Associated Press

Pistons stop 5-game skid, beat LeBron James, sloppy Cavaliers 96-88

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Pistons canceled a trade and then stopped LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Reggie Jackson scored 23 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19 and Detroit withstood Cleveland’s late comeback for a 96-88 win Monday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

One day after allowing New Orleans center Anthony Davis to score 59 points with 20 rebounds, the Pistons beat the Eastern Conference’s top team for the second time this season and earned their first win since Feb. 4.

“It had been a long time since we got a win – coming up on three weeks – so we definitely needed it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You’ve seen it all year: We’re capable of beating anybody and we’re capable of losing to anybody. The guys felt good about themselves tonight, and I think everyone played well defensively the whole game.”

Andre Drummond added 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who let an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter dwindle to six before putting away the Cavs and ending their five-game winning streak.

Kyrie Irving scored 30 and Kevin Love 24 for Cleveland, which had an off night after looking so impressive in a win at Oklahoma City on Sunday. James scored just 12 points – 13 below his average – and went 5 of 18 from the floor, missing all four 3-point tries and committing six turnovers.

“I probably should have had about 12 of them,” said James, who acknowledged lacking energy on the back end of a back-to-back.

Following the game, Irving revealed he played only 9 minutes Sunday against the Thunder after being bitten by bed bugs in his Oklahoma City hotel.

“I was freaked out,” he said.

Tobias Harris, acquired from Orlando in a trade last week, scored 14 in his first start for the Pistons, who before the game rescinded their three-team trade last week with Houston and Philadelphia because not all the players involved were cleared medically.

Then, the Pistons went out and rejected the Cavs.

“It feels great to get the win,” Harris said. “The best thing was the effort, the energy level we showed against one of the very best teams. We didn’t get discouraged when they made some tough shots. We just kept telling each other, `Let’s keep our pace, let’s keep running.’ We just kept playing our pace.”

Detroit opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to take an 18-point lead on Caldwell-Pope’s short jumper with 6:31 remaining.

After going through the motions most of the night, the Cavs finally awakened and reeled off 10 straight points to get to 88-82. But Jackson responded by dropping a floater in the lane, and Caldwell-Pope made the game’s biggest play, stripping a driving James and then taking the ball the length of the floor for a layup, a bucket that brought Pistons radio commentator Rick Mahorn – one of Detroit’s original Bad Boys – out of his seat.

Jackson credited the Pistons with digging deep to get the win.

“We’re desperate, man,” he said. “We’ve got to be hungry for every last win after dropping the last five. We’ve been trying to find a way to battle and be resilient, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for stepping up with us so short-handed.”

LEBRON’S REST

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he considered resting James on the second game of a back-to-back.

“I should have,” he said.

James has only missed one game this season, and Lue plans to sit his superstar if and when the Cavs lock up the conference title.

TURNOVER CITY

The Cavs were their own worst enemies in the first half, committing 12 turnovers that the Pistons converted into 16 points, enabling Detroit to open a 56-49 halftime lead. Cleveland finished with 18 turnovers.

ROOKIE INJURY

Detroit’s Stanley Johnson strained his right shoulder in the second half. Van Gundy said the forward will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Reggie Bullock will take Johnson’s spot in the rotation.

TIP-INS

Pistons: F Anthony Tolliver (right knee) was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain and will miss two to four weeks. He was hurt Sunday against New Orleans. . Van Gundy said there are no immediate plans to fill the team’s one open roster spot. . Detroit came in holding ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot.

Cavaliers: F Channing Frye scored two points in 9 minutes of his debut for Cleveland. … G Iman Shumpert missed his second straight game with a sprained left shoulder. It’s the same one he injured last season, when he missed six weeks. … G Mo Williams plans to have his sore left knee examined by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday. Williams has been bothered by the knee for two months. He hasn’t played since Feb. 10, when he missed all four shots in a win over the Lakers.

 

This story has been corrected to show that Irving played 9 minutes Sunday.

Damian Lillard opposes idea of later NBA season start running into summer

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At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks back (although it feels like a lifetime ago), Atlanta  CEO Steve Koonin suggested the NBA should permanently shift its schedule to a mid-December start with the Finals running into August. The idea was to stop going head-to-head with the NFL and college football at the start of the season. Then the pushed back playoffs forced by the coronavirus have made that discussion more relevant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said everything is on the table.

Damian Lillard is not a fan of the idea.

He likes the schedule just the way it is, something he said during a video conference with the media on Tuesday, hat tip to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Portland.

“I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer…

“You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect…

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Lillard is not alone in thinking this way, but Silver is more open to change than most sports commissioners. That said, changes that break with long-standing traditions are hard to make a reality.

There would be a lot of questions around a schedule change. Would the ratings still be as high for a Finals series in the heart of the summer? The NBA season no longer would sync with the NCAA or international leagues’ schedules, leading to questions about the draft and timing for players who want to test the waters. There would need to be reworked television contracts, both regionally and nationally. It could make scheduling a challenge at arenas used to having more concerts and other events in the summer.

Plus, all of this would need to be negotiated with the players union — and Lillard speaks for a lot of players on this issue.

If the NBA could somehow convince players that starting later meant more money in their pocket, those union negotiations would take on a different tone. But would the move increase revenue? That’s not an easy sell.

With this NBA season likely running late, the start of next season could be pushed back, and this theory could get a little bit of a test. Or, the next season could be shortened a little to get the league back on its regular schedule.

Which would make Lillard happy.

Report: NBA deprioritizing playing regular-season games for local TV

Steve Kerr and LeBron James before NBA game
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The NBA is financially incentivized to play more regular-season games to satisfy local-TV contracts.

How does that square with resuming play – currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – with a play-in tournament and playoffs?

It doesn’t.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to one source, getting some teams to a magical number of 70 regular-season games had been a goal, but in the last week has taken on less of a priority.

This stoppage is going to cost the NBA a lot of money. There’s no way around that. Not every source of revenue can be preserved. It’s about finding the optimal setup.

Importantly, canceling games could allow the NBA to reduce player salaries through force majeure. Of course, the union would consider that action when negotiating how to proceed.

LeBron James advocated for playing some regular-season games before the playoffs so everyone could get back into shape. But Steve Kerr called it very unlikely the Warriors would play another regular-season game. Perhaps, playoff-bound teams like the Lakers will play tune-up regular-season games while Golden State – the only team officially eliminated from the playoff race before the hiatus – doesn’t. It’d be a little odd to have such different formats, though. (Then again, these are odd times).

Considering this report, we ought to give more credence to the idea that Kerr knows something about the NBA’s plan and that the regular season is finished.

Lakers update that all players ‘currently symptom-free of COVID-19’

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Nearly two weeks ago, the Lakers announced that two of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician… All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine,” the Lakers said at that time.

On Tuesday, the team provided an update saying nobody on the team is showing any symptoms after a couple of weeks of quarantine.

“All Lakers players are currently symptom-free of COVID-19. The team will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines set by government officials, the Lakers and the NBA,” the statement said.

The Lakers’ players who tested positive were never publicly identified (in fitting with HIPAA regulations).

A total of 10 NBA players — plus five members of staff associated with teams — have tested positive for the virus that has upended life in the United States. None reportedly have had to be hospitalized. Players such as Marcus Smart and others have recovered and free from the virus.

The NBA remains suspended, with the league hoping to jump-start the playoffs in June, possibly with all the teams in one location.

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

NBA draft
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The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.