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Giannis Antetokounmpo touts loyalty to Bucks amid questions about his future

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In light of Gordon Hayward leaving the Jazz for the Celtics, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed the new Collective Bargaining Agreement – specifically bringing up Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose Bucks just completed a mangled process for hiring a new general manager.

Wojnarowski:

It just shows how hard it is at that mid-size market.

There are plenty of small-market owners and mid-size GMs who said, “We didn’t go far enough. I can’t keep guys.”

Milwaukee is going to go through this with the Greek Freak. That day is coming, right?, where he’s going to look and say, “Where is this organization? What are they doing here?” You don’t think Giannis has been watching what went on there for the last several months, of what they allowed to go on with the front office? He’s watching it, and the clock has started. Everybody in the league is trying to figure out how they’re going to get him out of there. That has started.

And so, Milwaukee – I don’t want to hear in three years or four years when they lose him, “Jeez, we can’t” – Utah did everything right, everything right from an organization. They lost their guy. And you look at a team like Milwaukee and say financially they’ll be able to do more. But you better have your organization in great shape, because then you have no chance with a guy like that.

The Jazz didn’t do everything right. In 2014, they forced Hayward – then a restricted free agent – to bring back an offer sheet. He did, a 3+1 max deal from Charlotte, which Utah matched. Had the Jazz just given Hayward a five-year deal outright, he wouldn’t have even been a free agent this summer. Whether they should have known to do that in 2014 is an interesting question. In hindsight, it was clearly a miscalculation.

But Wojnarowski’s larger point stands. Utah did a lot right, including drafting Rudy Gobert at No. 27 and hiring Quin Snyder. It wasn’t enough. Smaller markets have less margin for error.

Don’t tell that to Antetokounmpo, though.

With Wojnarowski’s comments swirling, Antetokounmpo – who once said he wanted to play for the Bucks forever – took to Twitter:

A lot of young players believe they’ll stay with one team their entire careers. It rarely works out that way.

Could Antetokounmpo be an exception? Sure.

But he might also wake up one day and realize he never picked the Bucks. His loyalty was founded on them picking him in a draft system that removes choice from labor. Even if he’s commitment-oriented, if he could have originally chosen a franchise to devote himself to, what are the odds it would have been Milwaukee? Just because the Bucks have seemingly treated him well, that doesn’t mean he should remain beholden. The Jazz treated Hayward great. He also made the forward-looking decision that the Celtics would be better for him in coming years than Utah would have been. Antetokounmpo might someday make a similar determination.

But the Bucks ought to feel good Antetokounmpo keeps pledging his loyalty to them. The more committed he feels now, the less likely he is to leave later.

Plus, Milwaukee could have an advantage in retaining Antetokounmpo the Jazz didn’t with Hayward – the new designated veteran player.

If Hayward made an All-NBA team this season, he might still be in Utah.

If Antetokounmpo makes an All-NBA team in either of the next two years, he’ll be eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension in 2020. That could pay him a starting salary of 35% of the cap with 8% raises over five years. Another team could offer just 25% of the cap with 5% raises. It’d be hard for Antetokounmpo to turn that down.

As we’ve seen with DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmy Butler, teams might hesitate to commit so much money to sub-superstars. But Antetokounmpo might be a superstar by 2020. Even if he’s not, he’ll be just 26 when that extension would kick in. Because he entered the league so young, the concerns about Cousins and Butler aging poorly by the end of super-max extensions don’t apply to Antetokounmpo. So, the Bucks will probably offer a designated-veteran-player extension if they can rather than preemptively trade him.

Maybe Antetokounmpo remains loyal to Milwaukee regardless. But that extra money sure wouldn’t hurt.

Luka Doncic had more points, rebounds and assists than Warriors in first quarter

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Luka Doncic keeps doing amazing things.

But he really outdid himself in opening quarter of the Mavericks win over the Warriors last night. The box score after the first quarter:

  • Points: Doncic 22, Warriors 16
  • Rebounds: Doncic 5, Warriors 4
  • Assists: Doncic 5, Warriors 4

Outscoring Golden State? OK. Getting more assists? OK. Doing both? That’s just incredible. Doncic was in total control offensively.

The 6-foot-7 wing out-rebounding the Warriors is especially astounding. Though I suppose if 6-foot Allen Iverson out-rebounded an entire team for a quarter, it’s not that crazy Doncic did, too.

To be fair, this achievement deserves a little context. Warriors who played in the first quarter:

Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George’s sloppy first game shows promise

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Kawhi Leonard, Paul George’s first game together is both sloppy and shows moments of real promise. This was what the Clippers had been waiting for since July, what they had paid a steep price to make a reality and change the course of a franchise.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shared an NBA court for the first time and it was…

Sloppy.

A bit awkward, like a blind first date. Credit Boston’s active defense for some of that — it’s not a fluke Boston has the seventh-best defense in the league this season and forced 23 turnovers on the night — but through the muck there were moments of real promise. Like the first play of the game, when the Celtics trapped Leonard off an Ivica Zubac pick, Leonard fed Zubac, who quickly found Leonard for a three.

