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Dirk Nowitzki eyes December for start of 21st season with Mavs

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DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki was ready to take the court Wednesday night – at halftime, for a ceremony in which the Mavericks star was to be presented a key to the city by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

As for when the 7-foot German’s record 21st season with the same franchise will begin after a longer-than-expected recovery from ankle surgery seven months ago, Nowitzki said the goal is sometime in December.

The 13-time All-Star had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle just before the end of the 2017-18 season. Nowitzki was on schedule to be ready for the start of this season before a setback led to tendon soreness just before the start of training camp in September.

Nowitzki spoke alongside Rawlings before the Mavericks’ game against Brooklyn, when the ceremony was planned.

“It’s just hard when I haven’t done much for eight weeks and there’s a 40-year-old basically starting from scratch to try to get back in shape to play NBA minutes,” Nowitzki said. “Hopefully soon. Hopefully, somewhere in December I’ll be ready and the body will respond the right way.”

Nowitzki is set to become the first player to spend all 21 seasons with the same team. Until he makes his debut, he will technically share the record of 20 seasons with Kobe Bryant, who retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

The 2007 NBA MVP said he started running on a treadmill about two weeks ago and has steadily increased the intensity. Nowitzki has played in a couple of games involving staff members during practice. But until he goes through several full practices, his debut will have to wait.

“The reason why we’re taking it so slow now is once I get out there, I want to finish the rest of the season healthy,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t want to come back too soon now and then have setbacks again like I did with the Achilles a few years ago. Next thing you know I missed another few weeks.”

Nowitzki said the significance of this debut hasn’t made him any more anxious than the painstaking wait when all indications were the surgery wouldn’t affect what could – and many presume will be – his final season.

“I’ve been antsy,” he said. “Had the surgery in April and it’s been nothing but rehab and treadmills. Love to step out there soon and get the kick of competing, the crowd involved. It’s just something I miss. And once my career is over, that’s for sure something I’ll miss, the kick, the rush, the adrenaline.”

Nowitzki said he wasn’t ready to decide how the injury will influence a decision on a possible 22nd season.

Either way, Rawlings didn’t want to wait past this season to honor the player who led the Mavericks to their only championship as the NBA Finals MVP in 2011 and is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history with 31,187 points, seventh on the all-time list.

Rawlings lauded Nowitzki for his willingness to be visible in public, mentioning that he was elected the same night Nowitzki was celebrating a birthday and they ended up at the same club.

“That was LIT!” Nowitzki interrupted, drawing laughs.

“A kid came here that was skinny and didn’t really know much about life and only lived at home,” Nowitzki said earlier. “Like I said earlier, grew into a man here. Off the court, try to help out, try to help this great city be better. Try to represent the city the right way.”

Gordon Hayward does not plan to leave bubble for birth of son

Gordon Hayward birth of son
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When Boston first went to the NBA restart bubble in Orlando, Gordon Hayward was upfront: He was leaving the bubble for the birth of his fourth child.

Hayward ended up leaving the bubble for another reason β€” he severely sprained his ankle and was out for more than a month. During his rehab, Hayward left the bubble and spent time at home, returning a couple of weeks ago. Saturday he played his first game back for Boston, helping it to a win against the Heat.

Hayward’s wife, Robyn, has yet to have their son, but now Hayward does not plan to leave the bubble for the event, something first reported by Rachel Nichols of ESPN during Saturday’s game.

Hayward confirmed this after the game. So did Robyn in a social media post, adding the reports she was in labor already were not true.

I don’t envy the Hayward family having to make this choice. As a parent, I can’t imagine having missed the births of any of my children, but, like everything else in 2020, this is far from a typical decision at a typical time. The Haywards are making the best of it they can. They deserve support no matter what they choose.

LeBron James, Dion Waiters’ son engage in a little trash talk

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“Yeah, right.”

That was Dion Waiters Jr.’s response to pretty much everything LeBron James during the Lakers’ practice on Saturday before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

LeBron was getting up some corner threes and told Waiters Jr. he would make 100 straight.

“Yeah, right.”

When LeBron missed one,Β “I missed that on purpose.”Β 

“Yeah, right.”

“I missed that on purpose, so you’d think I’m human,” LeBron joked.

Got to love Dion Waiters Jr. β€” he’s got some of his dad’s spunk.

Families have been allowed in the bubble for teams for a couple of weeks, although LeBron’s sons are not there, with LeBron saying it’s not a great place for kids (he’s right, for anyone over about 7 or 8, there would be little to do).

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle β€” providing more quality wing play and good decision making β€” and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game on Saturday night.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart β€” an All-Defensive Team player β€” had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that β€” and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late β€” to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year β€” 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.