76ers coach Brett Brown knows tenuous job fate lies in NBA restart

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Almost fitting for his seven-year tenure coaching the Philadelphia 76ers, Brett Brown had an injury to report: his 16-year-old dog pulled a hamstring on one of their daily walks.

But for the banged-up Sixers’ Big Dogs? Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are coming along just fine from their injuries and should be healthy enough to play if the NBA season resumes — and end a season Brown expected the Sixers to contend for a championship.

“I think this team was built for the playoffs,” Brown said Friday.

Brown needs Embiid and Simmons, Philly’s All-Star franchise players, to be in shape and try to salvage a season that saw the Sixers fade from Eastern Conference contenders to just sixth in the standings (39-26) when it stopped March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That made Brown’s job status a hot topic around the NBA and a daily debate in Philly.

Brown led the 76ers from The Process — when the roster was purposefully stripped of real NBA talent to secure better draft picks — to consecutive 50-win seasons. The Sixers labeled themselves championship contenders this season, only to have a roster of mismatched parts, injuries and an abysmal road record (10-24) push them to the brink of a bust.

Brown has had two months to consider what a play-or-stop scenario could mean for his future.

“You’re human, you think about it all the time,” he said. “I wouldn’t say you think about it to the point where it weights you down. But I get it. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I feel this strongly, as it sits, in my sort of coaching world, this thing is so, for me, incomplete.”

The 23-year-old Simmons had missed his eighth straight game and was receiving daily treatment for his nerve issues in his lower back when the season stopped. Embiid was recovering from surgery on his left hand and had just returned after missing five games with a sprained left shoulder at the time of the shutdown. Embiid and Simmons had received permission to rehab at the Sixers practice facility in New Jersey.

Simmons, who averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists in 54 games, was hurt in a Feb. 22 game at Milwaukee.

“That was as disturbing a memory as it relates to a player that I can think of,” Brown said. “He’s lying on his back, he’s vomiting primarily because of pain. Trying to get him back on the plane and build him back up to some level of health where he can play basketball again and with us … his health obviously ruled the day.”

Brown, whose contract runs through 2021-22, said the opportunity for Simmons to rehab and get cleared to play should the season start was a rare positive during the break. Brown also spoke with Embiid for a bit Friday and found the good-natured center determined to get into top physical shape for a potential training camp. Embiid had missed 21 games this season and Brown counted on the big man to play 38 minutes a game in the postseason.

“He’s got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he’s been in the league,” Brown said.

The Sixers had the best home record in the league at 29-2, the kind of percentage that would naturally make Brown lean toward playing at the Wells Fargo Center, even if meant the arena was empty.

“We were dominant at home,” Brown said. “Somewhere in the middle, I felt like everything was pointing to us landing the plane, getting good health and letting that environment be Judgment Day. I feel very confident, and respectfully, cocky, that we’ve done good work.”

The sting of last season’s elimination, when Kawhi Leonard sank the first Game 7-ending buzzer-beater in NBA history to lead Toronto past the 76ers in the East semis, still lingers for the franchise. Al Horford lost his starting job in his first season of a four-year free-agent deal and the Sixers could be headed to a potential playoff matchup with his former team, the Boston Celtics.

The break could be just the reset the Sixers needed.

“The mission has been, and will be, we need to hunt for a championship,” Brown said. “In many ways, I feel like the carpet has been pulled from this team.”

LaMelo Ball not worried about where he gets drafted, “Anywhere is a great fit”

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Lavar Ball has his opinion. Always. When the patriarch of the Ball family went on the “Road Trippin'” podcast a couple of months ago, he said he didn’t want his youngest son, LaMelo Ball, drafted by the Warriors because he would have to come off the bench behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. “Michael Jordan didn’t come off the bench,” was his logic.

LaMelo Ball is about as interested in his father’s opinions as most 19-year-olds.

“I’m my own man. He’s his own man. He has his opinions, I have mine,” the younger Ball said of his father on Monday while speaking to reporters via Zoom as part of the NBA’s pre-draft process.

“I feel I could play on any team and do good anywhere I go,” Ball said. “Anything that happens, I’m positive.”

