Stern, Catchings, Cash inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall

Washington Mystics v Indiana Fever
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — What David Stern did for the sport of basketball transcended any gender bias and opened a whole new world for women in the game.

NBA commissioner from 1984-2014, Stern was the key figure in the formation and operation of the WNBA in 1997. That bold move paved the way for Stern, who died Jan. 1, 2020, to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Stern was joined in the induction class by former players Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash, Lauren Jackson and Debbie Brock, along with contributors Carol Callan, Sue Donohoe and Carol Stiff.

“The WNBA was my father’s baby,” said Eric Stern, representing his father. “It was something he had to fight for. He had to spend a lot of professional capital, and even some personal capital, to make it happen.

“There were a lot of doubters. He tended to enjoy conflict and didn’t mind it at all. He did a lot of civil rights work as he was growing up. He had a strong conviction toward equity and equality.”

Catchings was a direct beneficiary of the work that Stern did. After being the college player of the year at Tennessee in 2000, she went on to have a 15-year career in the WNBA with the Indiana Fever. She was the MVP of the Finals in 2012 when the Fever won the title.

While her pro career solidified Catchings’ spot in the Hall of Fame, it was a journey that came full circle.

“In the summer of ’98, I was an intern at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame,” she said. “I made sure the floors were clean and the exhibits were dusted.

“I was able to take in women’s basketball history, and appreciate those who fought for women’s rights. The word `legacy’ is one I hope you remember. I was a by-product of so many before me.”

Catchings thought back to life as an eighth grader when, for some reason, she settled on a channel while watching television.

“I saw two steely blue eyes (belonging to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt) that were so intense,” she said. “It was the first time I was watching women play basketball on TV in the most beautiful shade of orange. It inspired me to be good enough to play for Pat Head Summitt some day.”

In addition to her success at Tennessee and with the Indiana Fever, Catchings was with U.S. Olympic teams that won four gold medals from 2004-16.

As USA Basketball’s National Team Director, Callan was instrumental in putting together players, coaches and administrators that won gold medals in the last seven Olympics, the most recent coming in Tokyo earlier this month.

“The best motivation you can have in life is to play with passion and purpose,” Callan said. “There’s no greater purpose than the pursuit of a gold medal.

“The greatest motivator is to have a compelling goal. In USA Basketball, everyone comes through a selection process. It’s important to let everyone become themselves. We’re all united through the sport of basketball. Culture-based teamwork will allow us to be our best, collectively and individually.”

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.