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Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid goes down, no ‘next man up’ in Philadelphia

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid goes down, no “next man up” with Philadelphia 76ers. Now for a live look at the state of the Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia went into 16-win Cleveland on Wednesday night and lost in a way that has summed up a disappointing season.

That started with some bad luck: Ben Simmons already was sidelined for at least a couple more weeks with a nerve impingement in his lower back, then on Wednesday Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder when he got tangled up with Cavaliers’ big man Ante Zizic.

Embiid did not return to the game after this, an MRI on Thursday will provide details and a timeline for how long Embiid may be out.

Injuries and bad luck hit every team over the course of 82 games in the NBA, but the elite teams respond. With the best teams, there is a “next man up” mentality that works.

The next man up for the Sixers should have been Al Horford — Philadelphia signed Horford last summer as Embiid insurance. Except Horford scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, continuing a season that has seen him struggle with his shot and not be nearly as effective in general as he had been in Boston (and Atlanta before that).

All the guys that were supposed to step up didn’t: Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson combined to score 30 points on 12-of-35 shooting (34.3 percent), including 4-of-14 from three. Shake Milton was the only Sixer getting things done.

Philadelphia lost to Cleveland 108-94, the Sixers seventh straight road loss (they are 9-21 away from home now). The Sixers remain the five seed in the East, unable to catch the stumbling Heat to even get home court in the first round.

Some of that has been bad luck but, on teams like Boston (keep reading down to No. 2 on this list), when one or two players go down, others step up. That has not been Philly this season.

There are more than six weeks before the playoffs start, these are the dog days of the season, and one could make the argument that there is plenty of time for the Sixers to get healthy, get on a little run, and enter the playoffs a dangerous team. But if you’re making that argument right now, you look like a dog, sitting at a table, in a burning house.

2) Meanwhile, Boston is coming together, beat Utah, and went 3-1 on a trip out West. If there’s a team that looks like it can cause problems for Milwaukee in the East — and that remains a big “if” — it feels more and more like that team is Boston.

The Celtics are without their All-Star starter Kemba Walker but, unlike in Philly, they have their next man up in the form of Jayson Tatum. He scored 33 points in a shootout duel with Donovan Mitchell, leading Boston to a 114-103 win in Utah

Boston had its other guys step up: Jaylen Brown had 20 points, Marcus Smart had 17 and keeps making shots in the fourth quarter, and Daniel Theis and the rest of the Celtics’ big men held their own against Rudy Gobert inside (Gobert has not played like his All-Star self of late, but that’s another topic).

Boston just went 3-1 on their West Coast swing, the only loss being a close game against the Lakers at Staples. The Celtics are coming together at the right time, and more than winning things just feel cohesive with this team. Our own Keith Smith summed it up well.

3) Trae Young blocks Mo Bamba’s shot at the rim. Trae Young is 6’1” and — to put it very kindly — is not exactly known for his defense.

Orlando’s Mo Bamba is 7’0” and was drafted to be the future at center in Orlando.

Watch Young block Bamba at the rim (by going behind him, but it’s still a smart play).

Good on Trae Young for the hustle, but this sums up a whole lot about Bamba to me.

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Goodbye NBA regular season, hello NBA ‘seeding games’

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The NBA regular season is over.

The league’s statement on its plan to resume the season made that abundantly clear.

The 22 continuing teams will play exhibitions, eight “seeding games” (not regular-season games) and maybe play-in games.

NBA release:

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.  At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs.  These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11.  The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

So, the lottery odds are set for the Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Wizards can’t tank their way past Charlotte and Chicago.

That’s a good setup, which raises a question: Why doesn’t the NBA freeze records for the lottery with a month left in normal seasons? By not doing so, the league creates conditions for an annual tanking wasteland.

Calling these “seeding games” also positions the league to hold award voting soon. The NBA’s major awards – Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie, Coach of the Year – are regular-season awards. If the regular season is over, those can be picked now. That could be a good way to fill time and attract attention before play resumes.

This is probably mostly semantics.* The term “seeding games” allows the NBA to differentiate these games for the lottery and awards.

*It could also allow the league to cancel more regular-season games and expand force majeure. But owners would still have to negotiate with players on how to pay them for these new “seeding games.” So, that’s probably a wash.

The term also makes enough sense. The 22 continuing teams are playing for seeding.

But what happens if two teams clinch certain seeds before their scheduled seeding game? Would that game still be played?

I’m confident the answer would be yes, even if “seeding game” would no longer be accurate.

“Tune-up games to generate more revenue” just isn’t as catchy.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

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NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key NBA dates for training camps, free agency, NBA draft and the start of next season are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams for the key NBA Dates. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

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We already knew many key details of the NBA return format plan for the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA approved a 22-team playoff format:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the NBA return format plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press: