Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: James Harden, LeBron James want your MVP vote

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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 remembering the old MTV Rock ’n Jock events

1) LeBron James and James Harden played like MVPs. The Cavaliers and Rockets were in a playoff game — it was intense, it was physical to the point of chippy, and it was a dramatic overtime game. One the Rockets won — they are now 11-4 with Dwight Howard out. But what everyone is going to talk about is the LeBron James and James Harden going back-and-forth. Harden bolstered his MVP candidacy with 33 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Harden got his kicks in. LeBron, who a couple days back went hard at Stephen Curry to make his MVP candidacy, tried to do the same thing with Harden and LeBron finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. However, LeBron shot 3-of-11 from the free throw line, which is one big reason Cleveland lost.

2) The JaVale McGee recruiting battle has begun. The Sixers bought out JaVale McGee — at full price — right before the deadline to waive him and allow him to join another team and make their playoff roster. A whole lot of contenders could use him as a reserve big man — he’s an athletic seven footer who can block shots and run the floor. The Mavericks, Clippers, Rockets are among the teams rumored to be interested. The teams can all offer the same minimum contract, so it’s going to be about where McGee wants to play, and who can do the best Matt Foley motivational speaker recruiting job.

3) Brandon Bass had the dunk of the night. Yes, that Brandon Bass. This was a quality throwdown, even if the source was a little surprising. Brandon Bass has a few hops still.

4) Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are carrying the Clippers quite well. Friday night the Clippers beat Memphis. Sunday they handled the Bulls pretty comfortably, 96-86. And both of those games they were without Blake Griffin. Sunday the Clippers pulled away with a 10-2 run midway through the fourth, a quarter when Jamal Crawford dropped 10 of his 16. However, it is the play of Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan that has carried the Clippers without Griffin (and not let them fall down the West standings). CP3 had 28 points and 12 assists, while Jordan pulled down 26 rebounds. There are moments you think this team could put it all together and be scary come the playoffs; they just haven’t sustained it. Yet.

5) It’s an annual tradition: The playoffs are coming, and the Bulls are breaking down. Derrick Rose is out 4-6 weeks after his latest knee surgery. Taj Gibson was out on Sunday against the Clippers due to an ankle issue. Then Jimmy Butler had to leave the game after hyper-extending his elbow, and he did not return. (Butler will have an MRI Monday on his elbow.) This happens every year with the Bulls, and although you can’t throw this one on Tom Thibodeau (he wasn’t grinding Rose into the ground, for example) you wonder if management will after the season anyway because they want to make a change.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.