Three things to know: Warriors announce their presence with authority, rout Nets


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Warriors announce their presence with authority, rout Nets

The Golden State Warriors are elite. They are in the discussion as title contenders.

Any doubts about the Warriors fast start to the season — such as “Was it just the soft early schedule?” or “Will their defense hold up against elite scorers?” — were answered emphatically Tuesday night as Draymond Green held Kevin Durant in check (as much as anyone can) and Stephen Curry drained four different threes from the Nets’ center-court logo.

The Golden State Warriors went into the Barclays Center, dominated the second half, and pulled away for an easy 117-99 win. Curry had the kind of signature game that vaults him to the top of any far-too-early MVP discussion — 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting, 9-of-14 on 3-pointers, seven rebounds, five assists, and a couple of steals. Andrew Wiggins added a quality 19 for the Warriors.

However, the real mark of a contender was the Warriors defense holding Durant, James Harden, and the Nets offense to under a point per possession through the meaningful part of the game (95.7 net rating, using Cleaning the Glass and its garbage time filter). Durant, who has played like an MVP most of the season, had Draymond Green in his face much of the night and was held to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting, five rebounds and three assists. Durant went 0-of-8 shooting in the third when the Warriors pulled away.

The Warriors have the NBA’s top-ranked defense and are third in offense so far — as a rule of thumb, a team top-five in the league on both ends is often considered a title favorite. The only other teams in the top 10 on both sides of the ball (contender status level) so far this young season are the Jazz (1st offense, 9th defense), Heat (5th and 8th), and Bulls (7th and 5th).

The Nets aren’t there and coach Steve Nash owned that.

The Nets missed Joe Harris and his shooting. They really missed the pace and shot creation of the non-vaccinated Kyrie Irving. More than that, the Nets are still trying to find their identity in a non-Kyrie world, and at the trade deadline/buyout market need to look for more athleticism off the bench (and more shooting wouldn’t hurt).

Brooklyn has work to do to get to contender status.

Golden State showed Tuesday they are already there (and they still get Klay Thompson back in a month or so).

2) Rookie of the Year early frontrunner Evan Mobley out 2-4 weeks

Evan Mobley was clearly bothered by something against the Celtics on Monday night, he shot 0-of-11 then left the game in the third quarter. Tuesday he had an MRI, and the results were not good (but could have been worse) — he is out 2-4 weeks with a sprained elbow.

In the annual GM survey, they picked Mobley — the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — to be the best player in this class in five years.

Mobley didn’t want to wait that long and has been the best rookie this young season. He is averaging 14.6 points and eight rebounds a game, plus playing outstanding defense for a rookie, anchoring the Cavaliers in the paint (coach J.B. Bickerstaff even played him as the disruptive top of a 1-2-2 zone at points). He has fit in as a four and can play some five, and Mobley is a key reason Cleveland is off to an unexpected 9-6 start.

For the next couple of weeks, expect Lauri Markkanen to play his more natural four, plus Kevin Love is expected to return in the coming days and can play bench minutes in that role. But for the Cavaliers and just fans of good basketball, this is a setback.

3) No more Staples Center: Lakers home to be Arena

Let the bubble for arena naming rights begin.

The home of the Los Angeles Lakers and NHL’s Kings — and for a few more years the Clippers — will no longer be the Staples Center as of Christmas Day, it will be the Arena.

That’s going to take some getting used to. Sure, it’s just switching out one soulless corporation’s marketing opportunity for another, but this has been Staples Center since the day it opened, since the Shaq/Kobe era, so it’s going to take an adjustment. It’s also going to be a little awkward when the Philadelphia 76ers come to town.

On Twitter, fans have already started calling the building “The Crypt.” Which both works and is a bit ominous for an old Lakers’ roster.

To be clear, the Lakers make nothing off this. They do not own the building. AEG owns the arena, and the owner of that company, Philip Anschutz, also owns the Los Angeles Kings (plus several MLS teams and a minority stake in the Lakers). Staples Center has always been the Kings’ building with the Lakers as a primary tenant.

Multiple reports have this as a $700 million over 20 years deal for naming rights, by far the largest deal in North America. AEG bought back the last couple of years of the Staples naming rights deal to make the deal happen, and you can bet the owners of the Barclays Center and other arenas around the league took notice. There is about to be a naming rights bubble.

