Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Fan goes on court to confront Russell Westbrook

6 Comments

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) Wild ending in Denver: Gary Harris drains game-winner, then fan confronts Westbrook. What we should be talking about is Denver getting its signature win of the season — they outplayed the Oklahoma City Thunder all night, including putting up 72 first-half points. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists, making his case for a future All-Star game. Jamal Murray had 33 points and absolutely broke Steven Adams‘ ankles. Gary Harris had 25, but it was the final three — off a Jokic pass — as a buzzer-beating game winner that we should be highlighting. We should be debating if Jokic violated the rules by taking a step before throwing his inbound pass to Harris for that game winner (I would argue he didn’t, we’ll see what the last two-minute reports says).

We should, but it’s what happened after that — when a fan came on the court to taunt and confront Russell Westbrook as he tried to leave the court — that everyone will be talking about.

Credit to Westbrook for not losing his cool here. He pushed the fan back before the late-to-the-scene security arrived, but he could have done much more and chose not to.

The NBA should not punish Westbrook here, this should be a no-call. For obvious reasons the league does not want to see players shoving fans, but this isn’t some Malice in the Palace moment where a player went into the stands, this fool (too kind a word) came onto the court after an emotional game, blocked Westbrook’s path to the locker room and taunted him. Westbrook gets a free shove there, it showed some restraint not to haul off and deck the guy. The league’s discipline system has all the consistency of a roulette wheel at times, so who knows what flows out of Kiki Vandeweghe’s office. But Westbrook should get a pass for this one.

2) Blake Griffin makes his debut in Detroit, and Pistons get the win. For all the questions about whether Stan Van Gundy should have made the trade for Blake Griffin, and whether that was good for the franchise or a sign of desperation, one thing was never in doubt:

Blake Griffin is an outstanding basketball player.

He’s healthy and showed that Thursday night in his debut against Memphis: 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Detroit got a quality 104-102 win.

That’s a big win for the Pistons — they have won two in a row now after their eight-game losing streak. Detroit is one game back of Philly for the final playoff slot in the East (two games in the loss column) and has seven-of-eight at home coming up — this is when the team needs to make its push into the postseason. These are crucial games for the team, and the Pistons need more of this Griffin.

One other interesting note: Van Gundy played Griffin through crunch time as the center guarding Marc Gasol, while Andre Drummond sat on the bench. The move worked as Anthony Tolliver was on the court in his place and hit a key late three, a couple of clutch free throws, and dived on a loose ball on the floor — having Drummond on the bench for the end of this game may well have been the right choice to win this game. However, if this becomes a trend it’s going to be an issue with Drummond.

3) Malcolm Brogdon has to be helped off the court after potentially serious injury. Hey, basketball gods, would you please lighten up on the injuries? Things have gotten out of control the past couple of weeks.

The latest is reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who apparently suffered an injury to the same tendon that Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have been dealing with in San Antonio. And it’s not good.

Let’s hope it’s not that bad and he’s back on the court soon.

Also in that game, the Timberwolves looked good on their way to a 108-89 win.

Report: NBA opened investigation into free agency tampering

AP
1 Comment

Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.

The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.

It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.

Via ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.

I have two thoughts about this.

First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.

Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.

This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.

I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.

Wizards owner says John Wall ‘probably won’t play’ in 2019-20

Getty
1 Comment

It was always likely that Washington Wizards star John Wall would be out for much of next year’s regular NBA season. The team has even filed for a disabled player exception for the 2019-20 season.

Now we have confirmation that the team is expecting Wall to miss significant time.

According to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that they are going to take things slow with Wall, and that he will miss serious time.

Via Twitter:

Washington is still trying to figure out what to do with Bradley Beal, and with Wall’s contract on the books, they don’t really have much of anywhere to go. The Wizards used their No. 9 overall pick on Rui Hachimura, which raised a few eyebrows.

But the team at least does have a GM in Tommy Sheppard, and they’ve made several hirings in the front office to try and out-think their competition. Washington has made a few moves, including trading for Davis Bertans and signing Isaiah Thomas.

Expect to see the Wizards at the bottom of the East next year. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be entertaining.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.