What now for the Nuggets? Playoff push or fast trades?

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Congratulations Denver.

Sure, having your star player and face of the franchise force his way out of town doesn’t feel like something to be congratulated over, but there is the silver lining you keep hearing about — at least you’re not Cleveland. That’s got to make you feel better, right? You got something in return at least.

Maybe it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s sort of true. You got some nice role players — Raymond Felton is a quality point guard, Danilo Gallinari can shoot, Wilson Chandler has real game, Timofey Mozgov is tall and sets a nice screen.

But what that means now — and by now we mean in the next 24 hours — is the Nuggets front office has another serious question to answer:

How important is it for Denver to make the playoffs?

How you answer that determines what you do between now and the deadline.

As of Wednesday morning the Blazers, Hornets and Nuggets are tied for the 5 to 7 slots in the West, with Utah 1.5 games back in the 8 slot and the Grizzlies half a game behind the Jazz in the nine slot. The Suns are 2 games back of the Grizzlies in 10th.

If you are going to make a playoff push — and George Karl wants to — then you keep Nene and Gallinari, you give Chandler lots of minutes. You hope that Portland slips against its tough schedule the rest of the way.

And the Nuggets may be leaning this way — according to Marc Spears at Yahoo the Nuggets plan to offer Nene a contract extension, not trade him away. That will be for about five years, $50 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Which seems about right based on what Joakim Noah and Al Horford got.

But Wojnarowski adds that Nene is intrigued by how he would fit in with Oklahoma City. And that would be intriguing. The Thunder only need a couple pieces and a big like Nene is one of them. It has to be tempting. Other tempting teams need a big too, like Miami.

Then there is Gallinari, which has the Clippers dangling a pretty good first round pick to get. If you want to make a playoff run you need to keep him. If you are going to dive headlong into rebuilding mode you move him and get parts.

Same with J.R. Smith, who has drawn interest. You likely flip Raymond Felton either way, because you have Ty Lawson so you don’t really need another point guard.

But the question is out there Denver. You’re going deep into rebuilding mode at some point, but you’re in position to make a playoff push and get in. Get a couple home playoff games (but you won’t last that long against the Spurs/Mavericks/Lakers). Is it worth it, or do you start the rebuilding now?

Giannis Antetokounmpo on Kidd vs. Budenholzer: “With Coach Bud, it’s always coming from a good place”

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The Milwaukee Bucks are 12-4 to start the season with the best net rating in the NBA, outscoring opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions. They have the second best offense in the league (5.8 per 100 better than last season) and fifth best defense (5.1 per 100 better) and look like a team ready to threaten Boston/Toronto/Philadelphia at the top of the East.

New coach Mike Budenholzer gets a lot of credit for that, he modernized what the Bucks did under Jason Kidd. Budenholzer has got the Bucks playing much faster (more than seven possessions a game), has put in an open offense with floor spacing and encouraged his players to shoot from three (last season 29.7 percent of their shots were from three, this season it’s 43.7 percent), and put in a simplified defense focused on protecting the rim and taking away easy buckets. It’s all worked.

How he handles the players mentally is different, too, and that’s what Giannis Antetokounmpo said when media members asked him about it, with quotes via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

He makes a great point. Not every player responds to the same motivational tactic. Jimmy Butler may love the way Tom Thibodeau yells and pushes but plenty of players (not just KAT) don’t respond as well to the old-school ways. The best coaches — from high school through Mike Krzyzewski, up to Budenholzer and the elite of the NBA — realize that, read the player and the room, then adjust. It does not need to be a one size fits all model.

Everything Budenholzer is doing so far is working. Adversity will hit this team at some point and that will be the next test, but so far he’s aced it.

Aaron Gordon trash talks Raptors’ bench after three, they laugh at him (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon is not exactly intimidating the Toronto Raptors.

The Orlando Magic forward and star of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” drained a corner three in front of the Toronto bench Tuesday night, then turned around and talked a little trash.

Toronto’s bench reaction was perfect.

Toronto also got the last laugh on Danny Green‘s game winner.

Michael Jordan returns home, meets with hurricane victims

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Stephanie Parker isn’t quite sure how her family of six would have managed the last two months without the help of Michael Jordan and the American Red Cross following Hurricane Florence.

So when Parker met Jordan on Tuesday she couldn’t hold back giving the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets a big hug and a thank you.

“It means he hasn’t forgotten,” Parker told The Associated Press about Jordan’s visit to Wilmington, North Carolina. “It means we are important.”

Jordan returned to his hometown wearing North Carolina Tar Heels blue and met with some hurricane victims, many of whom have benefited from his $2 million donation in September. Jordan gave $1 million each to the Red Cross and the Foundation for the Carolinas Hurricane Florence Response Fund.

“I can give money all day long, but at some point you want them to understand you’re human,” Jordan told AP.

Jordan handed out Thanksgiving dinners at a home improvement store and gave away Jordan Brand shoes at a Boys & Girls Club Tuesday where he once played as a child.

Parker has lived the nightmare that’s become all too familiar for hurricane victims around the country.

She, her husband, and their four children ages 3 to 8 heeded the warnings to evacuate the area. They took refuge in a Red Cross shelter, but when they returned, their apartment was flooded with two feet of water and their minivan crushed by a fallen tree. They spent nearly two months in shelters until recently being placed in a hotel while they await permanent housing.

