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Three Things to Know: Celtics show up to rout Warriors

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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) The Gordon Hayward Boston thought it was getting showed up, Celtics impress routing Warriors. That is the Boston Celtics we expected to see all season, the Celtics who can beat anyone in the East. Apparently, they just needed to get out of the cold Boston winter, come to California and get warm.

Boston opened the game on an 11-0 run, got 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting off the bench from Gordon Hayward, moved the ball on offense, trusted each other, and most importantly communicated and were clean on their switches on defense. The result was the Celtics blowing out the defending NBA champ Warriors 128-95.

After dropping 5-of-6 in a string of sloppy losses, each defeat followed by comments about a lack of unity, this was the kind of game the Celtics needed. They played with the kind of joy the Warriors always talk about — Kyrie Irving looked like he was having fun, scoring 19, dropping 11 dimes, and barking at the Warriors bench.

Can the Celtics build on it during their four-game road trip through the West, or was this game the aberration?

Hayward was in attack mode from the minute he stepped on the court and was throwing down dunks all over the place.

What did we learn about Golden State? Nothing. They’re bored. They don’t have Klay Thompson. They find the regular season tedious and want to get on with the playoffs. That was the worst Warriors loss of the Steve Kerr era. Yawn.

To Boston, it doesn’t matter what Golden State team showed up — that was the kind of win this team desperately needed to turn things around before the playoffs.

Now we see whether it was a one-off, or the start of something.

2) Is Houston’s offense good enough to make them second best team in West? Looked like it against Toronto. Throughout James Harden’s historic run, and continuing through the Rockets’ current six-game win streak, one thing has been constant: Their defense still isn’t very good. Even during this win streak, when it’s been better, they have the 14th ranked defense in the league, just middle of the pack. It has put a damper on expectations.

But with Chris Paul resurgent and the offense clicking at an elite level, does it matter? Can the Rockets’ offense propel them to the Western Conference Finals?

It looked like it Tuesday when the Rockets went into Toronto and took a 22-point lead over the Raptors before eventually winning 107-95.

They still have Harden, who scored the team’s final 16 points and had 19 of his 35 in the fourth to secure the win.

Who is the second best team in the West? Oklahoma City? Denver? Portland? The Rockets, when playing like this, can hang with any of them. Even if their defense isn’t what it was a year ago.

3) Mike Conley reminds everyone why they should trade for him this summer, sparks Grizzlies upset of Trail Blazers. Some team is going to give up plenty this summer to trade for Mike Conley. No team met the Grizzlies high asking price at the trade deadline, but that will be different this summer (and the price likely drops a little).

Tuesday night showed why teams want the man.

Conley had 19 in the fourth, 40 for the game, and was the reason the Grizzlies beat the Trail Blazers Tuesday night. (Well, that and it was the final game of a seven-game road trip for Portland and the team was done.)

Next season, in a situation more conducive to winning than the starting-the-rebuild Grizzlies, Mike Conley is going to show everyone why he finally needs to be an All-Star one year.

Report: Rockets exiled Anthony rather than just dropping him from rotation ‘because his name was Carmelo’

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Why isn’t Carmelo Anthony in the NBA?

That’s the question everyone obsesses over, but the answer is quite simple: He’s washed up. Anthony played poorly for the Thunder then even worse for the Rockets. He’s now 35. Occasionally, washed-up players still land on NBA rosters, but they usually don’t. It’s not worth fretting over the common outcome happening.

The question that really intrigues me about the latter stages of Anthony’s career:

How did Houston go from giving Anthony a major role to deciding he suddenly couldn’t be with the team at all?

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

Still, the Rockets know they can’t just take him out of the rotation; doing so would cause a media firestorm. “Because his name was Carmelo, we treated it differently,” one team source says.

The Rockets hope that parting ways with Anthony quickly might allow him to join another team.

This is a strange explanation.

What made a “media firestorm” so inevitable? Even if it were inevitable, what made a “media firestorm” so difficult to deal with? The Rockets couldn’t handle a few questions about Anthony?

If Anthony protested about a reduced role, that would’ve been one thing. But by all accounts, he did what Houston asked of him while there. He didn’t even get a chance to show whether he could’ve helped as a non-rotation player.

The Rockets gave him 20-39 minutes in each of his games with them. If he deserved that much playing time, he couldn’t have helped at all in situational spot minutes? Maybe Anthony’s awful defense would have been at least tolerable if he could’ve conserved his energy for smaller bursts on the court.

If Houston tried to do him a favor, it failed. Anthony never landed with another team. His abrupt and confusing end with the Rockets certainly didn’t instill confidence around the league.

