Three things to know: Bucks drop second straight game to top contender


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) Bucks drop second straight game to top contender. Does that even matter in January?

Since the start of this season — and especially when the Milwaukee Bucks were racking up wins and had the best net rating in the NBA (they’re second in that category now, third if you use Cleaning the Glass’ garbage time filter) — my reaction to Milwaukee has been the same:

That’s nice, but whatever the Bucks do in the regular season doesn’t matter. They will be judged only on the playoffs.

This is an outstanding regular season team, has been for a few years, but are they building a more diverse offense with Jrue Holiday that will carry them against the league’s elite? Are they building good habits? I am reserving judgment on their season until deep in the playoffs.

If we say the Bucks’ regular season wins don’t matter, their regular season losses cannot either. We can’t suddenly add weight to just those games just because it fits our narrative.

So it may not matter much in the end, but Milwaukee Bucks lost their last two games to other elite NBA teams, first to the Brooklyn Nets (with Kevin Durant and James Harden but without Kyrie Irving yet), then on Thursday night to LeBron James and the Lakers.

LeBron seemed motivated — he denied that coming is second to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the MVP voting last year had anything to do with it — and he put up a season-high 34 points on Thursday.

Milwaukee’s defense hasn’t been as sharp this season as it has in the past (currently 10th in the league), although it shows flashes. On offense, the Bucks are experimenting to see what works besides “give the ball to Giannis and get out of the way” (against Brooklyn, Antetokounmpo was setting screens for Holiday and working more off the ball more). Khris Middleton is playing the best basketball of his career and has the ball in his hands more at the ends of games. Coach Mike Budenholzer seems to be experimenting, looking for the right combinations on both ends.

As he should. It’s a long season. Beating the Lakers or Bucks in January is not a sign of what will happen in June and July (when we are deep in the NBA playoffs and into the Finals), neither is losing. All these teams will be different in five months.

Based on results this week, the Bucks seem to be a step behind the league’s best teams. The only question that matters is: Can Milwaukee use their Giannis-length strides to make up that ground before the playoffs tip-off?

2) Utah fans should ignore Shaq and Inside the NBA. Instead, enjoy the wins

Inside the NBA can be entertaining — but that’s all it is. Entertainment. With the graphics and the guys ripping each other, it can be fun to watch.

The show’s basketball analysis has had an “old guys complaining in the barbershop” feel since before they said jump shooting teams couldn’t win a title even as Golden State won three behind Stephen Curry (and, later, Kevin Durant). It’s three players from another era of the game — before teams could play zone defenses (which changed post play), before teams focused on the value of the three, before analytics took hold, before the pace picked up again — and while that resonates with some fans, it feels like a relic of the past. If the last four years have taught us anything, it’s that focusing on entertainment and what was once perceived as great instead of the reality of today leads to poor decisions.

The Utah Jazz have won seven in a row after coming from behind to knock off New Orleans on Thursday night 119-108. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 36 points. Utah is 11-4 on the season, and over their last seven games it has a +19.8 net rating with the best defense and second-best offense in the NBA (via Cleaning the Glass).

At halftime of that Thursday game, Shaq, Kenny, and Charles sat behind the desk in Atlanta and said the Jazz are not good enough, that Mitchell is not good enough. Then Shaq said it to Donovan Mitchell on air and it was awkward.

Jazz fans, you should take Shaq and Inside the NBA as seriously as Mitchell just did. They can say whatever they want, it doesn’t matter. (Yes, I can write whatever I want, and it doesn’t matter either. This space should be entertaining. However, I have always understood that and tried to grow and evolve my views with the game.)

The astute Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune gets the last word here, because he said what I wanted to say better than I did:

While Inside the NBA wasn’t paying attention, the game changed from underneath them. There are certainly TV analysts who have kept pace with the league’s changes, so it is possible. But because Shaq, Chuck, and Kenny got all of this credit for being the best sports show on TV for not really being about sports, they haven’t bothered with the work of actually watching games.

That’s why they all still think it’s funny to mispronounce Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name, or say Nikola Jokic is from Russia — both legitimately disrespectful things from the league’s premier broadcast about two of the league’s premier players. Tonight’s awkward segment with Donovan Mitchell was just another example of the same kind of thing that happened when Shaq said he hasn’t watched 5-year veteran Christian Wood, who averages 23 points per game, play. Why respect the current game when the accolades say you don’t need to?

