Three things to watch in playoffs Tuesday: Who steps up for Boston with Bradley out?

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Some playoff series are starting to get interesting in the first round after we moved out of a one-sided opening weekend. Will we get a game worth watching on Tuesday? Here are three things to look for.

1) How will the Celtics adjust to the loss of Avery Bradley? Boston is going to miss Bradley. A lot. He is out for the rest of the series against Atlanta with a hamstring injury, and in a series seen as a coin toss, this could be the difference. During the season, the Celtics were 3.1 points per 100 possessions better when Bradley was on the court rather than sitting, but that stat underestimates his value. Particularly defensively — Bradley was sixth this season in Defensive Player of the Year voting, and he was the highest ranked guard. Boston’s defense pressures and forces turnovers (second most per game in the league) and Bradley was at the heart of that, averaging 2.2 steals per game. Offensively, Bradley was inconsistent, but he made smart cuts off the ball, created space with that off-the-ball movement, knew how to use curls/pin down screens to get open, and hit his midrange jumpers fairly well. All things Boston needs this series.

Brad Stevens’ creativity and Boston’s trademark depth will be tested with this injury (maybe Stevens slides to bigger lineups). Marcus Smart likely will get the start and be asked to slow down Jeff Teague, who had 23 points and 12 assists in Game 1 and feasted once Bradley left the game. Smart isn’t the pick-and-roll defender Bradley is, and you can expect that to get tested early. Terry Rozier will get minutes for Boston, as will R.J. Hunter. Don’t be shocked if Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer adds to the defensive pressure in the backcourt by playing Teague and backup point guard Dennis Schroeder together.

2) Can Atlanta replicate their first half of Game 1 for 48 minutes?
Atlanta took a 1-0 series lead over Boston with a tight 102-101 win, but people forget this was a 17-point game at the half, and the Hawks were locking down the Celtics (who shot 23 percent in the first half). It was a balanced attack in that half (isn’t it always for the Hawks?) with Kent Bazemore scoring 11 while both Al Horford and Paul Millsap scored nine. The easy way to do this for the Hawks would be to hit their threes — they were 5-of-27 in Game 1, well below their season average.

The other thing we could see from Atlanta — angry and motivated Al Horford. On the Celtics’ broadcast, Boston color commentator and general Celtics homer Tommy Heinsohn said Horford was “not a great player.” Horford shrugged it off as Heinsohn’s opinion and he didn’t care — but it’s motivation for the All-Star forward. Horford is just good at everything — maybe not A+ elite at any one thing, but he’s A-/B+ at everything, and if he finds a Celtics weakness he can exploit it. If that happens in Game 2, the Hawks will win handily.

3) Maybe Memphis can keep it close for a half? That’s about the best I can do for you this series. Memphis is going to struggle to score (37 points in the first half of Game 1), and the Spurs will get their buckets and just grind Memphis down. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will get theirs; the Spurs bench will feast in particular against an injury-riddled Grizzlies roster.

This column is about things to watch — I would recommend binging season four of “House of Cards” or “Mozart in the Jungle” over this game. We’ll watch the Spurs go up 2-0 for you and put up a quality recap. Promise.

LeBron James’ voting rights group converting arenas into polling places

LeBron James Orlando
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ATLANTA (AP) — If basketball icon LeBron James gets his way, NBA arenas and other sports venues around the country will be mega polling sites for the November general election.

James and his voting rights group, formed this spring with other black athletes and entertainers, are joining with other professional basketball leaders and Michigan’s top elections official to push for mega voting sites to accommodate in-person balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than A Vote, the James organization dedicated to maximizing Black turnout in November, shared its plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year. In Georgia, Fulton County elections officials this week approved the Atlanta Hawks’ proposal to use State Farm Arena as a polling site. Plans call for the arena to serve as a countywide early voting site ahead of Election Day.

The idea, which comes after Kentucky used large facilities in its June 23 primary, is to use large spaces that allow for in-person voting while still enforcing social distancing guidelines. It also underscores the attention on the mechanics of voting amid the pandemic, with the intensity already reflected in both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden warning that state and local officials have the power to “corrupt” the election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called her “partnership” with the Pistons an “blueprint for other teams and leagues seeking to advance our common goal of protecting access to the vote for all.”

Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, said the arrangement in his city ensures “high turnout” in a safe environment. Benson, Pierce and David Fizdale, former New York Knicks head coach, will advise NBA franchises and arena management entities around the country on how to replicate the existing deals.

