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Is Markelle Fultz’s jumper fixed? How high can he lift Sixers?

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This is the play that had all of Philadelphia buzzing.

It’s not just that this was Markelle Fultz‘s first made three as a Sixer, it’s that he took it without hesitation and showing a smooth form. It is the first expression of all the potential that made him the No. 1 pick back in 2017, the guy who was going to be the third star along with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia.

After most of a season spent sidelined with an injury and trying to get out of his own head, Fultz went to shot guru Drew Hanlen this summer and stripped his shot down and built it back up. While it may not be as smooth as his jumper in college at Washington, he is shooting it with confidence now, and that’s a start.

It’s progress, but there is still a long way to go. Fultz is 1-of-5 from three through three preseason games. He’s shooting a pedestrian 43.3 percent overall in the preseason.

Is it enough to lift the Sixers up and challenge Boston this season? No. And that’s a high bar to clear anyway.

Which is why Philadelphia made no secret of the fact they went big game hunting in free agency last summer and took a swing at landing Kawhi Leonard via trade. They wanted to add a third star, and Fultz’s name appeared in a plethora of trade rumors. Nothing came of any of it.

Fultz says now he wants to be that third star.

“I kind of like when people doubt me and say, ‘Look for another star,’ I see myself as that player. I just work every day to become better. I really don’t look at other people’s goals, but I definitely look at it to see myself as that next player that can step up in that role.”

If Fultz is going to be that guy, the jump shot has to be smooth and a weapon. While Joel Embiid can knock down a three, he needs to be around the basket being a beast to truly impact the game. Ben Simmons is not a threat to space the floor. Even with J.J. Redick and whoever else is out there for the Sixers, Brett Brown cannot play three guys at once who are not shooters, which means no Fultz with the other stars if he can’t consistently knock down jumpers, particularly from three.

So far this preseason, Fultz has looked improved from last season (a low bar to clear) but not where the Sixers need him to be to truly be a huge threat in the East. Yet, at least. We don’t know how Fultz and this season will develop, but right now Boston is on its own plain in the East, and the Raptors may be the second-best team if Leonard can play at the level we have started to see from him this preseason. Philly — who also gave up some shooting this summer letting Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belleneli go — have some holes to fill to stay as one of the top threats in the East.

Fultz is going to be asked to fill those hold and fill up the bucket with his jumper.

For this season, that seems a big ask.

 

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
• Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0