Three things to know: Knicks, Celtics remind us it’s about the game

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We’re back. NBC’s five-day-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA has returned with the start of a new NBA season Come by NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before in the NBA, plus some of the rumors, drama, and dunks going on.

1) Knicks outlast Jaylen Brown, Celtics in 2OT game of the year candidate

Insane.

Can the Game of the Year happen on opening night?

This is what Adam Silver wants — the focus on the game, not drama around who is not on the court for Philadelphia or Brooklyn or who is getting traded next. The Celtics and Knicks put on a show and reminded us just how amazing basketball can be and put the focus back on the court for a night.

The Knicks and the Celtics didn’t open the season with one game, they played four different games wrapped into one edge-of-your-seat (or walking along the sidelines, if you’re Spike Lee), garden-rocking, double-overtime opener that made a case for Game of the Year on opening night. It was impossible not to get sucked in, even if you were on the other coast.

The first game was all Celtics; they led 50-38 midway through the second quarter behind Jaylen Brown, who set a Boston record for points in a season opener with 46 on 16-of-30 shooting, including 8-of-14 from 3. In that same stretch, the Knicks looked terrible with poor defense, RJ Barrett was scoreless in the first half, and Kemba Walker returned to the Garden and started 1-of-4 from the floor.

The second game was the Knicks turning this around, going on a 71-48 run behind a monster night from Julius Randle — 35 points and nine assists — and the Evan Fournier revenge game, where he finished with 32 points and was 6-of-13 from 3 on the night (don’t forget he spent the second half of last season in Boston and was sign-and-traded to the Knicks). Fournier was huge in the OTs.

New York led by 11 with 3:45 remaining in the game, and were up four with :09 to go, all they had to do was close out regulation… then this happened.

Each overtime was like its own game. The first one, both teams threw haymakers, both got up off the mat and would not stay down.

In the second OT Randle, Fournier and Derrick Rose did enough to get the win for what was a raucous and exhausted Madison Square Garden crowd. The final score was 138-134 Knicks, but both teams can walk away from this game feeling good about their effort level and resiliency heading into the next 81 games.

A few other notes from this game:

• No post-Olympics bounce from Jayson Tatum in this one, he was 7-of-30 overall from the floor, 2-of-15 on 3-pointers. Obi Toppin had a strong game for the Knicks and played stretches of strong defense on Tatum.

• Kemba Walker had a rough return home to NYC, finishing with 10 points and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). That included a couple of ugly turnovers late and some defensive errors.

• Both young centers looked good — Mitchel Robinson for the Knicks and the Time Lord Robert Williams for the Celtics were each 5-of-5 shooting on the night. Williams added five blocks for the Celtics; they need that out of him this season.

• Barrett bounced back from the rough first half for the Knicks and finished with 19 points.

2) Sixers happy to focus on basketball, not Simmons, rout Pelicans

A lot of the media attention around this game was about who was not there. A suspended Ben Simmons was not with his 76ers teammates on the road. For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson is still recovering from the off-season foot injury he may-or-may-not have told the Pelicans about when it happened, and it sounds like he has some serious conditioning work to do to get back on the court.

The players, particularly the 76ers, were happy to just focus on basketball. Philadelphia reportedly had a team dinner on the road — it’s nice the vaccinated players could do that again — and then went out and picked up a comfortable season-opening win, 117-97. To be clear, the 76ers should beat a Pelicans team without Zion, but they seemed happy to focus on that end of the court.

“The main thing I’ve been preaching is just go out there and have fun,” Joel Embiid said after the game, via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “By having fun, it’s sharing the ball, playing with each other. Like I said in practice, our attitude has been the same. We’ve been practicing hard. The same way we played today, that’s what we’ve been doing in practice.

“But it was good to get off to a good start, get a win, and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff. Like I said, it’s not our job. Our job is to win games.”

Embiid set the tone early with 10 quick points and went on to score d 22, plus he had six rebounds and five assists. Tyrese Maxey got the start at the point and had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, the breakout star of the night was Furkan Korkmaz, who scored 18 off his 22 points in the fourth, including four 3-pointers.

