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Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook passes Chamberlain, Harden still chasing

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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 passes Wilt Chamberlain with 10th straight triple-double — and it’s still Paul George’s night. I fear we take what Russell Westbrook is doing for granted. Nobody — not Jordan, Dr. J., Bird, Magic, LeBron, Smush Parker (especially Smush Parker) — had been able to average a triple-double for a season since Oscar Robertson did it back when John F. Kennedy was president and gas cost 28¢ a gallon. It was an unreachable mark.

Russell Westbrook is on pace to do it for a third straight season. The former MVP is averaging 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game.

Monday night his 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists was his 10th consecutive triple-double — surpassing Wilt Chamberlain to set a new NBA record. Any time someone passes Wilt on a scoring list, that’s a legendary feat.

And he was the second best player on his team.

Paul George continued his “put me in the MVP race” run of play with 47 points 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The MVP talk for George is no joke.

Westbrook and George made even more history: This was the first time ever teammates have had 20-point triple-doubles in the same game.

Oklahoma City picked up the 120-111 win against Portland in a game that could have seeding implications in a crowded West down the line.

2) James Harden’s 30-point streak extends, barely, to 30 games in Rockets win. Dallas looked as if it was going to be the team. At some point, James Harden’s streak of 30+ point games is going to end. He’s going to miss some shots, a team will have the waves of long defenders to throw at him, or like Monday night the Rockets could be well ahead (21 points) and Harden would sit the fourth and not be needed, not have the chance to get his numbers.

Harden almost was going to ride this one out on the pine, but Dallas made a 17-7 fourth-quarter run that had the game in single digits more than midway through the fourth, so Mike D’Antoni had to turn back to his star to seal the win.

Harden scored 11 quick points to secure the victory. He drained a step-back three and then hit another from beyond the arc, he got to the line for some free throws. Finally, he drained a deep three that extended the streak — watch him laugh and point to his mother as he runs back down the court.

That’s 30 games in a row of 30+ points for Harden, one short of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s second-longest streak ever of 31 games. The all-time streak is 65 from Wilt, and it’s wild to think Harden isn’t even halfway there.

Houston got the 120-104 win Monday, and that’s been the real MVP move about Harden’s streak — when it started the Rockets were below .500 and out of the playoffs at 13th in the West. Harden is in a zone and putting up points, but more importantly, he’s willed his teams to win and into the postseason chase.

3) Brooklyn makes Toronto work for it, but Kawhi Leonard hits the game winner. Even if he didn’t call bank. A lot of teams, down heading into the final minutes against one of the better teams in the NBA, would roll over and accept their fate. Not Brooklyn. They scrap, they fight, they will not go quietly into that good night.

Monday night the never-say-die Nets went on an 8-0 run late to make it a tight game and force a dramatic ending.D'Angelo Russell hit from beyond the arc to put the Nets up three, but then Danny Green answered to tie the game. However, after a Joe Harris miss, Kawhi Leonard got the rock and knew he was brought to Toronto to hit shots like this.

That Leonard shot had echoes Kobe Bryant — got to his spot at the elbow, elevated, and wasn’t afraid to use the glass. Not a bad guy to mimic.

After the game, Leonard admitted he didn’t call bank. Doesn’t matter. Russell missed a contested three as time ran out, and the Raptors held on for the 127-125 win.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

Nuggets forward Will Barton
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NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key dates are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen
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We already knew many key details of the NBA’s plan for resuming the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Report: Knicks to interview former Knicks coach Mike Woodson

Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson
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The Knicks appear set on both hiring Tom Thibodeau and conducting a coaching search.

Mike Woodson, who coached New York from 2012-2014, will be part of the process.

Ian Begley of SNY:

New York also interviewed Woodson in 2018 before hiring David Fizdale. I understand why the Knicks can’t make up their mind on whether they want him as their coach.

Woodson won 58% of his games with New York, the third-best mark in franchise history (behind Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy). In 2012-13, Woodson did some really creative things with Carmelo Anthony at power forward and two-point guard lineups.

But by the end of that season, Woodson went away from what worked. His views became increasingly suspect the next season. When the Knicks fired him, it appeared to be time to move one.

Will New York return to Woodson? Probably not. The expectation remains Thibodeau will get this job. But Woodson will at least have an opportunity to make his case for a very-strange return.

When Charles Barkley tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Auburn

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Dirk Nowitzki was not headed to an American college before the NBA. Like most of the best European players — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, even going back to Tony Kukoc and others — he was taking a straight trip from his European team to the NBA.

That didn’t stop Charles Barkley from trying to get him to go to Auburn.

It wasn’t meant to be, but Saad Yousuf at the Athletic tells the story of Barkley trying.

The Auburn alum reflected on his first meeting with Nowitzki, in 1997 at a Nike exhibition game in Germany, in which the Big German put on an offensive clinic against a team featuring Barkley, Pippen, Michael Jordan and other NBA talents…

Barkley called Nike and made a strong push to get to Nowitzki through any channel, legal or not. “Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done,” Barkley recalled in 2012. “Just give him anything he wants; he’s got to go to Auburn.”

Barkley didn’t stop there, though. Nowitzki left such an impression on Auburn’s greatest hoops export that Barkley even talked to Cliff Ellis, Auburn’s coach at the time, to encourage the program to make a run at this relatively unknown teenager in Europe.

Ellis notes that in 1997 he couldn’t just jump on YouTube and find clips of a player, there wasn’t much film of European players. Still, the coach was willing to go on Barkley’s word and reached out.

Turns out Kentucky, Stanford and other colleges did as well, but to no avail. Nowitzki went straight into the 1988 NBA Draft, where the Bucks took him ninth overall then executed a draft-night trade sending the big German to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. The rest is Hall of Fame history.

For Barkley, Ellis, and Auburn fans, it’s quite the “what if.” That was a 29-4 Auburn team in 1997-98 that was an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed led by a couple of future NBA players (Mamadou N’Diaye and Chris Porter). Add Nowitzki into that mix and… we will never know. But it could have been glorius.