NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz game 1: Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan get together, again

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Thumbnail image for Jackson_Bryant.jpgDid Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan even bother to look at the advanced scouting reports for this series?

These two coaches — running the exact same systems — have been going at it since the mid 1990s. There are no secrets here. No surprises, no new counters that have not been tried multiple times before. This is a well-known dance between coaches.

But Jackson keeps coming out on top, because he has had the better players. That likely does not change, either. The Lakers pose some matchup questions that the Jazz cannot answer, especially as banged up as they are along the front line.

These two teams last played a month ago and the Lakers blew the Jazz out of the water with a 20-2 first quarter run. The game was never really in serious doubt after that (although the Jazz made a couple runs of it against the sad Lakers bench.)

The Lakers defense made that run, for a couple reasons. One was they forced the Jazz to start their offense farther out on the floor than they normally like, to the point a couple early turnovers came because Jazz players just stepped out of bounds.

Jazz turnovers will be key– the Jazz run the crisp-passing flex offense, and they run it better than anyone, but it is an offense with a lot of interior passing. The Lakers bigs have long arms. They knock down some passes, and those tend to be quickly become transition points for the Lakers. Unlike in the last round against the youth Thunder, now the Lakers want to get out and run, they are the better transition team. If the Jazz cut the turnovers down, they cut out some easy offense for the Lakers.

One Utah matchup that always gave the Lakers trouble was Mehmet Okur — to get easy points against the Lakers need to pull their bigs away from the basket. You need a stretch four (I hate to type that, it’s becoming a cliché, but it rings true here). But Okur is out for this series with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and that is going to be trouble for the Jazz, because the Lakers bigs will have more freedom.

And the big matchup advantage for the Lakers in this matchup has long been inside. And it’s not just that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum — who will play through his knee injury, but look for Phil Jackson to try to get him rest — can score at will. It’s that they slow down one of the keys to the Jazz offense: Carlos Boozier.

Boozer averaged just 11.3 points in four games against the Lakers this year, on 39 percent shooting (thanks to Forum Blue & Gold for that). And he averaged less than 10 shots per game. The length of Pau Gasol really hampers Boozer in the post, and Gasol is long enough to challenge his jumpers out at 15 feet.

The Jazz may try to counter that with the return of Andrei Kirilenko, at some point. However, how much of an impact he can have remains to be seen.

Where the Jazz have the advantage is Deron Williams. He is as good a point guard as there is in the game, he can slash the lane, shoot the three, and averages 10.5 assists per game. He will utterly destroy Derek Fisher. Destroy.

This is where the lack of Okur hurts — the Lakers bigs will try to block off the paint and force Williams to pull up with the 12-footer. This season, Williams shot just 32.8 percent from 10 to 15 feet (via Hoopdata).

One other little matchup the Lakers can fall back on — Kobe Bryant vs. Anyone. Slowed by injury or not, Wesley Mathews is not stopping Kobe when it matters.

This is a matchup the Lakers should win — the matchup advantages all fall to them. But Deron Williams can win a couple games himself. Bynum is slowed and Kobe Bryant is banged up. And we know this — the Jazz are a good team that plays hard. They will not roll over. The Lakers will have to fight for this one. But they probably will, at least just enough to win.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum on playing at Disney World: ‘Still not excited, not thrilled’

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum
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Celtics forward Jayson Tatum wasn’t going to sit out the NBA’s resumption due to injury concerns. Players like Tatum got the enhanced insurance they wanted, anyway.

But that doesn’t mean Tatum is eager to go to Disney World.

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

I don’t blame Tatum one bit. Players are facing tight lifestyle restrictions, including be separated from their families and friends for weeks. Coronavirus is an ever-present threat. There’s a very important protest movement sweeping the country.

Who can easily focus on basketball at a time like this?

Of course, Tatum decided the pros outweigh the cons. The money is substantial (for players collectively more so than Tatum individually, though there’s a case for all players to do their part for each other), and the Celtics have a chance to win a championship.

But before coronavirus, Tatum thought he’d get that money and title opportunity. The only new aspects are the downsides.

I appreciate Tatum’s openness about the situation. He’s certainly not alone in feeling this way.

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. It’s just the unfortunate reality of the pandemic.

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie done for season after coronavirus diagnosis

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie
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No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. No DeAndre Jordan. No Wilson Chandler. No Nicolas Claxton.

