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Three Things to Know: Giannis Antetokounmpo makes history while dominating Clippers

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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) Giannis Antetokounmpo makes history while dominating the Clippers. For at least one night, Giannis Antetokounmpo had the Midas touch on the basketball court — anything he touched was gold Jerry. Gold!

For example, Antetokounmpo has struggled with his shot this season, hitting 17.4 percent from three and 60 percent on free throws coming into Staples Center to take on the Clippers Monday. Then in L.A. he got red hot in the second half and ended up shooting 4-of-7 from three on the night — tying a career-high for most made threes — and hit 14-of-18 from the free-throw line.

He finished with 38 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists in the Bucks 129-124 win — and made history in the process:

Antetokounmpo is the first NBA player ever to record 200 points, 100 rebounds, and 50 assists in the first 8 games of the season.

You want more history? Antetokounmpo is the sixth player to have at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in three straight games.

The Bucks needed all of Antetokounmpo’s MVP-level performance to hold off a feisty Clippers team that battled back and made it close late. Even without Kawhi Leonard (more on that later, just keep reading). It’s too early to talk MVP in a serious way, but if you’re going to list the players who put themselves in the conversation to start the season that list begins with Antetokounmpo.

This game, and Eric Bledsoe, also gave us the best blooper of the season.

2) How is anyone surprised Kawhi Leonard is already getting load management nights off? For the second time in a week, Kawhi Leonard sat out a nationally televised game (ESPN broadcast the Bucks/Clippers affair). There was not much comment when he didn’t play against the Jazz a week before, but when fans — and ESPN — were deprived of Leonard vs. Antetokounmpo the complaints came flooding in.

How does Leonard sitting out surprise anybody?

The Toronto Raptors played him 60 regular-season games a season ago — he sat out 27 percent of the season — then come the playoffs the rested Leonard was the best player on the planet and led the Raptors to the title. The road map has been laid out, did people think the Clippers were not going to follow it?

Leonard has a quadricep tendon issue in one leg, which has helped lead to a knee issue in his other leg because of compensation. That’s why the official designation here is “Load management, knee — injury” because in the eyes of the Clippers and the NBA this is about health. His knee is not up to playing back-to-back games, so he gets one half of those off.

The argument that it’s too early in the season to take nights off is shortsighted. Should he wait until his knee issue is severe enough he risks more serious injury and/or becomes a chronic pain that will linger all season? Preventative care helps players get through the season and extends their careers. Player health should be the priority, It doesn’t matter what week of the season it is.

The argument that he should have played against the Bucks and sat out against the Trail Blazers Thursday night — another nationally televised game, this time on TNT — is looking at it like a fan and not from the Clippers perspective. The game against Portland is more important to Los Angeles — a win in conference will matter more for seeding in the West and potential tie-breakers down the line. If he’s sitting out half of a back-to-back, which half is a no-brainer. (A lot of the complaining seemed to come from ESPN on-air personalities frustrated Clippers/Leonard chose to play in the TNT game over the one on their network.)

Next week the Clippers are expected to get Paul George back — and he is going to get a lot of load management nights off to make sure his shoulders are rested and right after off-season surgery on both of them. Hopefully, Doc Rivers staggers those nights off, but know they are coming. The Clippers are team load management this season — and that’s one of the reasons they are serious title contenders, too.

3) James Harden had his way and dropped 36 on the Warriors.
Houston has stumbled a little out of the gate this season, and while their defense has been the focus — and make no mistake, the Rockets’ defense is terrible — James Harden also just has not been able to get the three to fall for him this season. He was shooting 25.3 percent from three coming into Wednesday night.

The decimated Warriors provide the perfect chance to get things right. While Harden was not electric from deep — 6-of-16, 37.5 percent — he did drop 36 on Golden State.

The Rockets are going to get better this season — Harden and Eric Gordon will hit more threes (Gordon is at 23 percent from deep this season), and opposing teams will not keep shooting 40.3 percent from three against them (even against a not-great Rockets defense that number will drop). We can debate if they are contenders or not, but they are better than their 4-3 record to start the season.

Could NBA playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

NBA playoffs
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver likes the idea of 1-16 playoff seeding.

Could it finally happen this season?

Brian Windhorst on ESPN:

The more people I talk to, the more people in the league think that it’s going to end up being a playoffs-only scenario. And to spice it up, this is something I think Adam Silver is going to bring to the table.

There have two major impediments to this plan in normal years:

  • Travel
  • Eastern Conference owners

It seems likely the season will resume at only Disney World. A single site eliminates the travel concerns.

At least five Eastern Conference owners would have to vote for this format change. They typically want to protect their playoff slots and easier path to the NBA Finals rather than mixing with often-better Western Conference teams.

But if only some teams resume, owners of the finished teams would would be incentivized to support whatever draws the most revenue. If only playoff teams return, that would increase the pool of owners who wouldn’t be voting by self interest.

It helps that the top eight teams in each conference have the league’s 16 best records. So no teams would gain or lose a playoff berth unless more regular-season games are played (or a play-in tournament is held).

This might be the year for a 1-16 format. Just don’t expect it to continue into normal years.

If it happens without any more regular-season games, here’s how the bracket would look:

Rumor: Mike Budenholzer was close to taking Knicks job in 2018

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It’s the lure of the New York market, that a coach would consider passing on coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo and a team on the rise in Milwaukee to take the job.

In the summer of 2018, Mike Budenholzer was out in Atlanta and the best established name on the coaching market. At the time, it was known Coach Bud was the top choice of the Knicks, but he was reportedly close to taking the job, according to Ian Begley at SNY.TV.

Discussions between the Knicks and Budenholzer in the 2018 offseason advanced to a point where some people who would have come with Budenholzer to New York were talking about places to live in the city because they felt Budenholzer was close to taking the job, per SNY sources…

One official from an opposing team involved in searches at the time confirmed that coaching the Knicks intrigued Budenholzer. “Bud was definitely interested,” the team official said recently.

Budenholzer, however, chose Milwaukee, which had Antetokounmpo and a roster that was talented but needed a more modern offensive style and more focus. Budenholzer brought that and the team won 60 games last season, and is a title contender this season (if and when the NBA season restarts).

The Knicks hired David Fizdale, who lasted less than a season and a half before being let go. New team president Leon Rose now has to hire a new coach, and that will say a lot about the direction he wants to take the team.

He’d be lucky to find someone as good as Budenholzer.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to ‘take a suck of that’ after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.