Monday morning one liners

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Our morning look around the NBA with stories worth reading and notes that are not their own post here at PBT.

A fantastic read at Hoopspeak.com on what the Thunder need to do to get Kevin Durant more open looks.

After signing Baron Davis for the mini mid-level, the Knicks are out of the running for James Posey (because they can only offer the veterans minimum) and are looking at Al Thornton.

As Tom Ziller pointed out: Thanks to the NBA amnesty clause, Baron Davis’ salary went from $13.9 million to $16.4 million this season. Yes, one of the most dramatically overpaid players in the league gets to double dip.

By the way Knicks fans, you can thank Spike Lee for you having Tyson Chandler now.

Dwight Howard got a warm reception from Orlando fans at the team’s first scrimmage.

Who wins the 7th and 8th seeds in the West?

Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he is going to rest Steve Nash and Grant Hill on the team’s two back-to-back-to-backs. Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers are dealing with similar questions right now.

Look for more Rodney Stuckey at the two guard this year with Brandon Knight and Will Bynum playing the point.

If you’re looking for a fantasy player your friends are going to overlook, try Greg Monroe. The Pistons center had 12 points, 13 boards, two steals and two blocks on Friday.

Cleveland’s Manny Harris is expected to miss another couple of weeks due to “freezer burn” he suffered on his foot in a Nike-sponsored “cooling chamber.” (Super cold rooms are a hot trend in helping players bodies regenerate.)

Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Jamal Crawford will be coming off the bench in Portland, as he did in Atlanta.

E’Twaun Moore looked good in the Celtics first preseason game.

Rhino sighting — the Trail Blazers have picked up veteran Craig Smith. Nice pickup to provide depth up front.

In case you missed it, David Stern and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had a successful meeting recently. The Maloofs seem to be coming around on the issue. Long way to go, but Sacramento may save its team.

The Bulls waived Jannero Pargo.

The Kings grabbed Travis Outlaw off amnesty waivers.

Jason Smith is staying with the Hornets on a one-year deal.

Sean Marks will retire from the NBA after an 11-year career.

The Warriors signed Ish Smith to a one-year deal.

J.R. Smith going with the Karl Malone imitation dunk during a game in China.

The Raptors are going with the optical illusion logo on the court for television. (It’s an NBA first, but European soccer teams have done this.)

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.