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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).

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.