Three things to know: Anthony Edwards says doubters can ‘kick rocks’

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The NBA season is into its second half, 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) Anthony Edwards scores 34, says doubters can “kick rocks”

No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards has looked every bit like a rookie this season. There have been flashes of the athleticism and potential that made him the top pick in the draft — and we saw that again on Sunday.

There’s also been a steep learning curve for the rookie, who is averaging 15.8 points a game but struggling with his shot — hitting 38.1% overall this season (and 31.5% from three) — and his defense. With No. 3 pick LaMelo Ball looking like a franchise cornerstone in Charlotte and No. 2 pick James Wiseman scoring an efficient 12 a game and playing key minutes for a Warriors team that looks play-in/playoffs bound, there have been critics and doubters who said Edwards should not have been taken No. 1.

After dropping a career-best 34 on Portland Sunday, Edwards had words for those still debating him as the No. 1 pick:

“Whoever is still talking about that, they can just kick rocks.”

“Let me say it was the right decision for us as an organization,” Karl-Anthony Towns added, speaking of the draft and having his teammate’s back. “I want to make that clear.”

Judging any draft midway through the players’ rookie season is premature. We will not fully know how these players develop until the end of the second, or even third, season (and maybe longer). So far this season, Tyrese Haliburton has looked more NBA ready than Edwards, he’s had a better rookie campaign (just nobody sees much of him playing in Sacramento), but Edwards is still developing and reaching his very high ceiling. Who will be the better player in a couple of years is up for debate.

Edwards may want the draft debate to go away, but ask Marvin Bagley III and Trae Young, and they will tell you it never really does. Fair or not, he was always be “former No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards.” And Edwards can be brash — this did not feel like a “tribute” when it happened — it felt mocking — and Carmelo Anthony is a future Hall of Famer that Ant should aspire to.

Edwards will always carry the burden of being the No. 1 pick, of being drafted in a spot where fans — and team owners — expect a franchise cornerstone player. Especially with LaMelo both impacting winning and having an “it” factor nobody else in this class can match, Edwards has a lot of development and a lot of work to do to stop people from questioning his draft status.

But nights like Sunday — 34 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-13 from three, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves beat the Blazers — will answer some of those questions.

2) Kawhi Leonard joins the rest of us, is very concerned about Clippers’ consistency

There have been nights this season when the Clippers’ potential on paper comes to life on the court, and they look like a title contender and probably the best team in Los Angeles.

Then there are nights like Sunday.

Zion Williamson was in attack mode and scored 27, Brandon Ingram added 23 points, and the Pelicans bullied their way to a 135-115 blowout of the Clippers. What Jaxson Hayes did to Reggie Williams pretty much sums up the Clippers’ night.

After the game, Leonard was honest about the lack of consistency for Los Angeles.

“It’s very concerning. If we want to have a chance at anything, you gotta be consistent,” Leonard said. “That’s what the great teams do, they’re consistent.”

“Until we show some toughness, until we show some willingness to play 1-on-1, I think it’s gonna be tough for us,” coach Tyronn Lue said, shooting down the idea the Clippers just haven’t had enough time together. “We didn’t do that tonight.”

The Clippers better find their defense on the plane from New Orleans to Dallas overnight because Luka Doncic awaits them on Monday.

Los Angeles has half a season to find some consistency — particularly in the clutch, where they have struggled on both ends of the court. If not, the new coach and improved locker room chemistry the Clippers have this season will lead down the same road we saw in the playoffs last year in the bubble.

3) Warriors, Stephen Curry run past Jazz for win

Utah’s half-court defense wasn’t great on Sunday, but Stephen Curry can make anyone look lost (despite Mike Conley actually doing a respectable job on him for stretches). Curry scored 32 points on his 33rd birthday (wearing colorways designed by his kids).

But the bigger problem was in transition — the Warriors started 19.2% of their possessions in transition and had a 152.6 net rating on those plays (stats via Cleaning the Glass).

Utah still sits on top of the West and has a cushion, but they have gone 2-4 in their last six with a league average defense in that stretch. It may be just a slump, it happens to every team, but a cross-country flight from San Francisco to Boston to take on the Celtics on Tuesday is a tough way to snap out of it.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.

Billy Donovan to choose Bulls’ starting PG during training camp

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Speaking at Chicago’s media day, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he will choose his starting point guard over the course of training camp. Lonzo Ball was expected to reprise his role as the starter, but he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome knee and raised some eyebrows at media day when he said he couldn’t run or jump. Simply put, there is no guarantee we even see him at all this season.

Donovan is fortunate that he has a plethora of options though, as Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White will all battle it out. “We’ll have to see how these guys gel and mesh once training camp starts and we start practicing,” Donovan said. “But I think we have enough back there that we can get the job done from that standpoint.”

Dragic is the most “seasoned option” to use Donovan’s own words and would be the safe pick, but at 36 years old, he doesn’t exactly raise Chicago’s ceiling. Plus, Donovan already hinted at managing his minutes throughout the season.

Alex Caruso is Chicago’s best defender and is going to play a massive role whether he starts or comes off the bench, although the latter seems more likely since he’s not a natural point guard.

Coby White showed improvement as a shooter last season, hitting 38% of his triples. However, it’s no secret that his name has been in the rumor mill and the Bulls hardly mentioned him at media day.

With that said, I think Ayo is the dark horse to start after showing some serious promise during his rookie season. In 40 starts, Ayo put up 10.9 points, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 triples and 1.1 steals and was one of the best perimeter defenders on the team. Zach LaVine went out of his way to hype up Dosunmu at media day as well, so you have to love his chances of running away with the job.

Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

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Anthony Davis played 40 games last season, and 36 the season before that. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him “street clothes.”

In a critical season for him and the Lakers, the biggest question with Anthony Davis is not his skill set and if he can be elite, but how much can the Lakers trust him to be on the court? Davis said on media day his goal is to play all 82 games (speaking to Spectrum Sportsnet, the Lakers station in Los Angeles).

A full 82 may be optimistic, but Davis saw last season as a fluke.

“Last season, I had two injuries that you can’t really control. I mean, a guy fell into my knee, landed on the foot,” Davis said earlier at media day. “And the good thing for me is that the doctors after they looked at us, they could have been, like 10 times worse.”

Davis talked about his workout regimen, getting his body both rested and stronger for this long season, knowing more will be asked of him. New coach Darvin Ham wants to run more of the offense through Davis, but all the Lakers’ plans are moot if Davis and LeBron James are not healthy and on the court for at least 65 games this season.

“The focus of my game is being available…” LeBron said Monday. “Availability is the most important thing in his league and to be able to be available on the floor.”

Ham has to walk a line of pushing this team to defend better, show a toughness it lacked last season, and make the playoffs in a deep West while keeping his stars’ minutes under control. In a league all about recovery, the Lakers need to prioritize that, too.

“Just being efficient with how we practice, how we manage shootarounds, how we manage their minutes,” Ham said Monday. “I don’t need ‘Bron or Ad playing playoff minutes in October, November, December.”

It’s the first days of training camp, everyone is feeling good, everyone is rested, and everyone is optimistic. The real tests for the Lakers and Davis start in a few weeks — and just how much will the Lakers’ stars play.