Bucks reportedly opening season at home for first time since Michael Jordan’s rookie year

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The biggest news about the Knicks’ schedule leak is the absence of a Christmas game.

Their reported opener – at the Bucks on Oct. 28 – is of only minor importance in New York. Sure, there are storylines – Greg Monroe facing the Knicks after spurning them in free agency, the Knicks hoping this a battle for playoff position, etc.

But in Milwaukee, it’s definitely a big deal.

This will be the Bucks’ first opening game at home since 1984 (hat tip: Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal).

As you can imagine that’s the NBA’s longest streak – by a huge margin:

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In their last season opener in Milwaukee, the Bucks beat the Bulls, 108-106. Terry Cummings led Milwaukee with 34 points, and Orlando Woolridge scored 29 for Chicago. A Bulls rookie named Michael Jordan, playing his second NBA game, added 21.

So why hasn’t Milwaukee opened at home since?

Herring in a 2013 article:

In the Bucks’ case, there is no market bias with the league’s schedule-makers. Instead, the Bucks have all but forced the NBA to give them road games to start each season. Team owner Herb Kohl—whose purchase of the team, in 1985, coincided with the beginning of the streak—wasn’t immediately available for comment. But in an email, Bucks spokesman Dan Smyczek said the “simple answer is [that] we like having a weekend home opener.”

That makes business sense. In the past 10 years, the Bucks have drawn 11.6% more fans—1,740 people a game—to Saturday home games than to games on other days of the week, according to Stats LLC. That is the third-largest boost in the league, trailing only the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards.

The club’s scheduling oddity—which illustrates every small-market team’s challenge in drawing fans to games—is one of many that Matt Winick, the NBA’s senior vice president of scheduling and game operations, has to accommodate each year.

Before each season, all 30 NBA teams submit a calendar laying out when their arena will be free of concerts or other events so they can host a game. But the Bucks always list their first available home date as a Saturday. As such, with NBA seasons beginning in the middle of the week, Winick is forced to schedule Milwaukee on the road to start.

The Bucks have new owners, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry. That alone could explain the shift.

The NBA is also trying to reduce the number of four-in-fives. The more teams limit their available dates, the more difficult schedule equity becomes. The league might just have a reduced tolerance for the Bucks saying they can’t host a game during the season’s first few days.

Either way, Milwaukee fans will learn – or, for a select few older ones, re-learn – the excitement of playing at home to begin a season.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.