Five Takeaways fro NBA Wednesday: Golden State survives and advances

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The takeaways have been on a vacation for a few days. Well, I’ve been on a mini-vacation for a few days (if staying with your in-laws is a vacation, that’s up for debate). But we’re back, just in time for another Warriors’ win and more Lakers drama.

1) Warriors clear last likely major hurdle between them and 73 wins by beating Utah. Most fans may have looked at the last weeks of the Warriors schedule and see those two games against the Spurs as what might keep the Golden State from their 73-win goal. I don’t think so. Gregg Popovich is going to rest guys in those games, especially the one on the road. He’s already accepted the two seed and is scaling back, plus he doesn’t want to tip his hand — the Spurs are going to play NFL preseason vanilla sets and defenses in those games.

No, the toughest test was a hot Utah team with its elite defense, when the Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. That test was Wednesday night. Utah lived up the billing, getting strong play from Gordon Hayward on pick-and-rolls (21 points), fantastic shooting from Rodney Hood (20 points), and great play clogging the lane on defense from Rudy Gobert (who finally got some quality minutes in the clutch). When Gordon hit a three in the final minute, it seemed like this may be Utah’s night.

But the Warriors did their version of the NCAA Tournament’s survive and advance. They got 31 points from Stephen Curry on some ridiculous shots (see below). They got another tough defensive and balanced game from Draymond Green. And they got the key game-tying shot to force overtime from Klay Thompson (thanks to the hustle of Shaun Livingston getting an offensive board off a miss and kicking it out). The Warriors overcame a cold shooting night from Harrison Barnes (1-of-8 from three), too many sloppy turnovers, and the fact the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center is not primetime ready. The Warriors survived and are now 68-7. They are going to get to 73 wins, you could see the determination in this game to get it done when they could have just rolled over. But they also looked like a team where the stars could use a little rest, and that is going to be hard for Steve Kerr to balance with the drive for 73.

2) Forget all the drama off-the-court for a minute, Julius Randle hits game winner to lift Lakers over Heat in OT. Lamar Odom was sitting courtside. D'Angelo Russell was a distraction apologizing to teammates and publicly before the game. Kobe Bryant only played one half before sitting out due to general soreness. But somehow the Lakers thrived in all that drama and beat the Miami Heat in overtime thanks to a Julius Randle shot over a couple defenders. For the Heat, this is a blow — they are in the middle of a tight battle for playoff seeding in the East and this is the kind of game they needed to win. Yet Miami couldn’t force turnovers to get easy buckets, and they let the Lakers get points at the line. Then, with the game in the balance, Luol Deng let Randle get back to his left hand (the cardinal mistake in defending Randle right now) and paid the price after Randle hit the shot to win it.

3) Toronto Raptors get to 50 wins for first time in franchise history. This is officially the best Toronto Raptors team ever — no Raptors team has ever gotten to 50 wins. Until Wednesday. The Raptors got 26 points from DeMar DeRozan, and defensively kept the Hawks starters in check, which was enough for a 105-97 win. The Raptors now have a magic number of three to clinch a top two seed.

Still, this team feels like the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals last season — “great regular season guys, congratulations, but until you show me you can do this in the playoffs it’s all just window dressing.” Hopefully for the Raptors this turns out better than it did for the Bengals.

4) Lamar Odom sat courtside for the Heat/Lakers game. Kobe Bryant left him a couple of tickets, and Lamar Odom accepted — he was at the Miami/Los Angeles contest at Staples Center Wednesday. It was good to see him back in an NBA setting where there is still a lot of love for the man who almost lost his life due to an overdose five months ago. He talked with Kobe and Dwyane Wade among others, plus got a huge ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen. Hopefully Odom is handling his demons.



5) Wizards playoff dreams on life support after loss to Kings.

Washington is not playing like a team trying to make a desperate push into the playoffs — they were apathetic as a team Wednesday night in Sacramento. This was a game the Wizards needed, and they came out flat. Washington turned the ball over 20 times. They had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 10 boards). The Wizards are now 3.5 games back of the eight seed Indiana Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East with just seven games to play. Hard to see them making that ground up (which is going to lead to changes come this summer in Washington).

By the way, the Kings got to 30 wins on the season for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Which isn’t exactly something to brag much about, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.