The 76ers are not expected to practice on Thursday but will have shootaround on Friday before facing the Nets that night at home. Will Simmons play in that game? Doc Rivers hasn’t decided that yet, but it would be a surprise.

3) Hornets come from 23 down to beat Pacers behind confident Ball

Indiana was in control of this game, up 23 early in the third quarter despite not having  Caris LeVert or TJ Warren to start the season. Domantas Sabonis was dominating, and it looked like the Rick Carlisle return to Indiana was going to start with a comfortable win.

Then LaMelo Ball sparked a comeback. That man plays with incredible confidence? How much confidence, well, he pulled this off after the game.

Ball finished with 31 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists. However, the best sign for the Hornets season was the 27 points and from Gordon Hayward, and he was the guy who took over in a tight fourth quarter.

One positive sign for the Pacers: Rookie Chris Duarte started and scored 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It will be tough to take minutes away from him as the Pacers get healthier; this kid is ready to contribute now.

Highlight of the night:

Montrezl Harrell picks up a technical for trash-talking Drake (which is a foul in Toronto, apparently).

Last night’s scores:

Hornets 123, Pacers 122
Bulls 94, Pistons 88
Knicks 138, Bulls 134 (2OT)
Wizards 98, Raptors 83
Grizzlies 132, Cavaliers 121
Timberwolves 124, Rockets 106
76ers 117, Pelicans 97
Spurs 123, Magic 97
Jazz 107, Thunder 86
Nuggets 110, Suns 98
Kings 124, Trail Blazers 121

Curry, frustrated with Poole, gets ejected for throwing mouthpiece into crowd

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
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Stephen Curry has been ejected three times in his NBA career, and each time the incident was mouthpiece related.

The latest came Wednesday night. With 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of a tight game with the Grizzlies, Klay Thompson missed a floater, Donte DiVincenzo tipped the rebound out and kept it alive, Thomspon grabbed it and passed it to Poole out top to reset the offense, with Curry calling for the ball a few feet away from him. Instead, Poole jacked up a three like the shot clock was going to expire. The shot missed and Curry, out of frustration, threw his mouthpiece in the stands. That got him an automatic ejection.

“He knows he can’t make that mistake,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame, via the Associated Press.

Poole had fun with Curry postgame, throwing his mouthpiece in the hallway.

“I did see that,” Curry said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s like one of those ‘too soon’ jokes. I was still hot. I was still hot.”

After the game, some fans tried to argue that, by NBA rules, Curry did not have to be ejected. The NBA rulebook specifically states that any “player who throws or kicks the ball directly into the stands with force” will be ejected, as will a player who throws “the ball or any object at an official.” The argument goes Curry didn’t throw his mouthpiece at an official. However, the rulebook also says a technical can be “assessed to any player on the court or anyone seated on the bench for conduct which, in the opinion of an official, is detrimental to the game,” and the league has said consistently in recent years that throwing a mouthpiece or anything into the crowd is detrimental to the game, penalized with a technical and automatic ejection. Maybe there should be more leeway with the enforcement of said rule, but Curry knew better.

The Warriors went on to get the win over their rivals from Memphis, the old guard held the new guard off again. But the next time these teams meet, the Warriors will need Curry on the court until the end of the game.

What will happen with Warriors biggest free agent this summer: Bob Myers

2022 Golden State Warriors Victory Parade & Rally
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
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This summer, the Warriors have on their plate a couple of major decisions that could lead to free agency and change the course of the franchise. One is Draymond Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, didn’t get an extension he wanted with the team last summer (while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins did), and could be the guy standing without a chair when the music stops. The Warriors can’t pay everyone.

The other free agent: general manager Bob Myers.

His is an even more complex and nuanced situation — will the Warriors make him the highest-paid executive in the league, and does Myers still want the job — that could be the latest sign that the dynastic Curry era in Golden State is coming to an end.

