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Three Things to Know: Anthony Davis shows you can go home again


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) Anthony Davis shows you can go home again. Anthony Davis knew this game was different. It’s always a little different when you’re a Laker — former Grizzlies executive (now with The Athletic) John Hollinger said that being a Laker is not like being in the NBA. He means that every night the game is sold out, fans show up early to watch warmups, there are Lakers fans everywhere and they show out, and all that gives the games emotional energy lacking in NBA arenas most nights. With the Lakers, every night is a show.

This night, however, Anthony Davis was coming back to New Orleans and he knew what to expect. From the perspective of fans in New Orleans, Davis never embraced their city and its traditions the way the biggest local hero — Drew Brees — has (the Saints QB used to walk home from practice and has made a point to be part of the city’s life.) New Orleans locals felt Davis was not one of them. The way Davis left the Pelicans — starting with a very-public mid-season trade demand clearly aimed at forcing his way to the Lakers, a move that cut the team off at the knees — was just further proof he was never truly with them, this was just business, just a stop for AD.

Davis knew what to expect from the moment he stepped on the court for warmups.

And the boos got louder when he was introduced and continued through the game.

From Davis’ perspective, he did embrace the city — he’s quick to say how much he loved it. Davis is more of an introvert, a guy who just wants to spend time at home with family and close friends, playing video games and hanging out. He loved the city and did take part in a Mardi Gras parade and more, but those public events are not his comfort zone. What’s more, Davis gave the city all he had on the court – to him that is the ultimate respect.

Davis wanted to show New Orleans fans one more time what it looks like when he left everything on the court — and he did to the tune of 41 points Wednesday night, plus he had the game-sealing steal at the end.

Davis has in Los Angeles one thing he never really had in New Orleans: teammates capable of picking him up and helping him out. Particularly one LeBron James, who has done the “return home to hostile environment” thing so he could help Davis emotionally prepare, but also LeBron can drop 29 points and 11 assists.

Davis’ Lakers teammates helped the team rally from 16 down in the fourth quarter to win 114-110. Davis got to make his statement on the court.

Now the 16-2 Lakers and Davis will return home to a fan base that has embraced the star, and a city that is more than used to big talents that can be a little aloof and want things on their terms. Los Angeles has a whole major industry built around it.

With Davis the Lakers look like contenders again, and in Los Angeles if you can do that the fans will love you no matter what.

2) Kyrie Irving misses game vs. Boston but has emotional response anyway; Kemba Walker proves himself a steady leader. It was a little strange to have the Nets vs. Celtics game be emotionally charged about a guy who wasn’t even in the building. This was supposed to be Kyrie Irving return to Boston and Celtics fans were not going to let the fact he wasn’t there — he has missed seven straight games with a shoulder impingement — stop them from a cathartic chance to lash out at their scapegoat for last season and all he cost the team.

There were signs in front of TD Garden with Irving’s picture and the word “coward” on them.

And there were the chants.

Irving responded from home with an emotional and stream-of-consciousness post on Instagram.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Kemba Walker reminded Celtics fans what they have now — a steady leader who can get buckets with the best of them. Walker had 39 to lead Boston to a 121-110 win.

The Nets and Celtics play on Friday in Brooklyn, it’s not known yet if Irving will be healthy enough to suit up for that one.

You can be sure Celtics fans circled March 3 on their calendars — that’s the next time Irving and the Nets are scheduled to come to Boston.

3) Jabari Parker went home again, too, dropped 33 on Milwaukee in a loss. Jabari Parker misses Milwaukee, even if the Bucks fans don’t miss him. The No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft — a player expected to be NBA ready, so the Bucks took him in front of the injury risk that was Joel Embiid — never panned out in Milwaukee the way everyone hoped, and after four years they let him walk. The past few seasons Parker has bounced around the NBA, currently landing with the Hawks.

Wednesday night Parker returned to Milwaukee to play in their new downtown building, and he showed Bucks fans that he could always get buckets — he scored a game-high 33 points, plus had 14 boards and 5 assists in a losing effort.

