Three things to know: Take a step back and savor LeBron’s greatness


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 pivotal moment from the night before in one place.

1) Let’s all take a step back and savor LeBron’s greatness

When it comes to the NBA’s core audience — fans, writers, a lot of people in the flowing conversation on Twitter/Instagram — we tend to pick things apart. It’s part of the 24-hour sports talk/media culture. We critique the details of a players’ footwork in the post, we break down weaknesses with his handles, we analyze and dive deep into the advanced statistics, we question how good teams really are as constructed. We tear things apart and occasionally down.

Too often, we don’t stop, slow down, and let the game bring us joy.

We forget to savor what we have.

Not today. Today we are going to step back and admire LeBron James and his greatness. We need to savor getting to watch a Mount Rushmore player, one of the greats ever to lace them up, play through his prime, which never seems to end.

That greatness was on full display Monday night. Don’t forget, LeBron is in his 18th season, has racked up far more minutes than Michael Jordan ever did, played 46 minutes in a double-overtime game two days before (and he has not missed a game this season), and Monday he rolled out a triple-double of has 28 points, 14 boards and 12 assists playing 42 minutes. Because of him (with some help from Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell), the Lakers beat the Thunder in overtime.

Did we mention LeBron is 36 years old, besting a bunch of fresh-legged 20somethings?

Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have. When we see true greatness in sport — Usain Bolt running the 100, Simone Biles on the floor exercise, Lionel Messi standing over a free kick, Rafael Nadal on the clay at Roland Garros — we should take a step back and just savor it. These are magical moments in sports, the moments that made us fans and fall in love with the sport. We need to soak them in.

We need to do that with LeBron James as long as he is still on an NBA court. Greatness like this does not come around often. Savor it while we can.

2) Yes, it’s funky. But LaMelo Ball’s three-point shot goes in.

Nobody is going to confuse LaMelo Ball’s three-point shooting form with Klay Thompson’s.

Well, except in one area — it goes in.

LaMelo became the youngest player in NBA history to hit seven threes in a game Monday night, going 7-of-12 from three.

Ball is shooting 36.3% from three for the season, and in his last six games, he is 21-of-40. After the game, he said people have talked to him about changing his shotput-style shooting form from deep, but if it’s not broke, he’s not fixing it.

“I stick with it. I say, `This is how I shoot,”‘ Ball said. “I’m confident in it and I feel good letting it go. I came here and they tried to adjust it a little, but I’m like, `Ah, this is how I shoot.”‘

Charlotte got the win over the Rockets 119-94 behind Ball and his shooting.

3) Would the Toronto Raptors trade Kyle Lowry?

There was an uproar in Toronto when Masai Ujiri traded fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan — this was the guy who stuck with the Raptors when he had other options, he was an All-Star and beloved by the fan base. Of course, the Raptors got back Kawhi Leonard, who led them to the franchise’s first title, so all was forgiven.

That uproar would be nothing compared to the cries if the Raptors were to trade the greatest Raptor of all-time: Kyle Lowry. The rumors are out there that the Raptors are considering it, but would Toronto really do it?

There would certainly be interest in the 34-year-old All-Star point guard averaging 17 points and 6.7 assists this season. Right now, the trade market is slow, with very few sellers and plenty of potential buyers — it is a seller’s market and Lowry would fetch a premium price. That said, constructing a deal for a guy making $30 million in the final year of his contract — teams would see him as a rental — is not easy, and he likely would not draw offers as large as the Raptors would hope.

Toronto has a decision to make with this season: Do they consider trading Lowry and other veterans to start the rebuild around Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet? Or, do they make a trade for a center such as Andre Drummond — Toronto is not the same without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the paint — climb up out of the play-in series level they are at now, and make another run at it.

Don’t bet on a Lowry trade out of Toronto, although teams will ask.

However, will Lowry re-sign with Toronto as a free agent next offseason? That is a very different question.

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.