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


Report: Udoka used ‘crude language’ with female subordinate prior to improper relationship


The Boston Celtics handled the Ime Udoka investigation and suspension by the corporate handbook: They kept the woman’s name out of the news, kept details confidential (not even telling the players much for legal reasons), and acted swiftly and decisively.

But as the team on the court starts defending its Eastern Conference title, there has been a concern that details leaking out about the investigations — and responses to those leaks — could turn this into a season-long drama and distraction for the team. That first started on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported this:

The independent law firm probe into Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly factored into the severity of his one-year suspension, sources told ESPN.

Those investigative findings — which described verbiage on Udoka’s part that was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior — contribute to what is likely a difficult pathway back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

A few thoughts here.

• “Crude language” is just part of a more detailed and damning report, league sources have told NBC Sports. There is much more uncovered by the independent investigation, including about the power dynamic in play. It was enough that the Celtics thought the best move was to suspend for an entire season a coach loved by players who led the team to the NBA Finals (it’s not something the Celtics organization did lightly).

• As Wojnarowski and others have noted, it’s increasingly unlikely Udoka returns to coach the Celtics next season, even if that is not yet official.

• While some pundits and people around the league have said Udoka is “done,” the NBA has seen unexpected turnarounds before. Never say never in this league.

• About the only sure thing is that this story is not over.

Lillard poised to pass Drexler as Trail Blazers all-time leading scorer

2022-23 Portland Trail Blazers Media Day
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Damian Lillard could have done what a lot of NBA stars have done — what a lot of them told him to do while recruiting him — and has chosen to stay in Portland. He wants to be remembered as the greatest Trail Blazer ever.

One good way to do that: Become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Sometime around Thanksgiving or a little after, Lillard will do just that, passing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler and his 18,040 points (Lillard is 531 back).

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports spoke to Lillard about when he knew the record was within reach, during Trail Blazers training camp in Santa Barbara, California (go Gauchos!). It was when Lillard got to 10,000 points.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I got 10,000 already?’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports he recalled at the time. “It was my sixth season in the league. That’s when I started thinking, if I could be consistent, I could score into the high 20,000-point range. As a scorer, 20,000 points is always looked at as a special mark. From that moment, I knew it was possible, but it’s also when I first researched Clyde Drexler’s [scoring] record with the team.”

Drexler is good with being passed by Lillard.

“You and I know records are made to be broken, but I can’t think of a better player or person to break the record than Dame,” Drexler told Yahoo Sports. “He exemplifies being a team player and going about his business in a professional way. I have nothing but admiration and respect for him. When he comes close to getting the record, and if our schedules align, I would love to be there to help out in any way I can. That’s a nice milestone to achieve. I am looking forward to him accomplishing that.”

Lillard is on a lot of front office people’s watch list this season, as in “how long before he is unhappy and asks for a trade?” The thing is, Lillard has been on that list for years and he keeps choosing Portland — he isn’t looking to leave. Of course, the $120 million extension and a retooling of the roster around him helped with that decision, but Lillard always had other options if he wanted them (and at times it felt like he would take them).

The Trail Blazers brought in Jerami Grant, re-signed Anfrenee Simons, and will put them with a solid core of others such as (a finally healthy) Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart, Gary Payton II and others. It’s a good roster, the question is how good in a deep West?

There are a lot of questions about how this season shakes out in Portland, but the one seeming sure thing is Lillard becoming the Trail Blazers’ all-time leading scorer. And that seems fitting.

Suns update: Ayton blames Sarver for contract, Crowder conflict, Johnson to start


Phoenix went to the NBA Finals two seasons ago and had the most wins in the NBA last season, yet dark clouds seem to be blocking out the Suns heading into this NBA season.

Here’s the latest on three situations with the Suns: Deandre Ayton‘s contract frustration, why Jae Crowder is asking out, and who starts at the four now.

• Ayton ended up signing a four-year, $132.9 max contract and will be back with the Suns to start this season, but the road to get there was rocky. The Suns would not offer Ayton a max five-year contract extension, his name kept coming up in Kevin Durant trade rumors, so Ayton went out and got a four-year max offer from the Pacers — which the Suns instantly matched. Phoenix saved $40 million and a guaranteed year, but the process left Ayton a little bitter.

Ayton blames outgoing owner Robert Sarver — a notorious penny pincher as an owner (among other, much worse things) — Marc Spears and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN discussed on NBA Today (hat tip Real GM).

“That is certainly something that caused the ire of him,” said Marc J. Spears. “I was told that it was Robert Sarver who didn’t want to give him that fifth year, who wanted to save the money.”

“My understanding from talking to people close to Deandre is that he thinks this was Robert Sarver’s decision as well. And Robert Sarver’s not going to be the owner anymore. So there is some healing that can happen there. But I know there were some hurt feelings over that contract and how that played out.

“If they were going to instantly match an offer sheet that he signed, why not just give him the max contract? Yes, it saved them a year and $40 million but as somebody close to Deandre told me ‘There’s a karma to this. Why do that to your No. 1 overall pick?'”

Shelburne hit the nail on the head — the NBA is a business, but it’s a business of relationships. Not only did the Suns sour theirs with Ayton, but you can also be sure every other agent around the league noticed how that was handled. It doesn’t help when recruiting players. The eventual new owner, whoever it ends up being, has a lot of work to change the franchise’s perception.

• Jae Crowder remains away from the Suns during training camp awaiting a trade (which reportedly will not be to Dallas). Crowder started 109 games for the Suns during the past two seasons and was a key part of their run to the NBA Finals, so how did things deteriorate so quickly? Marc Stein lays it out in his latest Substack newsletter.

Entering the final season of his current contract at $10.2 million, Jae Crowder let the Suns know that he was seeking a contract extension. League sources say that the Suns’ messaging, in response, was to let Crowder know that, at 32, he was no longer assured of starting or finishing games ahead of Cam Johnson. That gulf between the parties led Crowder to seek an exit from the desert that has landed him on indefinite mutual leave from the team until Phoenix can find a trade for him.

While Miami gets mentioned as a suitor a lot, it’s next to impossible to put together a trade that works for both sides right now (at the trade deadline, maybe, but Crowder isn’t going to be with the Suns that long). Cleveland is currently the hot name in league circles when talking Crowder trades, and Stein also mentions the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been looking for a P.J. Tucker-like replacement for P.J Tucker. But, do any of these teams want to extend Crowder at age 32?

• Suns coach Monty Williams confirmed what Crowder heard — Cameron Johnson will start at the four for the Suns this season.

Johnson brings better shooting to the table — 42.5% last season on 3-pointers — and is more athletic at this point, but Crowder brings better defense, toughness, and veteran savvy that can be trusted in the playoffs. The Suns may miss that when it matters, but Johnson will get the chance to prove us all wrong.

Blake Griffin agrees to join Boston Celtics on one-year deal


According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Blake Griffin has agreed to join the Boston Celtics on a one-year contract which will be fully guaranteed.

The Celtics were desperate for frontcourt depth following injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams, as Luke Kornet was even getting some run with the starting group at training camp.

You do have to wonder just how much the 33-year-old Griffin has left in the tank though. Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin only managed to play 17.1 minutes per game and his 3-point percentage dropped like a stone to 26%. He was also a major liability on defense, and the Celtics surely know that after Jaylen Brown drove by him with ease time and time again during the postseason.

Griffin was still an effective playmaker and that may make him a good fit with the second unit alongside the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Grant Williams with all of these capable of handling the ball. Injuries and Father Time have zapped Griffin’s athleticism, but if anyone can squeeze the last bit of value out of him, I’d bet on Brad Stevens and the Celtics.