Mostly, though, this new name is just going to take some getting used to.

Highlight of the night: Curry couldn’t miss even when he was playing around

Stephen Curry had one of those nights, as noted in No. 1 above, but another sign of just how hot he was that this after-the-whistle, joking around set shot went in.

Last night’s scores:

Golden State 117, Brooklyn 99
Utah 120, Philadelphia 85
LA Clippers 106, San Antonio 92

Bradley Beal reportedly under investigation after confrontation with fan who lost gambling

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On March 21, Bradley Beal had an off game — 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting — as the Wizards fell to the Magic in Orlando.

Walking off the court, Beal got into a confrontation with a couple of fans, one of whom blamed him for a gambling loss. The next day that incident became a complaint filed with the Orlando Police Department by the fan. David Purdum of ESPN summarized the police report this way:

Beal and the Wizards were exiting the court and in the visitors’ tunnel, headed to the locker room, when, according to the police report, an unidentified man remarked to Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f***.”

Beal, according to the report, turned around and walked toward a friend of the man who made the comment and swatted his right hand toward him, knocking the man’s hat off and contacting the left side of his head.

Police reviewed video footage of the altercation and heard Beal say this is his job and he takes it seriously, and the man is heard apologizing, implying he did not intend to offend him, according to the report.

At this point, no charges have been filed against Beal. According to TMZ, Beal told the heckler, “Keep it a buck. I don’t give a f*** about none of your bets or your parlays, bro. That ain’t why I play the game.” The entire incident lasted less than a minute.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the report and are in the process of gathering more information.”

Sports betting is not currently legal in the state of Florida.

While there is nothing official from the team, speculation abounds that the Wizards have shut down Beal and Kyle Kuzma for the season.


Trail Blazers shut down Lillard for season… and here comes the trade speculation


While it was unofficial but understood for some time, now it is official: Damian Lillard has been shut down for the season. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (who has close ties to the Lillard camp) Tweeted out the news.

The Blazers are five games out of the final play-in spot with seven games to play, they aren’t making up that ground. They are tied for the fifth-worst record in the league, which comes with a 10.5% chance at the top pick and Victor Wembanyama. This was the right play.

Before it became official, Shams Charania at The Athletic wrote in “The Bounce” newsletter Monday that Lillard is “essentially” shut down for the season – and then lit a fire under the topic that makes Trail Blazers’ fans’ eyes roll:

Damian Lillard trade talk.

On the other side of things, you now have to wonder if Lillard ever steps on the court again for Portland. There was a ton of optimism going into this season after the team landed Jerami Grant and got off to a good start to the campaign. Now, not making the playoffs for a second year in a row, a soon-to-be 33-year-old star of this league who has never gotten a chance to win it all will have tons of questions to ask the front office this offseason, and I expect there to be serious conversations about what’s next for both sides.

We all knew the Lillard trade speculation was coming. Same with Bradley Beal in Washington. The same core rule applies to both of them:

Lillard will not get traded unless he asks to be moved. He has never done so, in fact saying just weeks ago about playing the rest of his career in Portland, “To that point, I’m also willing to die on that hill.” Portland has been loyal to him and Lillard signed a massive contract extension last offseason and has four years, $216.2 million left on that deal, including about $63.2 million in the contract’s final season when he is 36. He’s happy where he is and has deep roots in the community.

The odds are better than not that Lillard will retire a Trail Blazer, even if that’s not the path other stars would walk. Lillard is wired differently.

Can you construct an argument that the Trail Blazers should trade Lillard while his value is sky-high — he will be an All-NBA player again this season — because the organization’s best path to a ring is with whoever and whatever’s next? Maybe. However, that ignores the financial reality of the Blazers — Lillard brings the fans in the door, brings in team sponsors who want to be associated with him, and he sells jerseys. Lillard is good business for Portland, there is no incentive for ownership to move on right now.

In fact, it may be the opposite. Portland can throw multiple picks and good young players such as Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons into a trade to bring in another star to play with Lillard. That is more how their front office pictures this summer — they want to go all in on building around Lillard. Not sending him away.

