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Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Anthony Davis sets personal record

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If you missed the full slate of NBA Games Sunday because you and other mascots were dancing to set a record, I completely understand. And we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association, starting with Dan Feldman’s dispatch from outside Detroit:

1) Anthony Davis goes off for 59 on Pistons.

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – Anthony Davis said he knew the referees would never call a foul on Andre Drummond, who made plenty of contact as Davis held the ball with the clock expiring in the Pelicans’ 111-106 win over the Pistons on Sunday.

Maybe Drummond was trying for a final steal despite his team trailing by multiple possessions. Maybe he was trying to help Davis get to the foul line and bump his scoring total just one more point.

If it were the latter, no matter.

Davis was perfectly pleased with his 59 points, the most in an NBA game this season or last. The New Orleans forward, whose previous career high was 43, said 50 had long been his goal.

“If people get 40, that’s tough to get. Thirty is kind of tough in the NBA. But 50,” Davis said, his eyes widening, “it’s 50. Everybody can’t get 50.”

Especially not with the 20 rebounds Davis grabbed Sunday.

Just two other players had a 50-20 game since at least 1983-84, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com records date: Chris Webber (51-26 in 2001) and Shaquille O’Neal (61-23 in 2000). Add Davis’ four assists, and his point-rebound-assist marks are unprecedented in the Basketball-Reference database.

Davis made 14-of-19 shots in the paint, 8-of-13 mid-range shots, 2-of-2 3-pointers and 9-of-10 free throws

At one point, he hit a shot fall-away shot over Drummond.

“I was like, ‘Damn,'” Davis said. “I was like, ‘It might be one of those nights.'”

“After a while, you feel like any shot you put up is going to go in.”

—Dan Feldman

2) Cleveland’s other “big three” lead Cavaliers to statement win over Thunder. Kyrie Irving was out with the stomach flu (he didn’t play in the second half Sunday), but it didn’t matter because the Cavaliers had their other “big three” — their front line of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. That trio combined for 68 points, 32 rebounds, 16 assists, and they were a +20 when on the court together against the Thunder. That fits with their season numbers, where the trio is +20.4 points per 100 possessions (in more than 700 minutes together), according to NBA.com.

This game was close early, but the Cavaliers bench started to stretch the lead out, and the Cavaliers were up nine at the half. Then the Cavs cranked up the defense — OKC scored just 39 points in the second half — and starting with an 11-0 run four minutes into the second half pulled away or a comfortable win. The Cavs led by as many as 26 in the second half. For the Cavaliers it’s a sign of them taking another step, showing that they can be a threat to San Antonio and, more importantly, Golden State. On the other side, the Thunder have struggled against the NBA’s best teams this season and that’s a concerning trend. Especially with a game against the Warriors looming on Saturday.

3) Kobe Bryant played his last game in Chicago. There was added emotion on the Kobe farewell tour Sunday because Chicago is the home of Michael Jordan — the guy Kobe has so often been compared to. It was also emotional because Pau Gasol was there to do the pre-game introduction for his friend, and then embrace him afterward.

As for the game itself, the Bulls defense was again miserable, but not as miserable as the Lakers’ — the Bulls knocked down their threes, got 24 out of Derrick Rose, and scored the 126-115 win. The game was entertaining in an “only slightly more defense than the All-Star Game” way, and Kobe hit some tough shots that the fans ate up, but this wasn’t pretty basketball. Still, the Bulls will take it.

4) Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combine for 61 and spark Trail Blazers win. Every team that had beaten Golden State this season turned around and lost their next game — Portland’s backcourt was determined to break that streak. Utah had pushed its way back into the playoff discussion in the West and led by double digits most of the second quarter and into the start of the third. That’s when McCollum (31 points) and Lillard (30) led the comeback by hitting their threes (especially from the left side of the court) and finishing when they got to the rim, despite the skilled shot blockers the Jazz have clogging the paint. McCollum hit a couple of late free throws to ice the 115-111 win for Portland. This gave Portland the tie breaker over Utah, which matters as these teams are the current seven (Portland) and nine (Utah) seeds in the West and are separated by just 1.5 games.

