Nicolas Batum notches triple-double, 76ers remain in play for most losses in season

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PHILADELPHIA — Nicolas Batum had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his second triple-double of the season, leading the Charlotte Hornets to a 100-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

Cody Zeller added 18 points and 11 boards for Charlotte, which set a franchise record for wins in a month with its 13th victory in March.

The Hornets, who entered the game in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, also inched closer to clinching their first playoff spot in two years and just second postseason berth in the last 13 years. Charlotte hasn’t won a playoff series, though, since 2002.

The teams both have off until Friday, when they will play again in Charlotte for the fourth and final meeting of the season.

Short-handed Philadelphia, which dressed just 10 players, lost its 10th straight game and 23rd in the last 24.

Robert Covington had 18 points for Philadelphia.

The 76ers were playing without top big man Nerlens Noel, who missed his fourth straight game with a right knee contusion. Also out for Philadelphia were forwards Jerami Grant (right knee/quad) and Richaun Holmes (Achilles’). Rookie Jahlil Okafor is sidelined for the season with a torn right meniscus.

Philadelphia dropped to 9-66 and still can match the 1972-73 76ers, who finished 9-73, for the worst NBA record over an 82-game season. Of the 76ers’ seven remaining games, four are against teams that began play on Tuesday with losing records and out of the playoffs. Perhaps Philadelphia’s best chance for a victory will coming next week when hosting the Pelicans (27-46), Knicks (30-45) and Bucks (30-44) in succession.

Kemba Walker drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.3 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Charlotte a comfortable 16-point lead at the half. Philadelphia never cut the deficit under 10 points in the second half.

Walker finished with 16 points.

Philadelphia veteran forward Elton Brand, forced into action, had seven points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Brand showed his competitive drive by diving into the scorer’s table during one sequence, drawing cheers from 76ers fans.

Three of the four teams that competed in the NCAA East Regional in Philadelphia over the weekend were represented by 76ers and Hornets. Charlotte’s Marvin Williams and Tyler Hansbrough and Philadelphia’s Kendall Marshall went to North Carolina; the Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky attended Wisconsin; and Charlotte’s Cody Zeller played at Indiana. Neither team had any players from Notre Dame.

TIP-INS

Hornets: The Hornets lead the season series 3-0, having also defeated the 76ers 119-99 on March 2 in Philadelphia and 113-88 on Nov. 2 in Charlotte. . The Hornets finished 3-1 on a four-game road trip that included wins over Milwaukee and Brooklyn and a loss to Detroit. . G Jeremy Lin (sore back) didn’t play. . Batum’s triple-double was the sixth of his career. . The Hornets committed just seven fouls.

76ers: Okafor was in the locker room on crutches before the game. . Recently retired referee Joe Crawford was in attendance. . Philadelphia attempted a season-high 43 3-pointers, making 16 of them.

UP NEXT

Hornets: Host Philadelphia Friday night.

76ers: At Charlotte Friday night.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.

Chris Paul refutes report that Michele Roberts is no longer leading union

Michele Roberts, Chris Paul and Luol Deng
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Michele Roberts got a new four-year term as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2018.

Yet, Peter Vecsey tweeted:

The NBPA responded with a statement on behalf of Chris Paul:

NBPA President Chris Paul’s response to the false information tweeted earlier this evening regarding NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts:

“Michele Roberts has been and continues to be our fearless leader. The Twitter post that is circulating suggesting Michele is no longer the NBPA Executive Director is untrue. A Search Firm has been hired to advise on union hiring and succession planning, which has not yet begun. In the meantime, the Executive Committee is proud to report that Michele remains the NBPA Executive Director, is very much “in power,” and continues to enjoy the support of our members!”

Roberts led the union through Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2016. She appears active in running the union now.

Controversially, Roberts rejected cap smoothing when the new national TV deals sent revenue soaring. That adversely affected many union members, though benefited others.

Roberts and Paul have also sometimes prioritized stars, to the dismay of the rank-and-file.

But the overall health of the union appears strong, and Roberts and Paul remain in charge.