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Cavaliers apparently resting LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against Heat

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The Cavaliers appear set on a decision that will send shockwaves through the Eastern Conference.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers will sit LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love tonight against the Heat in apparent choice of rest for the playoffs over continuing the fight for the No. 1 seed.

The Cavs are planning to start J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Deron Williams against the Heat, who need to win to keep pace with the Bulls for the eighth seed.

Cleveland’s lineup listed above was posted as part of the team’s media notes for tonight’s game and is subject to change.

This is huge for the Cavaliers, who are tied with the Celtics for the Eastern Conference’s best record. Cleveland has the tiebreaker, but this makes a loss to Miami – and falling to the No. 2 seed – far more likely. The Cavs lost twice to the Hawks over the weekend with LeBron (88 minutes), Irving (78 minutes) and Love (77 minutes) carrying huge loads. The Cavaliers just showed they could wallop the Celtics in Boston, so perhaps rest is more valuable than home-court advantage in that potential Eastern Conference finals matchup.

This is huge for the Celtics, who could gain the No. 1 seed. Boston closes by hosting the Nets and Bucks. The Celtics

This is huge for the Raptors, who are locked into the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Though they present a more formidable threat to Cleveland, they’re still unlikely to beat the Cavs. Now, that matchup is more likely to come in the second round – and look like a step back for Toronto, which lost to the Cavaliers in last year’s conference finals.

This is huge for Wizards, who are guaranteed the No. 4 seed. If the Cavs fall to the second seed, Washington would avoid the defending champs until the conference finals.

This is huge for the Hawks, Bucks, Pacers and Bulls, who are all jockeying for seeds 5-8. If they can swing it, they’ll try harder to avoid No. 7 and a first-round matchup with Cleveland. It’s especially big for Miami, which is currently tied for eighth but doesn’t have the tiebreaker against Chicago.

Of course, the Cavaliers sitting their stars doesn’t guarantee the Heat a win tonight. They’ll have to earn it on the court.

That task just looks much easier now.

Report: Luke Walton sued for sexual assault

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Luke Walton is being sued by a female reporter claiming sexual assault from a hotel room incident that dates back to before he was hired as the Lakers’ head coach (he was recently let go from that position and is currently the coach of the Sacramento Kings).

Kelli Tennant was writing a book and wanted Walton to write the forward, according to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ. The two had a business relationship and she agreed to meet him in a Santa Monica hotel to discuss him writing the forward to the book, according to the report. We’ll let TMZ take it from there:

In the suit, Tennant says when she arrived at Walton’s hotel, he convinced her to come up to his room so they could discuss the book. She claims when they got up to his room, Walton suddenly pinned her to the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.

In the docs, Tennant claims Walton then began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest. She claims she screamed for him to stop and tried to free herself, but he held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.

She says he eventually relented and let her get up from the bed, but as she was walking towards the door to leave he grabbed her from behind and again forced his body up against hers.

The lawsuit goes on to say Walton and her would interact after that, because of her job, and he would give her exaggerated hugs, kisses, and would make lewd comments to her.

Walton took over coaching the Lakers for the 2016-17 season, while the TMZ initial story said the incident happened before he was the coach, other reports have it happening in May of 2017 (after the end of his first season).

Walton has yet to comment on the lawsuit. The Kings and Lakers also have not commented.

NBA fines Brooklyn part-owner Joe Tsai for Tweet backing his GM challenging referees

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I just hope he can afford this.

Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was suspended and fined by the league for breaking a taboo and going into the officials’ locker room after the Nets’ Game 4 loss at home to challenge the referees. Marks — along with pretty much every Nets’ fan — was livid about how Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has been officiated in the series.

Brooklyn minority owner (for now) and alternate governor Joe Tsai Tweeted this about Marks.

The NBA has fined Tsai $35,000 for “making public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Tsai is the second-largest shareholder of online shopping powerhouse Alibaba and is worth an estimated $10.2 billion. He owns 49 percent of the Nets.

Virginia’s Kyle Guy staying in NBA draft, not returning to Virginia

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Virginia is going to lose three starters from its national championship team. De'Andre Hunter is a likely top-7 pick that a lot of teams think can be a good “3&D” NBA player. Ty Jerome is a bubble first-round pick expected to stay in the draft. Mamadi Diakite also has his name in the mix.

Now it’s official, Kyle Guy says he is keeping his name in the mix.

Guy had 24 points in the title game against Texas Tech and was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for leading the Cavaliers to a title.

What he brings is shooting — he hit 42.6 percent from three this past season. He moves well off the ball and can catch-and-shoot, skills that NBA teams want. However, while he was a playmaker in college his handles and passing need work to be NBA ready, according to scouts. There also are concerns about his athleticism at the next level, and with that how well he can defend.

Guy is likely a second-round pick if taken at all, but he’s all in and going to take his shot while at the hight of his college career.

Hawks’ Lloyd Pierce replaces Pacers’ Nate McMillan as Team USA assistant coach

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is taking over Team USA, and he has assistant coaches for the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr
  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan
  • Villanova coach Jay Wright
  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce

USA Basketball release:

Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was named to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coaching staff today. Pierce replaces Indiana Pacers head coach Nate [McMillan] who withdrew because of scheduling conflicts.

This is a pretty big honor for Pierce, who just completed his first season as an NBA head coach. He guided Atlanta to only a 29-53 record.

But the young Hawks, especially Trae Young, improved throughout the season. Atlanta pushed the pace, hoisted 3s and defended aggressively (though not well). An identity is forming.

Though it’s far too early to say much about Pierce’s head-coaching acumen, he acquitted himself well in his first year.

Working with Team USA could even help Pierce ingratiate himself with stars. This could eventually pay off for the Hawks in free agency.