Draymond Green says he’s a “terrible teammate” for getting suspended, Warriors would have won with him

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James was able to get comfortable and had his best game of the Finals in Game 5. Kyrie Irving was able to get to the rim and finish, and he had the best game of his career in Game 5. The Cavaliers won and stayed alive, forcing a Game 6 back in Cleveland.

Daymond Green blames himself.

“I let my teammates down not being in the game, regardless of whether I want to say, “Oh, man, it wasn’t that much,” or whether someone else wants to have an opinion and say, “Oh, it wasn’t that much” [or] “I shouldn’t have been suspended…” Green said Wednesday before practice. “At this point it doesn’t matter anymore, we lost Game 5 and we’re here for Game 6 and I have to be better and not put myself in a position, to where it isn’t a decision, and there isn’t an investigation….

“I have a strong belief that if I play Game 5 we win. But I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play, and I thought my teammates fought, didn’t play well and with six minutes to go still down just six points. They continued to battle and battle, now it’s on me to come out and help that battle.”

Green was suspended for an accumulation of flagrant fouls. He can argue (and lose) the one about catching LeBron James down low, but he also picked up one for body slamming Michael Beasley with one second to go in a game in the first round, and that lapse of judgment was part of the reason he sat.

After being assessed an after-the-fact Flagrant 2 foul for his kick to the groin of Steven Adams in the last series, Green played a tentative Game 4 and was not nearly as effective. He said he has to be himself but be smarter walking the line and not stepping over it Thursday.

“I think I’ve got to come out and play my game regardless,” Green said. “But there are those little fine lines where you just know you can’t cross them. It’s not every play that you’re close to that line. It’s a basketball game, so there are only certain plays where you are. I just have to make sure that I’m well composed when those situations come about, that I control my emotions, that I channel that energy and use it in a positive way to help my team and not in a way to where I may feel like it helps me as a person, me as a man, but hurts my teammates. That’s irrelevant.

“He knows that if he gets another flagrant he misses Game 7,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s well aware of that. I’d be shocked if anything happened on that front. I think he feels bad enough as it is about missing Game 5. He’s not going to put himself at risk of missing another game.”

In a surprise to absolutely nobody, Green is confident this will be the final game of the series.

“We know the formula,” Green said. “We know the blueprint. We know that it’s not easy, though. In order to do it, you have to be locked in from the jump, and I think guys understand that. I have no doubt in my mind guys will be ready to do that.”

To a man the Cavaliers said having Green back doesn’t change their situation.

“We know that’s their money line-up, when they play small with Draymond at the five,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It’s not really a big difference of preparing for that.”

“I think they’re pretty confident in what their game plan is,” Richard Jefferson said. “Their game plan got them up 3-1. We were able to come out, obviously, when they’re down a guy. We were able to come back and get a victory there. But I think they’re still pretty confident. I’d much rather be in their position than in our position, so I don’t think that they’re going to change their game plan.”

The bigger difference will be no Andrew Bogut, who is out with a bone bruise in his knee.

“It’s bad news for our team,” Kerr said. “Boges has made an impact in this series first couple of games. I thought he was really impactful. Last two we played him fewer minutes, but still he’s a defensive presence at the rim and rebounder, and a great passer. So we’ll miss the minutes that he’s been giving us.”

“It’s tough not to have Bougs out there,” Green said. “He anchors our defense a lot of the time. Very smart, very good passer on offense, great facilitator. So I mean, it’s not like a loss where you say, ‘oh, it doesn’t matter.’ It definitely matters.”

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.