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Three Things to Know: Anthony Davis’ value to Lakers evident in loss to Pacers

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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) If you want to know how much Anthony Davis means to the Lakers, watch their loss to the Pacers. It’s December, this is when you rest a guy if he tweaks an ankle to make sure it doesn’t become something bigger and chronic. Which is exactly what the Lakers did Tuesday with Anthony Davis — he suffered a “mild” sprained ankle at the end of the win against Atlanta Sunday, so he sat out Tuesday vs. Indiana.

His value to Los Angeles was clearly evident in a loss to the Pacers Tuesday that snapped a 14-game road winning streak for the Lakers.

Davis is the defensive anchor for Los Angeles (and an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year), a force on his man who is also an elite help defender. Without him, Domantas Sabonis scored 26 points, and Malcolm Brogdon was getting past Dwight Howard for reverse layups that became game-winners.

Also, Davis is the Lakers’ best rebounder and his presence on the glass was missing. The Pacers grabbed the offensive rebound on 30% of their missed shots, which also limited the chances for the Lakers to get out and run — something the Lakers do surprisingly well — and Los Angeles had just 10 fast break points.

Give Indiana credit, this is a gritty team with a strong defense that deserved the win. Malcolm Brogdon has been worth every penny, and the Sabonis/Myles Turner combination seems to be clicking much better of late. When Victor Oladipo returns, if he can be close to his All-NBA self from before he ruptured his right quad tendon, the Pacers become a dangerous playoff team nobody will want to face.

That doesn’t take away from the fact the Lakers are just not the same team without Anthony Davis (and Kyle Kuzma is out as well with his own ankle issue). Davis’ status for Thursday’s showdown with Milwaukee is not yet known, but as fans we want to see him out there for what is the most anticipated game of the season so far.

2) It’s time to let the Replay Center in Secaucus initiate end-of-game reviews. At every NBA game, there is a guy at the scorer’s table with an oversized headset on in constant contact with the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. The point is so the scorers can hear quickly and directly from them on reviews of if a shot is a two vs. a three, for example.

It’s time to let the officials in Secaucus also initiate a few reviews of obvious missed calls late in games — plays not reviewed because no call was made to review (or for other reasons).

Case in point, the end of the Pelicans’ overtime loss to Brooklyn.

The game was tied 93-93 and there was about a three-second difference between the shot and game clocks. Brooklyn wisely tried to eat up as much of the shot clock as they could before taking a shot, but then Spencer Dinwiddie badly missed a three that hit the corner of the backboard. It was an obvious shot clock violation, ball out of bounds to New Orleans with 2.7 seconds left — except there was no call. The officials told Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry the ball “clearly” hit the rim. Clearly it did not. This was not even particularly close. Even the Brooklyn broadcast on the YES Network said the officials missed this one.

What is the point of having all that review technology if not to get a call like this right? Not just going over and reviewing it comes off as the referees trying to protect their egos over getting a call right. Fair or not.

Which is why Secaucus should be able to talk to the scorer’s table courtside, call over the referees, and say “review this.” Just because there was no call doesn’t mean a play should not be reviewed.

Officiating an NBA game is impossibly difficult and the officials in the league are the best in the world (fans scoff at that, but watch college or FIBA refs and get back to me). They do an amazingly good job, and when they do miss big calls it eats at them. They are professionals who want to get it right. The key is a willingness to check their egos and get things right, which is why a Secaucus-initiated review makes sense.

Would the Pelicans have hit a game-winner and snapped their 12-game losing streak? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the Pelicans airball their shot, the game goes to overtime, and that OT plays out just like the one we got and the Nets win. We’ll never know.

But at least New Orleans would have had a final shot in that scenario.

3) De'Aaron Fox returns just as Sacramento is starting to play better, could they make the playoffs? The goal in Sacramento this season was simple: Make the playoffs. For the first time in 13 years. The last time Sacramento made the postseason it was 2006 and Rick Adelman was running his corner offense in the California capital.

If the playoffs started today, Sacramento would be in as the eighth seed.

And Sacramento is just getting healthy — Marvin Bagley III returned four games ago, and on Tuesday night in Charlotte De’Aaron Fox returned to the lineup. Fox came off the bench in his first game but still led the team with 19 points and eight assists (he remains on a minutes restriction.

The Hornets won the game, 110-102, and remain in the thick of the East playoff chase, too.

Even with the loss, Sacramento has won 4-of-6, and now they’re about to get their best players back on the court. And, starting Dec. 23 (against Houston), the Kings have 10-of-12 at home. Make a run there and the Kings can start to solidify a playoff spot in the West. Sure, only because the bottom of the West is much worse than expected, but the Kings do not care.

The Kings just want a ticket to the postseason dance, and finally getting healthy, maybe they could earn one.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett Hall of Fame induction pushed back to May

Kobe Hall of Fame
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kobe Bryant and the rest of this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class won’t be inducted in 2020 – or at the birthplace of basketball.

The Hall announced Friday that the enshrinement ceremony will be held May 13-15, 2021, and the entire festivities will be moved to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

This year was to be a highlight for the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bryant, killed in January in a helicopter crash, headlined a decorated class featuring Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett that would have been enshrined in the recently renovated museum.

