Three things to know: Bucks big winners in P.J. Tucker trade


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) Bucks big winners in P.J. Tucker trade

With an overtime win against the 76ers Wednesday — behind 32 points and 15 boards from Giannis Antetokounmpo — the Bucks remain red hot on the court, winners of five in a row and 10-of-11.

Earlier in the day, the Bucks got maybe a bigger win in a trade for P.J. Tucker from Houston.

The Rockets had been shopping Tucker since the minute James Harden went to Brooklyn, but it was Milwaukee that won the day with this trade:

• Milwaukee gets: Tucker, Rodions Kurucs, the return of their own 2022 first-round pick
• Houston gets: D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee’s 2023 first-round pick unprotected, the right to swap picks in 2021

Milwaukee wins this, although Houston does fairly well for itself.

First, the Bucks get Tucker, a proven high-level, switchable defender that gives them more defensive versatility in the playoffs. One of the Bucks’ postseason flaws the past couple of years was they had a set base defense — Brook Lopez dropping back off the pick-and-roll to defend the rim and paint — and not much ability to switch out of it. Go up against a good team that could make them pay for that defensive style (with threes or an elite mid-range shooter) and the Bucks were in trouble. The Bucks have switched more on defense this season (not a lot, but they are working on it) and Tucker is exactly the kind of defender they need for that style of play.

The big question is this: Is Tucker still lights out on corner threes? He felt automatic from there the past couple of postseasons, but this season, at age 35, Tucker is shooting just 36.6% overall, 31.4% on threes, and 35% on corner threes. A lot of teams felt — and the Bucks are betting on it — that the real difference was no Harden (or Russell Westbrook, or Chris Paul before that) setting him up, so the looks were not as good. With Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks will get Tucker good looks on corner threes, but will he hit them?

Even if Father Time has won the race with Tucker, the Bucks got other wins in this deal — they have more financial freedom now.

Before this trade, the Bucks were within half-a-million dollars of the hard cap they triggered over the summer. But now, after moving on from Wilson, Augustin, and trading Torrey Craig to Phoenix, the Bucks are $3.5 million below the hard cap and have a couple of roster spots open. Milwaukee can sign a couple of players to the veteran league minimum contracts off the buyout market (or just as free agents). That is to say, the Bucks are not done tweaking the roster.

Will that be enough against a stacked Brooklyn team or a Philadelphia side with Joel Embiid? Ask again in June. But this trade set Milwaukee up with a better chance to succeed in those series than they where they stood 24 hours ago. That’s a win for a Bucks team that will see anything short of the NBA Finals as a failure this season.

2) Antetokounmpo angered 76ers players with his sit down OT celebration

When Antetokounmpo hit a little 10-foot jumper in the lane to put Milwaukee up seven with just 1:11 left in overtime Wednesday — a shot that felt like a dagger to the 76ers — he celebrated by running up the court, then sitting down in the middle of it.

That pissed off a few Philadelphia players — Dwight Howard said he wanted to give Antetokounmpo the “Stone Cold Stunner” for that move.

My reading of the rules is that a Stone Cold Stunner will get you a flagrant 2 foul, but not until the officials spent 10 minutes huddled around a screen reviewing the play.

3) Stephen Curry leaves game with a bruised tailbone, status up in air

It was an innocent enough play, Stephen Curry using his handles to create space and hit a three as the Warriors were handling what is left of the Rockets.

That fall led to a bruised tailbone and Curry going out for the rest of the game.

Steve Kerr said postgame he had no idea if Curry could play Friday and Saturday in an upcoming back-to-back against Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. The Warriors, sitting as the nine seed in the West right now, cannot afford to be without Curry for any extended period — the Warriors’ offense is 11.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. When he sits, the Warriors’ offense is league-worst level.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Sit back and enjoy some basketball purity. Watch Luka Doncic drop 42 on the Clippers, leading Dallas to the 105-89 win.

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.