Five Takeaways from an NBA Tuesday: Por-zing-is! Por-zing-is! Por-zing-is!

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A seven-game slate Tuesday saw a series of upsets across the NBA Wednesday (although not of Golden State, which remains undefeated at 12-0), huge performances, and a couple of surprises. In case you were busy chasing zebras around the streets of Philadelphia, here are five things you need to know from an NBA Tuesday.

1) Knicks’s fans treat emergence of Kristaps Porzingis as greatest thing to hit city since pizza slices. New Yorkers have long been known for their even keel, their measured reactions to things. So the fact that rookie Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as a legit player and a ray of hope for the franchise in his first month in the league — much faster than even his most fervent supporters back at the draft expected — has been greeted in the rational manner you’d expect.

For example, some Knicks fans have taken to calling him “Godzingis.”

Porzingis dropped 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting, plus grabbed 11 rebounds on the Hornets Tuesday night, leading New York to a 102-94 win with his best game to date. He’s the first Knick rookie to put up 27-and-10 since Patrick Ewing — and Porzingis isn’t even 21 yet. While there wasn’t one of his signature putback dunks he showed off a varied and impressive offensive arsenal against Charlotte, scoring on jumpers from the elbow, pull-up jumpers, left-handed floaters, quick-hit elbow jumpers, pick-and-pop threes, baseline moves and jumpers, and most importantly he showed toughness finishing through contact. That was the concern back when Knicks fans booed the pick on draft night — they feared Phil Jackson had drafted a soft Euro. Andrea Bargnani 2.0. But Porzingis has a lot of grit to his game — he wants to defend, to hit the glass, he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He had five double-doubles this season, and while his game has a lot of room for improvement, still he can contribute right now.

He’s a piece the Knicks can use to start really rebuilding with (throw in Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant and you have a few pieces of what could become a good Knicks team in a few years). Which is why the “Por-zing-is Por-zing-is” chants that rang through Madison Square Garden Tuesday night may become a regular thing. New York loves him today.

2) Beasting Andre Drummond leads Pistons come-from-behind win over Cavaliers. Detroit had dropped four straight on a West Coast road swing, but they looked far more comfortable back in the Motor City Tuesday, coming from behind to beat the Cavaliers 104-99. That starts with Andre Drummond, who dropped what seems a routine 25 points on 10-15 shooting, plus grabbing 18 rebounds. The Cavs tried to go hack-a-Drummond, he hit three-of-four free throws and squashed that (intentionally fouling backfired on the Cavs in this one). Drummond also played some good defense down the stretch switching onto LeBron James when the Cavaliers’ tried to post him up. Reggie Jackson  returned to form for the Pistons, outplaying the Cavs mix-and-match point guards down the stretch. Cleveland had their chances late in this one but Kevin Love just missed a couple clean looks, and they had a turnover in there when LeBron thought he knew where Mo Williams would be but was wrong. The Cavs did not impress late, the Pistons did and got the W.

3) LeBron James passed Jerry West for 19th on NBA all-time scoring list. With a wide-open corner three late in the first quarter Tuesday, LeBron moved past Jerry West into 19th all-time on the NBA scoring list (LeBron finished with 30 on the night). Next up, Reggie Miller (LeBron is going to move up the ranks fast this season, he could get up to 11 or 12 this season).

4) Anthony Davis suffers apparently minor shoulder. Because the Pelicans didn’t have enough injury issues, their best player in Davis was clearly bothered by his shoulder and had to leave the game in the first half not to return (he just missed another Pelicans loss). Not good, but apparently not as bad as it could have been. After the game coach Alvin Gentry said that Davis will travel with the team to Oklahoma City and he is questionable for Wednesday night. I’d be surprised to see him that soon — the Pelicans will be cautious a year with their star — but it doesn’t sound serious. If Davis sits, expect Alexis Ajinca to get the start (he did in the second half Tuesday).

5) Brook Lopez‘s defense, Thaddeus Young free throws lift Nets over Hawks. Brook Lopez is not a guy with a great defensive reputation… okay, that is far too kind. He’s not seen as a good defender at all. But this season he’s been improved. He showed that at the end of the Nets win over the Hawks — with the game tied 88-88 Lopez twice nicely shut down the Dennis Schroder/Al Horford 1/5 pick-and-roll the Hawks wanted to use to start their play, which forced Schroder to try to create on his own. He slipped, got up, had to force up a shot and missed, but Paul Millsap got the rebound and what looked like an easy putback — and Lopez blocked it. Great defensive sequence by Lopez. All that led to a Nets fast break where Thaddeus Young drew the foul, eventually hit the free throws, and the Nets got the win.

Don’t look now, but the Nets have played better of late — wins over the Hawks and Rockets, with close losses to the Kings and Warriors. Not a bad last four games.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).