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Three Things to Know: Warriors’ season was already broken, Curry’s hand clarifies new reality

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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) Warriors season was already broken before Stephen Curry broke his hand. Now the path forward is clear. Before this latest in a string of unfathomable injuries, Golden State’s season was already broken.

This is a team that already didn’t look near the class of the Clippers, then lost by 28 to a team that traded away Russell Westbrook and Paul George last summer, and had already given up a 30-1 run to upstart Phoenix. The plan of just holding on until Klay Thompson got back already looked doomed — the Warriors weren’t winning, and it’s unlikely Thompson is back anyway.

Then this happened.

A CT scan will determine if Stephen Curry will need surgery, or if he just goes in a cast. Either way, this likely sidelines Curry for at least a couple of months. Think after Christmas, closer to New Year’s Day (and surgery could mean a longer time away).

The basketball gods have unleashed their wrath on the Warriors.

Maybe, however, this is exactly what the Warriors need. It forces an adjustment they were not ready or willing to make.

Golden State is a lottery team now. They already were — based on early season results — but now there is no escaping it. By the time Curry returns, the Warriors will be in a hole they cannot dig out of. Not in a deep West.

Golden State is not going to tank — owner Joe Lacob already pushed back on that idea. Golden State has a new building to sell out. Thing is, they don’t have to try to lose, this is already a team of questionable construction that needed everything to go right to make a playoff push (did you really think Alec Burks, Omari Spellman, and Jordan Poole were going to step up?). Obviously, things have not gone right, going back to the Kevon Looney injury.

The pressure is off the Warriors now, the expectations are gone. Don’t sit Draymond Green if he’s healthy, but make sure he gets and stays healthy (he had an elbow issue suffered against the Suns). Make sure Looney gets right.

Turn D’Angelo Russell loose and let him run the show, watch him rack up numbers, then if teams start calling before the trade deadline next February, listen. See if there is a more natural fit next to Curry and Thompson.

If the losses pile up, so what? Get whatever the lottery ping-pong balls give you — this is not the same situation as the 1996-97 Spurs (the Tim Duncan draft), it’s a very different lottery and league, but you never know. Add a quality young player. Retool for next season when Curry, Thompson, Green, and Looney are healthy and there can be a young core around them that is a little more seasoned and fits better.

These Warriors were already broken. Watching them made that clear. Curry’s broken hand forces them into a new reality, but a path that ultimately should be better for the Warriors long term.

2) Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns throwdown on the court, get ejected, then carry fight to social media. This did not all start Wednesday night, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns have been taking jabs at each other for years.

Wednesday night, those jabs turned into a fight.

Embiid’s team was winning comfortably, he was home in front of his people, and he lives for this kind of spotlight, so of course he egged the crowd on and then soaked it all in.

Both players were ejected — so they carried the fight over to social media.

And then it was on. Rudy Gobert summed it up for the rest of us:

It turned nasty. Entertaining, but nasty. KAT mocked Embiid for crying after a second-round playoff loss, Embiid noted Towns has never been to the second round, and it went from there. Because someone has to show some restraint, I’ll just say you can check the players out on social media if you want to follow along.

Multi-game suspensions are coming for both Embiid and Towns, and the social media sparring is not exactly going to invite leniency from the league. Maybe Towns gets one more game than Embiid — he appears to be first to escalate this from just a shoving match — but both are going to be out for games. Plural.

There are also questions about whether Ben Simmons will get suspended, or if anyone left the benches, or anything else that could lead to suspensions and fines.

Both teams have been off to a hot start, and both are going to feel the pain from this fight because they will be without their best players for a while.

3) James Harden drops 59 and Rockets still only win by one. This ended up being the third-highest scoring game in NBA history — a history that includes Doug Moe’s Nuggets teams. This was a throwback, defense optional, shootout for the ages.

James Harden’s 59th point came on a free throw with two seconds left that won the game for Houston over Washington, 159-158. Here’s the foul that led to those free throws — it’s vintage Harden in that he creates contact then sells it to make sure the call comes.

Bradley Beal had 46 points on 14-of-20 shooting, and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura showed out with 23 points (he is off to an impressive start this season, beyond just this game).

Clint Capela had 21 for Houston, Russell Westbrook 17

Harden, however, proved to be too much.

The Rockets are going to be in a lot of games like this during the season — they can score with anyone, but they don’t have a defense to match.

John Beilein joining sad ranks of coaches whose NBA careers lasted less than season

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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Three coaches have begun their NBA head-coaching careers (non-interim) after turning 60.

John Beilein lasted the longest.

Beilein is resigning as Cavaliers coach stunningly quick, quitting after just 54 games.

But his tenure was still longer than Dave MacMillan’s with the 1949-50 Tri-Cities Blackhawks (23 games) and Jerry Tarkanian’s with the 1992-93 Spurs (20 games).

Considering his age (67), numerous problems in Cleveland and how he’s leaving, Beilein will almost certainly never coach in the NBA again. Maybe he’ll retire. Maybe he’ll return to college basketball. But the door to coaching in the NBA appears closed.

That’ll put Beilein on the unfortunate list of coaches whose non-interim NBA head-coaching careers lasted less than a full season:

Seasons are listed by end year. Coaches who took over in-season and were retained the following season are counted if their total games were fewer than a full-season’s worth. Not counted: Coaches who, back in the early days of this league, guided their teams in a previous league for longer.

