Three Things to Know: Stephen Curry rolls ankle and sits, Warriors roll on to win anyway

Associated Press
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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) Stephen Curry rolls ankle, will miss a couple of games, Warriors roll on to beat Spurs anyway. Stephen Curry’s ankles have been an issue this season — he sprained one back on Dec. 4 and missed much of that month getting healthy. Now that concern is back — though not as severe.

Curry rolled his ankle after landing and taking a step on a contested layup less than three minutes into Thursday night’s game against the Warriors.

This is not as severe as the December injury, but he’s going to miss time. Curry did not get on the plane postgame with the Warriors to fly up to Portland for Friday night’s contest, nor will he join the team in Minnesota for a weekend game against the Timberwolves. With the playoffs looming, the Warriors are going to be cautious bringing him back, that said, he’s not expected to miss an extended period of time.

Back in December when he was out, the Warriors tightened up their defense, Kevin Durant took over on offense, and Golden State won seven in a row.

That model played out again Thursday. Durant scored 15 of his 37 points in the final 6:30 of the fourth quarter — including 14 straight.

However, the game really changed when coach Steve Kerr assigned Draymond Green to cover LaMarcus Aldridge — he had 28 points through the first 38 minutes of the game, but his only points after the defensive switch were two free throws with 3.1 seconds play. The Warriors got the win 110-107 — their seventh in a row.

Golden State remains just half-a-game back of the Rockets for the best record in the NBA heading into a tough one Friday vs. the Trail Blazers (winners of eight in a row, and sitting at home rested for this one).

The Spurs have now lost 9-of-12 and while technically the five seed in the West they are tied with the Thunder and Timberwolves in that spot, just two games ahead of falling out of the playoffs entirely. The Spurs’ next two games are at Oklahoma City and at Houston, and they have 10-of-12 against teams currently in the playoffs coming up. It’s strange to say this, but the Spurs are in a battle for their playoff lives.

2) Boston’s Jaylen Brown okay after nasty fall. You can tell how scary this was by how quiet the Target Center in Minnesota instantly got after Jaylen Brown’s fall from the rim following a third-quarter dunk.

Brown did not return to the game after that but Tweeted this after.

He was on the team plane back to Boston, and the Celtics said he would be monitored for concussion symptoms — the headache (and that dazed look after he landed) suggests he may have one. Which is not good, he will miss time with it, but considering how he landed on his head/neck things could have been much worse.

3) Kyrie Irving returns, leads Celtics past Timberwolves without Brown in fourth.
Brown’s nasty fall put a cloud over the fourth quarter for Boston, but by that point the Celtics had a relatively comfortable lead that they never surrendered on their way to a 117-109 victory.

This was not a game with much defense from either side, but Boston had the better offense on the night with the return of Kyrie Irving from injury to lead the Celtics with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, plus eight assists and seven rebounds.

Boston’s Al Horford had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and their most important player on the night may well have been Marcus Morris with his 17 points off the bench.

Minnesota, searching for consistency without Jimmy Butler and fighting to make sure they stay in the playoffs (the Wolves are just two games ahead of the 9/10 seed Nuggets and Jazz), got a big night from Nemanja Bjelica with 30 points on 16 shots, plus 12 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds — but his 12 shots were tied for fourth on the team with Jeff Teague, this is one of the best offensive big men in the game and he’s got to get more touches and shots. Andrew Wiggins had played well since Butler’s injury, until Thursday — with Terry Rozier hounding him for stretches, Wiggins shot 6-of-21 overall including 1-of-8 from deep. He was missing from all over the court, and on open shots at that — Wiggins was 3-of-13 on uncontested looks (via NBA.com).

Minnesota is in a fight to stay in the playoffs the rest of the way, and with Butler out the team needs to defend better and play to its strengths more.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.