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Denver’s Jamal Murray: ‘We know we can go win the title’

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After three months off, the perception has not changed about what team will come out of the West has not changed as the NBA gears up to go to Orlando and play out the season.

It’s the Lakers, the Clippers, and a huge gap to anyone else. Look at the current betting odds at Ceasers Palace, where the Lakers are 2-1, the Clippers are 9-4, and then it jumps to the Rockets at 15-1 and the Nuggets at 22-1.

Don’t tell that to Denver’s Jamal Murray. He told reporters Friday that Denver believes it can win a title this season (hat tip Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

“We know we can go win the title,” the Nuggets’ guard said in a Zoom call with Denver reporters. “Me and Joker [Nikola Jokic] have been in Denver this whole time, working out.”

“Why not?” Murray later replied when asked about winning it all. “We have proven to be one the best teams year in and year out since we have been building. We have beaten good teams consistently. We shouldn’t have lost to Portland [last year in the conference semifinals]. That was more on us, our inexperience and they are a good team. But we don’t think that there is a team that can beat us in a seven-game series when we are playing at our best.”

This is exactly what Murray should say, what the Nuggets should believe. This is a quality team that should be thinking about taking the next step.

They just have to prove that to the world, because when play stopped they did not look like a contender.

Denver heads to Orlando for the “seeding games” as the third seed in the West at 43-22, just 1.5 games behind the Clippers for the two seed but 1.5 games up on Utah for the four seed. For the season they had a +3.1 net rating (meaning they had been a little lucky, that’s more of a 36-26 pace) with the ninth-ranked offense and the 12th ranked defense in the league. In their 10 games after the All-Star break before play was halted, the Nuggets were 5-5 with the 19th ranked defense in the league. That’s not the numbers of a contender.

Jokic is in the best shape of his career, according to Murray and president of basketball ops Tim Connelly, which is a good sign. This is also a team that has had excellent continuity over the past couple of seasons, which should help them hit the ground running in Orlando.

Is that enough? Denver has work to prove they are ready for the next level. At least the team is starting with the belief they can do it.

Hall of Famer Paul Westphal diagnosed with brain cancer

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Paul Westphal, the Hall of Fame guard who played at the peak of his career with the Phoenix Suns (and earlier won a championship with the Boston Celtics) has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Longtime sportswriter Mike Lupica made the announcement.

Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive and difficult form of cancer to treat.

Westphal was born and raised in the South Bay area of greater Los Angeles and went on to play his college ball at USC. He was the No. 10 pick of the Boston Celtics in the 1972 NBA Draft and went on to play three seasons with the Celtics, winning a title with them in 1974.

After that he went on to Phoenix, where he was an All-Star player and was named to the All-NBA team four times. Westphal also played for the Knicks and Sonics during his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame last September.

After playing he became a coach, spending at least part of seven seasons as the Suns head coach, plus he coached the Kings for three seasons.

One of the best-liked people in NBA circles, there are a lot of people in Westphal’s corner today and going forward.

 

Draymond Green fined $50,000 for tampering with Devin Booker

Draymond Green fined
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“It’s great to see Book playing well and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career. Sorry Chuck, but they’ve gotta get Book out of Phoenix. I need my man to go somewhere that he can play great basketball all of the time and win, because he’s that kind of player.”

That was the Warriors’ always outspoken Draymond Green on Inside the NBA on TNT Thursday, talking about the play of Devin Booker and the fast start of the Suns in the bubble.

The second he said it, Ernie Johnson asked, “Are you tampering?” Green said, “maybe.”

The NBA said yes and has fined Green $50,000 for “violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.”

In past years the NBA has mostly ignored player-to-player tampering, but after complaints from owners last season the league is cracking down on — at the very least — public tampering by players. Going on a popular national show to say Booker should leave Phoenix qualifies.

Just a reminder for fans of a team desperate for a star and suddenly looking at Phoenix, Booker has four years left (after this one) on his max contract extension. The Suns are building around him and Deandre Ayton — and right now it looks like it’s working (coach Monty Williams should get a lot of credit for that). The Suns aren’t looking to trade, Booker isn’t looking to leave (and has no leverage anyway), and the Suns seem to be building something real down in the Valley of the Sun.

 

Watch Luka Doncic post 36-19-14 with just dazzling passing (video)

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The Bucks’ have one of the best defenses in NBA history, allowing 7.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than league average. The Mavericks have the highest offensive rating (116.5) in league history.

Something had to give.

And it was Luka Doncic – to teammate after teammate after teammate.

Doncic had 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds in Dallas’ 136-132 overtime win over Milwaukee yesterday. He was in complete control as a scorer and passer, showing just how far he has come.

The Bucks already secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But they played hard, forcing overtime. Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like the MVP with 34 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

Doncic was just better.

Report: NBA could play next season at multiple regional bubbles

Warriors star Stephen Curry
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Other than waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside – a possibility – the NBA faces MAJOR challenges next season.

The bubble is working for finishing this season. But that’s with just 22 teams rather than the full 30. And this is just for a few months, not a full season. Players are already bristling about how long they’re separated from their families.

Yet, what’s the alternative to a bubble? It looks like the only safe way to play professional sports.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated

We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Orlando is a consideration, and Las Vegas — a finalist for this summer’s restart — would reemerge as a possible site too, sources said.

This is an interesting possibility.

Smaller bubbles would reduce the odds of a coronavirus outbreak that undermines the whole league. But what happens if one bubble has coronavirus issues? Teams’ schedules could get significantly unbalanced quickly.

The shorter bubble lengths would allow players to spend time with family more frequently. But how many players would contract coronavirus while between bubbles? Look how many players got coronavirus during this last layoff.

There are no easy solutions amid this pandemic. This is one of many imperfect ideas that should at least be considered.