Three things to know: Ugly start to Jason Kidd coaching era in Dallas


We’re back. NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap up of the night before in the NBA has returned with the start of a new NBA season Come back to 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) Ugly start to Jason Kidd coaching era in Dallas, Hawks rout Mavericks

Trae Young remains the superstar face of the franchise and the guy rightfully about to get All-Star/All-NBA level love due to the Hawks’ success. However, throughout the preseason, we kept saying De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish would be the real keys to Atlanta taking a step forward off its deep playoff run.

It’s just one game, but Hawks fans have got to be riding high after Hunter and Reddish sparked an opening night blowout of the Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, 113-87. Hunter’s defense on Doncic kept the MVP candidate in check, while Reddish led the team with 20 points off the bench.

All that meant it was one ugly start to the Jason Kidd coaching era in Dallas. How ugly? A picture is worth a thousand words; here is the Mavs shot chart from the night through the competitive part of the game (Dallas made some straight-on threes late to help this look marginally better).

Atlanta played sharp defense, with Hunter doing an excellent job on Doncic — he had 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting, plus 11 rebounds and seven assists — but more than that, the Hawks rotations were sharp, chasing players off the arc, and Clint Capela was in the paint cleaning things up.

Dallas had no good adjustment through the competitive parts of the game. The offense was stagnant and keeping two bigs on the floor for much of the time led to ugly spacing issues, resulting in a lot more midrange shots than they took last season, and those were not falling. Nobody else stepped up, either: Kristaps Porzingis shot 4-of-13, while Dorian Finney-Smith was 2-of-12 (and his shot selection was odd: post ups?).

The bigger issue for Dallas is when its shots didn’t fall early, it got in the team’s head and impacted the team’s defensive effort as well. That’s when things got ugly.

All the missed shots had Atlanta running — 26.6% of their possessions were in transition (according to Cleaning the Glass), and in the halfcourt the Hawks were moving the ball beautifully. The scoring was balanced, Young had 19 and Reddish 20, plus John Collins added 16, Clint Capela had a dozen, and six Hawks players were in double figures.

It’s just one game, and we’re not drawing any sweeping conclusions about either team. Still, Atlanta looked like a team brimming with confidence and continuity, looking to build off its run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Dallas… has some serious work to do.

2) Stephen Curry put on a show dropping 45 on Clippers

We are not discussing the MVP race the first week of the season. But let’s just say Stephen Curry is playing like one and tearing apart teams from Los Angeles.

A few nights after a “trash” (his word) triple-double against the Lakers, Curry came out on fire scoring 25 points on 9-of-9 shooting in the first quarter against the Clippers Thursday.

Curry continued his hot streak all game long on his way to 45 points, including the late 3-pointer that put the Warriors up for good against a feisty Clippers team.

Curry wasn’t the only stud. Paul George had 29 to lead the Clippers and was 5-of-11 from 3. But the Warriors are off to a fast 2-0 start this season, beating both Los Angeles teams, and Curry is playing like an… well, we said we weren’t going to discuss it yet.

3) NBA names full 75th anniversary team — and there were snubs

The final names dropped, and it turns out the NBA’s 75th anniversary team has 76 players on it because of a tie among voters. Here is the complete list.

It’s a good list, although there seemed to be some recency bias.

And there were snubs — a handful of Hall of Fame players have very legitimate cases to be on that list, but here are three I thought were clear snubs.

• Dikembe Mutombo. The finger wag had to be on this list — he has the resume: four-time Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and he led the league in blocks three times. He earned it on the court, and as Ernie Johnson on TNT noted, he earned it off the court as well — Mutombo’s efforts to build hospitals in his native Congo and to raise awareness of issues there are what the NBA hopes to see in terms of community activism from their stars. This was a glaring oversight.

Dwight Howard. Too many fans — and, apparently, voters — get hung up on what Howard has become near the end of his career (almost playing himself out of the league, not living up to his potential, being a role player) and ignore the Howard who was a dominant big man for a decade at the start of his career. Howard’s resume includes an NBA title, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, he’s an eight-time All-NBA player and 8-time All-Star and five-time rebounding champion. He has 13,000 rebounds and 2,000 blocks in his career, and everyone else with those stats made the team, except Howard.

• Artis Gilmore. Another big man who should have made the list, he was dominant in the ABA and NBA. Gilmore was the 1972 MVP, an ABA champion who was an 11-time All-Star, and made the All-Defensive Team five times. He had one of the smoothest games from a big the league has ever seen, a precursor to today’s bigs with his athleticism and style.

Highlight of the night:

Tyler Herro dropped 27 in Miami’s blowout of the Bucks, and when shots like this are falling, you know it’s your night.

Last night’s scores:

Atlanta 113, Dallas 87
Miami 137, Milwaukee 95
Golden State 115, L.A. Clippers 113


Lakers’ LeBron James says he could need offseason foot surgery


LeBron James wanted back on the court. He saw the glimpses of what this current roster can do when healthy and focused — the same glimpses that have Laker exceptionalism running strong in Los Angeles — and he sees a West without a dominant team. Together those things mean opportunity.

LeBron could have shut it down when he felt something pop in his foot last month, admitting that two doctors told him to get surgery. However, the “LeBron James of foot doctors” told him he could be back this season — and he made that return Sunday. Still, LeBron admitted he could need off-season surgery.

