Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: No Draymond Green, no win for Warriors

Associated Press
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What you need to know from a Wednesday night around the Association.

1) No Draymond Green, no win for Warriors. It’s one difference between the Spurs and Warriors — when Gregg Popovich sits Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard or whichever key player for a night of rest, San Antonio is just as dangerous. Remove one of the key cogs of the Warriors and their machine sputters a little.

Draymond Green may have had his All-Star case made for him Wednesday night in Denver when Luke Walton told him to sit and rest a “pretty beat up” body for a night. Without Green, the Warriors were not the same. It was particularly noticeable on defense, where the Warriors’ ability to switch virtually every pick and still defend at a high level was compromised, and it led to the Nuggets getting the shots they wanted too often. On the offensive end, the ball seemed to stick for a second, the passing wasn’t as crisp, plus the Warriors did not push the pace the same way. It took 20 from Stephen Curry in the fourth to make it a game (although he hunted a game-winning three at the end when he could have driven for two or found Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala, who were open.) Curry had 38 on the night. Curry went the first 37 games of the season always on the plus side of the +/- stat, but he’s been in the negative two games in a row.

Give the Nuggets credit here. Danilo Gallinari had 28 and played hard on defense, Gary Harris added 19. Nikola Jokic did a fantastic job against Andrew Bogut, and that tweak lets Darrell Arthur be a beast off the bench with 18 points and 11 boards. Will Barton did his thing with 21 points. We know how a seven-game series between these two would end, but for a night Denver did what it needed to do.

2) Russell Westbrook gets ejected; Kevin Durant drops 29 and Thunder win anyway. J.J. Barea got under Russell Westbrook’s skin. Westbrook was having a bit of an off night and didn’t score for the game (seven assists and eight rebounds, though), and this happened.

Later Westbrook picked up a second technical and was sent to the showers early. Not that it mattered. Kevin Durant dropped 27, the Thunder were in complete control of this game from the middle of the second quarter on, and OKC got the win 108-89.

3) DeAndre Jordan’s streak of consecutive games ends at 360 due to pneumonia, but Clippers still win 10th in a row. At 360 games, DeAndre Jordan’s streak had come full circle. (Sorry, I had to.) The man with the longest active consecutive games streak in the league was felled by some germs in his lungs and had to sit Wednesday when the Clips played the Heat. (Taking over that streak is Tristan Thompson at 324.)

Not that it mattered for the red-hot Clippers. Good defense forcing 24 Miami turnovers, plus 19 points from Jordan’s replacement Cole Aldrich, led the Clippers to a comfortable 104-90 win. That’s 10 in a row for the Clippers, nine of those without Blake Griffin. The Clippers seem pretty solidly locked into the four seed in the West now, although maybe they could catch the Thunder and be the three seed.

4) Bradley Beal returns for Washington Wizards, who pick up the win. For four consecutive seasons, Bradley Beal has missed games for the Wizards due to a stress reaction in his lower right leg. While the numbers have not shown it this year yet, Washington needs his shooting and skill next to John Wall to open up the offense and create options for others. Beal started 3-of-3 from the field and finished with 11 points in 23 minutes. He will be on a maintenance program the rest of the season trying to keep him healthy.

Washington held off a late charge to beat the Bucks 100-92. At 18-19 on the season, the Wizards are just 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East. They have been inconsistent all season long, but string together a few wins in a row, and suddenly things start to look different in our nation’s capital.

5) The Knicks’ Derrick Williams was a dunking machine against the Nets. Not one, not two, not three, but four big dunks from Williams against the Nets (it wasn’t enough as Brooklyn upset New York 110-104).

Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.


Reported optimism Towns, Edwards to return to Timberwolves Wednesday


The Timberwolves could finally get their roster whole this week — just in time for a final postseason push — with the return of both Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.

That could happen as soon as Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Facing the Hawks and their bottom-10 defense could be a soft landing spot to bring Towns and Edwards back.

Towns suffered a strained calf in November that was expected to keep him out for 4-6 weeks. However, he had a setback in January, reports Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, and it has taken until now to get back. Towns averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game this season before the injury, but his efficiency was down (32.8% from 3), and his fit with Rudy Gobert and Edwards was clunky. The trio needed more time to sort everything out, but the injury robbed them of that.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week and it looked much more severe at the time, but he was listed as day-to-day and has bounced back quickly. Edwards is a player who prides himself on playing nightly and pushing through nagging injuries.

The return has come at a critical time for the Timberwolves, who sit as the No.8 seed as of this writing (tied for 8-10, officially) in a West where 1.5 games separate the No. 7 and 12 seeds. The Timberwolves need wins and getting their two best offensive players back should be a boost.

However, the fit of this Timberwolves roster — radically overhauled last offseason — was rough in the season’s opening month before Towns was injured. Now the players are being thrown back together for the first time since then. Having a real floor general and pass-first point guard in Mike Conley now should smooth the transition, but the Timberwolves don’t have a lot of season left to work out the kinks, and they need wins now to ensure they make the postseason (ideally as a No.7-8 seed to have an easier path out of the play-in).