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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: Terry Stotts to remain Trail Blazers coach next season

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts
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The Trail Blazers had big expectations after reaching the 2019 Western Conference finals and signing their top players, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to lucrative contract extensions.

Instead, Portland (26-32) is in a dogfight with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns and Kings for the No. 8 seed.

Often, teams underperforming like that fire their coach.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

A source with knowledge of coach Terry Stotts’ situation said there’s no reason to believe he’s in any danger this summer, regardless of how this turns out.

Stotts has a few things working in his favor:

So expect Stotts back next season. But also expect him to face a little more pressure. Even if a lot of what wrong this season wasn’t his fault, losing tends to increase scrutiny on the coach.

In his eighth season with the Trail Blazers, Stotts is the NBA’s fourth-longest-tenured coach (behind only the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Heat’s Erick Spoelstra and Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle). It just becomes increasingly more difficult for Stotts to meet the high expectations he has helped set in Portland.

For now, though, Stotts appears to remain ahead of the curve.

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.