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Three Things to Know: Vanessa Bryant, Lakers share their pain with loss of Kobe

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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) Vanessa Bryant, Lakers share their pain with the loss of Kobe. Understandably, it has taken time for the family of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers organization to make any statements on the death of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash last Sunday.

Wednesday that started to happen.

First, Laker coach Frank Vogel spoke to the media.

“It’s just strengthened what we’ve felt all year about our current group, which is we’ve become a family in a very short time. And it’s something you talk about in the NBA with your teams, but this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly. And we understand the importance and the opportunity that we have this year, and this has just brought us closer together.”

Later, Vanessa Bryant — Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother — made her first public comments since the tragedy, posting on Instagram.

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

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Near the end of the day, the Lakers’ organization released a statement.

The Lakers will take the court for the first time Friday night at Staples Center against Portland.

The emotion of the loss of Kobe is still washing over the league. That was best evidenced by Kyrie Irving’s emotional postgame comments after the Nets beat the Pistons.

A couple of things to note. First, the NBA will not be changing the league’s logo to Kobe. Second, the investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

2) Damian Lillard gets his first career triple-double and does it in front of his nemesis, Russell Westbrook. I had two thoughts as I watched Lillard get that first triple-double.

First, he didn’t have one already? Technically I knew he didn’t, but it just felt like he must have done this already (same with Kawhi Leonard getting his first recently).

Second, of course he did it in front of Russell Westbrook. At this point, the smack-talking Westbrook may not want to ever speak around Lillard again, it just brings out the best in Dame.

Lillard had 36 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds against the Rockets his first career triple-double, which sparked the Blazers to a 125-112 win.

James Harden returned after missing two games with a thigh bruise but his slump continued, scoring 18 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Russell Westbrook scored 39 points, extending his streak of games with 20+ points to 21 games.

3) Knicks fans are frustrated — and they should be. Knicks scuffle at the end of the game, Marcus Morris then sticks foot in mouth. I get what Knicks fans are feeling. I am a supporter of Newcastle United in the Premiere League and I would put that team owner, Mike Ashley, up against any crappy owner in any sport (short of the insanely high bar Donald Sterling set back in the day). My Newcastle fandom allows me some insight and empathy. I know what it’s like to helplessly watch a lack of organizational direction, seeing what should be lesser organizations thrive while you tread water (at best), I get the losing wears fans down.

Meaning, I understand the fans chanting “sell the team” at Knicks owner James Dolan as he left New York’s loss to Memphis on Wednesday night.

It was a rough night for the Knicks and their fans. First, New York was blown out at home by the Memphis Grizzlies 127-106. (Credit to the Grizzlies, who 11-3 in January and improve to .500, sitting as the eighth seed in the West.) This loss carried weight because both of these teams are supposed to be rebuilding, but only one seems to be on a path back to relevance soon.

Then it got ugly. With less than a minute to go and the game decided, Memphis’ Jae Crowder stole a lazy pass from Julius Randle, then decided to keep playing hard and jacked up a corner three rather than dribble out the clock. Crowder kept on playing hard. New York’s Elfrid Payton took exception to that, ran over and shoved Crowder to the floor. Crowder bounced back up and went at Payton, and then others jumped in and what passes for a “fight” in the NBA was on.

Payton and Crowder were ejected, as was New York’s Marcus Morris for being the third man in. Payton can expect a suspension from the league for his sore-loser act — and him not remorseful after the game will not bring leniency from the league office.

Then after the game, Morris stuck his foot in his mouth when asked about Crowder.

Come on, this is not Mad Men era basketball. You can’t say that. Frankly, if the Knicks played with the fight of most players in the WNBA they’d have more than 13 wins this season. Morris backed away from those comments and quickly apologized.

Expect the league office to hand down suspensions and fines in the next 48 hours.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Victor Oladipo returned to the Pacers, hit shot to force overtime. Oladipo was back. The former All-NBA player had missed most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture, but he was back on the floor for the Pacers on Wednesday, and he was making plays. That includes hitting the three that forced overtime.

Indiana is in that tight bunch between 2-6 in the East (where 2.5 games separate five teams) and if Oladipo can get his legs under him and his form — if he can blend in with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis — Indiana might be able to break out of that pack and do some damage in the playoffs.

