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Five Things to Know: Porzingis is out, changing Knicks plans for summer, next season

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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 — except last night was so insane here are the five things you need to know.

1) Kirstaps Porzingis tears his ACL, surgery upcoming and he is done for the season. “It sucks, man, it sucks.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. speaks for all of us as the news came down that The Franchise, The Unicorn, the Knicks best player and All-Star Kristaps Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee on a dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo — and it looked bad the second he landed.

It was later determined to be an ACL tear, and Porzingis will have surgery. While no timetable was given, the recovery on those is generally 8-12 months, which means this likely stretches into the start of next season. As an example, Chicago’s Zach LaVine injured tore his ACL on Feb. 3 last season and only returned to action a couple of weeks ago in mid-January. Even when Porzingis gets back on the court, it will take him a little time to fully trust the knee again and be his old self.

The injury doesn’t change the calculus for this season, the Knicks had only a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs before Porzingis went down (according to fivethirtyeight.com). It will change plans for next season if KP misses the first couple of months of games, at the very least putting the Knicks in a hole to dig out of to make the postseason, and possibly keeping them out of the playoffs all together again. The injury could have the Knicks thinking more about the 2019-20 season than the next one. It also raises the question of if the Knicks still will give Porzingis the expected max contract extension they can this summer, something that was a given 24 hours ago. Because of Porsingis’ track record and the fact he’s a franchise cornerstone player they a most certainly do, but this gives them a little pause to think about it.

Now the Knicks move their focus to the summer, when they will try to add to the Porzingis/Hardaway core through the draft and trades (they are already capped out so free agency is not going to be a big market). Enes Kanter can opt out of his contract and the Knicks will want to bring him back (at what price will be interesting), and they have to figure out what to do with Joakim Noah, who is away from the team and will still be owed two years and $37.8 million (a trade is not on the table unless the Knicks want to throw a couple of first-round picks and other sweeteners in that deal).

2) Here’s a list of the All-Stars injured before the game this year — it’s depressing. On the night of the All-Star draft, we all praised LeBron James for putting together the better team, but it turns out maybe it was a curse. With the addition of Porzingis now, four players selected by fans or coaches for the All-Star game are going to miss it due to injury, and every one of them is on Team LeBron:

DeMarcus Cousins: Torn Achilles
Kevin Love: Broken hand
John Wall: Knee surgery
Kristaps Porzingis: Torn ACL

That sucks some of the fun out of the Feb. 18 game.

The NBA league office will announce Wednesday the replacement for Porzingis. It will be the highest rated player remaining from the Eastern Conference in the coaches voting. My guess is it’s Kemba Walker, but Ben Simmons is a possibility.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo had the dunk of the year. We can stop the voting now. It’s over. We know who won the dunk of the year — Antetokounmpo leaped over Tim Hardaway Jr. to finish an alley-oop. He Frederic Weised him. Remember Hardaway is 6’6″.

4) Cavaliers collapse vs. Magic, Isaiah Thomas calls team out, LeBron sticking around. Another game, another ugly Cavaliers loss. Early on in this one, LeBron James was engaged and active — something we haven’t seen a lot of the past month. He can still put this team on his back and carry it, as he has done for a couple of months this season already, and in the first quarter Tuesday the Cavaliers dropped 43 on one of the worst teams in the NBA in Orlando. Cleveland led by as many as 21.

But the third quarter was flat-out ugly, and the fourth was worse. Orlando scored 41 in the third the Cavaliers scored nine points in the fourth (and just 31 for the half). Orlando got the win, 116-98.

After the game, LeBron reiterated he is not waiving his no-trade clause, he is not going anywhere. This season.

“I’m here for this season right now to try and figure out a way we can still compete. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”

Also, Isaiah Thomas (after another rough game) called out the team saying they come apart when faced with adversity.

The Cavaliers keep finding new lows. But Dan Gilbert is back in charge of basketball operations, so no need to worry now *cough*.

5) Toronto beats Boston in what well could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview. Cleveland is vulnerable. Not just “they may not get out of the East” vulnerable, but “they may not make the Eastern Conference Finals” vulnerable the way they are playing right now. (There are a couple of months until the playoffs start, and the trade deadline is coming up, but the Cavaliers problems are systemic. And again, Dan Gilbert is back in charge of basketball operations. That is not a sign of hope.)

Is Boston vs. Toronto our Eastern Conference Finals? Maybe. Tuesday night was a little taste of that.

