Three things to know: Suspensions are coming, will LeBron get one?

Los Angeles Lakers v Detroit Pistons
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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) Isaiah Stewart will get suspended for Lakers/Pistons fight, will LeBron?

This much is certain: The Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart will get suspended for the Lakers/Pistons fight Sunday — and this was almost a real fight. Stewart wanted it to be (he grew up boxing and wanted to hurt LeBron James). There is more actual fighting in West Side Story than most NBA “fights” — “you’re lucky this smaller teammate/coach is holding me back” — but Stewart genuinely wanted to go.

Stewart was triggered by the blood running down his face and it took nearly a full team of guys and multiple efforts to keep him away from going at LeBron. Cade Cunningman tried, the rookie was in the right place with the right intentions, but he isn’t strong enough to stop “beef Stew.” DeAndre Jordan did his job protecting the team’s best player. Stewart will get a suspension for this — despite Dwane Casey saying he shouldn’t — and the only question is how many games.

The bigger question is will LeBron get a suspension as well? It may have been unintentional — it appears he was trying to use his elbow to get Stewart’s arm off him, and LeBron did come over and try to apologize — but this is still a closed-fist shot to the face. That has led to suspensions in the past.


My guess? Stewart gets two games, LeBron gets a fine. But the NBA’s roulette of justice is often random and impossible to predict. We’ll see what is decided by the suits in Manhattan.

Both Stewart and LeBron were ejected for their part — and the Detroit crowd loved the LeBron result.

Pistons fans probably shouldn’t have been so happy — the incident lit a fire under the Lakers, who finally played with the urgency LeBron has wanted to see. Russell Westbrook (who got a technical for his part in the fight) caught fire, Anthony Davis blocked Cunningham twice, and the Lakers went on a 37-17 fourth quarter run to win the game and even their record at 9-9.

If this becomes the incident that somehow galvanizes these lackluster Lakers, LeBron will gladly take any punishment coming his way.

2) Luke Walton fired by Kings, now team needs to find actual solution to problems

It is not Luke Walton’s fault the Kings are 6-11, have lost 7-of-8, and are sitting 12th in the West. He was handed a “Chopped basket” of ingredients, an imbalanced core of a roster that went 31-41 last season, and was told to make it better. Walton was faced with decisions such as “should we start Chimezie Metu or Moe Harkless at the three?” (It’s been Metu, as of late.)

Walton also was not the solution in Sacramento. He was not the chef who could turn that mismatched basket into something worthwhile.

That’s why Walton was fired on Sunday, replaced in the interim by veteran NBA coach Alvin Gentry. However, GM Monte McNair will want his own guy in the big chair, either later this season or during the following offseason.

The Kings have missed the playoffs for 15 straight years, tying them for the longest streak in NBA history (with the Donald Sterling Clippers, a group you never want to be in the same sentence as). That streak started at the disastrous trying-to-sell-an-move-the-team end of the Maloof ownership era, but Vivek Ranadive took over in 2013 and has presided over more than half the streak. Gentry makes the 11th coach the Kings have had in those 15 years (and his replacement will make it an even dozen).

The Kings’ questions start here: What is the backcourt of the future? It was supposed to be anchored around De'Aaron Fox, but he has struggled this season since getting his contract extension, and he has never translated his game into becoming a halfcourt force that drives the offense. Tyrese Haliburton is good and has fundamental pick-and-roll skills, but he’s not a No. 1 offensive creator. Buddy Hield comes off the bench and can score, but is more likely to be traded than become the core of the future Kings. Davion Mitchell has played well as a rookie, but his offense still has a long way to go.

The Kings have four nice players in the backcourt, but not a player who can drive the offense consistently among them.

Harrison Barnes has been surprisingly impressive this season. Richaun Holmes is the most underrated center, and maybe player, in the game today, but he’s not driving the offense.

The Kings are a nice roster without a true No. 1 scoring option at the NBA level, and that’s not going to change no matter who is coaching.

3) Nuggets Michael Porter Jr. could miss rest of season with back issue

The basketball gods do not smile on Denver.

They have been the “if they can get Jamal Murray back healthy” possible contenders all season, but now comes this news: Michael Porter Jr. has a nerve issue in his back that could cost him the season.


Medical red flags about his back were why MPJ slid down to 14th in the 2018 NBA Draft. He had a microdiscectomy at Missouri that limited him to just three games played in college. After the Nuggets drafted him, Porter Jr. had another back surgery and missed an entire season trying to get right.

