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Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook steps into history books with 100th triple double

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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) Russell Westbrook joins Hall of Fame company with 100th triple-double. Oscar Robertson. Magic Johnson. Jason Kidd.

And now Russell Westbrook.

The 100 triple-double club is small and filled with some of the best to ever play the game. Westbrook got his 100th triple-double Tuesday night vs. Atlanta, racking up 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds during an easy Thunder win.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a league-leading 21 triple-doubles this season for Westbrook, coming on the heels of last season when he averaged a triple-double for the entire season (and won the MVP award).

Robertson owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Is that a number Westbrook can hit? Can Westbrook average 20 triple-doubles for four more seasons beyond this one? It’s a big ask, but tell Westbrook he can’t do something and he’s likely to do it.

2) Injury updates: Kevin Love could be back on the court before Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard.
At this point in the season, playoff-bound teams prioritize getting healthy and entering the postseason rested over everything else — unless they need to worry about just making the playoffs. That brings us to our injury updates of three key players, and we will go in projected order of return.

Kevin Love could return to the Cleveland Cavaliers lineup next week. He has been out with a fractured hand since Jan. 30, but when I saw him the other day in Los Angeles (while the Cavaliers were in town for a couple games) he was working out and getting shots up with the cast off. He says he will be back next week — and the Cavaliers need him. They are 2-2 so far on a seven-game road trip, and their offense lacks anyone outside LeBron James who can be trusted to create shots or get consistent buckets. Love helps with those issues. Plus they need time to integrate him into the rotation — he’s been out since before the trade deadline and Tyronn Lue needs to see where Love fits with Larry Nance Jr. and the rest of the new Cavaliers.

Stephen Curry will remain out the rest of this week and be re-evaluated March 20. The Warriors are not falling below the two seed in the West, they don’t care about catching Houston for the top seed, and they have a soft schedule the rest of the way — there is no reason to rush Curry back from his third ankle injury of the season. Let Kevin Durant rack up numbers, the Warriors epitomize the kind of team focused on health and rest over everything else right now.

Kawhi Leonard will be back when his own medical team clears him to return. Nobody knows when that will be — not even Gregg Popovich. Like any smart player with a significant injury, Leonard got a second opinion from someone other than the team doctor (team doctors are generally very good at their job, but they are paid by the team and that can create a conflict of interest). It’s not the Spurs doctors, it’s Leonard’s doctors who have not cleared him fully yet. Leonard is frustrated, the Spurs are frustrated, but he will be back when he is back. Whenever that will be.

3) West playoff update after Tuesday: Denver loss to Lakers a tough setback. In a brutal Western Conference playoff race, the cardinal sin is losing to below .500 teams — which makes the Lakers the ultimate spoilers. They are a below .500 team that is playing like a playoff team, having gone 20-12 in 2018 (and 20-9 since LaVar Ball said the guys were not playing for Luke Walton).

Denver found that out the hard way in a 112-103 loss that included Isaiah Thomas making a little jab at Jamal Murry on the final play.

The loss drops the Nuggets to the 10 seed, a game back of the Spurs and Jazz who are tied for the eighth seed and final playoff spot. Both San Antonio (108-72) and Utah (110-79) had comfortable wins over non-playoff teams on Tuesday night.

In other West action, Minnesota beat Washington, Oklahoma City easily beat Atlanta (Westbrook’s triple-double game), the Clippers beat the Bulls, and the Pelicans beat the Hornets. All of that means there was little movement in the West playoff standings on Tuesday night, save for Denver taking a step back.

Rumor: Spurs won’t trade Kawhi Leonard to Western Conference team

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants the Spurs to trade him, ideally to the Lakers or Clippers.

Chris Sheridan of Get More Sports:

He is not going to Los Angeles…or any other destination in the Western Conference, sources are telling GetMoreSports.com.

Leonard has some leverage in that he can tell any non-L.A. team that he has no interest in signing an extension after his current deal expires in a year, and that may end up diminishing the value of offers Eastern Conference teams are willing to make.

But if you think that bothers Popovich, you don’t know Popovich. The guy would gladly take 75 cents on the dollar for Kawhi if he could ship him out of the West — even if that upsets Kawhi.

