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Three Things to Know: Kobe tributes continue from Paul George/Clippers to All-Star Game

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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) Paul George narrates moving Clippers’ video tribute to Kobe Bryant; Lakers GM Rob Pelinka releases a statement. One of the first things Doc Rivers did when he took over the Clippers — a clever and smart move, one that irritates Lakers fans — is he had Staples Center cover up the Laker championship banners and retired numbers for Clipper games. To make it feel like the Clippers building (it’s really the L.A.King’s building, but that’s another discussion).

Thursday night, the first basketball game was played inside Staples Center since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash. The Clippers did a classy thing, uncovering Kobe’s retired numbers. Then Southern California native Paul George narrated the Clippers tribute video.

Well done, Clippers.

Also on Thursday, Lakers GM and Kobe’s long-time agent Rob Pelinka released a statement. What follows is just a highlight, it’s worth checking out the entire thing.

“On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.

“Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence. He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a “girl-dad” like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.

“Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of.

2) All-Star Game format changed in part to honor Kobe Bryant; All-Star reserves named. The All-Star Game is a hype machine like no other, a showcase game of the biggest names in the sport putting on a display of athleticism and skill not seen on any other basketball court around the globe.

Except here’s the reality — the game itself sucks.

The actual All-Star Game is a boring exhibition. The skill and athleticism are undeniable, but everyone plays defense with the energy of traffic cones as they try not to get injured, leading to a boring scorefest.

The league office has been looking for a way to change that, and they have come up with this new format — and thrown in a Kobe Bryant tribute to boot. Here it is:

Each of the first three quarters will start with a 0-0 score. The two teams — Team LeBron and Team Giannis, chosen by their captains — will be playing for specific charities, and the team that wins each quarter gets more money for their cause. After three quarters, the teams’ scores will be added together to get a traditional score, then 24 points will be added to that to create a “target score,” and the first team to that number wins. No game clock, just play until one team gets to the target score. (The league chose 24 points to honor Kobe, as he wore that number.)

Confused? Can’t blame you, and just wait until you try to watch it all live. To help here’s an example: If after three quarters Team LeBron leads 150-145, then the “target score” becomes 174 and the first team to that number wins the All-Star Game. Team LeBron would have to score 24 points, but if Team Giannis can score 29 points first and get to 174 it wins. Get it?

Last week the All-Star Game starters were announced, yesterday it was the reserves as selected by a vote of the coaches. Here’s who they picked (in alphabetical order, but there are seven players per conference):

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)
• Domantis Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)

There are six first-time All-Stars in that group: Gobert, Ingram, Mitchell, Adebayo, Sabonis, and Tatum (plus three among the starters with Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Pascal Siakam).

Who got snubbed? The big names are Paul George (L.A. Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), and Jaylen Brown (Boston). Just remember, if you want to say one of those guys belongs in the big show it means removing one of the players from the same conference. It’s not as easy once you have to remove a deserving person.

3) Nuggets beat Jazz 106-101, which of these teams is better poised to challenge the Los Angeles teams in the playoffs? Both the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz have been up and down this season, and both ultimately will be judged on how they perform in April and May, not a random game in January, but…

It Utah really a threat to make a deep playoff run and push — or beat — either Los Angeles team?

Is Denver?

The Nuggets looked more like it on Thursday night. Despite being down three starters due to injury, Denver went on a 27-1 third-quarter run, got 28 points and 10 assists from Nikola Jokic — who took over down the stretch scoring 11 straight, and he outplayed Rudy Gobert on the night — and went on to win 106-101. This was a quality win for the Nuggets.

For Utah… Donovan Mitchell shot 1-of-12 in what is their third-straight loss. This team still doesn’t have the offensive punch to overcome a sloppy defensive quarter like the third. Jordan Clarkson, brought in to add scoring to the bench, dropped 37 or this game would have gotten ugly.

Denver is 13-8 this season against teams over .500, Utah is just 9-12. There’s a lot of noise in those numbers, but on Thursday night the Nuggets looked like the team better poised for the postseason.

Lou Williams admits “I probably could have made a better quality decision”

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Lou Williams is far from the first man to regret a trip to a strip club — or to be put in a kind of “time out” for it.

Williams was out of quarantine and back on the court for the Clippers Tuesday and afterward owned up to the mistake of swinging by the Magic City strip club in Atlanta to pick up some food while he was out.

“Well, in hindsight, I think as far as the public safety issue goes, I probably could have made a better quality decision. I was a little naive in that aspect,” Williams said after Devin Booker ripped L.A.’s heart out. “I went somewhere after a viewing of somebody I considered a mentor, somebody I looked up to, first black man I seen with legal money in my life.

“The funeral home was a couple blocks away from one of my favorite restaurants. It’s been documented how much I talk about this place, how much I eat there. I just did something that was routine for me. I frequent that place at that time of day, 5:30, 6:00 in the afternoon. At the time I thought I was making a responsible decision.

“After looking back on it, with everything going on in the world, the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the best quality decision. I chalk it up that that, take my L and keep moving.”

Williams had been granted permission to leave the NBA’s restart bubble in Orlando to attend the memorial in Atlanta. But he detoured by the Magic City strip club in Atlanta for some grub — the club does sell “LouWill lemon pepper BBQ wings” although a worker at the club said she gave Williams a dance while he was there. However, the league’s concern was not the food or what goes on in the club, it’s the other people in a confined indoor space who were not following the same safety protocols Williams was supposed to be observing. That’s what got him a 10-day quarantine. Thanks a lot, rapper Jack Harlow.

What did Williams do for 10 days?

“I was able to finish a couple of books. I did some crossword puzzles,” he said. “I had 10 minutes to pack up my room, so I was able to get out my studio stuff. I stayed engaged on Zoom with the practices. Had 30 minutes to work out every day.”

Williams, on a minutes restriction, had 7 points on 3-of-8 shooting on Tuesday. His bench pick-and-roll partner, Montrezl Harrell, is still outside the bubble after the death of his grandmother. The Clippers will need both of them at full strength once the playoffs roll around.

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.