In the end, Inside The NBA’s tone is just such a huge disservice to the league. The quality of play is at an all-time high, with players more skilled and smarter than ever before. And instead of championing this, the show is full of commentators that are just itching to tell you how bad it all is, how it doesn’t compare to their own accomplishments.

Here’s the meat of the issue: Shaq went after a guy who put up 36, 7, and 4 in the 7th game of a 7-game winning streak tonight. Would you ever, ever, see an NFL broadcast do that? No, because they’re in the business of keeping people impressed with their product. The NBA seems to want to do the opposite.

Amen. Utah fans, seven-game win streaks don’t come by often enough for any team. Ride the wave and enjoy the high level of play from your team.

3) NBA’s new COVID-19 “lockdown” policy means three more postponed Grizzlies games

The NBA has postponed the next three Memphis Grizzlies games due to coronavirus protocols. It was the most aggressive stance postponing games we have seen from a league that has been pretty aggressive on that front from the start.

What’s most interesting from that news is the report that followed from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: This is just the first case of the league’s new policy taking entire teams out of the mix once a player or players were exposed to the virus. Essentially, isolate and quarantine an entire roster away from the rest of the league.

Only individual players were isolated in the past, and so long as the team still had eight not tied via contact tracing, the games went forward. Not any more. We know that Grizzlies’ center Jonas Valanciunas has missed a recent game due to the league’s health and safety protocols (and there are reports of a positive test on the team), but that is the only player we know of in Memphis’ case. Still, the league shut the entire team down.

That’s the plan from now on. Expect more mass cancelations.

Also yesterday, the NBA announced the start times for 20 games in the coming days were pushed back an hour (most from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. local times) to allow for game-day PRC test results (that’s the more accurate nasal swab test). The logic here is pretty clear. The league wants accurate tests on game days before they send players out on the court.

We’ll see if all these moves help the league get back in front of a virus that has cost it 23 games and counting so far in the first month of the season

Milwaukee Bucks reportedly to hire Adrian Griffin as head coach

Detroit Pistons v Toronto Raptors
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Buzz had been growing for a week that Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin was the favorite Bucks coaching candidate of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nick Nurse had his backers in the organization, but in a superstar-driven league, the wishes of players like the Greek Freak hold a lot of sway (especially with him up for a new contract in a couple of years).

The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly hiring Griffin as their next head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This reaction from Fred VanVleet should tell you all you need to know about how the Raptors players felt about Griffin.

This hire is a gamble by the Bucks, turning the keys of a contender over to a rookie coach, but Griffin is more than deserving of a shot. Griffin spent eight years as a role player in the NBA — after going undrafted out of Seton Hall hand having to play in the Philipines — and then got into coaching, starting as an assistant in Milwaukee from 2008-2010. Griffin is seen as a defensive-first coach with a strong player development background (he worked with Jimmy Butler in Chicago). He’s been at or near the top of the “guys who deserve a shot” list for years and was in consideration for the open Raptors job in Toronto.

Instead, he now takes over a contender, although with a roster that is getting older and more expensive fast (free agent center Brook Lopez turns 35 this year, Khris Middleton is 31 and has a $40.4 million player option, Jrue Holiday is 31 and extension eligible come the fall).

Griffin will replace Mike Budenholzer, who was let go despite winning a championship with this team in 2021. Budenholzer is a process guy and was considered too rigid and slow to make adjustments in the playoffs, and this year’s first-round elimination by the No. 8 seed Miami Heat was seen as the culmination of that (even though Antetokounmpo missed two games due to a back injury). Griffin will bring a different voice and some new looks to a Bucks team still in its championship window.

Don’t be surprised if the Bucks hire a former NBA head coach to be Griffin’s lead assistant, to give him a veteran voice as a sounding board.

Nurse had been considered one of the frontrunners for this job, but now looks like someone destined to land in Philadelphia or Phoenix.

Heat guard Gabe Vincent reportedly to play in Game 6


Officially, Heat guard Gabe Vincent is listed as questionable for a critical Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. He missed Game 5 due to a sprained ankle suffered late in Game 4 but was a partial participant in Saturday’s shootaround, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

However, a report from Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports points to what everyone expects: Vincent will play in Game 6.

