Marcus Morris injury hampers Day 4 of the NBA D-League Showcase

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase came to an end on Thursday night after 16 teams played a total of 16 games over four days in lovely Reno, Nevada. The final day may have been the least uneventful — at least as far as top prospects were concerned — but an injury to Houston Rockets assignee Marcus Morris had onlookers fearing for the worst.

Morris suffered a left ankle injury early on in the Rio Grande Valley Vipers loss to the Springfield Armor when the fourteenth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft came down on his defender’s foot less than two minutes into the D-League Showcase’s penultimate game (video here). Morris didn’t return to action after having to be helped off the court, but it sounds as though he shouldn’t miss much more than a week — pending an MRI this weekend.

Morris has shown that he’s above the level of D-League competition he’s facing — the 6-foot-9 forward went into Thursday’s game averaging 29.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over three games  — but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes having Morey develop in the D-League while transitioning to the wing is going to hurry up the process. D-League development is something that’s expected to become more frequent, too, Morey told Pro Basketball Talk on Wednesday.

“I think the D-League is going to eventually become like Triple-A baseball where pretty much every rookie spends some time there,” Morey said. “Obviously we’re not there yet, but I think over time that’s going to be how it’s looked at. It guys the ability to work on their game early, it allows them to work on parts of their game the coaching staff is emphasizing and we’re obviously big believers in the whole system.”

Rio Grande Valley ended up losing with Morris out of the lineup, but it came down to the final seconds. The Vipers took a three-point lead with 15.2 seconds left in the game when former New Jersey Nets guard Ben Uzoh sank a pair of free-throws, but a foul before Springfield was able to inbound the ball on the ensuing possession gave JamesOn Curry a free-throw to cut the lead to two before newly-acquired Preston Knowles sank a game-winning three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left on the clock to secure a 100-99 victory.

The three other games didn’t all end in spectacular fashion, but there were a few prospects that certainly stood out.

  • Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles looked excellent on offense with 22 points, but his team lost thanks to a group effort from the Austin Toros. All five Toros starters scored in double digits with point guard Justin Dentmon scoring 27 points in a starring role. Both players
  • The Tulsa 66ers picked up a blowout ‘W’ over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants behind excellent play from the D-League’s leading rebounder as power forward Marcus Lewis scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while making 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Teammate Larry Owens, formerly of the Washington Wizards, scored 19 points while the Mad Ants were led by Walker Russell with 19 points of his own.
  • “Money” Mike Efevberha showed why he earned that nickname at this year’s Drew League by pouring in 20 points in the final game of the Showcase as the Iowa Energy picked up a victory. The Canton Charge had a balanced effort with five players scoring in double figures, but it was former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Manny Harris and his 14 points that made foor the most interesting prospect.

By and large, the Showcase should be considered a success this season. Call-ups in the coming months will largely determine whether it was worth it for scouts from all 30 D-League teams to converge on Reno this week. A full recap of the week will be posted on Pro Basketball Talk on Friday.

Devin Booker says after latest Suns’ win “Kobe’s with me every day”

Devin Booker Kobe
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Devin Booker grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan. When Booker made the league in 2016 he got to play against his idol and threw up 28 points on the night. Kobe was impressed. The two talked after the game and Kobe gave him an autographed pair of shoes with an inspirational message:

“Be Legendary.”

Booker took that to heart. He got the phrase as a tattoo. He’s been writing “Be Legendary” on his Nike’s before every game in the bubble. And after he scored 20 against the Pacers Thursday, helping the Suns remain undefeated for the restart, he said Kobe is still inspiring him every day.

“Kobe’s with me every day. You guys see what I put on my shoes with the ‘Be Legendary.’ It’s a reminder.”

Whatever he’s doing, it is working. Booker hit a Kobe-like turnaround game-winner to beat the Clippers. He’s averaging 28 points and 6.5 assists a game for the restart, and shooting 40% from three. Defenses are keying on him, but with a healthy Deandre Ayton and other players stepping up — Cameron Johnson has been a surprise standout in Orlando — the Suns look sharp and keep on winning.

Kobe would be proud.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 33 on Heat, Bucks secure No. 1 seed

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win his second MVP award, sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton played 30 and 34 minutes respectively after the stars both sat out the entire second half of their last game on Tuesday.

Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.

The Heat led by 6 with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo picked up his fifth foul on a charge and headed to the bench. Andre Iguodala made a 3 for Miami before the Bucks scored the next 13 points, capped by a 3 from Bledsoe, to take a 107-103 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

Robinson made a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of almost four minutes for Miami with about 6 ½ minutes to go and Antetokounmpo re-entered the game soon after that.

The Heat led by 12 with about 10 minutes left in third quarter before Milwaukee used a 16-3 run to take an 82-81 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews each had five points each in that span to help close the gap.

The Bucks cut the lead to 3 with a dunk by Antetokounmpo late in the third. But the Heat wrapped up the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to take a 98-92 lead into the fourth.

Report: Bulls likely to keep Jim Boylen as coach for financial reasons

Bulls coach Jim Boylen
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The Bulls appeared ready to fire Jim Boylen. After all, Chicago just hired a new team president in Arturas Karnisovas who’d want to pick his own coach. That was unlikely to be Boylen, whose tenure had been defined by players disliking him, ill-timed timeouts and losing.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

But as the Sun-Times learned this week, even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen he would likely be handcuffed from making a change.

According to several sources, there is strong growing momentum that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 NBA season will keep Boylen in his current seat, as well as most of the coaching staff.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has earned a reputation for his frugality. However, the economic downturn surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has caused many teams to tighten their belts. The financial consequences will likely continue into next season.

But this puts Chicago at a disadvantage.

Boylen has looked like one of the NBA’s worst coaches. Though Bulls ownership is more optimistic than most on Boylen and he could exceed expectations, it’s telling that Chicago probably wouldn’t have kept him based on merit. This is about saving money and hoping for the best.

That’s obviously great news for Boylen. He has improved significantly since taking over last season. More time on the job could allow him to grow into it. That said, improving from a near-mutiny in his early days doesn’t exactly mean he’s in an acceptable place now. Boylen still has a long way to go, and it could be more difficult if players are tired of him.

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
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Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?