5) Anderson Varejao, David Lee find new homes in the Western Conference. Veteran big men Anderson Varejao and David Lee, both recently bought out and waived (Varejao was traded, to boot) cleared waivers on Sunday afternoon and both quickly signed with their new teams.

Varejao, the long-time Cavalier, signed with the Golden State Warriors, something he confirmed. This is a spot where he can get a little run in the short term — Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezili are out injured — and he can chase a ring. It also could set up an awkward reunion if/when the Cavs and Warriors meet in the Finals. (Also, I’ve seen the tweet getting forwarded around of a few frustrated Cavs fans calling Varejao a traitor for signing with Golden State. Give me a break. Loyalty is a two-way street. Varejao showed nothing but loyalty to the Cavaliers for 11.5 seasons, and he was rewarded with being shipped out to Portland to make way for Channing Frye — the team showed no loyalty to him. It’s a cold business. Varejao looked out for himself and owes nothing to Cleveland now.)

Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle confirmed that David Lee has signed with Dallas. Lee was looking for a place he could get some run after being glued to the bench in Golden State last season (at least until he was needed in the Finals) then in Boston this season. In Dallas Lee should get some run with the second unit, playing behind Zaza Pachulia (and in the mix with Salah Mejri, who has been the backup center of late).

Rumor: The Cavaliers might try to flip Andre Drummond in trade at draft, or in July

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When J.B. Bickerstaff takes over as the new coach in Cleveland today, he will inherit a big, slow frontcourt of Kevin Love and Andre Drummond that will make a combined $60 million next season.

Will he still have that frontcourt when training camp opens next fall?

We know the Cavaliers tried to trade Love at the deadline but the remaining three years, $91 million on his contract after this season made that difficult. Instead, Cleveland surprised the league when it added Drummond at the trade deadline.

Now comes a rumor from Greg Swartz at Bleacher Report where an anonymous former GM says he thinks once Drummond picks up the $28.8 million option on his contract — something expected around the league — the Cavs will try to trade him, too.

“I don’t think [Drummond and the Cavs] will last long,” one former NBA general manager said. “I could see them trading him to a team this summer if he agrees to pick up his option. They could also do a sign-and-trade if he agrees to a new long-term deal. I don’t think he’ll be in Cleveland for long.”

For the record, the Cavaliers deny that is the case. GM Koby Altman said as much.

“Absolutely, we consider him a potential long-term play,” Altman said. “Obviously, he has a player option that if he picks up, we think we’re in good shape in terms of our cap space. There’s no better money spent than on Andre Drummond if he picks up his option.”

There could be interest in Drummond as an expiring contract next season because teams are trying to clear up cap space for a deep summer of 2021 free agent class (particularly if Giannis Antetokounmpo does not sign the $254 million supermax contract the Bucks will offer this summer). There may be teams interested in the 26-year-old Drummond longer term — he is averaging 17.7 points and 15.8 rebounds a game as a traditional big — just not at anywhere near his current salary.

Expect a lot of Cavaliers trade rumors around the draft and into July as they try to add talent. Don’t be surprised if Drummond is in some of those rumors; the Cavaliers should explore everything.

Also, don’t be surprised if Love and Drummond are the starting 4/5 for the Cavaliers when the season tips off next October.

 

Counter-report: John Beilein will receive some of remaining salary from Cavaliers

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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Initial reporting suggested John Beilein will walk away from the rest of his contract with the Cavaliers.

But apparently he’ll get a payout.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Beilein and the Cavaliers negotiated a financial settlement that will pay him a portion of the remaining money on his 2019-20 contract, league sources said. He left the University of Michigan and signed a five-year contract with Cleveland that included a team option for the final season, a deal that paid him more than $4 million a season, league sources said.

That doesn’t sound like a substantial settlement (relatively).

But Beilein had some leverage. Because he did so poorly, it seemed the Cavs might just fire him at the end of the season. While it appears to be his choice to walk away now, everyone seemed ready to move on soon enough.

