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Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Even the Warriors have off days.

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What you missed from a strange Sunday around the NBA:

1) Warriors take a vacation in Los Angeles, fall to Lakers for sixth loss of season. First, we need to give the Lakers credit here — Julius Randle attacked and owned the glass early, the Lakers bigs played the pick-and-roll about as well as you can against GSW, D'Angelo Russell has played well of late and found that groove again, and Jordan Clarkson was hitting threes. The real sign it was there day is this — when Nick Young is hitting step-back threes under pressure, it’s just your day. That was as well as the Lakers can play, and it’s a sign of the strides they are making (I would say in spite of Byron Scott, but that’s another discussion).

That said, it was a one-off bad shooting day by Golden State. Yes, they miss Andre Iguodala (hamstring). Yes, they have been playing down to the competition more lately then getting bailed out that shooting. But at the end of the day, they went 4-of-30 from three — Stephen Curry went 1-of-10 — and many were shots they just usually knock down. It was just a bad shooting day. It happens to everyone. Steve Kerr tried to use this to send a message about showing up ready to play every night, and I pity what will happen to Orlando Monday because of it, but it still just felt like a one-off.

The Warriors need to go 18-3 the rest of the way to beat the ’96 Bulls record. If you are saying “the Warriors aren’t as good as the Bulls” because of this loss, remember those Bulls lost to an expansion Raptors team that year, and had a couple of other ugly losses. The Warriors have still not lost to the elite of the NBA, and that’s a bigger deal.

2) James Harden went off in the fourth, and the Rockets upset the Raptors. Saturday, Houston looked terrible in losing to the Bulls. Dwight Howard was a mess, the rest of the Rockets were not good enough. Sunday James Harden was not going to let that happen — he had 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Rockets to a win over a good Raptors team. In Toronto. Harden was pretty good in Chicago (except when Jimmy Butler covered him), but he got help in Toronto — Corey Brewer had five threes, Howard had 21 points and 11 boards. The Rockets have been up and down, but they needed this win to keep their hold on the eighth seed in the West.



3) LeBron James is becoming the king of cryptic tweets.
Last season LeBron James sent out a tweet he later admitted was aimed at Kevin Love trying to get him on the same page with the rest of the team. You can be sure LeBron is targeting someone on the roster again the last few days with these.

Maybe LeBron is just messing with the media (and fans), that is how he’ll spin it, but he’s too savvy in my mind to do this. He is sending a message. I’m not going to speculate from far away about whom that message is for, but he’s sending one.

4) Reggie Jackson deserved a high-five for his performance against Portland — and Stan Van Gundy left him hanging. Reggie Jackson and the Pistons need wins to make the playoffs but going up against the Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum backcourt is a real challenge — and Jackson was up to it. He dropped 30 on them and controlled the game in a Detroit win. He was phenomenal. The man deserved a high-five and Stan Van Gundy left him hanging.

5) Giannis Antetokounmpo continued his run of great play, but it wasn’t enough against the Thunder. Oklahoma City was better than Milwaukee and deserved the win — they opened the game with a 22-4 run and never trailed, while Kevin Durant had 32 points. That said, the Greek Freak had 26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and one dunk on Serge Ibaka. Antetokounmpo has played fantastic ball lately, and it’s a good sign for Bucks fans looking ahead to next season.

De’Aaron Fox on Kings: ‘I see myself being here. I want to be here.’

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The NBA restart in Orlando — however long it lasts for the Kings — will be the end of the third season for De'Aaron Fox, which means its time to talk about him getting paid.

Except nobody is talking about that because we are all trying to adjust to his new hairstyle:

However, we should be talking payday. The end of his third season makes eligible for a contract rookie extension this offseason — which always brings up talk of “does this player want to stay?” The Kings have yet to make the playoffs in his tenure, and are a longshot to end that playoff drought in Orlando.

Fox has been clear: He wants to stay and build something with the Kings. The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the season does not change that, he said during a media conference call this week (via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s all the same, it’s all the same, I don’t think there’s much to say about that,” Fox said. “I see myself being here. I want to be here. Obviously, you know we want to win and right now, I think last year, we put ourselves in a good position. This year, we’re sort of in the same position to still make the playoffs. So that’s what we all want and then continue to take the next step forward.”

The Kings see him as a franchise cornerstone. Fox is not going to turn down a max — and he expects the 25% of the cap max — rookie contract extension. He’s going to grab the bag. Expect a deal to get done.

The questions Sacramento should ask: Is Fox the point guard they want to build around? If so, are they building out a roster that maximizes his talents?

Fox averaged 20.4 points and 6.8 assists a game for the Kings this past season playing at a near All-Star level. The Kings’ offense was +5.2 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. However, Fox is not a great defender, and he took a step back and shot 30.7% from three this season. He doesn’t space the floor, what he does do is attack the rim — 59.4% of his shot attempts came within 10 feet of the rim. He is a blur in transition and finished 63% of his shots at the rim, so this works for him.

Fox’s attacking style fits well with Buddy Hield at the two, but how it will mesh with Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III (who missed a lot of time due to injury this season) are the bigger questions. Do they all fit in Luke Walton’s slower offensive system? How the whole plan comes together in Sacramento remains to be seen.

But whatever it becomes, Fox wants to be part of it.

Milwaukee Bucks the latest team to shut down practice facility

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The Milwaukee Bucks players are done working out at the team practice facility, they will get together in Orlando next.