But the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans and hit the Hall so hard that it eliminated several full-time positions and cut senior management pay in the 25-40% range.

“These are people who have been a big part of the Hall’s success in recent years; it hurts deeply,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “The decision to reschedule Enshrinement into May of next year, along with diminished museum guest visitation and a very uncertain future regarding our multiple collegiate and high school basketball events this fall, has forced us to make these very difficult decisions. Our goal now is to conserve resources so that we may stabilize in 2021 and return to our growth trajectory in 2022 and beyond.”

“For this single event, and only because of the pandemic, we will relocate the entire event one time to Mohegan Sun which has been a long-time marketing partner of the Hall. Mohegan Sun has shown they can effectively operate a ‘near-bubble’ for our event which provides a more secure environment for our guests,” Doleva explained. “In making this announcement today, our goal is to provide this date and location change with ample notice for our network broadcast partners, nationally and internationally traveling guests and the many basketball constituents the Hall serves.”

Mohegan Sun is a long-time partner of the Hall. Doleva says it can operate a “near-bubble” to provide a secure environment for guests.

 

Vlade Divac steps down as Kings GM; Joe Dumars takes over in interim

Vlade Divac out
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Days after the Kings’ playoff drought reached 14 seasons — second-longest in league history and only one year behind the Donald Sterling Clippers — the repercussions hit GM Vlade Divac and he is out.

Divac has stepped down as the Kings’ general manager, the team announced Friday. Joe Dumars, the former Pistons GM who had been working as a consultant with the team, will step in during the interim while the search for a new GM takes place.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is the best path ahead as we work to build a winning team that our loyal fans deserve,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a statement. “We are thankful for Vlade’s leadership, commitment and hard work both on and off the court. He will always be a part of our Kings’ family.”

While there are legitimate questions about the job Luke Walton did in his first season in Sacramento, his job is safe, something first reported by Sam Amick of The Athletic and since confirmed by James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Kings also said there will be no other major roster moves made until a new GM is in place.

“Joe has become a trusted and valued advisor since joining the team last year, and I am grateful to have him take on this role at an important time for the franchise,” said Ranadivé.

Divac was a member of the best Kings’ teams ever (during the Chris Webber era) and is in the Hall of Fame as a player. Playing and being a GM, however, are two very different skill sets. Divac did sign a contract extension with the Kings a year-and-a-half ago.

The NBA restart bubble was not kind to the Kings, and that ultimately doomed Divac.

After a promising finish as the ninth seed a season ago, playing a fast-paced style that suited young star De'Aaron Fox, Divac made a move to switch coaches last off-season and fired Dave Joerger to hire Walton. However, under Walton the Kings played slower and were much easier to defend. The Kings did get healthy and start to find a groove right before the league was shut down, going 7-3 in those last 10, but once in the bubble Sacramento was a mess again with a bottom-10 defense in Orlando, and they finished 3-5 in the seeding games.

The salt in the wound in Orlando — and what really eats at Kings’ fans — was the elite play of Luka Doncic in Orlando, and all season long.

Divac — who had scouted in Europe and has deep connections there — chose to use the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Marvin Bagley out of Duke instead of Doncic. While the Kings had scouted Doncic extensively (Ranadive even went to Europe to watch him play and backed taking Doncic), Divac and the front office staff thought the athleticism of Bagley gave him a higher upside than Doncic. (Scouts were often divided on Doncic: Nobody thought he would be bad, but some questioned his ceiling because he already had so much polish to his game and he’s not an explosive athlete by NBA standards. Divac and the rest of the Kings’ front office fell into this camp.) Plus, Divac liked the idea of a big man to pair with their point guard Fox, rather than bringing in another ball handler in Doncic.

Doncic almost certainly will make an All-Seeding Games team out of the bubble in Orlando, and in his second NBA season is an MVP candidate (he will get bottom of the ballot votes). Bagley did not play in any seeding games due to another injury, this one to his foot.

Moving on from Divac may be the right move for the Kings, but it begs the question: Who are they going to hire to replace him? What is the new GM’s basketball philosophy and what kind of team does he want to build? And, will he have the power to do it, or will Ranadive keep his reputation as an owner who likes to meddle in basketball operations?

The Kings need a change — but they need the right change. That will be the tricky part.

Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. taken off court on stretcher after collision

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It was the kind of play that happens countless times a game: Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. was trying to chase Doug McDermott over an off-ball (and moving) screen when collided with pick-setting 6’11” center Goga Bitadze.

This ended up being no standard collision — Jones’ head and neck whipped back, and he instantly went to the ground.

Jones was grabbing his neck at first and was on the ground for about 10 minutes — in the eerie silence of a fanless bubble arena in Orlando — before being taken off the court on a stretcher.

The good news is Jones has just suffered a neck strain, the team announced. There is no timeline for his return, but this could have been much worse.

The Heat and the Pacers, who already have tension between them thanks to a beef between Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren, will face each other in the first round of the playoffs starting Monday.

Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus before coming to Orlando (and was quarantined), will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has been making the NBA minimum since coming into the league and was in line for a life-changing payday this summer after playing strong defense while averaging 8.6 points per game — and some spectacular dunks — in nearly 23 minutes a night for Miami. Our thoughts are with him after this incident.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.