Physical intensity picks up between Cavaliers, Raptors heading into Game 4

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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan remembers the angry emotions Raptors teammate Bismack Biyombo once stirred in him as an opponent.

“I hated him,” DeRozan said Sunday.

The Cavaliers likely feel a little anger toward Biyombo after his pivotal performance Saturday, when he helped stop Cleveland’s 10-0 start to the playoffs in Toronto’s 99-84 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 4 is Monday night at Air Canada Centre.

Biyombo hauled down a Raptors’ playoff-record 26 rebounds, blocked four shots, and scored six of his seven points in a quick fourth-quarter spurt that helped seal Toronto’s win.

That wasn’t all. Biyombo was involved in a first-half skirmish that saw LeBron James take a tumble after catching an accidental elbow from his own teammate, Tristan Thompson. Late in the fourth, Biyombo drew a flagrant foul after he collared a driving James, sending the Cavs’ star sprawling again.

DeRozan hasn’t forgotten what all that feels like.

“I hated Biz,” Toronto’s All-Star guard said. “He was a fouler, always blocking shots. He always went for the pump fake, though, but I hated Biz. Now by far he’s one of my favorite teammates of all-time.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey understands Biyombo can be both a “nightmare” and a “nuisance” to play against, whether it’s the center’s habit of finger-wagging after blocks, or flexing his muscles after big dunks.

To Biyombo, being a nuisance is no big deal. It’s the way it’s got to be.

“Until you really get to know the real side of me, then you know who I am,” he said. “But on the floor I don’t have friends.”

At the final buzzer Saturday, Biyombo lay crumpled in pain in Cleveland’s paint after being struck below the belt while battling Dahntay Jones for a loose ball. Biyombo took the hit while tapping the ball to a teammate, his eighth offensive rebound of the night.

Casey was upset at the referees after the game, complaining that Biyombo wasn’t getting calls and citing Cleveland’s 86-51 edge in free throw attempts in the series. On Sunday, Casey declined to say whether those comments had drawn league discipline.

“I’m not trying to get anybody,” Casey said. “It’s over with. I said what I had to say last night. I’m not trying to send a message. It was a comment about the game last night and it’s over with.”

Jones was suspended for Game 4 by the NBA on Sunday, while Casey was fined $25,000 for his comments.

After a testy, physical Game 3, the Cavaliers were also wondering whether they were getting a fair shake from the referees. Asked whether James and the Cavs had to sell calls, coach Tyronn Lue said it’s tough for his star because defenders “tend to bounce off” a driving James.

“If you don’t foul him hard, he’s going to get an and-one and a three-point play,” Lue said. “You’ve got to try to be physical with him so he can’t take the contact and finish at the rim. When you get around the neck, like Biyombo did last night, that’s different. But when teams hard-foul, you’re supposed to get hard-fouled when you’re going to the basket, especially being that strong and that powerful.”

Speaking before the Cavs held a film session at their Toronto hotel Sunday, James didn’t want to say whether he’s getting the whistles he deserves.

“I really don’t get involved in it too much,” James said. “I just play the game and let the referees decide what the call may be and move on. I can’t have my focus go somewhere else. That allows my energy to be somewhere it shouldn’t be.”

With Cleveland’s run over, Richard Jefferson said the mood was a little down when several Cavs gathered for a postgame meal Saturday night.

“That’s the first time in a month the dinner conversation wasn’t joyous and excited and having fun,” Jefferson said. “We were just kind of talking about the things that we needed to do. We were trying to keep our minds off of it, but you could see that everybody was a little off.”

Shooting-wise, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were more than a little off in Game 3, going a combined 4 for 28. Lue said Irving, who got the worst of a collision with Toronto’s Cory Joseph late in Saturday’s game, was feeling fine after having the wind knocked out of him.

Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, out since Game 3 of the Miami series after spraining his right ankle, is listed as doubtful for Game 4. Valanciunas is progressing slowly and will be re-evaluated Monday, Casey said.

Lakers’ Anthony Davis ‘good to go’ for Game 5 despite sprained ankle

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This was expected, but when the Lakers officially listed Anthony Davis as questionable for Game 5 with a sprained ankle, it raised a few eyebrows.

Davis will play in Game 5 Saturday night, coach Frank Vogel said pregame.

Anthony Davis sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4, and while he stayed in the game there were questions about how it would respond the next day.

The Lakers are up 3-1 on a Denver team they know will not be easy to close out.

To do that, Los Angeles needs Davis: When AD has been on the court in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers have outscored the Nuggets by 9.4 points per 100 possessions, but when he sits, the Lakers are -21.3 (stats via NBA.com).

The Lakers want to close out in five games to get some added rest. The NBA Finals are expected to start next Wednesday, Sept. 30 (unless one conference finals series goes seven games, then it is likely Friday, Oct. 2). If the Lakers lose Saturday but win Game 6 Monday it would be a short turnaround (as it would be after a Game 7).

Denver, however, has played its best basketball whenever it has faced the prospect of packing its bags and going home.

New York congressman insults Knicks, James Dolan funds opponent

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Things are changing with the Knicks. Leon Rose is in the front office, Tom Thibodeau is the coach, and together they are talking about developing players and having a plan moving forward. It’s a reason for hope…

Then there’s James Dolan.

Max Rose, a Democratic congressman from Staten Island, echoed the voice for a lot of Knicks fans when he said: “I’m a Knicks fan to the day I die, but Dolan’s gotta sell. Right now, this is an absolute disgrace.”

