Three Things to Know: Anthony Davis will re-sign with Lakers, but don’t expect five years

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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) Anthony Davis will re-sign with Lakers but don’t expect five years. Wednesday’s “big” NBA story out of Los Angeles was the Lakers offered Anthony Davis a max extension of his current contract — four years, $146 million — and Davis turned it down. Except that wasn’t a surprise. As most stories on the issue explained, if Davis becomes a free agent this summer and re-signs with the Lakers he can get five-years, $202 million.

That is true. That is also not how this is going to go down.

Davis unquestionably will re-sign with the Lakers. I know zero sources around the league who think otherwise. That is why the league’s free agent/trade focus is now on Giannis Antetokounmpo (who probably signs a five-year super-max extension with the Bucks this summer, but there is more wiggle room than with Davis) and how unhappy Karl-Anthony Towns is in Minnesota.

Just don’t expect Davis to sign for five years with the Lakers. Expect a three-year contract with an opt-out after two.

This is right out of the LeBron James/Rich Paul playbook (Paul is Davis’ agent, too) and it works for two reasons. First, it keeps pressure on the Lakers organization to put a contending team on the court, something that will be a challenge once LeBron decides to step away (whenever that comes). Second, after two more seasons Davis will reach 10 years of service, making him eligible for a full 35 percent of the salary cap. In the summer of 2022 Davis could opt-out, then re-sign an even larger five-year contract with the Lakers.

All of which means a lot of “nothing to see here, move along” with the story of Davis passing on the Lakers’ extension offer, just know what comes next is not what a lot of pundits were selling.

2) Tristan Thompson led Cleveland to a feel-good win amidst controversy. As trade speculation swirled around Tristan Thompson last month, the Cavaliers put out word they want to keep him because they value his leadership that much.

They might have never needed it more than yesterday.

The Cavs spent the day at the forefront of the national sports conversation, because their coach – John Beilein – called his players “thugs” then said he meant to say “slugs.” The story was the right mix of sensational, serious and silly to capture attention. Even for a team accustomed to drama, this provided plenty.

Enter Thompson.

The center scored a career-high 35 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, made the game-tying free throws in the fourth quarter, slammed the dagger dunk in overtime and finished a game-high +10 in a 115-112 win over the Pistons last night.

Did Thompson know his 35 points set a personal best?

“Uhhh,” Thompson said, seemingly deliberating how to answer a question that could make him look vain.

“Hell yeah!” Kevin Love, who had been exchanging friendly obscenities with Thompson throughout the interview, shouted across the locker room. “I was reminded by the bench!”

“Hell yeah!” Thompson said. “They was telling me on the bench, and s—, I ain’t stupid. I know!”

Love continued to rile up Thompson.

“I know what I’m talking about! I ain’t stupid! I’m a basketball savant! I know everything!” Thompson said, becoming increasingly profane and then comparing himself to The Schwab.

At the end of a long day, Beilein clearly appreciated his team’s enthusiasm.

“Go into a college locker room, and everybody is jumping around. Pro locker room, everyone is chilling after win,” Beilein said. “That locker room is hopping around right now.

“If they’re excited, then the coaching staff is really excited. Because we want to have fun. And the way you have fun is you win, and we won tonight.”

—Dan Feldman, from the Cavs/Pistons game in Detroit

3) Joel Embiid will miss a couple of weeks following finger surgery, but even without him Philadelphia’s defense locks-up Boston. Is it really a surprise that Joel Embiid needs surgery — did you see what happened to his finger earlier this week? The ring finger on his left hand was bent in a way fingers are just not meant to bend. At the time Embiid had it popped back in, taped up, and returned to the game (a win against Oklahoma City).

However, it should be no surprise he needs surgery for a torn ligament in that finger. Embiid is having surgery and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. He, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds a game for the Sixers, but his bigger impact is on the defensive end, where the Sixers are 8.2 points per 100 possessions better when Embiid is on the court.

Except against Boston on Thursday night. With Al Horford as center — and after an early-game adjustment playing more aggressively out high on the pick-and-roll, rather than Embiid’s drop coverage — the Sixers shut down the top-10 Boston offense and got the win, 109-98. Philly got a spark from Josh Richardson’s 29 points, and Ben Simmons added 19, but it was mostly the Philly defense that stole the show.