Coach Year Team W L
John Beilein 2020 CLE 14 40
Randy Ayers 2004 PHI 21 31
Gar Heard 2000 WAS 14 30
Jerry Tarkanian 1993 SAS 9 11
Morris McHone 1984 SAS 11 20
Don Delaney 1981-1982 CLE 7 19
Tom Sanders 1978-1979 BOS 23 39
Bob Hopkins 1978 SEA 5 17
Tates Locke 1977 BUF 16 30
Roy Rubin 1973 PHI 4 47
Earl Lloyd 1972-1973 DET 22 55
Mike Farmer 1967 BAL 1 8
Andy Phillip 1959 STL 6 4
George Mikan 1958 MNL 9 30
Chick Reiser 1952-1953 BLB 8 22
Fred Scolari 1952 BLB 12 27
Dave McMillan 1951 TRI 9 14
Howie Schultz 1950 AND 21 14
Roger Potter 1950 TRI 1 6
Albert Soar 1948 PRO 2 17
Dutch Dehnert 1947 CLR 17 20
Glenn Curtis 1947 DTF 12 22
Ed Sadowski 1947 TRH 3 9

Report: Cavaliers players played songs like ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone’ around John Beilein

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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While coaching the Cavaliers, John Beilein called his players “thugs.” He said it was a simple case of mispronouncing the word “slugs” while speaking too quickly.

Of the six Cleveland players who publicly addressed the issue the following day, only Tristan Thompson didn’t offer clear support of his coach. The Cavs kept Beilein.

But with Beilein resigning, a fuller picture is emerging.

Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

a number of the players never really embraced his explanation. In fact, some of them thought it was an insult to their intelligence, one player told The Athletic.

“There was no coming back from that,” he said.

Instead, multiple players began playing songs that included the word “thug” whenever Beilein was within earshot, sources said: Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” among them. As the team boarded the bus a few days after the incident, one player was intentionally playing Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug” with Beilein a few feet away. Other players blasted songs with the word “thug” loudly during workouts in the facility. Players did this to make light of a very tough situation, according to one team source.

“The worst part to me was not owning that he said it,” one player told The Athletic.

If they didn’t sing the lyrics as:

  • “It’s the Sluggish Ruggish Bone”
  • “So right before I sleep, dear God, what I’m askin’ / Remember this face, save me a place, in slug’s mansion”
  • “Baby, ‘cause I’m a slug”

…they did it wrong.

For what it’s worth, Beilein did own that he said “thugs.” He just claimed he meant to say “slugs.”

Want to question which word he intended to use? Suspicious about what in his mind led “thugs” to come out even if he meant to say “slugs”? That’s totally fair.

But either “slugs” or “thugs” was entirely plausible in that context. Nobody outside Beilein can know what he was thinking.

Cavaliers players just didn’t want to give benefit of the doubt to a coach they already loathed. I wouldn’t be surprised if some within the organization showed faux outrage about thugs-slugs just because they wanted Beilein gone.

The NBA has levels of pettiness Beilein never experienced in college. It can be jarring, and Beilein seemingly never got comfortable at this level. Put another way:

Slug passion got you tremblin’ like Death on the Row

Rumor: The Cavaliers might try to flip Andre Drummond in trade at draft, or in July

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When J.B. Bickerstaff takes over as the new coach in Cleveland today, he will inherit a big, slow frontcourt of Kevin Love and Andre Drummond that will make a combined $60 million next season.

Will he still have that frontcourt when training camp opens next fall?

We know the Cavaliers tried to trade Love at the deadline but the remaining three years, $91 million on his contract after this season made that difficult. Instead, Cleveland surprised the league when it added Drummond at the trade deadline.

Now comes a rumor from Greg Swartz at Bleacher Report where an anonymous former GM says he thinks once Drummond picks up the $28.8 million option on his contract — something expected around the league — the Cavs will try to trade him, too.

“I don’t think [Drummond and the Cavs] will last long,” one former NBA general manager said. “I could see them trading him to a team this summer if he agrees to pick up his option. They could also do a sign-and-trade if he agrees to a new long-term deal. I don’t think he’ll be in Cleveland for long.”

For the record, the Cavaliers deny that is the case. GM Koby Altman said as much.

“Absolutely, we consider him a potential long-term play,” Altman said. “Obviously, he has a player option that if he picks up, we think we’re in good shape in terms of our cap space. There’s no better money spent than on Andre Drummond if he picks up his option.”

There could be interest in Drummond as an expiring contract next season because teams are trying to clear up cap space for a deep summer of 2021 free agent class (particularly if Giannis Antetokounmpo does not sign the $254 million supermax contract the Bucks will offer this summer). There may be teams interested in the 26-year-old Drummond longer term — he is averaging 17.7 points and 15.8 rebounds a game as a traditional big — just not at anywhere near his current salary.

Expect a lot of Cavaliers trade rumors around the draft and into July as they try to add talent. Don’t be surprised if Drummond is in some of those rumors; the Cavaliers should explore everything.

Also, don’t be surprised if Love and Drummond are the starting 4/5 for the Cavaliers when the season tips off next October.

 

Counter-report: John Beilein will receive some of remaining salary from Cavaliers

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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Initial reporting suggested John Beilein will walk away from the rest of his contract with the Cavaliers.

But apparently he’ll get a payout.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Beilein and the Cavaliers negotiated a financial settlement that will pay him a portion of the remaining money on his 2019-20 contract, league sources said. He left the University of Michigan and signed a five-year contract with Cleveland that included a team option for the final season, a deal that paid him more than $4 million a season, league sources said.

That doesn’t sound like a substantial settlement (relatively).

But Beilein had some leverage. Because he did so poorly, it seemed the Cavs might just fire him at the end of the season. While it appears to be his choice to walk away now, everyone seemed ready to move on soon enough.

There could have been more of a fired-or-quit standoff. But Beilein was so done, he left a lot of money on the table. That’s still the story, even if he’ll walk away with some.