PBT Monday NBA Winners/Losers: Detroit 5-0 since addition by subtraction with Josh Smith

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while watching every goal (and assist) Cristiano Ronaldo racked up in 2014….

source:  Detroit Pistons. They have won five in a row since the addition by subtraction of waiving Josh Smith — and in the East five wins can put you back in playoff contention. The Pistons are now just four games out of the eight seed and making the playoffs. Think about that for a second. Sunday’s fifth straight win came over the Kings thanks to 35 points from Brandon Jennings who had his jumper going — he was 5-of-5 from the midrange and 5-of-8 from three. That’s emblematic of what is going on, Detroit’s true shooting percentage is up 7.3 points since Smith was traded. Or, look at it this way, in the last five games the Piston’s offense is 13.7 points per 100 possessions better and their defense is 11.7 per 100 better. This is not all about the Smith trade, but the improvement also is not a coincidence.

source:  Sacramento Kings. On the flip side of smart moves by management, there is Sacramento, which canned well-liked coach Mike Malone and have struggled since then. Think it’s not a lot about the coach?

source:  Kobe Bryant. He had 20 points on 14 shots, plus six rebounds and six assists, but all anyone will talk about is the game winner. Kobe had struggled of late with game winners and game tying shots, he’s not what he used to be in terms of explosiveness, but if you let the man get to his spots on the court he will beat you. Like he did knocking down the game winner to beat the Pacers Sunday.

source:  Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade. The two remaining guys of the big three have struggled this season without that third guy in the mix. However, they are still putting up numbers some nights. The pair scored 51 points — or 58 percent of the team’s points — in an 88-84 Miami win over Brooklyn on Sunday. They did that on an efficient 36 shots, too. This was a win the Heat needed, having lost four in a row and about to head out West for a rough road trip. With the pressure on the big guys stepped up.

source:  Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler. They are becoming a dangerous pick-and-roll tandem, adding another weapon to one of the league’s best offenses. The kinks are still being worked out having Rondo at the head of the Maverick’s offense, but things are starting to click (Chandler shot 6-of-7 on the night, hitting all six of his attempts at the rim).

source:  Phoenix Suns second quarter. To be fair, they caught a tired Raptors team at the end of a tough West Coast road trip, and frankly even when they’re rested the Toronto defense isn’t impressive. That said, the Suns still dropped 43 on the Raptors in the second quarter on 78.3 percent shooting (and 83.9 true shooting percentage), and that’s impressive. As tends to happen when the Suns get hot it happened when the Suns got out and ran and their guards got hot — Isaiah Thomas had nine points, while Gerald Green and Eric Bledsoe each had eight. The Suns pulled away that quarter and went on to win 125-109.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world — and across the nation — in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck — which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes — was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.