Three Things to Know: The NBA is back! Now with more Bol Bol!

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Our daily recap helping you unpack the previous day from the NBA is back… just for today. It will return to its regular weekday slot when the seeding games return, but today, with the first games in four months taking place, we’re bringing “Three Things to Know” out of mothballs. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Welcome back NBA! And not a bad job with the broadcasts, all things considered. For those of us who love the game, it was like the first sunny spring day after a long, snowy winter.

Seeing the world’s best athletes back on the court playing basketball — even in a meaningless scrimmage — brought us joy. We can have a debate about whether sports should return right now, there’s a good case to be made we shouldn’t be playing games. However, the reality is money won that argument so the NBA is back. Why it returned, and some sloppy games, didn’t make it any less joyful to see.

The broadcasts were about as good as could be done, considering the no-fan reality. It was better than expected, although there absolutely was a casual Summer League game feel to the entire thing, especially with games rolling out through the afternoon.

The NBA piped in pre-recorded music, public address announcements, and fan chants from the home team’s arena for the Orlando games. That’s why you heard “Dos! Minutos!” during the Heat game, and may have realized the Brooklyn DJ is their team MVP. The league made good use of the video boards next to the court to provide a home arena feel.

What all that noise did was largely down out the ability — at least on the broadcasts — to hear some uncensored trash talk and comments from players during the games. (Reporters in the bubble at the games seemed to hear more.) I still hope the NBA will offer at least a stream during games where we can hear what happens on the court without as much music and fan noise (as NBC has done with the Premier League streams), but that seems unlikely.

Still, it was great just to have basketball back — and now we can’t wait for the games that matter.

2) Bol Bol announces his presence with authority with 16 points, 10 rebounds in his debut. Coach Mike Malone and his Denver Nuggets were the anti-Rockets Wednesday — they went big. Ginormous really. Seven-foot Nikola Jokic at center and 7’2” Bol Bol at small forward. John Hollinger had the appropriate reaction.

However, Tweet of the Day went to Rockets GM Daryl Morey in response to the Nuggets going big.

With just eight players available, the Nuggets oversized leap into positionless basketball was as much necessity as a gimmick, but Bol took full advantage of the opportunity with a “you better convert my two-way contract to a standard one” kind of game of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.

“He’s played very well. Let’s not forget, he’s still, in essence, a rookie. Let’s not put the expectations way up there. Let’s let him grow and develop,” the Nuggets Malone said postgame (hat tip Mike Singer at the Denver Post). “But he’s shown me that he has a tremendous amount of talent. He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach. I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”

The broadcast of the Wizards/Nuggets game felt quieter than others during the day, you could hear more from the court. With that, it really did feel more line Summer League, just with names you know and taller players.

For Denver, Jokic had 16 points but eight turnovers and looked rusty. Troy Daniels led the way with 22 points and showed well as the only guard in their rotation. Still, the day belonged to Bol Bol.

3) Paul George, players work to keep the focus on Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social change. A lot of players came to the NBA restart in Orlando despite misgivings about being a distraction from the important discussions taking place nationally around social justice issues, and particularly Black Lives Matter.

Paul George wasn’t going to let those topics fade into the background after he and the Clippers had a relatively impressive opening scrimmage win over Orlando. At his postgame press conference, every question was answered with a discussion of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social justice issues.

“[Taylor’s] murderers are still free, so nothing was done yet,” George said. “We’re going to continue to keep this fight going to use our platform to stand up for those that can’t stand anymore…

“There are so many others that have been brutally murdered by the hands of police. That’s all I got. That’s my message for everyone. That will continue to be my answer.”

George wasn’t the first player to do this in Orlando, Boston‘s Jaylen Brown, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Denver’s Jerami Grant, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, all have redirected post-practice discussions to only social justice matters. Other players, such as LeBron James, have mixed basketball and social change discussion.

During every game Wednesday, the “Black Lives Matter” written on the court couldn’t be missed. That will continue throughout the restart and into the NBA Finals.

Expect the players to keep using their platform to get their message out as well.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

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Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”