Miami needs him back if they are going to win Game 6 at home and end this series (the Heat lead the series 3-2).

Not just because Vincent has averaged 17.5 points per game this series, but because of his ball handling and shot creation. In the second half of Game 4 and through Game 5, the Celtics changed their defensive game plan, becoming aggressive at jumping passing lanes, bringing doubles on drivers, and trying to force turnovers. During the regular season the Celtics were a bottom-five team in forcing turnovers by design — they bet that their impressive one-on-one defenders could make shots difficult and so off-ball defenders largely stayed home on guys off the ball and didn’t take risks. That changed and Miami struggled to adjust in Game 5, with Kyle Lowry — starting in place of Vincent — having three costly early turnovers.

Vincent back in the lineup could help counter the Celtics’ defense. Miami also needs great games from Jimmy Butler (who looked tired in Game 5) and Bam Adebayo, who also had an off game in Boston.

The Heat want no part of a Game 7, they need to close this series out Saturday night. They need Vincent to do that.

Coaching carousel update: Nick Nurse has strong, not universal, support in Milwaukee


Five open coaching jobs remain around the NBA: Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.

Here is the latest on the searches to fill those openings.

• Nick Nurse may be the first domino to fall with him having drawn interest from the Suns, Bucks and 76ers. Nurse has strong support in Milwaukee, but it’s not universal, reports Ian Begley of

So it’s worth noting that, as of earlier this week, Nick Nurse’s candidacy had strong support within the organization. Though not all key stakeholders in Milwaukee were aligned on Nurse, per SNY sources.

• Nurse has interviewed in Phoenix as well. Their top target was current Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, according to multiple reports, but Begley reinforces what has been reported here at NBC Sports and other places: The Clippers are not expected to part ways with Lue. Even if they do, the Clippers will not let their coach walk to a division rival in Phoenix.

• Momentum appears to be building behind Suns’ assistant coach Kevin Young getting a promotion in Phoenix, with Marc Stein reporting he got a key endorsement.

Word is Young, who has also interviewed for the head coaching vacancies in Milwaukee and Toronto, has received a strong endorsement from Suns star Devin Booker.

• It would be risky to put a first-time head coach in charge of a contender in Phoenix. If new owner Mat Ishbia goes that route, look for the Suns to get a former NBA head coach to be his assistant (don’t be surprised to see that in Boston next season as well, where Joe Mazzulla is expected to remain as coach).

• Nurse, former Nets’ head coach and current Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin remain the finalists for the Bucks head coaching job. Stein reports Giannis Antetokounmpo is “intrigued” by Griffin.

• Toronto’s coaching search could be influenced by which direction team president Masai Ujiri decides to take the roster, something else up in the air. From ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip Real GM).

“In talking to folks that have been in touch with the Raptors recently, the Raptors don’t seem to know which direction they’re going to take. Whether or not they are going to focus on re-signing Fred VanVleet, extending Pascal Siakam, potentially making other roster upgrades. Or whether or not they’re going to send Fred VanVleet in a sign-and-trade, maybe investigate moving other players be it OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam.”

• Multiple reports have Bucks’ assistant Charles Lee and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie as the frontrunners to be the next head coach in Detroit. Pistons’ ownership reportedly backed the Brinks truck up to Monty Williams’ house but he was not interested, Stein reported. The buzz has been that GM Troy Weaver is backing Ollie.

• The only coaching vacancy filled so far this offseason is Ime Udoka taking the job as the Rockets’ head coach.

Karl Malone pulls in $5 million with auction of 1992 Dream Team memorabilia

USA Men's Basketball Team vs Croatia, 1992 Summer Olympics
Richard Mackson /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

At one of Karl Malone’s car dealerships in Utah, the Hall of Famer used to display some of his memorabilia from the 1992 Dream Team — game-worn jerseys from Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, among other items.

Wednesday night, Malone auctioned off 24 pieces of that memorabilia, netting him a cool $5 million, something reported by Darren Rovell at the Action Network.

The biggest seller was a game-worn Michael Jordan jersey from the USA’s 127-76 thrashing of Lithuania in the medal round, it went for more than $3 million.

Other items sold include $360,000 for a Larry Bird game-worn jersey and $230,400 for a Charles Barkley uniform.