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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Tristan Thompson saves Cavaliers’ night

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If you missed everything in the NBA Monday because you were bathing in beer at a spa, we understand. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from a Monday around the Association:

1) With the game on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to… Tristan Thompson? It worked Monday. This was not a game that left viewers with the sense the Cavaliers have found their groove again — their offense down the stretch was far too much isolation and leaned too heavily on LeBron James, their defense seemed scrambled at times, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. It’s the kind of grinding game good teams find a way to win, however, and the Cavs blue-collar worker Tristan Thompson came through when needed. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and he put the Cavaliers up two with a little four-footer off a LeBron assist with 39 seconds to go. Then when George Hill tried to drive to tie up the game on the Pacers’ next possession, it was Thompson again to save the day.

Cleveland had a late 7-0 run to secure the 100-96 win. LeBron had 33, Kyrie Irving had 22, and the Cavaliers got a needed win.

2) John Wall puts up 37 to make sure Wizards get a win over Sixers, stay in the playoff chase. Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, and Detroit are all in a virtual tie for the final three playoff spots in the East — one of those teams is going to be left out of that party. Right now, the Wizards are trying to crash that party and force a couple of teams to be left out — they are 1.5 games back of those four, but Washington has the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. They just have to make sure they win those “easy” games. Monday night that meant John Wall going off 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, helping spark a 16-0 Wizards run in the final frame to help the Wizards come from behind and get the win over lowly Philadelphia. Right now for Washington, a win is a win and they shouldn’t apologize for any of them.

3) That’s the Bucks we hoped for this season: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker all go off in Milwaukee win over Houston. This is the kind of step forward we’d been hoping to see from Milwaukee all season. Jabari Parker: 36 points (a career high), 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Khris Middleton: 30 points, 5 steals, 4 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals (we’ll see if the NBA’s reviewed stats let the Greek Freak keep the triple-double, it took his last one away because of some generous hometown scorekeeping as to what qualifies for an assist, and that may have happened again). The Bucks handled a Houston Rockets team that needs wins badly 128-121 and it felt like this was just a sample of what the Bucks could do nightly in the future. Milwaukee answered every scoring barrage James Harden and Dwight Howard could throw at them. It was fun to see — I just hope this wasn’t a one-off and we get to see a lot more of these Bucks down the line.

4) DeMarcus Cousins keeps his cool (barely); Russell Westbrook and Thunder get the win. Stephen Adams was trying to instigate — it’s what he does. He tried to get under players’ skin, and DeMarcus Cousins almost got suckered in by it and did something foolish — he cocked back his arm to throw a punch — but thought better of it and walked away. Adams was called for a penalty, although the Kings got a “delay of game” out of this and I’m not exactly sure for what. Still, good on Cousins for walking away (he did have a technical on the night already, his 14th this season).

In the end, the Thunder’s stars were too much. Kevin Durant had 27, Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder picked up a win in Sacramento 131-116.

5) The Clippers’ halftime show: Unveil strange new mascot, have Steve Ballmer dunk. Top this, Red Panda. The Los Angeles Clippers, at halftime of their eventual win over Brooklyn, first unveiled their new mascot Chuck The Condor. Which I’m not sure really looks like a condor, or much of anything else.

Not long after this, Chuck dunked off a trampoline.

Then 59-year-old Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunked off a trampoline.

Let’s see Jim Buss top that.

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.

 

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Goodbye NBA regular season, hello NBA ‘seeding games’

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The NBA regular season is over.

The league’s statement on its plan to resume the season made that abundantly clear.

The 22 continuing teams will play exhibitions, eight “seeding games” (not regular-season games) and maybe play-in games.

NBA release:

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.  At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs.  These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11.  The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

So, the lottery odds are set for the Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Wizards can’t tank their way past Charlotte and Chicago.

That’s a good setup, which raises a question: Why doesn’t the NBA freeze records for the lottery with a month left in normal seasons? By not doing so, the league creates conditions for an annual tanking wasteland.

Calling these “seeding games” also positions the league to hold award voting soon. The NBA’s major awards – Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie, Coach of the Year – are regular-season awards. If the regular season is over, those can be picked now. That could be a good way to fill time and attract attention before play resumes.

This is probably mostly semantics.* The term “seeding games” allows the NBA to differentiate these games for the lottery and awards.

*It could also allow the league to cancel more regular-season games and expand force majeure. But owners would still have to negotiate with players on how to pay them for these new “seeding games.” So, that’s probably a wash.

The term also makes enough sense. The 22 continuing teams are playing for seeding.

But what happens if two teams clinch certain seeds before their scheduled seeding game? Would that game still be played?

I’m confident the answer would be yes, even if “seeding game” would no longer be accurate.

“Tune-up games to generate more revenue” just isn’t as catchy.