Report: No second bubble, scrimmages or practices for other eight NBA teams

Bulls guard Coby White vs. Hawks
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The on-again, off-again idea of a second bubble? The on-again, off-again idea of the eight NBA teams not continuing at Disney World even scrimmaging or practicing?

It’s all looking unlikely.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

There is growing belief among the NBA’s eight franchises not in Orlando that a second bubble site being built for minicamps and intrasquad scrimmages will not happen, sources tell The Athletic. There is pessimism about in-market minicamps for group workouts happening as well.

“There’s nothing happening,” one GM told The Athletic after a Tuesday call between the eight GMs and league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

I’m so sick of some of these eight teams whining. They’re not playing because they weren’t good enough to qualify for the resumption. Deal with it. Every year, some teams get eliminated before others. This is different in degree, not kind.

Besides, are these eight teams watching the high level of play in the bubble? After a long layoff, teams look energetic and fresh. Long offseasons could give the eight eliminated teams an advantage next season.

Playing basketball safely amid the coronavirus pandemic is costly – both in terms of operational expenses and lifestyle sacrifices for participants. It’s worthwhile for the continuing 22 teams because the revenue being produced by the resumption.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for the other eight teams. Maybe there’s value in fulfilling local TV contracts, but the remaining games are a poor product. Scrimmages and practices would be even less marketable. Impending free agents especially have little reason to care about continuing.

I understand why many of the eight teams want to do something. But it’s probably just not worth it.

Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. out for season with torn left meniscus

Jaren Jackson torn meniscus
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Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 22 points and was the best Grizzlies player against the Pelicans on Monday night, showing off his athleticism and touch from three.

He also tore the meniscus in his left knee during the game, the Grizzlies announced Tuesday.

Even with the short offseason, Jackson should be ready to play at the start of next season.

This is a serious blow to the Grizzlies, who are 0-3 in the bubble and now just lost their best player through those three games. He has been the best source of offense for the Grizzlies in the bubble, feasting on defenders who cannot match his speed.

Jackson, a 6’11” big out of Michigan State, averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game this season, shooting 39.4% from three. He’s still developing, but he looks like a classic modern big — can protect the rim, can post up or make plays from the elbow, and can shoot the three — who is developing a strong chemistry with Ja Morant. They could be the cornerstones of the Grizzlies’ future.

First, Jackson has to get healthy.

Watch Devin Booker drain turnaround game-winner to beat Clippers

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Devin Booker is a serious problem.

The Suns All-Star guard scored his 34th and 35th points of the night on a turnaround game-winner at the buzzer= over Paul George — who defended him well. He called game.

Ivica Zubac opened the door for Booker to win it. The Suns had the ball with 31 seconds to go and the Clippers — Kawhi Leonard in particular — defended it well, forcing Ricky Rubio into a difficult, high-arcing shot he missed. Zubac did a good job grabbing the rebound, but then he hurried the outlet pass and Mikal Bridges tipped it, Deandre Ayton grabbed it, and the Suns got to reset and take one more shot.

Devin Booker took the final shot, a game-winner. That man is a problem.

The bubble Suns are now 3-0.

As 19-point underdogs, Nets top Bucks in biggest NBA upset since 1993

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nets big Donta Hall
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The Nets looked like one of NBA’s the worst continuing teams. They were underwhelming during the regular season, and their roster was decimated entering seeding games. Brooklyn had even more absences against the Bucks today.

No Caris LeVert. No Joe Harris. No Jarrett Allen.

But despite entering the game as 19-point underdogs, the Nets upset the Bucks, 119-116.

David Purdum of ESPN:

Obviously, Milwaukee is way better than Brooklyn overall. But the Bucks didn’t have much incentive to chase a victory. They’ve already all but clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Starters Brook Lopez and Wesley Matthews didn’t play. Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton didn’t play in the second half.

That created an opening for the Nets, who blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead then rallied to win.

What they lacked in talent, both teams made up for in effort – and feistiness.

Antetokounmpo was restrained from Brooklyn big Donta Hall after getting knocked down during a second-quarter tussle for a rebound:

That stood out in an eventful game for the Nets.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot led Brooklyn with 26 points. Jamal Crawford looked assertive early, but he left the game with a hamstring injury. And Jacque Vaughn got what could be considered a signature victory if the Nets were already favoring keeping him as coach.

Should anyone overreact to a game played under these conditions? No. But for a Brooklyn team overmatched in the bubble, this was at least a feel-good – and historic – moment.