Jason Terry on player rest: “You had all summer to rest”

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There is no refuting the science: The 82-game NBA schedule wears players down physically, and when they are worn down they both do not play as well and are more susceptible to injury. This applies especially to back-to-backs and four games in five nights.

But we live in an age where proof doesn’t matter if you don’t want to believe it.

Enter Jason Terry. The old-school NBA veteran and current Milwaukee Buck was on his weekly SiriusXM Radio show, “The Runway” with co-host Justin Termine, and he railed against players getting rested this early in the season.

“Rest?  Who wants to rest?  Who wants to sit out of games?  Practice, maybe yes, ok I get it.  But the games?  No, no, no, no.  What did A.I. say?  Not the game, not the game I love.  No, we’re not going to rest.  I can see maybe in April, it’s the last week, last two weeks, you already clinched your playoff positioning, there’s nothing really to play for, yeah, we may rest a little bit. … This is the second month of the season, there’s no reason to rest.  You had all summer to rest….

And guys rest in practice anyway.  If you’re a high minute volume guy, you’re playing 35-plus a night, you’re not really doing much practicing.  Not if you’re on a winning team, so to speak.  So I don’t get it, and I really don’t think this is coming from the players.  This is more of management, coaching staff, training staff.  I mean, they’ve got all this new technology, I mean, we’re wearing pagers in our tank tops and we’re out there running around and then after practice they take your meter out and we look at your load.  I don’t know, maybe that has something to do with it.  But, hey, if you’re any kind of competitive and your competitive juices are flowing, this is the second month of the season, of course the dog days are ahead of you, but this is what it’s about.  This is what the grind is about.  Can you play at your best when your body or your mind is not really feeling up to it?  That’s what all the greats did.  That’s why we watched Michael Jordan.  That’s why we watched Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, all the greats.  These guys never rested.  They never took a day off.  And so, for me, it’s just a new era that we play in and, yeah, it may give some guys longevity but you said it earlier, I played in both eras and I never rested, I never needed it.”

Terry shoots his own argument in the foot — the best players already barely practice. There are walk throughs, shootarounds, and some time in the weight room, but few “practices” like we picture in an NBA season. This isn’t high school ball. Still, players are fatigued and get injured because of the grind. They always have, it just wasn’t tracked before. Would Larry Bird’s back have allowed him to play longer if he got more rest?

Would LeBron James have willingly taken the court in Memphis this week — or Kevin Love, or Kyrie Irving — and played, and played well? Yes. Without a doubt. If you doubt the competitive fire of today’s top NBA players, you’re deluded.

But there also is no doubting the facts that all those “pagers” and science shows — fatigued players are far more likely to get injured. If you’re Tyronn Lue, you know you’re going to be the top seed in the East and probably on to the Finals (sorry Toronto). What matters to you more than a December game in Memphis is the health of your players. Keeping them rested and fresh. Keeping them on the court. So you make the big picture decisions even if that hurts the team for a night in the short term.

Even if that rest looks bad for the league. And no doubt it does.

The NBA is taking a step with the new CBA to start the season a week or so early to allow more space in the schedule, thereby reducing the number of back-to-backs. That will help. But as the only real solution is cutting the season back by 20 or so games, and we know that is happening, rest is going to be part of the NBA going forward.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.