After the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo — who had 30 points and 18 rebounds himself — had nothing but praise for his former teammate (via ESPN).

“At the end of the day, Jabari’s such a good player one-on-one, so I try not to get out of your game because you know that he loves to do that. He wants you to play one-on-one because he’s so good at it.”

Parker has found a comfort level in Atlanta this season that’s good to see, he’s contributing even as the Hawks struggle. Those contributions are something to be thankful for.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

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There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.

Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry will play this season once healthy

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“What’s the point? The Warriors have 12 wins, the worst record in the NBA, and are not sniffing the playoffs this season, so why bring Stephen Curry back this season at all? Why risk the injury? Why not tank?”

Steve Kerr has no use for that attitude.

Curry started practicing with the Warriors again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated the first week of March and could return to play soon after — and Kerr wants that. He wants Andrew Wiggins to get used to playing with Curry. Kerr defended the idea at Warriors practice on Wednesday (quotes via Monte Poole at NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league…

“He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”

Kerr wants to build some familiarity and some momentum heading into next season. They might win a few more games, but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not going to hurt the Warriors in terms of position. Beyond that, this is a down draft — in our podcast last week, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons — so Warriors fans may want to temper expectations about how much help this draft can provide.

Curry wants to play, he’s healthy, he should play. Load management has a role in the league, but this is not it.

Target score ending likely returns to All-Star Game next year

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It seemed obvious this is the direction the NBA would go after the most competitive All-Star Game in recent memory, after it generated an incredibly positive buzz. Now we have some confirmation.

A league executive told Zach Lowe of ESPN that yes, it’s highly likely the target score idea will be back next All-Star Game.

It is a “good assumption” the NBA will use a target score to end next season’s All-Star Game after experimenting with the concept for the first time Sunday, Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, told ESPN on Wednesday in New York…

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in…”

If the NBA uses the target score at next season’s All Star Game, they may tinker with the rules so that the game cannot end on a free throw, Spruell said. They have already discussed taking points away from any team that commits a shooting foul on a potential winning shot instead of awarding free throws, Spruell said. They could also force that team to remove the player who committed the foul and replace him with someone else for a certain number of possessions, Spruell said.

If this were used in a regular-season NBA game, then essentially sending a player to the “penalty box” after a foul on a game-winning attempt would have some impact. In the All-Star Game, not so much. For example, if Kyle Lowry had been sent to the bench after fouling Anthony Davis, then Nick Nurse could have replaced him with Jimmy Butler or Trae Young or some other elite player. It’s not that damaging.

Removing points makes more sense.

While the Elam-style ending was a success in the All-Star Game (and next season they may bump the point total up from 24, even though it took 15 minutes of game time to play the quarter, because that is an outlier for the All-Star Game), it’s not coming to the NBA. Which means it’s not coming to the G-League either, Lowe was told. A discussion about Summer League doesn’t seem to be on the table, either.

Where could the target score ending pop up? If/when the NBA starts playing a mid-season tournament, Lowe was told — and those playoff games could be just 40 minutes. Also, the G-League showcase every December makes some sense, Lowe was told.

The target score ending was a huge hit in the All-Star Game, it only makes sense to bring it back. But for the NBA, it will remain more special occasion gimmick than a daily part of the league.

Clint Capela still weeks away from making his debut with Atlanta

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Atlanta traded for Clint Capela at the deadline thinking about the long haul — he is the pick-and-roll big man they want to pair with Trae Young for seasons to come.

Just not much of this season. Capela missed the four games before the All-Star break with a heel bruise and plantar fasciitis, and the All-Star break was not near enough time to get that right. He’s going to be out into March, it appears.

Atlanta would love to start the process of Capela and Young getting used to each other on the court this season, but they are not in a playoff fight, so there is no reason to rush the recovery.

Capela averaged 13.8 points and 13.9 rebounds a game this season in Houston. He sets a good pick, rolls hard to the rim, has good hands if he gets a lob, plus he’s a quality shot-blocker in the paint on the other end. He should pair well with Young.

Eventually, once he gets healthy.