Three things to know: Drummond’s debut sums up Lakers season of late


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) Andre Drummond‘s debut sums up Lakers’ season of late

The basketball gods are not giving the Lakers a break.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James may be out for at least a couple more weeks, but the pair’s recruiting skills — especially LeBron’s — landed the franchise someone to stop the bleeding in Andre Drummond. How much he could help in the playoffs is both up for debate and somewhat irrelevant, he could help the Lakers get some wins now and stop the slide down the Western Conference standings. That play-in game in the West looks uncomfortably close for L.A. (right now, they have a four-game cushion).

Drummond’s debut against the Bucks started solidly, with him getting the rock inside, the defense having to respect him, and Drummond getting a couple of buckets despite heavy use of his inconsistent face-up game.

What really sparked the Lakers in the first quarter was the Lakers shooters, who started the game 8-of-13 from three. That eventually regressed to the mean and then some — Los Angeles went 2-of-23 from deep from that point on.

The real story was Bucks big man Brook Lopez inadvertently stepped on the big toe on Drummond’s right foot, and that led to problems. Officially Drummond suffered a bruised right toe, but he described the issue more clearly postgame.

Drummond tried to play in the third quarter, but he was hobbled by the pain, and he was out. He finished the game with 4 points in 14 minutes of action.

At that point, the Lakers were out, too. The Bucks starting five looked dominant. Jrue Holiday scored 28 on 16 shots while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 on 13 shots — and got to see his brothers. The Bucks pulled away for the 112-97 win.

That game pretty much summed up the recent weeks for the Lakers, who just cannot stay healthy. It’s unclear right now if and how much time Drummond will miss (he is day-to-day, the X-rays were negative), but the Lakers now have seven in a row on the road (one is against the Clippers on Easter Sunday in an empty gym in downtown Los Angeles) as their backloaded schedule gets tougher.

For Lakers fans, it’s just an impatient waiting game. Until their stars get healthy, the basketball gods are not giving them any joy.

2) Nets win puts them in first place in East

That the Brooklyn Nets — with two-thirds of their Big Three on the court — beat the smoldering embers of the Houston Rockets’ season Wednesday is no surprise. That doesn’t diminish the clutch night from Joe Harris, who had 28 points and shot 7-of-12 from three.

Kyrie Irving had 31 for the Nets,

The real story here is the win pushes the Brooklyn Nets back into first place in the East, just half a game in front of the banged-up 76ers and 2.5 games up on the Bucks. Those 76ers are expected to get Embiid back on the court Saturday, they have been an impressive 6-3 without their one-time MVP candidate (he’s missed too many games to win it now), and the 76ers have the easiest schedule of the three the rest of the way.

Why the race for No. 1 in the East matters: Three teams — the Nets, 76ers, and Bucks — have set themselves apart from the rest of the conference. Those look like the only teams that could come out of the conference. While the Celtics and Heat have aspirations of being on that level, neither has come close this season and as we speak Charlotte is the four seed in the East. Whichever team finishes with the No. 1 seed will put the other two contenders on the other side of the bracket and create an easier path to the Finals, having to face only one of the big three teams in the East. The second and third seeds will have to face each other in the second round.

3) Watch Devin Booker go off and drop 45

The new-look Bulls came to the Valley of the Sun, and newest Bull Nikola Vucevic did his thing getting 24 points. But without Zach LaVine (sprained ankle), Thaddeus Young was Chicago’s second-leading scorer (19).

Meanwhile, the Suns had Devin Booker, who shot 17-of-24 overall, hit a couple of threes, and put up 45 points.

There’s a lot of basketball left to play this season, but Phoenix seems to be settling in as the West’s two seed. They are currently two games ahead of the third-seeded and inconsistent (and, to be fair, banged up) Clippers. Everyone seems to look past Phoenix come the playoffs — has anyone come off their “the Lakers will come out of the West” predictions from before the season? — but they do so at their own peril. This is a good Suns team. Untested in the playoffs? Yes. But the Suns still must be reckoned with.

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.


Reported optimism Towns, Edwards to return to Timberwolves Wednesday


The Timberwolves could finally get their roster whole this week — just in time for a final postseason push — with the return of both Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.

That could happen as soon as Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Facing the Hawks and their bottom-10 defense could be a soft landing spot to bring Towns and Edwards back.

Towns suffered a strained calf in November that was expected to keep him out for 4-6 weeks. However, he had a setback in January, reports Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, and it has taken until now to get back. Towns averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game this season before the injury, but his efficiency was down (32.8% from 3), and his fit with Rudy Gobert and Edwards was clunky. The trio needed more time to sort everything out, but the injury robbed them of that.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week and it looked much more severe at the time, but he was listed as day-to-day and has bounced back quickly. Edwards is a player who prides himself on playing nightly and pushing through nagging injuries.

The return has come at a critical time for the Timberwolves, who sit as the No.8 seed as of this writing (tied for 8-10, officially) in a West where 1.5 games separate the No. 7 and 12 seeds. The Timberwolves need wins and getting their two best offensive players back should be a boost.

However, the fit of this Timberwolves roster — radically overhauled last offseason — was rough in the season’s opening month before Towns was injured. Now the players are being thrown back together for the first time since then. Having a real floor general and pass-first point guard in Mike Conley now should smooth the transition, but the Timberwolves don’t have a lot of season left to work out the kinks, and they need wins now to ensure they make the postseason (ideally as a No.7-8 seed to have an easier path out of the play-in).

Watch Dillon Brooks pick up 18th technical, will get suspended another game

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Dillon Brooks sat out the Grizzlies’ March 5 loss to the Clippers after reaching 16 technical fouls this season — hit that number and the league gives a player an automatic one-game suspension. After that, with every two more technicals a player earns another suspension.

Brooks had gotten another and was up to 17 heading into a critical game Monday night against Dallas, when he did this:

Brooks will likely be suspended by the league Wednesday against Houston, the game where it appears Ja Morant will return to the court. Don’t look for the Grizzlies to appeal and try to get this technical rescinded, as coach Taylor Jenkins said, via Joe Varden of The Athletic.

“At this point, I don’t think we even try anymore,” Brooks said.

What was Brooks doing? Telling Theo Pinson he was a cheerleader.

Brooks’ rough night included him trying to do a jersey swap with Kyrie Irving after the game, but Irving not accepting Brook’s jersey (Brooks stepped on Irving’s foot during the game, aggravating an injury and had Irving leaving the building in a walking boot). After the game, Brooks admitted he needs to rein things in a little.

“I’ve got to tone it down and get back to my mindfulness practice and find ways to channel it better,” Brooks said.

Brooks needs to do this for the sake of his pocketbook — this is two game checks lost to suspension, and that doesn’t even include the $35,000 fine for shoving a cameraman.

Brooks plays with an edge, it’s part of what makes him effective — he’s the guy that gets under the other team’s skin. However, it’s one thing to walk the line and another to step over it constantly. Brooks needs to do better at knowing where that line is.

The good news for the Grizzlies and Brooks is the technical count gets wiped out for the playoffs and starts over (with suspensions starting at seven).