Milwaukee has become the fourth team to shut down their practice facilities, doing so after a round of tests on Friday. It was not announced whether a player or team staff member (or members) tested positive to cause this move. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story (since confirmed by others), adding the team would keep the facility closed and there would be no more workouts before the team leaves for the NBA restart in Orlando.

Milwaukee joins Miami, Denver, and the Los Angeles Clippers as teams who shut down their practice facilities after positive tests.

The Bucks head to the restart in Orlando as one of the title favorites, and the clear frontrunner in the East. The combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the best defense in the league makes them legit title contenders, but questions remain about how the Bucks’ role players will step up in the crunch, if their defensive system allowing threes comes back to bite them against better teams, if coach Mike Budenholzer is willing to make critical adjustments (such as playing Antetokounmpo more minutes), and just how they handle going up against a LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard that have won on this level before. Milwaukee looks like a team that can win a title, but we just haven’t seen them do it. Yet.

The closing of the practice facility will not change their contender status (providing it was not one of the team’s stars who tested positive).

Serge Ibaka says Raptors are ‘locked in’ for restart in Orlando

Serge Ibaka Raptors
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Don’t sleep on the defending champions. Yes, Kawhi Leonard went home (and Danny Green went West, too), but Toronto proved to be no one-man show.  The Raptors are the two seed in the East with a 46-18 record, a +6.4 net rating that is fourth-best in the NBA, they have the second-best defense in the league, they have an emergent superstar in Pascal Siakam who is surrounded by other stars such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Fred VanVleet. Toronto is playoff tested.

And the Raptors are “locked in” for the NBA restart, according to Serge Ibaka.

Here is what the veteran said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday, via Steven Loung of Sportsnet Canada.

“Mentally, I think we’re ready,” Ibaka said. “Mentally as a team, I can see from everybody, I think mentally we’re ready. We know what is waiting for us out there, now it’s time to get a little bit (of) game condition and then we’ll be good to go…

“I saw just how everyone is in great shape. They came here in great shape and as soon as we got here everyone was starting to put in work,” Ibaka said. “I’ve been in the league for 11 years. You can see when people are locked in and they’re ready mentally, and when they’re not. So I can tell you right now mentally everybody is ready. Everybody is ready.”

Any run to the Finals out of the East goes through Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Raptors have the confidence of having beat them last season. It’s no secret the Raptors want to make a run at  Antetokounmpo in 2021 and a good showing by their young core in this postseason helps the “come join us” pitch (even if it is a longshot). Boston and its emerging young stars — and another elite defense — also are lurking as a threat.

Toronto, however, cannot be overlooked. VanVleet and Gasol are back healthy, Norman Powell has stepped up this season giving the team more depth, and Nick Nurse has been a master of putting players in the right positions to succeed.

Toronto is healthy and, to hear Ibaka tell it, in shape. This is a strong, deep roster that understands what it takes to win in the playoffs. The Raptors have not earned the rights to be favorites in the East heading to Orlando, but sleep on this team at your own risk.

Bryan Colangelo falsely says he was ‘absolved’ in burner-Twitter scandal with 76ers

Former 76ers president Bryan Colangelo
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Former 76ers president Bryan Colangelo bought a share of the Illawarra Hawks, an Australian team.

Which means revisiting the infamous burner scandal.

Colangelo resigned in Philadelphia in 2018 after his wife, Barbara Bottini, admitted to operating several burner Twitter accounts that frequently praised Colangelo, revealed sensitive team information and sharply criticized 76ers players including Joel Embiid.

Colangelo, via Sam Phillips of The Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip: Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia):

“I haven’t addressed it very much over the course of the last two years. I have stayed very much under the radar on the topic because it’s a sensitive topic, for a lot of reasons,” Colangelo said.

“Family, personal, professional, or otherwise. I have to say I was dealt a pretty big blow, personally and professionally. And it’s been a difficult time dealing with the fallout. I was completely blindsided by the accusation and the storyline of the controversy.”

“Once that investigation was completed and I was absolved, I felt the appropriate thing to do – in conjunction with ownership there in Philly – was to mutually walk away.

“It was a difficult decision and a difficult time for me. But I have to say, it was a very, very difficult time for my family. Because of some of the reasons that came to light, it was something I thought was important not to talk about, quite frankly. And we’re still dealing with that.

“But the No.1 thing I thought needed to happen was trying to stay positive; preserve and love my family, protect their interests, emotionally or otherwise. And frankly, two years on, it’s gone. It’s in the past and I’m ready to move on.”

I sympathize with Colangelo and Bottini having a family issue play out publicly. That is unfortunate.

This answer also shows Colangelo doesn’t deserve credibility.

He wasn’t absolved. It was untrue when Colangelo said it at the time, and it’s untrue now.

The investigators concluded only that they found no forensic evidence that proved Colangelo knew of the Twitter accounts before they became public – and that they had a significant impediment to finding that evidence. Bottini deleted the contents of her phone before surrendering it for review.

The investigation also determined Colangelo was “careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard sensitive, non-public, club-related information.”

Plus, Colangelo denied any knowledge of who ran the accounts at least two days after the news initially broke. Did Bottini really not tell him it was her by then?

Colangelo has paid a heavy price for this scandal. He lost his job leading an NBA front office, and he became a laughingstock. It will be difficult for him to rebuild his reputation.

But continuing to misrepresent the situation is not a good way to try.