Moments later, when the Celtics trapped Leonard, and he found George for three.

For much of the game, things were not as smooth with those two on the court together — as should be expected. George missed the first 11 games of the season following double shoulder surgery this offseason. Once he returned, Leonard was out three games with a bruised knee. The pair had literally one practice together, and in the full-contact scrimmage to end that day they were on opposing sides.

This marriage going to take time. The Clippers didn’t even explore a Leonard/George pick-and-roll in this game, but you know that’s coming. As Doc Rivers put it postgame:

“We were kind of trying not to get in each other’s way at times, you could feel that…

“We need a lot of work, you can see that… part of that was we were trying to get the ball to guys instead of trying to score.”

With the game on the line in overtime against one of the NBA’s better and hotter teams in Boston, two things that make the Clippers so dangerous were evident.

One is the defense — George and Leonard each made big defensive plays late, including Leonard blocking Marcus Smart’s attempt at a game-winner.

All game long the Clippers length and defense gave Boston — which came into the game with the league’s fourth-best offense — trouble.

Second is Leonard and George have a good team around them — Patrick Beverley was the best Clipper on the floor Wednesday night and the team gave him the game ball afterward. He was intense on defense (as always), had 14 points and 16 boards, and with the Celtics making the choice to trap and double on offense guys were open, and it was Beverley who made Boston pay with the overtime dagger to seal a 107-104 win.

The Clippers, for all their star power, look a lot like Beverley. This is a scrappy, hard-working team with guys who play their roles and bring intensity. Even their stars are that way — George and Leonard are not anointed No. 1 picks where everyone saw their stardom coming, they are lunch pail guys who had talent but came out of smaller colleges and had to work hard to get where they are. Nothing was handed to them, they had to grind it out.

This is why pairing Leonard and George was always going to take a little time to make work. They were always going to have to figure it out.

But when they do…. you can already see why the rest of the league should be worried.

2) Another night, another ridiculous Luka Doncic triple-double. This feels like a nightly thing, and I’m fast running out of ways to praise Luka Doncic, his play, and to remind everyone that he’s just 20 years old and in his second NBA season.

Age doesn’t matter, he’s been so good he’s injected himself into the way-too-early MVP conversation. His latest feat Friday night was a 35-point, 11 assists, 10 rebound triple-double against the hapless Warriors — this time he did it in just 25 minutes on the court.

Doncic scored more points in the first quarter than the Warriors (22-16) and also had more rebounds and assists than the Warriors team. The last guy to do that to any NBA team was Allen Iverson.

Doncic is now averaging a triple-double over his last 10 games: 31.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in that stretch. Here’s the list of other NBA players to average a 30+ point triple-double for 10 games or more: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson. That’s it.

Doncic is special, has willed the Mavericks to a 9-5 record, and has them looking like a playoff team in the West. Lifting up your team to the next level is what MVPs do, and so far in Dallas it’s what Doncic has done.

3) Do you believe in miracles… YES! Ben Simmons hits his first NBA three. That headline may overstate the excitement around Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons on Wednesday. But not by that much. Sixers fans — and coach Brett Brown — has had to wait three seasons, 193 games, and 18 attempts from three clank off the rim, if they hit anything at all. (Those numbers include his playoff stats.) It finally happened:

Ben Simmons has made his first NBA three.

We’ve all seen the videos of Simmons knocking down threes in an empty gym, but that’s the NBA equivalent of dunking on an 8-foot rim at the local elementary school. Not the same thing.

This was Simmons’ first attempt at a three all season — that’s the real concern. To create floor spacing Philly wants and needs, Simmons needs to be much more willing to uncork this shot — he’s got to take a bunch and make enough of them before teams respect him from deep.

This is at least a start. And it feels like a miracle.

There’s a mural in L.A. of Alex Caruso dunking over Harden, Leonard, Doncic

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It’s hard to overstate how popular Alex Caruso is in Los Angeles. Seriously. This isn’t just cult status popular, when he enters the game off the bench Staples Center explodes in cheers like LeBron James just fed Anthony Davis for an alley-oop.

Now Caruso has his own mural in Los Angeles.

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This is legit, it’s on the side of SportieLA, a clothing/apparel store on Melrose Ave. in the trendy heart of Los Angeles. Artist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. has done murals in the past for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other Los Angeles sports icons such as Vin Scully.

This one plays off a huge Caruso dunk from earlier this month when Dallas’ Maxi Kleber was the victim.

It’s good to be Alex Caruso in Los Angeles right now.

Kawhi Leonard just destroyed Boston’s Daniel Theis on dunk

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Daniel Theis‘ play as a rim protector is one of the reasons Boston has a top-10 defense this season. He has anchored the Celtics’ defense in the paint.

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP, and if he wants to go to the rim nobody is stopping him. Theis found out the hard way.

After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.

This was the first game Leonard and Paul George played together and they combined for 42 points, and they both made key play down the stretch of a 107-104 overtime win.