Associated Press

Kevin Martin, Karl-Anthony Towns lift Timberwolves over Lakers

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)  — Kevin Martin scored 37 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 14 rebounds to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 123-122 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

Martin went 6 for 9 from 3-point range and scored 17 in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves (9-12) improve to 3-9 at home this season. Towns made 11 of 19 shots and tied a career high for rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell scored a career-high 23 points and Julius Randle had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers (3-19) in what was likely Kobe Bryant‘s last game in Minnesota. Bryant scored 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 24 minutes.

The Lakers had a chance to win in overtime, but Russell and Roy Hibbert missed jumpers in the final 9.4 seconds.

Martin had been shooting just 31 percent in 15 games since he missed one due to personal reasons. He called it the longest slump of his career, and he clutched on his right wrist for most of the game after a collision in the first quarter.

It was reminiscent of a game last year against the Knicks when he scored 37 points despite breaking a bone in his hand in the first quarter.

Russell scored nine of the Lakers’ final 11 points in regulation, including a runner with 2.2 seconds to play to force overtime. But Martin hit a 3 and Andrew Wiggins scored on a runner with 55 seconds left to hold off the Lakers.

More than 18,000 fans spent the last four minutes chanting “We Want Kobe!” in an effort to soak up as much of the Lakers star as they could.

Bryant opened the door for this kind of farewell tour when he announced his plans to retire on Nov. 29. He has been serenaded throughout Los Angeles’ road trip, which included visits to his hometown Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit and Toronto, the place he scored a career-high 81 points when current Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell was coaching the Raptors.

But Minneapolis has always had a special affection for Bryant and the Lakers. This is where the franchise got its start before moving to Los Angeles and many fans here have clung to that kinship as a coping mechanism through the struggles the Timberwolves have endured. The Lakers’ visit has always been one of the most anticipated for local fans on the Timberwolves schedule, and thousands routinely come out in purple and gold and cheer boisterously for Bryant.

Kobe passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s career scoring list at Target Center last season and Wolves public address announcer Rod Johnson introduced him before the game as “one of the greatest players of all-time.”

The trip to Minnesota also offered Bryant another chance to compete against Kevin Garnett, the man who blazed the trail for Kobe when he jumped straight from high school to the NBA in 1995. Bryant sought Garnett’s counsel the next year before making his decision to do the same and the two embraced before tipoff.

Bryant hit his first three shots, including a 3-pointer, but hit just two of his next 10 shots, prompting coach Byron Scott to sit him for the final 20 minutes.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Scott said he has not had a talk with Randle and Russell about their demotions to the bench. He said it will be re-evaluated after 10 games. “They’ve been OK,” Scott said. “They haven’t been moping around or anything like that. It’s a big boys’ league, simple as that. Just have to come to work every day.”

Timberwolves: C Gorgui Dieng missed his first free-throw attempt of the game, snapping a string of 22 straight makes.

UP NEXT

Lakers: Visit San Antonio on Friday.

Timberwolves: Visit Denver on Friday.

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.

 

More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.