Three things to know: Collin Sexton poses question Brooklyn’s Big Three must answer


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) Collin Sexton highlights question for Brooklyn Big Three

After a week of waiting, the Brooklyn Nets rolled out their Goliath, their unstoppable Big Three — Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. They lived up to the billing. Together, the trio combined for 96 points on 49.3% shooting with 24 rebounds and 23 assists. They took turns making unstoppable play after unstoppable play, showing just how much talent is on that roster.

Collin Sexton played the role of David.

His 42 points — including the three with Irving’s hand in his face to force double overtime — highlighted Brooklyn’s weakness and knocked them out. Cleveland spoiled the debut of the big three with a 147-135 double-overtime win.

Sexton had help. Cedi Osman poured in 25 points, Taurean Prince added 17 points off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. scored. Cleveland had a 125 offensive rating for the night as it was able to score with Brooklyn’s All-Everything lineup.

It’s one game out of 72, and some of the “you take a turn then I take a turn” kinks of the Brooklyn offense can be smoothed out. This was their first game together and still the numbers are stunning: Durant led the team with 38 points, Irving added 37, while Harden scored 21 points but added a triple-double of 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Brooklyn will score its way to a lot of wins because nobody can defend all of them.

Brooklyn’s defense is a genuine issue.

The question becomes: Can this team get a stop when it has to? Not on a random Wednesday in January, but a big Sunday day game in June when the playoffs are in full swing?

Since the trade, the Nets have given up 115, 123, and now 147 points (113 in regulation). No team has had less than a 112 offensive rating in those games, which would firmly put the Nets in the bottom 10 in the league.

To make it out of the East come the playoffs, the Nets are going to have to get stops against better players than Sexton. They had no answer late against the Cavs, and while Sexton had it going, just a glance around the top of the East — Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid — shows other players who can hit that gear. And higher ones. Can Brooklyn get enough stops when the games turn serious?

It’s too early to call it Brooklyn’s fatal flaw, but it could become that. Right now, the Nets’ defense is just something to watch as the season moves forward,

2) Watch Cole Anthony drain ridiculous game-winner

The Orlando Magic really miss Markelle Fultz. Which is not a sentence I thought I would type a couple of years ago, but Fultz has developed into a respectable rotational NBA point guard that a coach can trust on the court. When he’s healthy enough to be on the court, that is. He’s not again (torn left ACL).

That thrust rookie Cole Anthony into the starting point guard role and he has struggled for Orlando, but with flashes of why he was such a high recruit out of high school and a first-round draft pick.

Flashes like this game-winner to beat Minnesota Wednesday.

That’s the kind of confidence booster the rookie could use. It’s the kind of win Orlando needs to stay in the playoff chase in the East this season.

3) Kobe Bryant stories you have never heard

In the year since his tragic and shocking death, we have talked about the many sides of Kobe Bean Bryant: Kobe the prodigy. Kobe the young buck. Kobe the champion. Kobe and the mamba mentality. Kobe the mentor. Kobe the girl dad.

Still, there are stories you probably have not heard, and some of them have been collected in the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports — which drops today. Stories from Kobe’s Lower Merion High School head coach Gregg Downer, NBA opponent Shane Battier, teammate Brian Shaw, friend to him and Gigi mentor Sabrina Ionescu, and Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and April Ross.

Then there is this one from Marc Spears, now of The Undefeated at ESPN. He talked about how Kobe’s preparation was not just about basketball, it was about every aspect of his life. Spears describes how Kobe got a “scouting report” on a 7-year-old named Cameron with a speech impediment that he met after a game at Staples Center.

“Kobe comes out the locker room and yells, ‘Where’s Cameron at? Where’s Cameron at?’ Cameron sheepishly puts his hand up like, here I am. Goes up to him, Cameron’s like frozen, his friends are frozen. He hugs Cameron, and he hugged like his two friends. And then he asked them how they’re doing at school and asks them if they play basketball and gives them some basketball motivational words.”

Kobe impacted Cameron’s life in ways he may not have ever realized.

“So all of a sudden, it went across the school, that Cameron knew Kobe. And the big kid, the shy kid who had dealt with this speech impediment when he was a child, all sudden the whole school was wanting to be his friend. Just cause he knew Kobe Bryant.”

Check out the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports, and remember Kobe, one of the great personalities in sport.



Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.