There could have been more of a fired-or-quit standoff. But Beilein was so done, he left a lot of money on the table. That’s still the story, even if he’ll walk away with some.

Kevin Durant not close to return, but his jumper still looks wet

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Kevin Durant will not play an NBA game this season.

His jumper, however, looks to be in midseason form. Following All-Star Weekend, a video surfaced on Instagram of Durant working out at UCLA, and his shot remains a thing of beauty. His pull-up works, too.

There’s some debate around the league about just how good 31-year-old Durant will be when he returns.

When he left he was the best player on the planet, an unstoppable scorer who could defend LeBron James in the clutch of a game, KD was a two-time defending Finals MVP at the peak of his game. Suffering a torn Achilles means he’s not going to have the same level of explosiveness, but when you’re pushing 7-foot tall (in shoes), have a high release over your head, can hit from anywhere, and have a deadly fade away, does it matter if you lose half-a-step?

With Kyrie Irving possibly done for the season in Brooklyn, these videos provide a little hope to Nets fans. Get this roster healthy next season and they can hang with anyone in the East.

Chris Bosh: “I’m disappointed” not to be Hall of Fame finalist

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MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh is not hiding his frustration about not being a finalist for this year’s enshrinement class for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The former Miami and Toronto forward released a video statement on social media Tuesday, using some version of the word disappoint – be it “disappointed,” “disappointment” or “disappointing” – no fewer than 15 times in 5 minutes.

Bosh was a surprising omission last week from the class of eight finalists announced by the Hall as still being under consideration for enshrinement this year, a list that included contemporary players Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. The class of inductees will be revealed in Atlanta on April 4 at the men’s college basketball Final Four, and the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony is in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Aug. 29.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Bosh said. “I’m a competitive man. I’ve been competing my whole life. A lot of people don’t really know that about me, but I’m a fierce competitor. Losing bothers me. Coming up short bothers me. It always has, you know, since the moment I started playing basketball and it kind of bleeds over into everything that I do. So I’ll just get ahead of it. And so you hear this from me, I’m disappointed.”

Bosh is one of 13 players in NBA history to average 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in a career that included at least 11 All-Star selections.

The other 12 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Bob Pettit, Patrick Ewing, Elvin Hayes and Elgin Baylor – are all in the Hall of Fame.

Bosh is also the only Hall-eligible player with 17,189 points, 7,592 rebounds, 1,795 assists, 11 All-Star selections and two championships who is not already in, or a finalist this year for, the Hall of Fame. There are other players with those numbers, such as LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, who are not yet eligible because they’re still playing or retired too recently.

“One of the things people like to say is, ‘Oh, next year,’” Bosh said. “What if there’s not a next year? That’s something that I think about every day. And I hope you think about it as well, but what if there’s not a tomorrow? What does that even mean? That is a definite question that’s been on my mind quite a bit, but I just have to be honest with you guys. I’m very disappointed.”

Bosh, who turns 36 next month, said he wishes he was still playing and believes he would still be in the NBA if not for the health issues that abruptly ended his career in 2016. Bosh had at least two bouts with blood clots.

He was an All-Star for Miami in his final season, 2015-16. He was averaging 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds that season and had just arrived in Toronto for that year’s All-Star Game when a clot in one of his legs was discovered.

He never played again. Bosh eventually came to grips with that reality, saw his jersey be retired by the Heat – the team with whom he won two championships, a stint perhaps most notably remembered by his rebound and assist that set up Ray Allen’s season-saving, game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against San Antonio. Bosh also blocked a 3-point try by Danny Green at the end of overtime to seal Miami’s three-point win, and the Heat would go on to win Game 7 for their second straight title.

“I’ve been disappointed with my career coming up short,” Bosh said. “I feel that I should still be playing basketball right now, but that’s neither here nor there. That was in my goals. That was in my plans and it just did not work out like that. I don’t want to be in this position. Now I’m here dealing with that. Had other plans, started making plans on the potentiality of going in with such a great class, didn’t even qualify. You know what I mean? … It’s just disappointing.”