Three Things to Know: This aggressive Anthony Davis is one league should fear

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There were big games in the NBA Thursday — the top seed Lakers and Bucks evened their series, and Houston is playing strong defense and looks like a force — but the most important things happened off the court. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) This aggressive Anthony Davis is one league should fear

For Lakers’ fans, all is right with the world again… well, at least on the basketball court. (The world is still a quarantined mess, the Lakers can’t fix that.)

Los Angeles dominated the Portland Thursday, tying their first-round series 1-1, despite the fact LeBron James had just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Two things sparked the impressive Lakers’ win. First, Los Angeles played dominant defense (something it has done in six of the eight quarters in this series), holding the Blazers to 88 points total and way less than a point per possession on offense.

The second thing: The Anthony Davis the rest of the league fears showed up.

Davis was aggressive, attacking the rim and not settling for jumpers, and as a result he and finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and seemed to be everywhere defensively — he was the best player on the court and it wasn’t close.

Davis did a lot of his damage while playing center in this game, and while he may not want to be known as a five, the Lakers are at their best when he slides into that role.

Davis very well may be the First Team All-NBA center this season despite the fact he spent the majority of his time on the court at the four (60%), with JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard at center. He was the first-team center on my awards ballot and I know I wasn’t alone among voters. One reason for this was simply to get the five best players on the first team.

Another part of it is Davis is the best center in the league, he just doesn’t want to play there full time. Davis scored 22 of his points Thursday while playing center and the Lakers were +15 in those minutes. Davis at the five is one of those weapons coach Frank Vogel doesn’t go to first, but when he does it decimates other teams.

It did Portland, a team that now has to ask questions of itself and make adjustments for Game 3.

One question the Blazers will not have to answer is, “how do we win without Damian Lillard?” Which is good because there is no real answer to that.

Lillard left Game 2 after dislocating his left index finger trying to steal the ball from Anthony Davis.

The X-rays were negative, and Lillard said postgame he would play in Game 3. This is not his shooting hand, so expect to see him out there Saturday in what will be a pivotal game.

2) Minnesota lands No. 1 pick in NBA Draft… does that change anything?

The Minnesota Timberwolves won the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and the rights to select… someone. Maybe Anthony Edwards. Maybe LaMelo Ball. Maybe James Wiseman. Maybe someone else. There is no consensus top pick in this draft.

Here is the bigger question (one posed by NBC’s Dan Feldman on our draft lottery podcast):

Does this change the trajectory or perception of the Timberwolves?

Not really.

The Timberwolves already have a core of Karl-Anthony Towns at center (a true potential superstar) and D'Angelo Russell at the point (an All-Star level player). This is an unimpressive draft at the top, there is not another superstar in the mix, and it feels like the Timberwolves will be drafting their No. 3 or 4 option with the No. 1 pick.

Edwards and Ball are on top of most draft boards, but both are disinterested defenders considered a liability on that end of the court — it’s going to be very difficult to build a good defensive around Towns, Russell, and either Ball or Edwards considering none of them are strong defenders. It’s an issue team president Gersson Rosas and the Timberwolves have to consider.

Here are the results of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and the order of picks through the lottery:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Charlotte Hornets
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Detroit Pistons
8. New York Knicks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Phoenix Suns
11. San Antonio Spurs
12. Sacramento Kings
13. New Orleans Pelicans
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis)

3) Toronto’s Masai Uriri releases powerful statement following release of video

Bodycam video released this week showed Toronto’s Masai Ujiri was telling the truth and the sheriff’s deputy — who sued Ujiri in federal court seeking damages for emotional and physical distress — had lied. Ujiri was trying to get to the court after the Raptors won the title at Oracle to celebrate with his team and the deputy was the aggressor and instigated the physicality.

Thursday, Masai Ujiri released a powerful statement about the incident.

“Thank you to everybody who expressed disappointment and concern regarding the video that was recently released. My family and I are deeply grateful for your care and consideration.

“The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship. It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organization, for our players, for our city, four our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA. Yet, unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case — because I am Black.

“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of a NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.

“And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice for Elijah. Justice for far too many Black lives that mattered. And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives.

“Those are the ties that bind us.

“With love and determination, Masai Ujiri.”

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers and former Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni are 76ers candidates
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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.

Adam Silver: Goal is to start next season in January, in team arenas

Adam Silver
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The NBA bubble — which has worked and gotten the league to the NBA Finals — may be a one-off.

The goal for next season is a January start with games being played in team’s arenas, even if fans are not yet filling the buildings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his annual address before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday.

“As for fans in seats, it’s certainly our goal, but it’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said. 

Silver refused to be locked down to any details — most people around the league expect a February start, or later — and said the league might have to return to a bubble, or hybrid-bubble, for part of next season. However, he hoped testing and technology would allow NBA games in NBA buildings, with players going back to their homes at the end of the night.

This is dependent on rapid testing and where the virus is in our nation as we get into December and January than it is on a vaccine.

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite.”

The other part of starting next season is figuring out the league finances and setting a salary cap. The league’s revenue took a serious hit with around 20% of home games canceled, then the playoffs delayed and moved to a bubble. Silver said salary cap and other negotiations are taking place between the NBA and the players’ union. The league has set a date for the 2020 NBA Draft — Nov. 18 — however, the start of free agency, training camps, and the tip-off date for next season are still open and being discussed.

“I don’t have expectations of labor issues… I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we’ll work them out as we always have,” Silver said.

Those are the future. For now, Silver was clearly proud that the bubble worked and that there could be a lesson there for the nation.

“The basic protocols that we’re all following are working,” Silver said. “I mean, the testing is only needed to demonstrate that at this point. By wearing a mask, by exercising appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance… that’s what’s working.”

Also of note from Silver’s press conference, he was asked about there being just four Black head coaches in the NBA right now after Nate McMillan (Indiana), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), and Doc Rivers (L.A. Clippers), all were let go (there are currently six open coaching jobs around the league).  Silver said he has had talks with teams that have had openings, making sure a diverse field of applicants is considered, but added the NBA has not thought of adding a “Rooney Rule” to the hiring process.

“I know we can do better,” Silver said.

 

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

2020 NBA Finals preview
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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: Lakers 116, Heat 98
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