Too much Austin Rivers — yes, seriously — leads Clippers blowout of Rockets, take series 2-1

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LOS ANGELES — Just as expected, a Los Angeles Clippers guard changed the complexion of Game 3. He outdueled the great scorer James Harden, and changing the momentum of the series by leading the Clippers to a blowout win.

We’re talking Austin Rivers.

What, you were expecting someone else?

Sure, Chris Paul suited up and played 23 minutes, putting up 12 points and seven assists. But it was Rivers, who had 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter leading a 23-0 Clippers run — while Paul and Blake Griffin were resting —  who helped break the game wide open and help the Clippers cruise to a 124-99 win.

The Clippers now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday at Staples — a contest close to a must-win for the Rockets.

The Clippers had it all going Friday night at home. CP3 was back, J.J. Redick knocked down shots on his way to 31 points, they played solid defense most of the night, but Rivers was the story. The guard much maligned since the Clippers picked him up — there were all sorts of nepotism comments after his father Doc Rivers brought him in, then Rivers played poorly during the season — has played well lately in the playoffs.

“It was great. It was needed,” Doc Rivers said of his son. “He was just very aggressive, and that’s what we’ve been telling him to do. And he was that…. It was important really because it allowed us to keep (Paul) at the minutes we wanted That was huge for us.”

Friday night Austin was just fun to watch — and Paul told Doc Rivers just to enjoy watching his son play.

A lot of Clippers had good nights carving up the Rockets’ defense, which was out of sync and communicating poorly all night. Particularly in the third quarter.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.”

On the night, Redick had 31 points and hit 5-of-6 from three. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 14 boards. Jamal Crawford had a dozen.

When asked a few times a few different ways after the game about how his hamstring felt during the game, Paul would only say “I got through it.”

What was clear through the game was the Clippers played solid defense on the night, the Rockets did not. The Clippers did a good job of defending without fouling — James Harden only got to the line five times on his way to 25 points (a number of those in garbage time late). Dwight Howard had 14 points and 14 assists.

“I mean, they scored 124 points,” McHale said, shaking his head. “We’ve got to get some defensive — we’ve had one good defensive half so far. That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

If they don’t get it Sunday, the series could be ending sooner rather than later.

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.