When he’s right, he’s a No. 2 (or maybe No. 3) option on a Nuggets team looking to contend. His potential to be that player nightly is why Denver gave him a five-year, $172 million contract extension last offseason (the fifth year is only partially guaranteed, but still that’s $145 locked in).

His back has clearly been behind Porter’s slow start to the season— 9.9 points a game on 35.9% shooting overall and 20.8% from 3.

Murray may return to the Nuggets rotation once the calendar flips to 2022, but will Porter join him? Without both of them, the Nuggets are not the contenders they otherwise might be.

Highlight of the Night: Paul George recreates his poster dunk

In 2013, Paul George did this to The Birdman in a playoff game against Miami.

Paul George recreated that dunk Sunday, with Dwight Powell in the Birdman’s place.

Last night’s scores:

LA Clippers 97, Dallas 91
LA Lakers 121, Detroit 116
Chicago 109, New York 103
Phoenix 126, Denver 97
Golden State 119, Toronto 104

Three things to Know: Win over Clippers shows Thunder future may be now


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) Win over Clippers shows Thunder’s future may be now

If the playoffs started today, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the No.7 seed in the West, only needing to win one of two play-in games — at home — to advance to the playoffs. They are only half a game back of the defending champion Golden State Warriors for the No.6 seed and not having to worry about the play-in.

The basketball world has talked about anything but the Thunder: When will those Warriors flip the switch? What happens when Dallas gets Luka Dončić back (or if the Mavs defend a little)? What will the Timberwolves look like when whole? When will LeBron James return and how big a threat are the Lakers?

Meanwhile, the Thunder quietly have been winning — 8-of-10 after beating the Clippers on Tuesday night 101-100, behind 31 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder have been solid all season — top half of the league in offense and defense, and the 10th-best net rating in the league — despite Chet Holmgren missing the year. SGA playing at an All-NBA level is a huge part of it, but Josh Giddey has developed into an impressive secondary shot creator averaging 16.2 points a night, Jalen Williams will be first-team All-Rookie because of his play, guys like Isaiah Joe and Tre Mann have stopped up, and Lu Dort is doing things like locking down Kawhi Leonard on the final play of the game to preserve the win.

OKC’s one-point win over the Clippers was aided by Kawhi Leonard getting a tight technical called on him, and when Terrence Mann complained about that call he got him ejected. Leonard said after the game the referee admitted he missed the foul call on the play where the technicals were handed out.

However, far more frightening for the Clippers than the loss was the injury to Paul George in the final minutes, a fluke collision with Dort that sent George to the ground and having to be helped back to the locker room. There are no details, but it didn’t look good.

It’s all more questions and injuries for the Clippers.

Meanwhile, the Thunder just keep on rolling and look every bit a playoff team ahead of schedule — and with a lot of draft picks coming in the next few years to stockpile that roster.

2) Knicks legend, Hall of Fame Willis Reed dies

Willis Reed is associated with one of the most iconic moments in NBA history — his dramatic entrance in Madison Square Garden minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. He scored only four points and was clearly in pain and hobbled, but playing even a little sparked the Knicks to blow out the Lakers and win the franchise’s first title.

Reed passed away at the age of 80.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed won a second ring with the Knicks in 1973 and was a two-time Finals MVP and seven-time All-Star.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

3) Celtics get Robert Williams back, look like Celtics in win over Kings

Robert Williams was back on the court for the Celtics Tuesday night and the Celtics held the Kings and their best offense in the league to an offensive rating almost seven points below their league average. That is not a coincidence.

With Williams back, the Celtics were back to switching everything, which slowed the motion and passing of the Kings’ offense enough to earn the 132-109 Boston win. The 36 points from Jayson Tatum helped with that.

For the Kings, it was their fifth game in seven nights in four different time zones and it showed. Still, that loss dropped the Kings 1.5 back of the Grizzlies for the two seed in the West (and the Grizzlies may get Ja Morant back Wednesday).

Boston went 4-2 on their recent road trip. While they have slumped in recent weeks, they looked like their contending selves again with Williams back, who had missed the last eight games with a hamstring issue. He played 21 minutes off the bench.

Nobody should have written Boston off after this recent slide, even if those losses did make their path through the East rougher.

Bonus thing to know: Donovan Mitchell threw down a Dunk of the Year candidate in the Cavaliers’ win.

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.