Three things to know: NBA players, coaches react to Capitol protest, Blake decision


The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) NBA players, coaches react to Capitol protest, Jacob Blake decision

“It’s an embarrassing and shameful day in our country.”

New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy spoke not just for himself but also for many Americans — and with that many NBA players and coaches — with that statement Wednesday.

The contrast was stark and obvious. The day before, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced no charges would be filed against police officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, for shooting Jacob Blake, who is black, seven times in the back because Blake had a knife. Sheskey claimed self-defense. NBA players were outraged.

Then on Wednesday, a violent mob of almost all white people loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and took over the steps, and went into the building. The Capitol Police only used pepper spray to try and slow them. It was a very different and soft response from the Capitol Police compared to how they greeted and were prepared for Black Lives Matter protestors a few months back.

“People see the difference; they saw what people did today and how there were no consequences for them,” Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson said. “On the other side, it would have… ended in multiple arrests and deaths.”

NBA players and coaches either took a knee before the game or kneeled right after tip-off in protest. The Heat and Celtics players released a joint statement, then knelt before their nationally televised game.

Before their game, Golden State Warriors players wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts, then they and the Clippers players knelt for the anthem.

NBA players and coaches were not going to just shut up and dribble in the face of all this. Here is just a sampling of what was said.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers: “I will say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to. Can you imagine today, if those were all black people storming the Capitol, and what would have happened? That, to me, is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see…

“The symbolism of storming the Capitol without force done to them, if you’re a Black American, it definitely touches you in a different way. This is not a Black thing. This is an American thing.”

Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce: “Racism is real. The issues are real. The protests are real. What we’re seeing now is a sad reality that our country has yet to reckon with and acknowledge. For those who didn’t believe it, I hope you believe it now…

“We all understand that it would have been guns ablaze and fires ablaze as if that were black people protesting on the outside, and we haven’t even mentioned getting inside and tearing up the building.”

Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens, when asked about the actions of the Trump Administration that egged the mob on. “They’ve operated in a win-at-all-costs attitude. I don’t know, our sports world is a lot less important, obviously. But I’ve always thought if you operated with a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s going to be a pretty unfulfilling ending. And in this situation, a disgraceful ending. So, I’m looking forward to two weeks from now, as I know a lot of other people are, too.”

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “I mean, it’s saddening. It’s disgusting, to be honest with you. Our democracy has been a beacon for hundreds of years of what the world ideologically should be. People have looked up to us all over the world, and what’s happening there is a disgrace. We have a democracy. Every vote should matter. Every state should have the right to certify their votes and their results. And when that happens, we move forward.

“It’s a stain on our democracy. It’s entitled, spoiled, throwing temper tantrums instead of accepting and moving forward to make our country better, which is the most important thing. It’s not about us as individuals, it’s about what’s best for the country and how we heal our country. And this doesn’t help. This makes it worse.”

Magic coach Steve Clifford: “We can disagree about policies or about the way the country should be run. But there’s no place in our country for what’s going on right now. That’s not a protest. They’ve gone way over the line… It’s sad. Our country, we’re being laughed at all over the world from the way we’ve handled the pandemic to this. It’s a sad day for everybody.”

Van Gundy, who has politically outspoken on Twitter, also talked about the bigger picture of what Wednesday’s events say about our nation’s future. “You just wonder if this is an isolated incident or the beginning of a real demise of our country. I don’t think we should take our democracy for granted. I don’t think we should try to brush this off very easily.”

2) Markelle Fultz is done for the season with a torn ACL

The Basketball Gods have no mercy for Markelle Fultz.

Fultz’s long journey from No. 1 pick to a nerve injury that altered his shot and his game, to finding his way back and becoming a solid NBA starting point guard for the Orlando Magic, was one of the most uplifting stories of the NBA season. Fultz was averaging 12.9 points and 5.4 assists a game for Orlando, and his shot had smoothed itself out. Now, this.

Fultz is out for the season after tearing his ACL.

Fultz is in the final year of his rookie contract and has already signed a 3-year $50 million extension with the Magic (although only $35 million of that is fully guaranteed, and he may now not make some of the benchmarks to get to $50 million).

For Orlando, the future got put on hold this season because Fultz joins promising young forward Jonathan Isaac in being out for the season with a torn ACL. Look for rookie Cole Anthony to be thrown into the fire and become Orlando’s starting point guard.

3) Bradley Beal scores career-best 60 points, it’s not enough as Wizards lose to 76ers

If you wonder why NBA GMs from around the league are circling the Washington Wizards like vultures, ready to swoop in the second Bradley Beal becomes available via trade, first watch this video of him dropping 60 points on the top defense in the league this season in Philadelphia.

Then know that wasn’t enough to get the Wizards the win. Philadelphia was in control most of the game, leading by as many as 21 points, but Beal brought the Wizards back. It just wasn’t enough. Joel Embiid continued his MVP-level play early with 38 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.

Every time talk of a trade comes up, both Beal and the Wizards shoot it down. A year ago, Beal signed a short extension with Washington to show his loyalty, but after this season’s slow 2-6 start — and the fact almost all of the top free agents next summer have re-signed with their teams — other GMs are looking at Beal as an option and wondering at what point will he have had enough and ask out?

Maybe that doesn’t happen, but the losses are piling up for the Wizards, which hits Beal hard.

Report: ‘Strong optimism’ Anthony Edwards could return to Timberwolves Sunday

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves
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What looked so bad when it happened may only cost Anthony Edwards three games.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week but could be back Sunday when the Timberwolves travel to Golden State, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

Edwards is averaging 24.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season, and he has stepped up to become the team’s primary shot-creator with Karl-Anthony Towns out for much of the season. The Timberwolves have been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when Edwards is off the court this season.