The Milwaukee Bucks also confirmed they are willing to use their home arena as a voting site in the most populous city in the key battleground of Wisconsin.

The coordinated push is a turnabout, of sorts, in the often-partisan jousting over voting procedures.

Some Democrats panned Kentucky elections officials for limiting in-person June primary voting in the state’s two most populous counties to Louisville’s Exposition Center and the University of Kentucky football stadium in Lexington. Voting rights advocates argued in federal court that the plan, part of culling voting sites statewide amid coronavirus concerns, would harm minority voters.

A federal judge rejected their claims, and voting proceeded without the melee that some advocates had forecast.

Now, Benson, a Democrat, is pushing the arena model not as an example of potential voter suppression, but a way to fight it. “One of our greatest challenges in protecting voters’ access to democracy this November is identifying accessible locations where citizens can safely vote in person,” she said.

Amid COVID, that could outweigh potential logistical difficulties of large sites. Lines for such venues can still be long — just as with normal polling locations — as was seen in Lexington at some points on primary day. Voters also could face traffic jams or public transit hiccups given the number of people involved. General elections also have considerably larger turnout than primaries.

Nonetheless, there’s a growing bipartisan push for large-venue voting. NFL executive Scott Pioli last week presented the National Association of Secretaries of State a plan for widespread use of professional and college sports facilities.

James’ group is officially nonpartisan. But the NBA star has been open about its emphasis on the Black community, where Trump faces intense opposition for his white identity politics. James has not endorsed Biden, but he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the Bucks owners, the Lasry family, are major Democratic Party donors. Bucks executive Alex Lasry helped lead the effort that landed the Democratic National Convention in the city.

Missouri man freed from prison with help from WNBA’s Moore

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A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by WNBA star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.

Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.

He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons’ defense team, according to The New York Times.

The Missouri attorney general’s office unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.

Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Missouri, native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.

Moore said in January she planned to sit out a second season and miss the Tokyo Olympics. After Irons’ convictions were thrown out in March, she told the AP her plans hadn’t changed.

“’My decision to take another year was bigger than this case,” she said at the time. “But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family.”

Adam Silver: Restart broadcasts may need delay to keep cussing off air

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NBA players trash talk and swear more during a game than a Samuel L. Jackson character.

That’s not exactly insider knowledge. However, most of what is said is covered up by the ambient crowd noise and in-arena music at a traditional game. Nobody at home can hear Patrick Beverley‘s stream of consciousness.

But what is going to happen at the NBA’s restart in Orlando? With no crowds and less noise, and courtside microphones can pick up everything. Including language some fans may not want to be brought into their homes.

This is why the league many need a broadcast delay — similar to the seven-second delay used on some live broadcasts — so it can drop any offensive language, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Time 100 interview.

“I think often players, they understand when they’re on the floor, they’re saying certain things to each other because it’s so loud in the arena, they know a lot of it is not being picked up. They may have to adapt their language a little bit knowing what they say will likely be picked up by microphones and in all seriousness, we may need to put a little bit of a delay.”

One solution would be to have a live stream available to fans where nothing is dropped. There are those of us — hard-core NBA fans — who want to hear the trash talk, want to listen to the coaches call out the play as the defenders call out what is coming and talk about set picks, etc. We all what to hear what LeBron James is going to say to J.R. Smith on the court. That should be available to fans, along with the video game look and other customizable streams.

The league may have fan’s faces on video boards around the court and music pumped in, but this is just not going to look and feel the same. There may need to be a delay to keep some of the language off the air (that happens at sporting events anyway), but it would be fun to give the viewers the option, as ESPN did with The Last Dance.

Report: Rockets signing Luc Mbah a Moute

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute
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Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is sitting out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Enter Luc Mbah a Moute.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like Sefolosha, Mbah a Moute is a versatile defensive forward who can make open 3-pointers and fits well into Houston’s system.

In theory.

Mbah a Moute, who played well for the Rockets in 2017-18, looked like a major loss when he left for the Clippers in 2018. But he has struggled to stay healthy. He hasn’t played in the NBA since October 2018. Houston worked out the 33-year-old in March – and didn’t sign him. That’s telling.

Expect Mbah a Moute to fall behind Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House on the Rockets’ depth chart. It’d be a good outcome for Houston if Mbah a Moute helps in spot minutes.

But if Mbah a Moute proves to be effective in a Rockets uniform, that’d at least look quite natural. We’ve seen it before.