There are two choices here:

The Spurs are a well-run organization that will manage this crisis as effectively as possible.

or

The Spurs will outright refuse to trade Leonard to a Western Conference team.

It can’t be both.

If the Spurs trade Leonard, they should take the best offer they get – no matter who makes it. Teams like the Celtics and 76ers have better assets to dangle. But if the Lakers and Clippers are the only team with assurances Leonard will re-sign next summer, they could offer more, even assembling a package from a shallower pool of assets.

The Spurs shouldn’t worry where Leonard lands. But that doesn’t mean they won’t worry where Leonard lands.

Report: Celtics believe Kyrie Irving happy in Boston

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Chris Mannix reported Kyrie Irving, when he played for the Cavaliers, told teammates of his desire to play for the Knicks. In the same discussion, Mannix speculated on the Celtics’ fear of Irving leaving in 2019 unrestricted free agency. Asked about his future in Boston, Irving gave a cryptic answer.

There’s just no good way to resolve this until summer 2019. As Irving knows, a contract extension is illogical. The largest extension he could sign, beginning July 1, would be four years, $108,053,240 ($27,013,310 annually). If he waits until 2019 free agency, he could re-sign for a projected $188 million over five years (about $38 million annually) – and even more if he makes an All-NBA team next year. In that case, his max would project to be $219 million over five years (about $44 million annually).

So, the Celtics must ride this out – or trade Irving before he gets to free agency. How do they feel about his future with Boston?

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

A league source said Friday that the Celtics believe Irving is happy in Boston and would like to be with the team long-term, but that there are no certainties.

This is probably correct. Irving clearly wanted out of Cleveland, so him longing for a spot on the Knicks made more sense then. Overall, Irving seems happy in Boston. A noncommittal answer from someone whose brand is mysterious ideas doesn’t set off alarms.

That said, also file this under: What else are they supposed to say? The Celtics maximize Irving’s trade value if everyone believes he’s happy and not a flight risk who should be preemptively traded.

The Celtics must closely monitor Irving’s satisfaction with them. If it seems he might leave, they ought to look hard at trading him first.

But it really seems the Celtics aren’t anywhere near that point. If they are, they’ve bluffed well.

J.R. Smith’s Game 1 Finals jersey up for auction

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It was the moment that defined the 2018 NBA Finals.

The score was tied with 4.7 seconds left when George Hill missed his second of two free throws, but J.R. Smith made an impressive play to get the offensive rebound — then tried to dribble out the clock like the Cavaliers were ahead.

Now, you can own Smith’s Game 1 jersey — the one he was wearing when he made a play so thoughtless LeBron James broke his own hand punching a whiteboard in frustration over it. It’s available on the NBA auction site. The bidding goes on for three more days, until June 21.

As of Monday morning, the current bid is $3000.

A Warriors’ fan is going to buy this thing, not a Cavaliers fan. They are still trying to repress this memory.

Kevin Durant’s dad wrote him a nice letter for Father’s Day

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Kevin Durant and his father didn’t have the best relationship growing up. Wayne Pratt, father of the Golden State Warriors star, left Durant and his family when the sharpshooting Finals MVP was just one year old.

Pratt was in and out of Durant’s life, and eventually they reconciled. Now, Pratt is important part of Durant’s career and business decisions.

As several players decided to celebrate their fathers and the national day of recognition on social media, it was actually Pratt who decided to write a letter to his son. In a post on The Undefeated, Pratt spoke about how he was grateful to have Durant as a son and to have reconciled with him.

Via The Undefeated:

I regret missing out on your first day of school, your first haircut, holidays and the first day you picked up a basketball. But I thank God daily for creating the opportunity for us to reconnect. I’m so thankful for you opening your heart at such a tender time. Every parent-child relationship has its ups and downs and we are no exception. I feel fortunate that we have learned how to successfully navigate life’s mistakes. Thank you for forgiving me and allowing us to have the great relationship we have today.

Go back and read the full letter, it’s worth it. Seeing the vulnerability between two grown men living a real, complicated, and adult situation like this is humanizing. Plus, it appears to have had a positive ending for Durant and his pops.

Hope all you dads out there had a good one on Sunday.