We have seen how Dolan reacts to fans saying he should sell the team. In the case of Rose, he is fundraising for the Republican running against him. It would be easy to say “Dolan is a big President Donald Trump supporter and donates to GOP causes all the time” and this isn’t personal, except Dolan sent out an email to help raise funds for Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and the New York Post got a hold of it.

“Max Rose thinks he can make our team and my ownership his political platform,” Dolan wrote in a personal email to friends last week that was obtained by The Post. “I need to let him know that we will not stand for this. The best way to do this is to help his opponent. He is in a tight race for the US Congress in Staten Island. … Please join me in helping Nicole defeat Max Rose for Congress.

“It will help send a strong message to all NY politicians that the Knicks will not be their political ticket to reelection.

That’s personal. Dolan isn’t just asking other people to donate.

A $50,000 check from MSG Sports was cut Tuesday to “The Governing Majority Fund,” a PAC run by former Reps. John Faso and Jeff Denham, Dolan confirmed. The PAC’s mission is to help Republicans take back the House.

Rose represents New York’s 11th District, a solid Republican district until the 2018 midterms when it became one of 30 districts nationally that flipped blue. The GOP is trying to turn a number of those back, including Rose’s district.

Whatever you think of Rose’s politics (he’s a former Army Ranger, which helped him in a more conservative district), what he said about wanting Dolan to sell the franchise is what many Knicks fans are thinking. Dolan just doesn’t like to hear it. Maybe Rose and Thibodeau can turn the Knicks around — they certainly deserve a chance — but the team has struggled since Dolan became the owner and that’s not a coincidence.

Whatever Rose and Knicks fans want, it’s also highly unlikely Dolan sells the team, there are no rumblings about that around the league (and he certainly has had chances).

Former Pelicans GM Dell Demps shifts to become Jazz assistant coach

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While teams have moved away from anyone in a dual coach/GM role, some people bounce between coach and the front office around the NBA: Steve Kerr was once the Suns’ GM before being the Warriors coach; Sean Marks was on the bench in San Antonio before moving to their front office and eventually the head guy in Brooklyn.

Now Dell Demps is making that move. The former general manager for the New Orleans Pelicans, who was let go a year ago, will be an assistant coach on Quin Synder’s staff in Utah. Demps was the GM of the Spurs G-League team years back and hired Snyder to coach it.

“I was fortunate to work with Dell to begin my career as a head coach in professional basketball and I know he will delve into his role on the bench,” Snyder said in a statement. “He has an incredible work ethic and commitment to his craft. His vast experience both as a player and in front office roles brings a unique perspective that will be invaluable to our team. We’re excited to welcome him to the Jazz.”

“I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Coach Snyder again,” Demps said. “I have always had tremendous respect for Quin and the Jazz organization. I look forward to joining this talented coaching staff and working with our players. My wife Anita and I couldn’t be more excited to make the move to Utah and become a part of a tremendous community.”

Demps was not the only hire by Snyder, who is also bringing former NBA player Keyon Dooling. He played for 13 years in the league and then has worked with the National Basketball Players Association in various roles — most recently as a wellness counselor and mental health advocate — in recent years. Dooling played for two years at Missouri in college, a team coached by Snyder.

“Keyon is a fantastic addition for us on multiple levels and someone I’ve always had tremendous respect for since our time at Missouri where we formed a close bond that has continued throughout the years,” said Snyder. “He’s a natural leader who was a captain on multiple teams in the league and I have no doubt that the way he approached the game as a player will translate to the work he puts in with our roster on the court.”

New Kings’ GM doesn’t change fact De’Aaron Fox expects max contract extension

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New Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair is just getting the photos of his family framed and settling into his office, but he’s made one critical decision already: Luke Walton will be back as Sacramento’s coach. McNair also decided he wants to see the Kings return to more of the up-tempo style of a couple of seasons ago (before Walton arrived). Looming after that is the 2020 NBA Draft, where the Kings have the No. 12 pick.

When free agency comes, the question becomes: Will the Sacramento Kings offer De'Aaron Fox a max contract extension?

The young point guard expects one, reports James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension.

Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

If the salary cap were to remain flat for two years (possible, but not probable), a five-year max extension to Fox’s rookie contract is $158 million. The number will likely be higher than that, and if Fox makes a huge leap and becomes an All-NBA player, it jumps up to nearly $190 million (not likely to happen, but not impossible).

Fox averaged 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, but fully healthy he stepped up his play in the bubble averaging 26.2 points a game on 50.4% shooting and dishing out 7.3 assists a game. He was by far the Kings’ best player.

In the bubble, the Kings seemed to lack an identity. What kind of team did they want to be? McNair has come in and decided that — this is going to be an uptempo, transition team. Fox would be at the heart of that plan.

McNair said at his introductory press conference he sees Fox as a cornerstone piece.

“De’Aaron is an incredible young talent,” McNair said. “I’ve loved to see what he’s done and what he’s improved on over the years and he’s got a very bright future ahead of him.”

If this team is going to get back to running more, Fox is as good a ball-handler and decision-maker in transition as the league has. The Kings need to pay to keep him happy, then get players to go around him that fit that style. Expect McNair to spend the next season evaluating and shifting the roster around to fit that style. The problem is the pressure of the playoffs — the Kings haven’t been in 14 years, one short of tying the Donald Sterling Clippers for the longest drought in league history. There is pressure from ownership to make the playoffs and start winning sooner rather than later. It will be a tough balancing act for McNair. Welcome to sitting in the big chair.

Deciding to pay Fox may be the easiest of his decisions.