Other teams covet Lillard, and trade packages can be constructed (would Miami be willing to move on from Bam Adebayo for the chance to pair Lillard with Jimmy Butler?). But it’s all idle talk until Lillard sits down with franchise ownership/management and says it’s time for him to move on. That has yet to happen. It may well never happen.

Just expect the avalanche of Lillard speculation to begin. Warranted or not.

Three things to Know: Timberwolves in top six, are they a playoff sleeper?


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Timberwolves beat Kings, move into in top six, could be playoff sleeper

When talk turns to dangerous teams in the bottom half of the West bracket, the conversation gravitates toward the established big names — Stephen Curry and the Warriors, LeBron James and the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.

But for the past few weeks (maybe since the All-Star break), the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the best team in that group. It hasn’t always shown up in the win column — although after beating the Kings Monday night they have four in a row — but there has been maturity and chemistry to their game. Fitting Karl-Anthony Towns back in after he missed more than 50 games could have been tricky, but instead, it has inspired game-winning shots and improved play (although he sat out Monday night on a back-to-back).

Monday night’s win is nothing to overlook — going to Sacramento and picking up a victory that denied the Kings the chance to officially clinch their first playoff spot in 16 seasons in front of their home fans is no small thing. The Timberwolves were attacking the rim.

And attacking.

“We know we have the talent and the personnel to be able to beat anybody on any given night,” Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said, via the Associated Press. “Really out of urgency and consistency … we play every game like it’s our last and we play every game like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the mindset that we need.”

Minnesota is showing a balance and maturity of game that was lacking much of the season. It starts with trading away D'Angelo Russell and bringing in Mike Conley at the point, adding a traditional point guard and floor general to the mix (rather than a player who creates more for themselves). Conley’s veteran presence can be felt across this team.

Jaden McDaniels has been locking guys down on defense. Anthony Edwards — back quickly from a sprained ankle that could have been much worse — has turned into a quality shot creator but adds another athletic defender. Gobert finally started to find his space and had 16 points and 16 rebounds against the Kings. Naz Ried has been a force of nature off the bench lately.

With the win, Minnesota tied Golden State for the No.6 seed in the West at 39-37, and moved ahead of the Warriors officially because the Timberwolves have the tiebreaker after beating them Sunday. This Minnesota team could avoid the play-in if they keep racking up wins — and if they are the No.6 seed they likely draw this Kings team in the first round.

The questions about how this team will handle a small-ball team that can space the floor over a seven-game series remain, but they showed Monday against the Kings they may have the answer to that question.

The most dangerous teams in the playoffs are often the ones that look the best over the season’s final weeks, and in this Western Conference that makes the Timberwolves a threat.

2) Luka Dončić with the assist of the season.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Luka Dončić made the pass of the season Monday night. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air, spun and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

Even Dončić was impressed with that dime.

The Mavericks entered the night desperate for a win after losing four straight, they needed the win to try to climb back into the play-in. Dončić wasn’t even expected to be on the court earlier in the day, but was cleared to play earlier when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension. With 25 points from Dončić leading the way, the Mavericks beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104.

3) Jalen Brunson was out so Immanuel Quickley dropped 40

Losers of three straight, and with the Heat lurking just a couple of games back in the loss column, the Knicks needed a win. Enter the Houston Rockets.

Jalen Brunson remained out but Immanuel Quickley stepped up with a career-high 40 points on 14-of-18 shooting, plus he had nine assists, and the Knicks picked up a needed 137-115 victory.

Julius Randle added 26 points, RJ Barrett had 19 and Obi Toppin finished with 15 for the Knicks. New York was moving the ball and finished with a season-high 35 assists.

It was exactly the kind of win the Knicks needed. It’s hard to see them falling out of the No. 5 seed.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Are you kidding me, Russell Westbrook?

The Clippers got the 124-112 win over the Bulls without that shot, but still.

Watch Luka Dončić throw the pass of the year to Hardy for 3



Luka Dončić was on the court for the Mavericks Monday — something that was not assured until earlier in the day — and once there made the pass of the season. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

That is your assist of the year. Even Dončić called it one of his best passes ever.

Dončić led the way with 25 points and six assists and the Mavericks — desperate for a win as they try to climb back into the play-in — beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104. Dončić was cleared to play earlier in the day when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension.