Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: OKC reminds us the West playoffs will be bloodbath

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while discussing what is wrong with action films today….

Oklahoma City routs Memphis, reminds us the Western Conference playoffs are wide open. Fox Sports’ Bill Reiter recently compared the coming WesternConfernce playoffs go Game of Thrones — a lot of worthy successors are going to be slaughtered. Consider what Oklahoma City did to Memphis Wednesday your reminder of that. This game was close until midway through the first quarter when the Grizzlies missed a few shots, which Oklahoma City turned into fast break points. Suddenly the tempo of the game changed, OKC went on a 20-2 run and when that was over so was the game. Memphis never threatened again. With that win the Thunder enter the All-Star break just half a game back of Phoenix and the eight seed in the West. The final playoff slot in the West (they are six games back of the seven-seed Spurs, the Thunder are not catching them.) Oklahoma City vs. Golden State in the first round of the playoffs seems likely. Again, a lot of worthy successors are going to be slaughtered out West.

Don’t look now, but Boston is in the playoff chase in the East. Sentences I never expected to type this season: Evan Turner beat the Hawks at the buzzer. But there you have it. Atlanta was about as focused as a high school senior the day before Spring break and credit Boston for taking advantage. With the win, Boston moves just two games back of Charlotte for that final playoff slot in the East (and the chance to lose to Atlanta in the first round). Boston would need to pass not only Charlotte (or seven-seed Miami), but also Brooklyn and Detroit to get into the postseason dance. Maybe it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened. For example, Evan Turner beat the Hawks at the buzzer.

Toronto is winning again, and DeMar DeRozan provided the dagger against Washington. Toronto started off the season hot, lost their way for a while due to injuries and the fact their defense just isn’t that great, but they have found their way again — Toronto has won 9-of-11. That includes three straight wins over playoff teams: The Spurs, Clippers and on Wednesday night the Wizards. This is the second Raptors’ win over the Wizards in the last two weeks, and although this second game was  not pretty, rather a grind-it-out affair, the Raptors will take it. Toronto remains the two seed in the East and while Chicago lurks and Cleveland is charging up the standings, the Raptors are going to have home court in the first round. Which means a good chance to advance, because DeMar DeRozan can do this:

Shabazz Muhammad dunked so hard he hit his own face. Minnesota is a lot more entertaining to watch with Ricky Rubio back at the helm — they get out and run now. Which plays right into the game of now healthy Shabazz Muhammad, he likes to finish dunks. Sometimes so hard he dunks on himself (thanks to Zach Harper).

DeAndre Jordan is putting up video game numbers. The Clippers center has put up a 20-20 stat line in two straight games and three times in the last eight days. With Blake Griffin out following elbow surgery, the Clippers needed Jordan to step up a little, but nobody expected him to go NBA Jams on us. He was key to punishing the Dwight Howard-less Rockets inside and getting the Clippers a quality win at home Wednesday.

Moments we will never forget from Kobe Bryant’s memorial

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LOS ANGELES — “This morning was beautiful, it really was. It was emotional… You know what was interesting, if you looked around at all those people, it just brought people together.”

Doc Rivers, who coaches another team in a city he accurately described “brokenhearted,” summed up the feeling around Kobe Bryant’s memorial on Monday at Staples Center perfectly. It was a celebration for a basketball world — and a city in Los Angeles — that needed it.

It was filled with moments we will not forget.

Everything started with a soulful song from Beyoncé.

“I don’t know how Vanessa did it. I didn’t know that was possible,” Rivers said, encapsulating the feelings of everyone who watched Vanessa Bryant eulogize her husband and daughter with grace and beauty. It set the emotional tone for the day and was perfect.

Michael Jordan — the man that helped fuel Kobe and became his friend — spoke from his heart. He also had the funniest line of the day.

It it wasn’t MJ, it was Diana Taurasi who cracked up the crowd.

The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously, Gigi inherited. Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turn-away fade-away jumper at 11?

LeBron barely got it today.

When the event ended, former players and coaches hung out in Staples Center for more than an hour, just talking and reminiscing. Outside Staples, thousands of fans did the same thing.

Kobe Bryant touched so many lives in positive ways. That, more than anything, is his true legacy. And what was celebrated on Monday.

Report: Former NBA player Jonathon Simmons to sign with G-League

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CNBC’s Jabari Young reports that former NBAer Jonathon Simmons will sign with the G-League:

Simmons last played in the NBA in 2018-19 with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers acquired Simmons from the Orlando Magic are the 2019 trade deadline. Following the season, Simmons was traded again, this time to the Washington Wizards in a deal designed to shed some salary off Philadelphia’s cap sheet.

Simmons is no stranger to working his way to the NBA from the G-League. He once paid a $150 fee to attend an open tryout for players trying to make the then D-League. Simmons made it and was allocated to the Austin Spurs.

After two years in Austin, Simmons was signed to a training camp contract with the San Antonio Spurs. He spent the next two seasons in San Antonio before signing with Orlando as a free agent in 2017. At the 2019 trade deadline, Orlando sent Simmons to Philadelphia, along with a first round pick, for former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz.

Players sign with the G-League itself vs individual teams. They are then allocated to teams through a variety of methods. According to Young, Simmons is expected to ultimately land with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Santa Cruz has a good track record of getting players called up to the NBA, which is probably what attracted Simmons to agree to play for them.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Varden at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be another one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.

Vanessa Bryant suing helicopter company after crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Gianna Bryant
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Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.

Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.