Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Video game Klay Thompson kill Grizzlies chance of two seed

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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 thinking it’s ridiculous music performances from late-night shows may no longer be available online

1) Video game Klay Thompson showed up Monday and took away the two seed from Memphis. A few weeks ago, it would have seemed impossible that the Grizzlies wouldn’t finish with a top three seed. But things started happening. First the Memphis schedule down the stretch was brutal. Then came the injuries, with Mike Conley among others out. Then Monday night Klay Thompson happened — video game Klay showed up and dropped 26 points on the Grizzlies in the second quarter.

Thompson finished with 42, and the Warriors did what they do, winning handily. This was bad for Memphis. What the loss means is the Grizzlies cannot win the Southwest division, and with that will not be the two seed. San Antonio now controls that destiny (if they beat the Pelicans Wednesday the Spurs get the two seed). With this loss, combined with the Clippers and Rockets winning, Memphis fell all the way to the six seed. Which is likely where they land when the playoffs start, but it’s still wide open.

2) Thunder, Pelicans remain tied for eight seed in West, but you’d rather be OKC right now. The Oklahoma City Thunder got to have Russell Westbrook and they needed him — he scored 36 points, and the Thunder beat the banged-up Trail Blazers (who keep dropping like flies). The Thunder and Pelicans remain tied for the eight seed after New Orleans dropped struggling Minnesota (that’s 11 straight losses for the Timberwolves). The Pelicans own the tiebreaker, but you’d rather be in OKC’s shoes right now. Why? The Pelicans’ final game Wednesday is against the Spurs — and if San Antonio wins it gets the two seed. Gregg Popovich isn’t resting his big guns, and the Spurs have won 11 in a row. The Thunder’s final game is against those Timberwolves.

3) The Boston Celtics are in the playoffs. Chicago beat Brooklyn, which the Bulls needed to do to have a shot at the three seed in the East (but Toronto controls their own destiny, win Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Raptors get the three seed). What the Bulls’ win also means is Boston is in the playoffs. They will be either the seven or eight seed (likely seven to face Cleveland), but they are in. Credit Brad Stevens, who has got his young team to buy into a system where they move the ball on offense (and play better defense than they did earlier in the season). This was not the plan for the Celtics this season, but that they did it is impressive. And it will be a great experience for Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, and the rest of the young Celtics to taste postseason play. For four games.

4) Pacers, not Nets, now control their own destiny for eight seed in East. This is the other thing the Bulls beating the Nets Monday means — Indiana controls its own destiny. Win out, and they get the eight seed in the East and a shot at Atlanta. Of course, that’s easier said than done with Washington and Memphis on a back-to-back, but it’s possible.

5) LeBron James drops another triple-double. Because he can. Just a reminder that LeBron James is very, very good at this basketball thing. Cleveland beat Detroit in a game without playoff implications, but LeBron was entertaining putting up a line of 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playoff ready.

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

Indiana coach hot seat
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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

Pelicans big Zion Williamson
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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
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The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.