What Wednesday’s games mean: Heat can lock up best record; Lakers need win

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There is one week of NBA regular-season basketball left — next Wednesday, April 17 is the final day of games, then we get to focus on the playoffs. Right now teams are jockeying for playoff position — or in the case of the Lakers and Jazz a spot in the playoffs.

Which means a lot of games in the next week have implications. As a viewer’s guide, here are the potential impacts of Wednesday’s games.

Eastern Conference

Heat at Wizards: Miami’s magic number is one — one Heat win or one Spurs loss and they secure the best record overall in the NBA (they are currently 61-16). It might happen against the Wizards, although John Wall has Washington playing better of late. No Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh for Miami.

Hawks at Sixers: Atlanta would much rather face Brooklyn in the first round than Indiana, but to do that they need to catch the Bulls for the five seed. The Hawks win this game and they move into a virtual tie with Chicago for that spot. Lose and they need to look over their shoulder at the seven seed Celtics — 1.5 games back of Atlanta. The seven seed gets the Knicks in the first round and that would be trouble.

Nets at Celtics: If Boston can get a win here and get some help from the Sixers, they could move within half a game of the six seed. The Nets are pretty locked into the four seed, three games up on the five-seed Bulls. Still, wins help them secure that spot.

Western Conference

Lakers at Trail Blazers: This is a virtual must-win for the Lakers — win and they have a one-game lead over Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West; lose and they fall into a tie with the Jazz and Utah has the tiebreaker. The Lakers have nothing but games against playoff teams left, the Jazz have two against the Timberwolves. It’s a back-to-back and the Lakers still look shaky, but they need to find a way to win this.

Spurs at Nuggets: Denver is currently the three seed in the West, half a game up on Memphis. The Clippers look pretty locked into the four seed and can fall no lower as division champions. The team that is the three seed in the West gets Golden State in the first round (a young team that doesn’t play great defense), the five seed gets the Clippers (with Chris Paul and a deep roster). Win and they are a game up on Memphis, lose and they fall into a tie and make it possible even the Clippers could catch them.

Timberwolves at Clippers: The Clippers can be no lower than the four seed as division winners, but if the five seed (Memphis or Denver) has a better record the Clippers would still be the road team in the first round. Right now, the Clippers are 1.5 games back of the Grizzlies and two back of the Nuggets. Get a win and they are within a game of home court in the first round

NBA may play 2019 preseason game in India

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The NBA has been working to make inroads in India — it’s nation far more fixated on Cricket, field hockey, and soccer, but it has a lot of youth playing basketball at schools, and it has the second largest population of any country in the world (nearly 1.4 billion people).

The NBA sees another big potential overseas market, one the league wants to cultivate. They have done that with an NBA Academy and Basketball Without Borders has been multiple times, including this past June.

But if the NBA really wants to grow the game in India, they need to bring the product there. That could happen during the 2019 preseason, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Jr NBA World Championships, via the HindustanTimes.

“We are potentially looking to play a game in Mumbai, may be next year. It would be a pre-season game,” Silver told PTI on the sidelines of the Jr NBA World Championships.

“If we do a pre-season game, we can build time and our players and their families can spend time, learn about the country’s culture,” he said… We are very focused on the Indian market.”

The NBA has played preseason games all over the world, including this season in China (plus the league has regular-season games in London and Mexico City).

It’s easy to envision the league sending the Sacramento Kings — which is owned by Vivek Ranadive, who was born in Mumbai — and another team to India for an exhibition game. Don’t be surprised if that happens in the next couple of years.

Reports: Shabazz Muhammad to come to Bucks training camp, compete for final roster spot

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Shabazz Muhammad was buried on Tom Thibodeau’s bench last season in Minnesota and wanted out so he could get on the court — and he got his wish. Sort of. He was waived by the Timberwolves and a few days later signed with the Bucks. The problem was he only played 117 minutes the rest of the season in Milwaukee, mostly taking on the role of an unrepentant gunner in the chances he did get on the court.

It worked well enough that the Bucks are bringing Muhammad back for training camp, where he will try to grab the last roster spot.

The Bucks have 14 guaranteed contracts, plus the non-guaranteed deal of Tyler Zeller (and with Brook Lopez, John Henson, and Thon Maker on the roster it’s hard to imagine Zeller getting a lot of run). It is possible someone can beat Zeller out at a position of more need, such as on the wing (where Muhammad plays).

But is Muhammad the guy who can make this squad?

The Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer as coach this summer, and what does he want in players? Guys who can shoot the three, are unselfish, and can defend. Muhammad is a career 31 percent shooter from three who wants to attack off the dribble — last season 72 percent of his shot attempts came within 10 feet of the rim. He’s not a passer — a career 5.5 assist rate — and he’s not much of a defender.

That said, he’s got an invite to camp and is going to get his chance.

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma trolling now in ad for Wish shopping app

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The Lakers asked Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to back off on their social media trolling battle.

However, they made an exception for this new Wish.com app ad (Wish is the Lakers’ jersey ad sponsor).

Well played guys.

Miami bringing Briante Weber into camp with chance to make roster

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For three seasons, Briante Weber has bounced around the fringes of the NBA. The defensive-minded point guard has played in short stints (often 10-day contracts) for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors, Hornets, and last season he got in 13 games for the Rockets (plus five in Memphis). He’s spent most of his career in the G-League, working for his chance to get in the door.

Miami is bringing him into training camp, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

This is apparently camp invite.

There is roster space in Miami if Webber blows them away. Miami has 12 fully guaranteed roster spots and, with Webber, two partially-guaranteed deals (Malik Newman, who was undrafted out of Kansas, is the other).

The problem for Webber is Miami is deep at the point guard spot: Goran Dragic will start, and if Tyler Johnson is healthy (as expected) he will get a lot of minutes behind him, and then there is Newman. The Heat also have in the guard rotation Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and possibly Dwyane Wade if he returns (all of those guys are more two guards).

That’s a lot of guys for Webber to beat out and find a spot. On the other hand, his defensive style is something different from what the Heat have on the roster.

Webber is a longshot, but he’s at least going to camp.