Three Things to Know: It was a weirdly quiet night where status quo reigns in East

Associated Press
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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) It was a weirdly quiet night where status quo reigns in East. Five teams for three spots. That’s the battle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race — four of those teams are within 1.5 games of each other with just a little more than a week left in the season, and when the music stops one of them is not going to have a chair. It’s why we have a nightly recap now of the playoff chase.

All five of those teams were in action Monday night…

And nothing happened.

Detroit, Brooklyn, Miami, Orlando, and Charlotte all lost. For a night the East followed form. That included Indiana and Boston — the two teams tied for the 4/5 seeds in the East — also both winning and remaining deadlocked.

Milwaukee bested Brooklyn because Giannis Antetokounmpo returned and scored 26 points while grabbing 11 boards, and that outdueled D’Angelo Russell for a night.

Goran Dragic went off for 30, but that wasn’t enough to lift Miami past Kyrie Irving and Boston.

Also on Monday Indiana beat Detroit (111-102), and Toronto had little trouble with Orlando (121-109). Philadelphia, without Joel Embiid, had an ugly loss to Dallas, but the Sixers are basically locked in as the three seed so it didn’t hurt them. Aside from that, there were no upsets in the East, but it also feels like some of those teams at the bottom of the conference missed an opportunity — getting the win on a night every other team in the same fight lost would have been a huge boost.

Instead, we get the status quo.

2) Kemba Walker goes off for 47 trying to save Hornets’ playoff hopes, but it’s not enough in a loss to Jazz. Charlotte is one of those five teams battling for three playoff spots at the bottom of the East, but they are the longshot — three games out with six to play coming into the night, they needed a miracle.

Kemba Walker tried to give them one — he went off for 47 points against the feared Utah Jazz defense.

It wasn’t enough. The Hornets couldn’t get stops as Donovan Mitchell had 25, Ricky Rubio 20, and Rudy Gobert 18 in a Utah win. The Jazz wanted that win, it keeps them in the coveted fifth slot in the West playoff chase (it’s expected that hobbled Portland falls to the four seed, and that’s an easier first-round matchup… but it means the Jazz likely get the Warriors in the second round).

Charlotte is all but out of it, fivethirtyeight.com gives it a four percent chance of making the postseason.

3) Dwyane Wade was booed plenty in Boston over the years, but he got a warm send-off and a piece of the parquet. Back in Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, Dwyane Wade took Rajon Rondo to the ground hard trying to make a play, and in the process dislocated Rondo’s elbow. That changed the series and turned Wade into a villain in Boston.

Wade was booed every time he returned to the Garden after that.

Until Monday. Wade played his final game against the Celtics on Tuesday and was given a warm and respectful ovation when he entered the game midway through the first quarter.

Before the game, Celtics president Danny Ainge gave Wade a piece of the parquet.

After the game, Wade talked about how games in the Garden and against the Celtics helped define him — and how he was touched by the gesture (hat tip NBC Sports Boston).

“I appreciate [the parquet] from Danny Ainge and the owners of the team,” said Wade. “We’ve had so many battles in the playoffs. I appreciate the respect they showed me as a player to present me with that plaque, present me with a piece of the history of the Celtics. That was so cool. I definitely didn’t expect it at all. I just want to thank them for that gesture….

“We’ve had a lot of playoff battles, a lot that I’ve lost and a lot that I’ve won,” said Wade. “This is another one of those franchises that helped myself and this organization know what it took to win and get to that next level. We had to beat this organization to get there once [Miami] developed the Big Three [with LeBron James]. Appreciate them for pushing us. They were the big brother for a long time and then we initially were able to match a little bit. We’re thankful for what they did for us from their standpoint.”

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

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

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.