We’ll see if the Sixers can sustain this level of defense with Embiid out, but this was an impressive start.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: They still love Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook returned to the franchise where he played the first 11 seasons of his career, where he grew up in a lot of ways, where he won an MVP-award and racked up triple -doubles. To say Thunder fans welcomed him back with open arms is an understatement.

First, there was a video tribute.

Then came the raucous standing ovation.

Then Westbrook went through his traditional pregame routine — fist bumps for the stat crew, shooting arrows, a sprint to the corner — to the joy of the crowd.

That crowd also loved the way Chris Paul and the rest of the Thunder played that night, spoiling Westbrook’s return and raking up a 113-92 Thunder win.

Block or charge: Alperen Sengun dunks on Zach Collins

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To borrow the catchphrase of the great Rex Chapman:

Block or charge?

The Rockets’ Alperen Sengun caught a body and threw one down on the Spurs’ Zach Collins but was called for the offensive foul.

NBA Twitter went nuts.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas challenged the call, but it was upheld (from my perspective, the replay officials are always looking to back the in-game officials if they at all can).

By the time Collins slid over and jumped, Sengun was already in the air — if anything that was a block. What the officials called was Sengun using his off-arm to create space.

I hate the call — that’s a dunk and an and-one. Not because it’s a great dunk — although it is that, too — but because Collins literally jumped into the path of an already airborne Sengun, Collins created all the contact. It’s on him. Under the spirit of the rules, Sengun’s off-arm is moot at that point — Collins illegally jumped in Sengun’s way and caused the collision.

Terrible call by the officials.

It was a good night for the Spurs, overall. San Antonio played its best defense in a while and Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs 11-game losing streak.

Three things to know: Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

This game felt like a 2019 playoff time capsule, with Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray trading blows in a dramatic game.

Lillard landed more of them, he finished with 40 points — and his final three were vintage Dame Time.

But Murray had the final word.

The final minutes of this game were insane.

It was a needed win for a Denver team that some nights look like they can compete with the best in the league, then turn around 48 hours later and mail in a loss to a tanking team. Nikola Jokic scored 33 against Portland (with 10 boards and nine assists) — he is again putting up numbers that will have him in the MVP conversation (even if it’s a longshot he wins it). However, the Nuggets’ bottom-five defense makes them inconsistent night to night.

Portland revamped their roster to get younger and more athletic around Lillard this past offseason, but one of the results of that is the inconsistency of youth. The Blazers don’t bring the same level of execution every night. If they don’t learn that lesson, they may be different in makeup but the results will be the same as many Portland teams of the last decade — an early playoff exit.

2) Brittney Griner is home on U.S.soil

After spending 10 months in Russian jails — including being convicted and sent to a penal colony — on trumped-up drug charges that made her a political pawn in a massive geo-political battle, Brittney Griner is finally home on U.S. soil, her plane landed in Texas overnight.

The Biden administration worked out a prisoner exchange with Russia that brings Griner home to be with her wife, family and friends — that is something to be celebrated.

Of course, there was some pushback online/in the media from people who care only about trying to score political points for their selfish ends. Fortunately, we had the family of Paul Whelan — a Michigan corporate security executive who has been behind bars in Russia since December 2018 on trumped-up espionage charges — who praised the president for bringing Griner home and making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

An American citizen is home. She happens to be a WNBA star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but those things are not what matters most, and are secondary to her family who are just happy to hug her and tell her they love her again. We all hope that day comes soon for American political prisoners held around the globe (including Whelan), but we should celebrate the big victory of Griner being back on U.S. soil.

3) Spurs snap 11-game losing streak behind 32 from Johnson

Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game losing streak.

“This has been the first game in a while where we were clicking defensively,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the game. “You can tell when we get stops, get out and run and be able to get out front. If we can keep that mindset of defense first, get stops and we let the offense take care of itself, we’ll be in great shape.”

All of that is interesting, but the real debate of the night: Was this an offensive foul by Alperen Sengun, or a block by Zach Collins?

Sengun was in the air when Collins came over, but he also used his off hand to create space for the dunk. This is a bang-bang call and the challenge of the block/charge call — I think that’s a block by Collins, but that’s not how the referee or many others have seen it. How would you have called it?

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Bulls’ Zach LaVine not available via trade

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.