The Raptors handled Boston easily, 111-91, on a night Kyrie Irving returned to action but was off, and with him the Celtics offense was not right. Especially in the face of an underrated Raptors defense. On the other end DeMar DeRozan was playmaking, Kyle Lowry was engaged and attacking (23 points), Serge Ibaka was sharp, and the Toronto bench was superior. It led to an easy Toronto win.

No game in February is a true playoff preview, you can’t take much from that game into a potential Eastern Conference Finals, save for this — Toronto is legit. The Raptors have been good for years, but their isolation ball got them in trouble in the postseason. This is the best Raptors team of this run, and if you think they’ll just fold in the playoffs you’re going to be disappointed.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.

Stephen Curry goes berserk, Warriors beat Rockets by 41 in Game 3

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Stephen Curry had yet another big third quarter. Who could have seen that coming?

On the heels of the Houston Rockets’ 22-point win in Game 2, the Golden State Warriors decided to turn up the intensity as they returned home to Oakland on Sunday. The Warriors leapt out of the gate, scoring 31 points in the first quarter and playing monumental defense at the rim. Houston suffered from blown attempts in the paint for the entire first half, but it was their 3-point defense that stabilized their offense. The Rockets shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Then, perhaps expectedly, came the third quarter. The realm of 2-time NBA MVP Curry.

Golden State’s golden point guard failed to miss a single field goal in the quarter, helping the Warriors rally to start the half as well as fend off a Houston charge midway through the period. Curry completely took over with around six minutes left, dropping five of the Warriors’ next six made baskets.

It was enchanting, and everything we’ve come to expect from Curry when he’s at his best. After a made bucket, there was a shimmy. After a follow-up layup, a defiant stance on the baseline as he yelled to the crowd about Oracle Arena being his house.

Indeed, it was.

Curry and the Warriors did not let off the gas in the fourth quarter, finally burying the Rockets that both sides called a truce with 5:11 left, subbing out their big stars.

Houston was led by James Harden, who scored 20 points with nine assists and five rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times. Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Eric Gordon helped with 11 points off the bench. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 28 points off turnovers to the Warriors.

For Golden State it was Curry’s 35 points and six rebounds as the big story. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors shot 41 percent from 3-point range as every starter scored in double-digits. Golden State was also able to limit its turnovers to just eight.

Game 3 exemplified the stratification between the two teams. Houston was arguably the best team of the regular season, with the caveat being that Curry was out for huge swaths of time due to injury. With Curry back on the floor and playing at full tilt, Golden State again looks unbeatable.

Steve Kerr was able to counter the Game 2 strategy from Mike D’Antoni, who ran everything during Houston’s win directly at Curry on defense to tire out the recently-returned star. Kerr’s tweaks resulted in a complete eruption from Curry, one Houston was powerless to stop. Coupled with the continuous pounding from Durant and the incessant, extra pass 3-pointers, the Rockets didn’t have a counterstrike option.

Game 4 is in Oakland on Tuesday at 6:00 PM PST. We’ll see if D’Antoni can work his magic and come up with another new strategy to try and slow the Warriors.

Marcus Morris: II did a s–t job defensively against LeBron’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead. Not yet, at least.

LeBron James helped lead his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 116-86, to set the series at 2-1 with the Cavaliers trailing.

James was efficient, scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding 12 assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. As a team Cleveland shot an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range, dwarfing their marks from Games 1 and 2 in the series.

Meanwhile, the team-first strategy implemented by the Celtics finally got its first big test of the Eastern Conference Finals. A top defensive team, Boston was embarrassed by how it played in Game 3 and they weren’t afraid to admit it. Four of its five starters were double-digit minuses in the box score, including Marcus Morris, who many were touting as a LeBron stopper (or LeBron slower).

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Morris gave his honest opinion of how he played vs. LeBron. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown said he was embarrassed.

Via Twitter:

Sounds about right.

Because you play the same team over and over again, by the time you get to the conference finals it’s all about finding counters to your opponent’s counters. The game-by-game strategy changes so much, and out of necessity.

The Cavaliers finally found their sweet spot, not only from beyond the 3-point line but in limiting the offensive contributions of both Morris and guys like Al Horford.

How Brad Stevens counters Ty Lue’s Game 3 strategy should be fun to watch, and reciprocal changes in the coming games will be the story of the series. Boston still has the edge, but the Cavaliers aren’t letting someone take The King’s crown without a fight.