Anthony has expressed resentment for how Houston exiled him. He deserves some blame for the predicament. His prior objections about coming off the bench in Oklahoma City contributed to everyone being on pins and needles about his role.

But it remains strange the Rockets handled the situation in such an extreme manner.

Report: Lakers player lost $1 million endorsement deal in China

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LeBron James publicly criticized Daryl Morey and reportedly pressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver on punishing the Rockets general manager.

Why is LeBron so upset with Morey, who merely tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters trying to expand and maintain their freedom?

Following the money often provides an answer.

Due to Chinese backlash, the NBA will reportedly lose millions of dollars of expected revenue, which affects players’ salaries. Lakers players also felt even-more-direct consequences while in China for preseason games.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo — to name a few — had appearances canceled. One Lakers player, sources told ESPN, had agreed to a $1 million endorsement deal with a Chinese company prior to the trip. When he arrived — poof — it was gone. A seven-figure payday went out the window.

It’s understandable someone would be agitated by losing a $1 million endorsement deal because of someone else’s tweet. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it’d be to miss out on that money.

Morey chose to take a political stand. Others are paying the price. He definitely rankled people around the league.

But perhaps scorn for Morey is misdirected.

This is the peril of chasing money in a place where an endorsement deal can fall apart because of someone else’s tweet. Maybe a bigger problem is a business environment where free expression is so stifled.

Report: Kings offer four-year, $90M contract extension to Buddy Hield, who wants $110M

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Buddy Hield is making noise about leaving the Kings in free agency next summer if they don’t sign him to a contract extension by Monday’s deadline.

Where do negotiations stand?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings have an offer for Hield on the table for four years and $90 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Hield and his agent, Brandon Rosenthal, are seeking a number closer to $110 million, sources said.

This will primarily come down to two factors – Sacramento’s willingness to bend and Hield’s appetite for risk.

A four-year, $90 million extension seems quite fair. I bet many players of Hield’s caliber would’ve already accepted it.

But in a weak free-agent class, he has a chance to get much more next summer. He could even draw a max offer sheet, which projected to be worth $125 million over four years (though that was before the NBA began losing China revenue).

Of course, the Kings would have matching rights on Hield, who’d be a restricted free agent without an extension. So, Hield can’t unilaterally leave Sacramento next summer. The Kings also have another good young shooting guard in Bogdan Bogdanovic (who has his own extension offer on the table). These factors all give Sacramento reason not to pay Hield generously now.

If the Kings up their offer, that’d make it easy on Hield. He and Sacramento are trending in the right direction together. A big payday would clearly satisfy him.

If the Kings hold firm at less than Hield’s desired $110 million, he faces a choice: How much risk is he willing to incur to bet on himself?

With those numbers so close, perhaps there’s room for compromise. In addition to salary, guarantees, incentives and options could help bridge the gap. But evident by the lack of a signed extension, a significant divide clearly remains.

Report: LeBron James pressed Adam Silver on Daryl Morey repercussions, perceived double standard for players

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Lakers and Nets players – who were meeting with Adam Silver in China – reportedly told the NBA commissioner they would’ve been punished for a tweet as costly as Daryl Morey’s and asked Silver what he’d do to Morey. LeBron James reportedly spoke up in that meeting. LeBron also later criticized Morey.

It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots.

But in case you wanted confirmation LeBron was among the players questioning Silver on Morey…

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Silver opened the floor. James raised his hand.

His question was related to Morey — and the commissioner’s handling of the Rockets’ GM. James, to paraphrase, told Silver that he knew that if a player caused the same type of uproar with something he said or tweeted, the player wouldn’t be able to skate on it. There would be some type of repercussion. So, James wanted to know, what was Silver going to do about it in Morey’s case?

Silver pushed back, reminding the players that the league never doled out discipline when they publicly criticized President Donald Trump. Morey was exercising the same liberty when he challenged China. Regardless of the financial fallout of one versus the other, that’s not what should matter. Silver might have disliked the ramifications of Morey’s tweet, but he would defend the right to say it.

We can’t know what would’ve happened if a player tweeted like Morey. But Silver is right: The NBA has a track record of allowing players – including LeBron – to speak unchecked on social issues. I think a player would’ve gotten the same treatment as Morey. Still, as the WNBA showed, there might be limits for players’ freedom of expression.

This line of questioning also reveals something about LeBron. There are many possible responses to this situation. Seemingly suggesting Morey – who supported Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms – deserved punishment is, um, one way to go.