Five Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Damian Lillard is still tearing up NBA

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What did you miss around the NBA while trying to figure out what to do with nearly one million quarters? We’ve got you covered, here are the key notes from a Tuesday in the Association.

1) Damian Lillard’s 41, Gerald Henderson‘s block lift Blazers past Wizards in overtime. This was the game of the night because both teams need the win — Portland entered the night just three games from falling out of the playoffs in the West, Washington was two back of Chicago for the last playoff spot in the East. For both these teams, the playoffs have essentially started.

Damian Lillard was carving up the Washington defense from the opening tip, scoring 13 points in the first quarter. But that may not have been the biggest event in the first — Washington’s Alan Anderson was ejected after getting tangled up and in a little shoving match with Gerald Henderson where Anderson got his elbows up in Henderson’s face. Personally, I’m not sure that was ejection worthy, but Anderson got sent to the showers, and that was a blow to Washington which was already without the injured Bradley Beal.

Washington, led by John Wall and Marcin Gortat, went on a 29-4 run spanning halftime to take a 13-point lead. Portland battled back and much of the second half was close, but the Wizards thought they had this up 104-102 with 16 seconds left. But C.J. McCollum tied it, and when Gortat had a shot at winning the game in regulation there was Gerald Henderson.

In the overtime it was too much Lillard as he hit threes and circus shots on his way to nine points to cap off his 41 for the game. With the win Portland and a Utah loss Portland is now four games clear of the nine-seed Jazz — Portland is going to be a playoff team. Washington is now 2.5 back of the playoffs and just can’t string together wins like they need.

2) The Lakers have won two in a row, played better since unleashing D’Angelo Russell.
So, if you play the young guys and let them learn on the job they get better, and your team picks up a few more wins. Who knew? Well, not Byron Scott who kept D'Angelo Russell bottled up most of the season as a development method (and to reign in his ego, something that really bothers Scott, which is a funny coincidence considering the Lakers are celebrating Kobe Bryant and he had quite an ego entering the league). Russell had 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while Jordan Clarkson hit the dagger three late. Clarkson also had the second best highlight of the night, breaking Evan Fournier‘s ankles.

The Lakers have won two in a row but, in what is good news for Lakers fans hoping the team keeps its pick, they still have the second worst record in the league (14-51) and are still four games worse than Phoenix, with the third worst. The Lakers only keep their pick this season if it is top three, otherwise Philadelphia gets it.

3) Aaron Gordon was throwing it down like the dunk contest was still going on. This was the highlight of the night — Orlando’s Gordon is throwing it down like the dunk contest is still taking place. (By the way, he has started to play better of late, there is real promise with him at the four/five.)

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

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Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.