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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.

Vanessa Bryant sues sheriff over Kobe Bryant helicopter-crash photos

Kobe Bryant crash site
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LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball star Kobe Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff claiming deputies shared unauthorized photos of the crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

After the Jan. 26 crash, reports surfaced that graphic photos of the victims were being shared. Vanessa Bryant was “shocked and devastated” by the reports, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The victims died when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather. They were traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks. The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. helicopter.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news media that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and he ordered the images deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it does not apply to accident scenes.

“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva previously told NBC News. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s actions constituted a “cover-up” of the misconduct. The suit claims the photos could still exist.

“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online,” the lawsuit states.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet signed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The legislation was prompted by the crash photos.

A statement from the sheriff’s department Tuesday incorrectly said such actions are now criminal. The bill has not yet been signed into law.

“Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature,” the statement said. “Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment.”

Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the allegations that the graphic photos had been taken and disseminated in February.

Bryant previously filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in May. The suit was filed Thursday.

Separately, Vanessa Bryant has also filed a lawsuit alleging the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

The brother of the pilot has said in a court filing that Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate, while the helicopter company, Island Express, says it is not responsible for damages, calling the crash, among other things, “an act of God” and “an unavoidable accident” that was beyond its control.

Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder-Bulls
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Billy Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering a new contract. Maybe it wasn’t as much money as he desired to coach a team that could be entering rebuilding. But active head coaches rarely turn down an NBA job unless they know they’ll land on their feet.

Donovan will land on his feet – with the Bulls.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first broke the story, the Bulls confirmed it soon after.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

This is a major credibility upgrade for Chicago, which fired Jim Boylen. Donovan is a solid NBA head coach who adapts to his players rather than putting them through extreme measures.

Considering they just hired Arturas Karnisovas as president, the Bulls might have the patience for a rebuild. Donovan will be tasked with overseeing the development of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Donovan’s time as a college coach at Florida shows he can help players progress.

But Chicago also frequently faces pressure, especially internally, to win sooner than later. Donovan inherits veterans like LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Donovan showed at Oklahoma City he could manage a team with immediate expectations.

Is this group’s long-term future inspiring? No. Is this group’s present inspiring? No.

But Donovan provides a little boost in both areas.

Celtics: Romeo Langford out rest of playoffs after wrist surgery

Celtics guard Romeo Langford
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The Celtics don’t have quite enough dependable players to fill a playoff rotation. So, beyond its core, Boston has juggled deep-bench minutes throughout the postseason.

One of those options – Romeo Langford – will no longer be available.

Celtics release:

Celtics guard Romeo Langford this morning underwent successful surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

A rookie, Langford also suffered a right-hand injury last season at Indiana. A pattern? Probably not. But it’s another interruption in the 20-year-old’s development.

For Boston’s playoff hopes, this is a minor setback – one made even smaller by Gordon Hayward returning (and staying). Though more of a forward, Hayward clears the way for Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to handle more guard minutes, a few of which could have gone to Langford.

Adam Silver: It’s on U.S. government whether American companies, like NBA, operate in China

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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Politicians have repeatedly criticized the NBA for its involvement in China.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is defending his league.

Sopan Deb of The New York Times:

Senators have power to affect the United State’s foreign policy, including where American companies are permitted to operate. The NBA shouldn’t face unique scrutiny for acting like a business, seeking to maximize profit, within legal parameters.

Silver is generally right: There is value in exposing American values to countries with authoritarian regimes. Basketball can be a good vehicle for doing so. Those connections can inspire change for the better.

But the league has repeatedly failed to uphold American values it espouses in its dealings in China. That warrants criticism and leaves Silver’s response quite lacking.