Towns returned to action a couple of games ago, and with Edwards on Sunday it will be the first time since November the Timberwolves will have their entire core on the court — now with Mike Conley at the point. With the Timberwolves tied for the No.7 seed in an incredibly tight West (they are 1.5 games out of sixth but also one game out of missing the postseason entirely) it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s also not much time to develop of fit and chemistry the team will need in the play-in, and maybe the playoffs.

Nets announce Ben Simmons diagnosed with nerve impingement in back, out indefinitely

NBA: FEB 24 Nets at Bulls
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Ben Simmons — who has been in and out of the Nets’ lineup all season and often struggled when on the court — is out indefinitely due to a nerve impingement in his back, the team announced Friday.

A nerve impingement — sometimes called a pinched nerve — is when a bone or other tissue compresses a nerve. Simmons has a history of back issues going back to his time in Philadelphia, and he had a microdiscectomy about a year ago, after he was traded to Brooklyn.

With two weeks and nine games left in the season, logic would suggest Simmons is done for the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons has done some individual workouts but nothing with teammates, however, he would not say Simmons is shut down for the season or would not participate in the postseason with Brooklyn.

Simmons had not played since the All-Star break when he got PRP injections to help deal with ongoing knee soreness. When he has played this season offense has been a struggle, he has been hesitant to shoot outside a few feet from the basket and is averaging 6.9 points a game. Vaughn used him mainly as a backup center.

Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. While Nets fans may want Simmons traded, his injury history and that contract will make it very difficult to do so this summer (Brooklyn would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it).

The Nets have slid to the No.7 seed in the West — part of the play-in — and have a critical game with the Heat on Saturday night.

Frustration rising within Mavericks, ‘We got to fight hard, play harder’


If the postseason started today, the Dallas Mavericks would miss out — not just the playoffs but also the play-in.

The Mavericks fell to the No.11 seed in the West (tied with the Thunder for 10th) after an ugly loss Friday night to a tanking Hornets team playing without LaMelo Ball and on the second night of a back-to-back. Dallas is 3-7 with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić playing, and with this latest loss fans booed the Mavericks. What was Jason Kidd’s reaction? Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We probably should have been booed in the first quarter,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said…. “The interest level [from players] wasn’t high,” Kidd said. “It was just disappointing.”

That was a little different than Kyrie Irving’s reaction to the boos.

Then there is franchise cornerstone Luka Dončić, who sounded worn down, by the season and the losing in Dallas.

“We got to fight hard, play harder. That’s about it. We got to show we care and it starts with me first. I’ve just got to lead this team, being better, playing harder. It’s on me….

“I think you can see it with me on the court. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s me. I’m just being out there. I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it’s just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”

Dončić would not elaborate on what, outside basketball, has frustrated him.

Look at seeds 5-10 in the West and you see teams that have struggled but have the elite talent and experience to be a postseason threat: The Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, plus Kevin Durant is expected back next week), the Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry and the four-time champions), the Los Angeles Lakers (Anthony Davis and maybe before the season ends LeBron James).

Should the Mavericks be in that class? On paper yes, they have clutch playoff performers of the past in Dončić and Irving, but an energy-less loss to Charlotte showed a team lacking the chemistry and fire right now that teams like the Lakers (beating the Thunder) and Warriors (beating the 76ers) showed on the same night.

The Mavericks feel like less of a playoff threat, especially with their defensive concerns. They don’t have long to turn things around — and get into the postseason.

Watch Anthony Davis score 37, spark Lakers to key win against Thunder


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Dennis Schröder added 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers got a vital victory for their playoff hopes, 116-111 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

Lonnie Walker scored 20 points in an impressive return to the rotation for the Lakers, who won their third straight to move even with Minnesota in seventh place in the Western Conference standings despite the injury absences of LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell.

“It was a must-win game for us,” said Davis, who made 15 of his 21 shots. “We had to come out and get this game, and we came out offensive and defensively just playing extremely well. … We’ve got to .500, and now it’s time to get on the other side.”

With Davis leading the way on both ends of the court, Los Angeles (37-37) reached .500 for the first time this year. The Lakers started the season 2-10, but they’re 12-6 since the trade deadline with a rapidly cohering roster and the looming return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.

“This team is locked in and connected,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The vibe and the spirit have been great. Guys are really trying to figure out how we can be better. That’s what you want. … Guys are competing because they know what they’re representing. They know the history of the franchise they’re representing.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey scored 27 points apiece for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the fourth time in 12 games down the stretch. The Thunder (36-38) dropped into a tie with Dallas for 10th in the West despite holding the Lakers to only 42 points in the second half after LA put up 41 in the first quarter alone.

“That’s a testament to our ability to scrap and hang in there,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s how you want teams to score against you. All the things they got down the stretch are things we’re willing to live with. It’s hard to slow that down.”

Russell sat out with a sore right hip, joining James on the sideline at an important game for the Lakers’ playoff hopes. Los Angeles still improved to 8-5 during James’ latest injury absence.

Oklahoma City erased all of Los Angeles’ early 17-point lead when Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper tied it at 102-102 with 5:25 to play. Davis responded with three points, and Walker hit a tiebreaking shot with 3:50 left.

Schröder replaced Russell in the starting lineup and had another standout game, including six points in the final 3:18 while the Lakers hung on. Walker got his most significant playing time since early March in Russell’s absence, and the former starter responded with four 3-pointers.

“I’ve just been in the gym, being positive and focused on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Walker said. “I love these guys, and I’m fortunate to play with them.”

Ham said Russell’s hip injury was “not too serious, but serious enough where we need to manage it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander played despite the Thunder being on the back end of consecutive games. The Thunder have been resting him in the second game of recent back-to-backs.