At the Athletic, Anthony Slater, Marcus Thompson II and Sam Amick break down the situation incredibly well in a story Warriors fans should read.

As the clock ticks and extension talks remain flat, many around Myers are wondering whether – and even predicting that – his days with the Warriors are about to run out…

For all the nuance that surrounds the situation, this much is clear: team and league sources, who like all of the sources in this story were granted anonymity so they could speak freely, say Myers believes he should be among the highest-paid front office executives in the league, if not the highest. He’s been the architect of four NBA title teams, was the lead recruiter in the Durant free agency signing, and has been the trusted conduit between players, coaches and ownership. Myers also has served as chief problem solver, the coolant in an ecosystem that periodically overheats…

Part of the equation for Myers, known for his deep conversations and intellectual curiosity, is the contemplation of what’s next. After more than a decade of building a dynasty, and managing it through the intensity of modern scrutiny, and living beneath the relentless pressure of the Warriors’ championship standard, might Myers be interested in a new challenge? Would it be better for him and his family to move on, build up another franchise away from the Golden State fish bowl? He walked away from a successful career as a player agent to become an NBA executive. Is it now time to leave the front office behind and try his hand in another industry?

While there are other layers, it’s always about the money.

The very top NBA executives make north of $10 million a season. While Warriors owner Joe Lacob has said Myers is one of the highest-paid general managers in the league, titles get fuzzy (and somewhat meaningless) around the league — many guys in Myers’ role have a president or VP title attached to their name. His pay relative to title can get bogged down in semantics that miss the basic “pay me” bottom line of this.

There are no straight lines and simple answers here, but if Myers gets paid like Daryl Morey or Masai Ujiri he is far more likely to stay. Even if he gets that money, how badly does Myers want to stay on for the final years of the Stephen Curry era and start rebuilding whatever comes next? Does he want to walk away? Hang around for a few years then take his leave?

More than whatever happens with Green, the Myers situation will signal what comes next for this era of the Warriors and what they may look like going forward. He is the ultimate architect. This is the biggest decision the Warriors have this offseason.

PBT Podcast: Rui Hachimura trade to Lakers and All-Star team

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Rui Hachimura is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. That is a win for the Lakers front office — “Look! We’re doing something!” — but how much of a win was that for the Lakers? Does it change much of anything for them on the court?

That’s the first topic of this week’s PBT Podcast with Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself. Then we talk about the Orlando Magic and the return of Jonathan Isaac to the floor. Corey’s Jukebox ties together the Magic and the Phantom of the Opera.

From there, we dive into my selections for the NBA All-Star Game, both starters and reserves, and what can be done to liven up that game. Plus, who would you want to star as if you were in a movie?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Kyrie Irving still seeking contract extension, agent says “ball is in Nets” court

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How many guaranteed years are the Nets — or any team — willing to give Kyrie Irving?

It will be one of the questions of this offseason (Irving is in the final year of his current contract). It was a question last offseason, too. Irving and the Nets talked extension last summer — how close they got depends upon who you ask — but after two years of issues the Nets refused to give Irving a long-term deal. They did give him permission to find a sign-and-trade, but after checking out the market, Irving opted into his $36.9 million player option for the season.

The latest buzz around the league is that with the Nets winning, Irving is likely to re-sign and stay in Brooklyn. Apparently, his agent is ready to talk extension again, as she made public through Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher Report. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”

“The right type of extension” sounds like we’re back to talking about years. Brooklyn can offer Irving a four-year, $190+ million max extension (which would align with the extension Kevin Durant signed last summer). The Nets may not want to lock themselves into Irving for that long.

Would another team? The question isn’t money — on the court, Irving is a max player averaging 26.8 points per game and he is likely voted an All-Star starter when those are announced Thursday — but instead how long is a team willing to be locked into paying Irving?

The Nets and Irving can reach an extension up through June 30, Brooklyn management may not be in a rush to get a deal done while the team is still playing. Brooklyn would be wise to want to see how the postseason plays out before talking about next season and beyond with anyone.