Associated Press

Paul George’s return fuels high expectations for Thunder

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George is back, and so are the high hopes be brought when he joined the Thunder.

Oklahoma City acquired George last year in the deal that sent rising star Victor Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers. It was thought by many that Oklahoma might be just a detour on George’s road home to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. Instead, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder made a winning sales pitch. George, an All-Star and one of the league’s best two-way players, shocked many by staying instead of leaving in free agency.

“I just developed these really good relationships here, almost feeling like I’ve been here for a while,” George said. “And then just over the course of the whole season, it just steamrolled, just got better and better, and here I am.”

George’s return is fueling hopes that Oklahoma City can improve on a disappointing, inconsistent season that ended with a first-round playoff exit.

“I just think we worked through a lot in one year, and people expected us to be a lot further along,” George said. “But honestly, that’s the reason why I’m here for year two. I knew it wasn’t going to be something that happened in one year being with this group. You’ve got to build certain habits, and that’s the habits we’re hoping that we build, is that consistency.”

The Thunder traded Carmelo Anthony during the summer in a deal that brought guard Dennis Schroder from the Atlanta Hawks. Schroder, who averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season, has been dynamic during the preseason.

“Obviously Dennis is a great player,” Westbrook said. “Done a lot of great things in Atlanta. Plays fast, plays with pace, good with the basketball, and I think it’s going to open up a lot of different things for him and myself when we’re on the floor together, so looking forward to it.”

ROBERSON’S KNEE

Thunder guard Andre Roberson, one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, will be out for at least two months following a procedure as he recovers from the torn left patellar tendon that cost him the second half of last season. Oklahoma City’s defense suffered without him last season, but Schroder could make up for his absence with his athleticism and scoring prowess.

MISSING `MELO

George acknowledged that things didn’t go as planned with Anthony, who struggled at times last season. Anthony is now with Houston, and Oklahoma City has become younger and faster.

“We miss Melo here as a teammate, as a brother, but if something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” George said. “It’s nothing that he did, it’s nothing that the organization did, nothing that the coaches did. If something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work, and that’s fine. We’ve got to be able to move on from that, and he’s in a better situation for him, and we’ve got to move on and get prepared as a team.”

JUMPING JERAMI

The Thunder also kept versatile, ultra-athletic forward Jerami Grant. He can play the forward spots and even center if the Thunder choose to go small. George considers Grant a key piece to Oklahoma City’s puzzle.

“J.G. is one of those special players I think that you need on a team to make a team special. Every team needs that one guy that can do a little bit of everything, and J.G. is that guy,” George said. “You can plug J.G. in at any spot, and he’s going to come out with some special plays for us.”

 

 

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

PBT Podcast: Which players’ stock rose most in the bubble?

Jamal Murray Donovan Mitchell
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In the wake of Tyler Herro looking like the best offensive player Miami has seen since some guy decided to go back home to Cleveland, the question becomes what players have helped themselves the most in the bubble, and in the playoffs in particular?

Not coincidentally, Miami and Denver have a lot of those players, with the Nuggets Jamal Murray probably topping the list.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports get into that, talk some Boston/Miami series, and also talk about the recent coaching carousel including Billy Donovan to Chicago and the fact no team has hired a Black coach this offseason.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Juancho Hernangomez missing Timberwolves workouts to film Adam Sandler movie

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez
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The Timberwolves, like the other seven teams not invited to the NBA’s restart at Disney World, are holding workouts.

Not in Minnesota: Forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chris Hine of the StarTribune:

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia.

Netflix is producing the film, called “Hustle.”

And people thought LeBron James – also a producer of “Hustle,” which is about a basketball scout who finds talent oversees – prioritized Hollywood over hoops.

A Spain native, Hernangomez will be a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves can make him restricted.

But how could anyone want a player who doesn’t respect the sanctity of voluntary workouts occurring several months before next season (besides his 3-point shooting, rebounding and defensive versatility)?

Buddy Hield fuels 76ers trade rumor

Kings guard Buddy Hield vs. 76ers
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A rumor emerged about the Kings trading Buddy Hield to the 76ers. It didn’t seem particularly credible.

But then Hield himself liked this Instagram post promoting a potential trade and apparently made a pro-Philadelphia comment on Instagram:

Hield previously laid the groundwork for an offseason trade request. He seemed unhappy at times in Sacramento this season, losing his starting job and even riding the bench when the Kings needed a 3-pointer.

The 76ers could use more shooting – especially if they hire Mike D’Antoni. Hield would definitely add value. A lineup where Hield and Josh Richardson defend guards and Ben Simmons plays point guard offensively and defends a frontcourt player is intriguing.

Hield is set to earn $24,931,817 next season in the first year of a four-year extension. That’s in the range of Tobias Harris ($34,358,850) and Al Horford ($27,500,000).

However, Horford’s trade value is at rock bottom. Tobias Harris would add only so much value to Sacramento, which already has Harrison Barnes.

Kings fans can hope for Ben Simmons ($28,750,000) or Joel Embiid ($29,542,010). But those stars are FAR more valuable than Hield. Besides, the 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Simmons or Embiid (though it’s unclear who exactly is running the show in Philadelphia).

Regardless of whether the Kings and 76ers could connect on a trade, Hield making these public gestures is an issue in Sacramento. It’s on new Kings general manager Monte McNair to manage this. After years of supporting Daryl Morey with the Rockets, this is a new challenge – being in charge while a player makes waves – for McNair.

Relatedly, McNair must also handle Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s impending restricted free agency. These look like warning shots from Hield as Sacramento determines its priorities at shooting guard.