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Three Things to Know: Celtics rain 24 threes on Bucks, but Milwaukee belongs

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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) Celtics rain 24 threes to beat Bucks, but Milwaukee shows it belongs. “No doubt, we feel like we can be in that upper echelon of teams in the East. There’s some teams, for good reason, that everybody talks about, you know, Boston and Philadelphia and Toronto and, you know, Indiana. Teams that had great years last year and have great rosters. But, you know, we certainly feel like we should be in that mix.”

That’s what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told Mike Krzyzewski on Coach K’s SiriusXM radio show on ESPNU Radio. His team then went out and proved it belongs.

The Celtics, however, got the win with 24 threes (On 55 attempts), one shy of the NBA record for a single game, to beat the Bucks 117-113. Boston got 72 points off of threes and 45 points off free throws and buckets inside the arc.

For the Celtics, it’s a big win behind Kyrie Irving‘s 28 points, and they hand the Bucks their first loss. After stumbling the first few games, the Celtics are finding their offense — they scored 115.8 points per 100 in this one — and remain the team to beat in the East.

But the Bucks hung with them, on the road, on a night when the Celtics knocking it down from deep. The Bucks didn’t treat this like a playoff game (they kept having Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova drop off the pick-and-roll, their standard defense, but it gave Al Horford and other bigs clean threes they could hit, something the Bucks wouldn’t do in a seven-game series) and yet they were in it at the end. The Bucks also got 33 points and 11 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also did this.

There are no moral victories, but for the Bucks their first loss shouldn’t have them down — they looked like a team that can hang with anyone in the East. They belong.

2) De'Aaron Fox has his first triple-double, the Kings rout the Hawks and are now 6-3. The biggest surprise to start the NBA season? More than the Rockets stumbles out of the gate or the Wizards imploding (is that even a surprise?) it’s the Sacramento Kings — they are playing well. Playing hard.

Leading the way has been De’Aaron Fox, who showed flashes as a rookie but has come alive in his second season and against the Hawks “defense” (they have been terrible) he dropped 31 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds — at age 20 the youngest player in NBA history to drop 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 15+ assists in a game.

It’s not just Fox in Sacramento. Buddy Hield scored 27 against the Hawks and that makes five straight games with at least 20 — he is the shooter we expected. Willie Cauley-Stein has been a beast this season. Nemanja Bjelica had 19 against the Hawks and has become the secondary sniper this team needs.

The Kings have the point differential of a team that should be closer to .500 (+1.6 per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass) but that still is light years ahead of where we had this team before the season. The Kings are playing well and opponents better take them seriously. This team is good and will outwork you every night.

3) Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder pick up first road win, they’re finding their groove. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-4 now after coming from 19 down in the third quarter to beat the Hornets in Charlotte. That’s a solid win, Charlotte is playing well.

The formula remains the same in OKC: Their defense is good, currently fifth in the NBA, and then get enough out of Russell Westbrook to win. He had 29 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and pulled out the Shammgod last night for a bucket.

OKC stumbled out of the gate this season, but the Thunder have gotten back to their identity once healthy and that means wins. But about the healthy part, this is a concern.

Ben Simmons reverses course, withdraws from Australia’s Word Cup squad

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ben Simmons‘ new contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers came with bad news for Australian basketball fans: The Melbourne-born NBA All-star won’t play for the Boomers at the World Cup.

Hours after Simmons and the 76ers agreed to a $170 million, five-year contract extension on Tuesday, Simmons said he preferred to spend time with his new teammates in September instead of travelling to China for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 World Cup.

“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” Simmons said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Simmons had been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad and had earlier indicated he planned to play the tournament in China.

He now plans to play only for the Boomers in two exhibition games against the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 at a stadium that is expected to be sold out – 50,000 fans – for each game. He also said the Olympics next year in Tokyo remain on his schedule.

“I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games,” Simmons said. “I’m really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving closer to 2020 where I will be honored and humbled to represent my country on the world’s biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.”

Simmons was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was the Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists in his two seasons.

Australia’s World Cup lineup is set to feature San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, Phoenix center Aron Baynes, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut, Detroit center-forward Thon Maker and Simmons’ 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden.

 

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

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When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

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Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.

Enes Kanter trolls (jokingly) Kyrie Irving on why Kanter will wear No. 11 with Boston

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Kyrie Irving is off to Brooklyn, which opened up the No. 11 jersey in Boston.

New Celtics center Enes Kanter will wear it, and his answer as to why is an awesome joke and troll of Irving.

You have to love the smile before he makes the joke, he has planned this out.

If you don’t get the “I want to be the reason no one else will” wear No. 11, you have to remember this Irving/Nike ad from Boston.

Well played Kanter, well played.