“It’s been stressful,” she said, taking a long, deep breath. “At first it was really, really hard to realize that you lost everything. But people like Michael Jordan donating to the Red Cross and donating to people who have gone through what we’ve gone through is an incredible blessing. We are so very, very thankful.”

Jordan broke into a wide smile when asked about his meeting with Parker.

“You really want to trust that money goes to the right people,” Jordan said. “And when you see it goes to the right people, it makes me feel good that I did the right thing.”

Jordan said he’ll continue to monitor the hurricane recovery efforts and would consider partnering with others to continue to help improve living conditions.

American Red Cross executive director James Jarvis said at the height of the storm the Red Cross sheltered more than 20,000 people in 172 locations. They provided 1.3 million meals and snacks. They’ve also distributed money to more than 6,500 families, doling out more than $3.8 million to help families get on the road to recovery.

“I wanted to be an igniter to the process,” Jordan said of his initial donation. “But it’s going to take a long time before things get back to normal. Whatever way I can contribute I will.”

He also hopes that Charlotte hosting the All-Star game in February will provide an impetus for more financial aid to the region.

“I am pretty sure that the league will have some support systems that will reach out to this community,” Jordan said. “And we are going to do a lot in Charlotte, too. But the overall game is about helping other people, so I can see it reaching all the way down to this area.”

Natalie English, the president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said it’s still too early to estimate the financial damage to the area.

But she said Jordan’s donations resonated in the community.

“I think it means a lot to people here that Michael remembers his home and that he cares about where he was for his formative years and he is giving back to help restore the community,” English said.

This is not a one-time deal for Jordan.

Fred Lynch coached Jordan when he was 15-year-old freshman playing on the junior high school basketball team at Laney High School in Wilmington. He sustained minor damage to his nearby home, but said several neighbors only a block away suffered total destruction as a result of flooding and wind damage to Hurricane Florence.

Lynch said Jordan has visited Wilmington periodically since leaving to play college basketball at North Carolina and embarking on an NBA career that included six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, five league MVP honors and 14 All-Star game appearances.

The 55-year-old Jordan still has an aunt, cousins and friends here and his nephew who attends college at UNC Wilmington. Jordan was most recently here in April at his high school filming a Gatorade commercial.

Lynch said he wasn’t surprised when Jordan stepped up to help the people of Wilmington and the surrounding areas – donating money and his time.

“From the time I coached him as a ninth grade, he was always looking out for people,” Lynch said. “He’s always trying to do the right thing and always trying to better himself and his community. That’s pretty much what he’s been about his entire career.”

 

Three Things to Know: Wizards can win after all, rally from 24 down to beat Clippers

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Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.

1) Wizards can win after all, rally from 24 down to beat Clippers. Washington has been an embarrassment. Wizards fans are wearing bags over their heads while the rest of the league is trying to work out Bradley Beal trade scenarios (which probably don’t play out until July). This is a Washington team that spent shootaround trying to play down a practice last week where the players all yelled at one another and John Wall dropped an F-bomb on the coach.

One of the “signature” things about these Wizards is they roll over — get on a run, get up on them and Washington’s body language changes, the players hang their heads and just quit. They don’t fight for each other.

Not Tuesday night against one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Down 24 points at one point and 19 at the half to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Wizards rallied back to win 125-118.

Wall had 30 points and 8 assists, Beal 27 points and 7 dimes.

“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Let’s not pretend that one half of basketball fixed the Wizards, but there are things to build on. Tomas Satoransky continued a run of good play with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists (Brooks need to trust him more). The good Jeff Green showed up with 10 points in the fourth quarter and 20 for the game (not sure the Wizards can build on that, he’s never been consistent). Coach Scott Brooks started Thomas Bryant at center (Dwight Howard is out injured) and he had some solid moments, like a block of Marcin Gortat followed by a bucket at the other end.

We could get into how this was a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Clippers, so their legs just got tired late, but why spoil the fun. For one night, the Wizards looked like a team that had potential. We’ll let them enjoy that, then get back to figuring out how New Orleans can trade for Otto Porter.

2) Danny Green drains game winner for Raptors over Magic. Danny Green fouled out at the end of Toronto’s loss to Boston (on a pretty tricky-tac call) and his presence was missed. With the game on t he line the Raptors missed his floor spacing on offense and his willing defense.

Tuesday night Green showed how much they need him to close games with the game winner against an Orlando squad that had knocked off the Sixers and the Lakers recently.

Wesley Iwundu was brought in to cover Green, but they rubbed him off two picks and Aaron Gordon was a little late with the switch, giving Green enough room to get the shot off. Kawhi Leonard had 18 on the night, plus he knows things.

3) C.J. McCollum drops 31, Damian Lillard has 29 points and 8 assists in Madison Square Garden and Blazers stay on top of West. Nearly 20 games into the season, nobody expected Portland to be the team leading the Western Conference. No doubt Portland would be good, but in a deep West with Golden State and Houston, the Trail Blazers were expected to be in the middle of a crowded pack fighting for a playoff spot, not the team on top of the mountain. (How did they get there? Check out our podcast from a couple of weeks ago with Dane Delgado of NBC Sports Portland.)

Yet here we are. The Trail Blazers went into Madison Square Garden and put on a show for the suffering Knicks fans. Damian Lillard had 29 points, 8 assists, and showed Knicks fans what an elite point guard looks like.

Meanwhile, C.J. McCollum was just getting buckets.