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Three Things to Know: Trae Young’s ‘painful’ ankle sprain will hurt Hawks

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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’s going to be a painful for the Hawks without Trae Young. After the game, Trae Young described his sprained ankle as “painful.”

We all knew that when it happened — it made you a little queasy to watch it.

Young’s ankle is going to be painful for the Hawks until he gets back.

The Hawks have been 22.5 points per 100 possessions better this season when Young is on the court. Or, put in raw numbers, Atlanta is +28 when Young has been on the court this season and -24 when he has sat.

If you need more proof of just how critical Young is to Atlanta, just watch what happened against Miami, where it was basically an even game when Young was in, but not too long after he went down the Heat went on an 11-0 run and never looked back, winning 112-97.

Miami got Jimmy Butler back and he had 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting, attacking the rim and getting to the line 15 times. It opened up the Heat offense. Butler thanked Heat fans — and Bam Adebayo is already joking around with Butler on Twitter.

Miami also had a big night from its rookies, Tyler Herro had 29 points and Kendrick Nunn added 17 as the starter in the backcourt with Butler. More on them later.

For Atlanta, they await the MRI of young’s ankle that will come on Wednesday.

The Hawks are without backup point guard Evan Turner (left Achilles pain), which means it’s a combination of just-claimed-off-waiver Tyrone Wallace, second-year man Kevin Huerter, and rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, to handle the guard spots for the Hawks.

We all hope Young is back soon, the game is just more fun when he plays.

2) Anthony Davis put up 40 points and 20 rebounds — in three quarters. Other players have put up 40/20 lines before — Shaq was the last Laker to do it, back in 2003 — but Davis set a record when he did it against Memphis Tuesday:

He’s the first player to score 40 points and grab 20 rebounds in three quarters.

Davis was attacking and aggressive, which drew a lot of fouls — he was 26-of-27 from the free-throw line on the night. Consider this: Davis had 20 third-quarter points and was 1-of-1 from the field. It was all at the stripe.

Memphis hung around in this one for a half, behind impressive rookie Ja Morant who had 16 points on the night. Memphis even led in the third quarter until Davis fueled a 29-2 Lakers run that essentially ended the game.

The Lakers did what good teams should do the last couple of games and feast on weaker opponents (Charlotte and Memphis will be near the bottom of the league this season). Now they head out on the road for three and that will be a better test.

3) Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are not your average rookies in Miami. Pat Riley and the Miami Heat don’t lean on rookies. This is an organization that trusts veterans, stockpiling them through free agency or via trades, and when the Heat do land in the lottery or get a rookie they like they bring the guy along slowly.

Until this season.

The combination of undrafted Kendrick Nunn and first-round sharpshooter Tyler Herro not only started the first three games but also have been crucial to what Miami is able to do — they are combining for 37.3 points per night through four games. Nunn and Herro are key reasons the Heat are 3-1 to start the season.

Both started the first three games of the season — the first time the Heat started two rookies in a game since Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers in 2008 — until Jimmy Butler returned on Tuesday. Herro went to the bench, yet still led the team with 29 points.

Herro was a player fans knew, a star at Kentucky who was drafted No. 13 overall last June. He impressed at Summer League and going into training camp it was easy to envision a role for him next to Butler and Goran Dragic as a floor spacer.

Nunn was the surprise. He went undrafted in 2018 and paid his dues for a season in the G-League before the Heat signed him on the final day of the regular season. Nunn impressed at Summer League, in workouts around the team, and at age 24 is now starting in front of Goran Dragic for the Heat.

Both rookies are playing with confidence. And when you combine Herro and Nunn with 22-year-old Bam Adebayo and 23-year-old Justise Winslow, suddenly the future in Miami looks bright. That’s a lot of quality young players.

Ones that could well lift the Heat back to the playoffs this season (thanks to a little help from that Butler guy, too).

Phoenix Suns, a perfect 4-0 in the bubble, are growing and thinking playoffs

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The last time Devin Booker walked off the court as a winner in four consecutive games, these were the opponents: Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

That is, until now.

Booker and the Phoenix Suns – the team that came to the NBA restart at Walt Disney World with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record of the 22 teams in the field – are perhaps the best story of the bubble.

They’re 4-0 at Disney, breathing real life into playoff hopes that basically were nonexistent when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. It’s the team’s first four-game winning streak since December 2018; Booker missed one of those games, so it’s his first run of four wins in a row since helping Kentucky make its Final Four run in 2015.

“It definitely feels like a tournament, a big AAU tournament, the March Madness tournament,” Phoenix’s Cameron Payne said Friday. “That’s something I never even got a chance to be in, but hey, I’ll take this.”

The Suns started their bubble run with a win over Washington and followed that with victories against three playoff-bound teams – first Dallas, then the Los Angeles Clippers (both of those games being 117-115 finals, the win over the Clippers sealed by a Booker buzzer-beater) and next a 114-99 victory Thursday over Indiana.

A team that had a stretch of four wins in 20 games during November and December, then a run of four wins in 15 games during January and February, got to the bubble and are now 4-for-4.

The Suns are riding a 10-year playoff drought, the second-longest current one in the NBA, but now they’re thinking big and for good reason.

“Well, you know, this is in the fledgling stages, for sure,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. And there’s a process that we’ve kind of gotten ourselves involved in and we’re going to stick to that. So, fun? I don’t have time to have fun right now. It’s always good to win, but I’m working right now. And I want guys to understand, it’s fun when you win – but then you’ve got to turn the page and get right back to work.”

Williams understands the reality for the Suns right now. They entered Friday 1-1/2 games out of ninth place and the play-in series that will decide the last postseason berth in the West. And while the 4-0 start has been noteworthy, even an 8-0 mark in the seeding games wouldn’t guarantee the Suns a trip to that play-in round.

The Suns play Miami on Saturday, then finish the regular season against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“I’ve been in five years now and haven’t had that much success,” Booker said. “But, you know, I’m working hard every day to turn that narrative and change that narrative. We have a good bunch in here to do it. A lot of young players mixed with some veteran presence and it’s a good look for us. So, we’re going to keep our head down, keep working.

“I don’t think anybody here is worried about 4-0. We still have plans and goals for this team to reach and 4-0 wasn’t it.”

Booker is averaging 28 points in the four games. Deandre Ayton, another big piece of the young Suns’ core, is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. There are six players averaging double figures in all, including Payne, who is shooting 53% from 3-point range in his first four games with the Suns.

“We definitely feel good,” Payne said. “We’re not here for no reason.”

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.