and he can score inside. But the season at Kentucky raised some questions as  PBT’s NBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson explains.

“At 6’11”, with a 7’2” wingspan, Labissiere is long and lanky, and he does possess a nice shooting touch out to 20 feet. Around the basket, his touch can be evident, but his moves are slow to develop, and he shows little aggression or determination to get to the basket. Labissiere is awkward in the pick-and-roll, though his shooting ability allows him to be a good “pop” option. His size and length should give him some advantages on the offensive glass, but he has been too timid this year and gets pushed around easily. On defense, Labissiere has a lot of potential, but he is nowhere close to realizing it yet. It was expected that Labissiere was going to be very raw coming into college, and even with it being worse than expected, NBA teams will still be intrigued by his raw talent.

Report: Ernie Grunfeld will return as Wizards GM for at least another year

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The conventional wisdom around the league is that Randy Wittman will be out as coach once the Wizards’ season ends, an end that will not include the playoffs. Also coming is a major shakeup in the Washington roster, which will have John Wall, almost certainly Bradley Beal (a restricted free agent likely to get a max contract), Marcus Morris, Marcin Gortat, and little else that is familiar.

However, don’t expect a shakeup higher up the ladder — Ernie Grunfeld is expected to return as GM. J. Michael of CSNWashington said as much a while back in the PBT Podcast, and Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post confirmed as much with contract details in a new story.

Coach Randy Wittman’s future is uncertain because next season — the final year of his three-year contract — is only partially guaranteed, but President Ernie Grunfeld is under contract for next season, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation, which strongly suggests that he will return for his 14th season as the franchise’s general manger. It is not known when owner Ted Leonsis and Grunfeld agreed to the extension.

Leonsis isn’t the kind of owner willing to eat a lot of money in dead contracts.

Grunfeld is experienced but the television contract driven massive spike in the salary cap by more than $20 million makes this summer uncharted waters for everyone. There is a lot more money than talent available on the market this year, which is going to lead to some inflated prices and tough decisions for teams.

We will see how Grunfeld manages that — and who he brings in to coach the team.