LeBron James, Heat joking about cramps at this point, but happy for extra day off

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SAN ANTONIO — Having spent a couple of days seemingly only getting asked about leg cramps and how to recover from them, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were pretty much just joking around about it Friday.

Such when LeBron was asked how he could test out his body and recovery before Game 2.

“The conditions are nowhere near extreme as they was, unless I decide to run from here to the hotel, that’s the only way I would be able to test my body out,” he said with a laugh.

“We anticipate we will play in a very cool gym,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We will have to deal with that now. I don’t know if guys will be wearing tights under their shorts and long-sleeved shirts, I don’t know.”

LeBron cramping up and missing almost all of the final seven minutes of Game 1 — and the Heat falling apart in that time, losing to the Spurs 110-95 — has been the story line for a couple days. LeBron did go through some practice with the Heat on Saturday

“The soreness is starting to get out,” LeBron said. “I’m feeling better than I did yesterday and with another day, I should feel much better tomorrow…

“(My plans are) A lot of treatment, icing, stretching, obviously I’m going to get some cardio in today, get the heart rate going. A lot of fluids, kind of get my body above the curve.”

How Hard was Spoelstra going to push him in practice?

“Whatever he’s willing to do. It’s not going to be a Bahamas-like training camp practice today…” Spoelstra said, referencing the Heat’s training camp this season in the Bahamas. “Yesterday was all about rest and hydration and building his body back up. Thankfully we had that extra day.”

What the Heat were really focusing on is taking the steps to even this series — the last 12 times they have lost a playoff game they have bounced back with a win. They have yet to lose a playoff series in the “big three era” after losing Game 1 of a series.

“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Spoelstra said trying to talk around adjustments. “They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their rolls and spreading you out with three-point shooters. So we need to do that better, there is no question about it.”

Chris Bosh put it this way.

“Coach didn’t want to get too much into it, but mainly on defense and on offense the way they flattened us out, things we could have done better, make simpler passes, simple cuts that would have opened up the floor a little bit for us, and we could have gotten into our game,” Bosh said. “Especially those last three and a half minutes, we could have done a much better job. We look at those and try to capitalize and fix those mistakes for Game 2.”

They had an extra day to think about all of that. And rest.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets:

Deandre Ayton misses coronavirus test, arrives late to underway Suns-Thunder game

Suns center Deandre Ayton
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Another testing issue for Deandre Ayton.

This one comes at a terrible time for the Suns.

Phoenix is trying to complete a longshot run to the playoffs and playing the Thunder in a key game today. But Ayton arrived late to the arena after missing a coronavirus test yesterday.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like many Suns, Ayton has played well in the resumption. Phoenix doesn’t have another big-man option like him, especially with Aron Baynes sidelined. The Suns started Dario Saric in a small lineup today.

Ayton arrived to the arena and is warming up on an exercise bike. He could still get into the game and make a difference.

Already locked into the 4-6 range in the Western Conference and perhaps trying to keep its top-20-protected first-round pick, Oklahoma City is playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder. None of those will players will make a late entrance into the game.

Also: It’s ridiculous this wasn’t publicly disclosed sooner. The NBA continues to tout transparency while trying to draw more gambling revenue. Yet, a major lineup issue like this remains secret? That opens the door for some bettors to get inside information, which would be so damaging to the league’s integrity.

Kings now sole owners of second-longest playoff drought in NBA history

Sacramento Kings
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The Kings’ 2018-19 season ended with optimism.

Facing a meager over/under of 25.5 wins, Sacramento surged to 39 wins – its best record in 13 years. Under Dave Joerger, the Kings played a fast and fun style. De'Aaron Fox made historic improvements. Buddy Hield broke out. Several other young players showed promise.

Sure, the Kings missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season – matching the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history. But they were on track to end the skid soon enough.

Except, of course that’s not how it went in Sacramento.

The Kings were eliminated from the postseason chase yesterday, ensuring a 14th straight season outside the playoffs. That alone is now NBA’s the second-longest-ever postseason drought, breaking a tie with the Timberwolves (2005-17). Only the Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers’ 15-year non-playoff streak (1977-91) is longer.

Here are the longest postseason droughts in NBA history:

The Suns could still reach 10 straight years outside the playoffs, but they’re still in the race this season.

The Kings might not be far from climbing this list, either.

Their future looks far bleaker than a year ago. Sacramento fired Joerger to hire Luke Walton, who has underwhelmed. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract extension then had a rough season. Fox progressed, though he didn’t make the desired leap into stardom. Other young players had ups and downs. Luka Doncic casts an even larger shadow from Dallas. The Kings’ organizational turmoil continues.

This was a feel-bad season in Sacramento, anyway. All the preceding losing only adds to the misery.

The Kings enter next season with one last chance to avoid the longest playoff drought in NBA history, and they do have a chance. But there’s only pessimism now.