Ball is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, scheduled for Nov. 18. Rumors have bounced around the league that if the Timberwolves keep the No. 1 pick they will select Ball to pair with D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt. The Warriors have the No. 2 pick, the Charlotte Hornets select third, followed by Chicago then Cleveland.

Ball spent a chunk of his time with reporters denying having had contact with many teams at the top of the draft, although he said he didn’t know about Minnesota. He did say he had contact with the Knicks, who pick eighth, adding they just wanted to get to know him as a person (outside the online persona). Ball will not be on the board when New York makes its pick (the Knicks could trade up to get him, all the teams at the top of the draft are listening to offers).

Ball’s consistent point was he could fit in with any team.

“Anywhere is a great fit,” Ball said. “It’s the NBA. You put me with good players, I feel like it’s even gonna be better.”

Ball said he has adapted to the unprecedented pre-draft process, in part because his path to the NBA is untraditional. He said he realized back when his father had him playing in Lithuania at 16 he was not going to have the more traditional route to the NBA that his brother Lonzo Ball had, but LaMelo embraced it. LaMelo spent last season playing in Australia before returning to the states to prepare for the draft.

“I feel like I am dealing with it well,” Ball said. “I kinda like it, that nobody has been through something like this, it’s kinda unique, like me… I’m one-of-one.”

For now, Ball is in the Detroit area working out, preparing for the draft. He said some of that Detroit toughness is rubbing off on him.

But he’s happy to bring that with him wherever he gets drafted.

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals schedule
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Evolving plan for next NBA season has USA Basketball, Tokyo Olympics in limbo

Tokyo Olympics
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Will NBA players be available to represent their countries when the Tokyo Olympics begin next July 23?

Nobody knows. As the NBA pushes back its start date for next season — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said it likely would be after the first of the year, but sources around the league tell NBC Sports to expect more like February or March — it leaves USA Basketball and the participation of NBA players in the Olympics in limbo. Here’s what USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo told Chris Sherridan of Basketball News.

“I was told the NBA season would start in December, and then it was Christmas, and then after Jan. 1, and that keeps pushing the schedule for me. The NBA season typically takes 170 or 171 days to complete, so that creates a conflict on paper,” said Colangelo, adding that a suspension of the NBA season in order to clear time for the Olympics also has been discussed…

“If the [NBA] season conflicts with the Olympics, I might have 14 non-playoff teams to choose from, but then other players will become available as the NBA playoffs progress,” Colangelo said. “The problem is that the IOC has a rule mandating an early submission of a 12-man roster. But with a pandemic, the hope would be that you’ve got to set aside outdated rules. I assume people will be reasonable and come up with some kind of a program that works.”

Right now, there is no answer for Colangelo and USA Basketball because there is no answer on next season. The only thing owners seem set on is playing a full 82-game schedule — after taking a financial hit this season, owners want to start making money again — with fans in the building for as many of those games as possible.

If the NBA season starts in February and was condensed slightly, the regular season could be done before the Tokyo Olympics. A Team USA made up of guys who missed the playoffs would still be formidable (this past season that would have included Stephen Curry, Trae Young, Bradley Beal, and others). However, other countries don’t have the luxury of that kind of depth.

Also being discussed is an NHL-style break in the NBA season to allow players to compete in the Olympics, then return to finish the season.

Team USA, despite its struggles at the World Cup last year, still qualified for the Olympics. That was a team depleted of NBA star power because of both injuries and guys not wanting to play the World Cup then Olympics in back-to-back years (nobody knew the coronavirus would blow up those plans).  What players USA Basketball will send to Tokyo remains up in the air.

And there’s little Colangelo can do but wait.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview, Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

NBA Finals Preview
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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It’s happening in October, not June. And rather than cross-country flights, everyone will be camped out in a bubble in Orlando.

But the NBA Finals are finally here: The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Miami Heat. Which means it’s time for an NBA Finals Preview.

The Lakers are the heavy favorites but Miami posses some matchup challenges, starting with Bam Adebayo on Anthony Davis. Add in Jimmy Butler checking LeBron James for stretches, and the Heat shooters such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and this is not going to be a cakewalk for Los Angeles.

Mark Medina of the USA today joins Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports for this NBA Finals Preview. They break down the matchups, talk about what it would take for Miami to pull off the upset, and discuss how this matchup could influence how other teams build out their rosters in the future.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.