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Three Things to Know: Is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz?

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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) After an ugly 1-4 road trip, is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz? Coming into the season, a number of pundits and prognosticators picked Utah to have a chance to compete with the big boys in the West for a title (*sheepishly raises hand*). With a lock-down defense anchored by two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the continued growth of Donovan Mitchel, and the additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, this team all the pieces to compete.

Except…

•  That feared defense is actually 11th in the league for the season, and in the last 10 games they have fallen to 16th in the league giving up 4.9 more points per 100 possessions than they averaged last season. To be fair, Gobert was out for some of those games (and without him, the Greek Freak got to the rim at will and dropped 50 on Utah).

• The offense has never clicked and is currently ranked 23rd in the league.

• Mike Conley is shooting 37 percent on the season.

• The team just suffered ugly road losses, being down 40 at half to Toronto, then on Monday night losing to Philadelphia 103-94 in a game that wasn’t that close, the 76ers led by as many as 26.

After those ugly road losses to close out their road trip it feels like it’s time to ask:

Should we be worried about the Jazz?

Worried is a relative term, this is still a 12-9 team that sits as the six seed in the West and seems destined for the playoffs. Gobert is once again playing fantastic defense and has to be in the DPOY conversation (the Jazz got worse around him, but he is still playing brilliantly). Donovan Mitchell has stepped up after his summer with Team USA and is averaging 24.5 points per game with increased efficiency, and he looks like an All-Star player this season. The Jazz have not been bad.

They also haven’t looked anything like potential contenders, either.

Which is the concern. The Jazz always needed a lot of things to go right to be a big threat in the West, and so far it seems few of those things have gone according to plan, particularly on offense. This is a team that has the highest percentage in the league of offense that comes in the halfcourt (via Cleaning the Glass), meaning they just don’t get many easy buckets.

The struggling offense could have GM Dennis Lindsey looking to make a trade at the deadline to get a power forward this team needs (Danilo Gallinari would make sense with the Jazz). Utah may need a shake-up to contend.

Jazz fans shouldn’t be freaking out, but this team has not lived up to the hype or its potential yet. There’s a lot of season to go, but more than 20 games in it’s time to be a little bit worried.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo, brother Thanasis power Bucks past Knicks to 12th straight win. This game was never in doubt — Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 29 points and 15 rebounds and didn’t even have to play 22 minutes on the night. He just overpowered the Knicks. Literally. Look what he did to Julius Randle.

That’s not fair.

The Bucks won 132-88 to extend their win streak to a dozen.

Last summer, the Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ brother, in a clear attempt to suck up to the superstar and keep him happy (remember, Giannis will have a supermax offer from the Bucks on the table next summer and the franchise is doing everything it can to keep him).

This is the kind of game where Thanasis gets run, he had 10 points in 12 minutes of play. That brings us the stat of the night:

The Antetokounmpo brothers outscored the Knicks starters 39-37.

3) Carmelo Anthony was named the NBA Player of the Week. The narrative of Carmelo Anthony’s triumphant return to the NBA continues to morph into legend (and as with most legends, the facts start to get blurred a little to fit the narrative).

After a three-game week where he averaged 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, a week where the Trail Blazers went 3-0, Anthony was named the NBA’s Player of the Week.

It is validation for ‘Melo and makes a great story (even if nobody cares about this award most weeks). Don’t mind the fact that those three wins came because Damian Lillard returned to the lineup and he’s Portland’s best player (plus the Blazers played the struggling Bulls twice). We’re telling a story, so the fact that last week Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis all averaged more points, rebounds and assists per game than ‘Melo doesn’t matter, it doesn’t fit the narrative (the Player of the Week award has always been more about story than numbers).

To be fair, Anthony has played well in his return, giving a shorthanded Portland team a boost. It’s a small sample size (100 minutes), but Portland is +15.4 per 100 possessions when Anthony and Lillard share the court together. Six games in, picking up Anthony has worked for the Trail Blazers.

So make Anthony Player of the Week. It’s a good story. For my money, it will be interesting to watch how Anthony and Portland fare this week against the two Los Angeles teams — those are real tests.

Report: Kawhi Leonard didn’t travel with Clippers to Disney World, expected to arrive in few days

Kawhi Leonard in Orlando
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A Clippers-Lakers Western Conference finals – featuring Kawhi Leonard vs. LeBron James – is one of the most anticipated potential attractions of the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

But Leonard must get there first.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard did not travel with the team on Wednesday to Walt Disney World for the resumption of the NBA season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Leonard was given permission by the organization to tend to a family matter and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to join the team on campus in a few days, sources said.

Hopefully, everything is alright with Leonard and his family and he arrives as smoothly as this report indicates. The NBA has protocols for players who travel to Orlando after their teams. Leonard isn’t unique in having a personal issue delay his arrival.

But this situation bears especially close watching for two reasons:

1.  Kawhi Leonard might be the NBA’s best player. The Clippers are a top-tier championship contender. Leonard’s whereabouts hold more significance for the season than, say, Magic guard Markelle Fultz‘s.

2. The Clippers have misled to protect Leonard before. Though it was easy to see their logic, it leaves them with less credibility here.

Again, hopefully this is only a minor snag. We’ll know more within a few days.

Report: Nets signing Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford vs. Nets
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Most points scored in a player’s last game (among non-active NBA players):

  • Kobe Bryant: 60 (LAL-UTA April 13, 2016)
  • Jamal Crawford: 51 (PHO-DAL April 9, 2019)
  • Alec Peters: 36 (PHO-DAL April 10, 2018)

It’s time to remove Crawford from the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

A defensive liability who needs the ball in his hands, 40-year-old Crawford can still make difficult shots remarkably well. But most teams can build a lineup and system that consistently create more efficient shots than the tough looks Crawford specializes in.

The Nets aren’t most teams.

Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie are both out. Caris LeVert, Garrett Temple Chris Chiozza and Tyler Johnson are an underwhelming backcourt rotation.

Crawford can add scoring punch. With the point guard-deficient Suns last season, he also showed passing ability, though a good team won’t ask too much of him.

Reminder: The Nets will keep their first-round pick only if they miss the playoffs. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving healthy, Brooklyn would probably convey a later pick to the Timberwolves next season.

If nothing else, this is a tremendous personal achievement for Crawford, who badly wanted to keep playing. He has kept in tremendous shape for his age and built a strong reputation in the locker room, earning himself more opportunities.  If everything goes according to plan, Crawford will join Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Willis, Robert Parish, Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to play 20 NBA seasons.

Stephen Jackson peddles another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, says he’s misunderstood

Stephen Jackson
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Former NBA player Stephen Jackson defended Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has drawn criticism – including from the Eagles – for posting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory (incorrectly) attributed to Adolph Hitler.

DeSean Jackson apologized twice and pledged to educate himself.

Stephen Jackson insists he’s being unfairly maligned.

Stephen Jackson:

Today’s word is assume. Assume.

To all my Jewish people, I love y’all. Y’all took the video the wrong way. I said he was right stemming from a conversation we had before I got on Live about how they’re handling him and how they handled Cooper when he said the n-word. They didn’t handle them the same way, and that wasn’t right. And that’s what I was talking about. I love y’all. You’ll never find a video or article of me saying I hate anybody. Let me clear that up.

Assume. Today’s word. As a black man, you get pulled over by the police, they assume you’re about to run. They assume you’ve got drugs in the car. They assume you’ve got a gun. They assume the worst, right?

I didn’t say nothing about Jews or supporting Hitler at all in that video. But that’s what they assume I said. And y’all wonder why we’re fighting for equality. Because y’all assume the worst from a black man. I love everybody. I’ve always stood that way. Love for all who have love for all. So, why would you assume I hate somebody?

Too often, apologies get labeled as a “non-apology.” This is a non-apology.

When he said DeSean Jackson is “speaking the truth,” Stephen Jackson sounded like he was talking about DeSean Jackson’s Hitler post – not a private conversation with DeSean Jackson, as Stephen Jackson indicates now.

A reminder of what Stephen Jackson said about DeSean Jackson (emphases mine):

He was trying to educate himself, educate people, and he’s speaking the truth, right? He’s speaking the truth. You know he don’t hate nobody, but he’s speaking the truth of the facts that he knows and trying to educate others.

How do those bolded sections make any sense based on a private conversation between DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson?

If this is a case of Stephen Jackson simply not choosing his words carefully enough, it’d be far easier to forgive him. After all, he has now gone out of his way to say he loves Jews.

But Stephen Jackson doesn’t deserve much benefit of the doubt while he also spreads other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Fred Katz of The Athletic:

Police too often make negative assumptions about Black people. That should be addressed.

But, best I can tell, Stephen Jackson is being judged fairly here. He’s promoting anti-Semitic messages. He’s getting treated like someone promoting anti-Semitic messages.

Do I believe Stephen Jackson wants to be anti-Semitic? No. My best guess is his heart is in the right place while his head is in the wrong place. But Stephen Jackson is still spreading anti-Semitism. Even if that’s due to “only” ignorance, he can’t correct that until acknowledging his errors and learning from them. Blaming everyone else for misunderstanding him is not the answer.

Stephen Jackson is also wrong in his comparison to Riley Cooper, a white Eagles receiver who was caught on video saying the n-word in 2013. Like with DeSean Jackson, the Eagles released a statement criticizing Cooper. They didn’t cut Cooper. They also haven’t cut DeSean Jackson. Even if they eventually cut DeSean Jackson, I suspect they’ll follow similar guidelines: Deciding whether the player is good enough to offset the trouble caused by his reprehensible speech.

Magic player tests positive for coronavirus

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The race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference keeps getting sadder. Somehow.

The Nets are decimated. The Wizards are missing their best players. And the Magic – who already have Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu sidelined – have complications with Markelle Fultz and another unnamed player.

Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic entered the NBA bubble Tuesday without an unidentified player who tested positive for COVID-19 and guard Markelle Fultz, whose entry was delayed due to a personal issue.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday that Fultz is dealing with a personal matter unrelated to the virus. His absence is excused and the league is aware of his situation, according to Weltman. He said Fultz is following all safety protocols and expects a “seamless transition” for the guard’s return, although Weltman did not have a specific timetable for when that will be.

It’s unclear whether the unnamed player was among the 25 players the NBA announced tested positive.

Fultz and the other player will have to follow protocols for players travelling to Disney World after their teams arrive.

The Magic have D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams at point guard if Fultz is unavailable. But I’ll take Weltman at his word that Fultz will return to the team smoothly.