“I don’t know. Right now, I don’t need it, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll probably get another MRI at the end of the season and go from there. But if I end up having to get surgery after the season, you guys won’t know. I don’t talk to you guys in the offseason, and by the time next season starts, I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go.”

As for what motivated him to get back on the court this season and not shut it down.

“Now we sitting at a chance to be able to… to hell with the play-in, we actually can be a top-[six] seed. That definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this, obviously, so — well, I don’t really want to say changed my mindset, it just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything”

The Lakers sit tied for 9/10 in the West, one game below .500. While LeBron can say, “to hell with the play-in,” his Lakers would need help from the Clippers or Warriors to climb into the top six even though they are only 1.5 games back (time is short for L.A., if the Warriors or Clippers go 4-3 the rest of the way, the Lakers need to go 6-2 over their last eight). Los Angeles also is just a game up on Dallas for the 11 seed, and if the losses pile up they could fall out of the play-in completely.

With LeBron back, missing the play-in is unlikely. But having him back (and eventually a healthy D'Angelo Russell, who was out Sunday with a hip issue) also is no guarantee of wins — the Lakers still need peak Anthony Davis to compete. When he has a solid game of 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists (as he did Sunday), they lose. The Lakers need bubble Davis every night, or even if they make the postseason it will be short-lived.

Dončić dodges suspension, NBA rescinds 16th technical

Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Hornets
Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

This was unexpected, especially after crew chief Kevin Scott said after the game last night: “Doncic was assessed a technical foul for his use of profanity directed at the officials in protest to a no-call that was correctly judged in postgame video review.”

The NBA league office reviewed the incident (as it does with all technicals) and rescinded what would have been Luka Doncic’s 16th technical.

That 16th technical would have triggered an automatic one game suspension. With it rescinded, Dončić is clear to play Monday night when the Mavericks take on the Pacers.

Sunday night in Charlotte, Dončić was given a technical when he didn’t get a call on a leaning baseline jumper and said something to the nearby official.

This incident comes days after Dončić was fined $35,000  for making a money gesture towards a referee in frustration after a  Mavericks loss.

Through all this the Mavericks have lost four straight, 7-of-9, and have slid back to 11th in the West, outside even the play-in. Their team is disintegrating and if they don’t pick up some wins fast they have less than two weeks until they are on summer vacation.

MVP showdown off: 76ers to sit Joel Embiid due to calf tightness

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Recently Joel Embiid said,” ‘If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.” Today’s news plays right into that narrative.

Embiid has been playing through calf tightness for a few games now — he only played a half against the Bulls last Wednesday — but still putting up numbers (46 points against the Warriors, 28 and 10 against the Suns). However, there had been some concern in the organization about not pushing things and making sure Embiid is healthy for the playoffs. Which is why they will rest him on Monday night, short-circuiting an MVP-race showdown against Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news and John Clarke of NBC Sports Philadelphia has confirmed it.

Embiid did go through part of the 76ers’ shootaround this morning. The decision was made after that point.

Undoubtedly this will spark the load management discussion around the league again, and Embiid is going to take heat for this — but this is a situation where the team’s medical staff made the call, likely over Embiid’s objection.

From the 76ers perspective what matters is having Embiid healthy during the playoffs — they are going nowhere without him — and there is no reason to take undue risks with the team all but locked into the No. 3 seed in the East.

James Harden is still expected to make his return to action Monday from a three-game absence.

But it robs fans — including those who bought tickets in Denver — of one of the great showdowns in the league, and one of the more anticipated games of the season’s final weeks. The NBA has to find a way to balance player health with having their best players on the court for the biggest games. Keep telling fans the regular season doesn’t matter and they will start treating it like that.

Joel Embiid not stressing about MVP: ‘If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.’

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Joel Embiid is the MVP betting favorite — -160 at our partner PointsBet — heading into Monday’s showdown with the reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokić (+180 at PointsBet).

Embiid campaigned for the MVP award the past couple of years but came up second to Jokić. This season, Embiid is not stressing about it. Or at least trying not to stress about it. Here is what Embiid told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What matters — it’s just about winning, winning, winning. I’ve been focused on that. We’ve been doing that. Whatever happens, happens. If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.

Why hasn’t Embiid won the MVP? Outside of Jokić also being deserving and the complaints of Antetokounmpo and others that the criteria for the award are constantly changing (which suggests there are criteria for the award, but there are none officially), Embiid thinks it’s because he is not well-liked.

People always thought that I was crazy when I said this — I really believe that I’m not well-liked. And it’s cool with me, that’s fine. I’ll be the bad guy. I like being the a–hole anyway. I like being the underdog. So that’s fine with me. My thing is … when I leave the game, I want to make sure that they say: No one was stopping him offensively and defensively, and he was a monster.

There’s no doubt he will leave the game remembered as one of the great 76ers and a “monster” on both ends when healthy. However, resume matters with legacy and an MVP award helps with that. Just not as much as being the best player on a championship team, something more difficult to pull off because it requires a lot of help (it’s up for debate whether Embiid has the help he needs around him to win it all, and if they can stay healthy enough to make that run).

This season the MVP race is a tight three-way contest between Embiid, Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450 at PointsBet). There are legitimate cases to be made for each member of this trio. However, with the Sixers surging (and the Nuggets stumbling a little), things may break his way this season.

Another dominant performance against Jokić with just a couple of weeks left in the season would stick in voters’ minds and help his cause.