And now the Nets will be without Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been battling a symptomatic case of coronavirus.

Spencer Dinwiddie:

The Eastern Conference playoff race is shaping up to be ugly. The Nets are decimated. The Wizards won’t have their best and second-best players, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. The Magic will probably be without Jonathan Isaac (who looked so promising) and Al-Farouq Aminu.

I don’t know how Brooklyn will proceed. Tanking raises ethical questions in normal times. When sending players to an uncomfortable bubble in the midst of a pandemic, it’s especially troublesome.

But the Nets have a clear incentive: They’ll keep their first-round pick only if they miss the playoffs. Otherwise, it goes to the Timberwolves (via the Hawks from the Taurean Prince trade).

Presumably, Brooklyn – with a healthy Durant and Irving and maybe a third star – would convey a much later pick next season (when the pick is still lottery protected).

In the meantime, Caris LeVert can step up as lead guard with Irving and Dinwiddie sidelined. Chris Chiozza should get an opportunity at point guard. Garrett Temple can play a larger role. Tyler Johnson adds backcourt depth.

Jordan’s and Claxton’s absences leave Jarrett Allen as the Nets’ only option at center (which could be freeing after a season of having to look over his shoulder). But he could use a backup. Maybe Amir Johnson.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Johnson, 33, hasn’t played in the NBA this season. He spent the last couple seasons with the 76ers, becoming gradually less effective. But he’s a savvy veteran who should fit in quickly.

Wizards: Bradley Beal not playing in resumption due to shoulder injury

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The Wizards (24-40) were selected for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World despite their lousy record. They were the only Eastern Conference team outside playoff position to qualify, and the league set up a relatively easy path for reaching the playoffs. Washington (5.5 games behind the Magic, 6.0 games behind the Nets) just had to get within four games of eighth place to force play-in games. Brooklyn will be without  Kevin Durant, Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Spencer Dinwiddie.

What a golden opportunity for the Wizards.

But their highest-paid player – John Wall, who declared himself 110% healthy – won’t play. Their second-best playerDavis Bertansdecided to sit out. And now their best player – Bradley Beal – is done for the season.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced today that guard Bradley Beal will not participate in the NBA’s 2019-20 season restart in Orlando due to a right rotator cuff injury.  The decision was made in full consultation with Wizards Chief of Athlete Care & Performance Daniel Medina, Wizards Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Beal and his representation.

“Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard.  “Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision.”

Beal experienced discomfort with his shoulder early in the season and worked with the team’s medical and performance staff to manage the injury.  The symptoms worsened over the course of the hiatus and he began to rehabilitate the injury with the intent of returning to play.  He will not travel with the team to Orlando and will continue his rehabilitation process over the summer.

“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” said Beal.  “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term.  I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo became the first star to choose to sit out. Is Beal the second?

It’s a gray area.

Oladipo missed more than a year with a torn right quad tendon, returned for just 13 games then had another long layoff due to the season being suspended. He increased risk of future injury as his reason not to play.

Washington is citing a current injury. If Beal isn’t healthy enough to play, he’s not healthy enough to play. Players get hurt all the time. It could be that simple.

But players are also incentivized to claim injury here regardless of their actual reason for not playing. Given Beal’s standing in the organization, of course the Wizards would go along with whatever he wants.

If deemed to be missing games due to injury rather than personal choice, Beal would protect at least $2,376,581 in base salary. (With league-wide revenue way down, no players are getting their full base salary this season.) Beal would also protect an additional $297,073 of base salary for each play-in and playoff game Washington plays up to a total of $4,159,016 in base salary.

But get real. The Wizards were already the worst continuing team. And that was with Beal.

Though anything can happen in this high-variance setup, Washington looks like it belongs in the second bubble.

Free agent Gerald Green had offers, chose not to play in Orlando restart

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Gerald Green is a free agent veteran wing who shot 35.4% from three last season — the kind of player a lot of teams could have used heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando. He was traded by the Rockets and waived by the Nuggets at the trade deadline because a foot injury and surgery that sidelined him for the season, but the delay before the restart gave him extra time to get healthy and he was medically cleared.

However, as teams start to land in Orlando today, Green is still at home.

This is by choice, several teams were interested reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The Rockets had traded Green at the deadline as part of the four-team Clint Capela deal, which took them out of the running to re-sign Green.

Green will have offers come free agency this October, but for now he will be home watching the NBA restart on television, just like the rest of us.