Three things to know: John Wall wants back on the court, but how will that look?

Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets
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LOS ANGELES — Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com 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) John Wall wants back on the court, but how will that look?

#FreeMe

John Wall is tired of sitting out. No trade is coming. A buyout isn’t happening (unless you think he wants to give up a big chunk of the $91 million he is owed). Wall may have agreed before to sit out, but he has been watching the Rockets struggle and wants to get back on the court.

Wall could help the 3-16 Rockets — he averaged 20 points a game for them across 40 games last season. He’s not All-Star John Wall anymore (at least right now), but on a young team that has looked overwhelmed and disorganized at points, he’s a veteran who can organize an offense and get some buckets.

What would a Wall return look like? That is the sticking point.

Wall met with Rockets GM Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas, and the sides could not agree on an answer to that question. From Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Wall spoke to Rockets officials and stated his desire is to play, have a starting role and compete to maintain it, but the franchise informed him that they want him to come off the bench, and not start, in order to play, sources tell The Athletic. The outcome of the conversations is that Wall will continue to sit out games while remaining professional and being around and engaged with the team, sources said.

The Rockets are rebuilding and are invested in their young backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who are playing 30+ minutes a night. The Rockets likely envision Wall taking over DJ Augustin‘s 12.5 minutes a night off the bench (maybe that gets bumped up to 15-18 a night). Wall is a proud five-time All-Star player who wants the respect of starting and getting decent run.

The sides seem at an impasse.

Ultimately, Wall is going to need to accept a smaller role and build on it. If he wants a playoff (or contending) team to find a way to trade for him — a long shot with that massive contract, but if he wants it — he’s going to have to prove he can accept and thrive in a smaller, different role than he is used to. As Jonathan Feigen points out at the Houston Chronicle, Derrick Rose is the poster child for former All-Stars who have adapted their games. Wall can start that transformation in Houston then hope to adapt it with another team.

For now, Wall continues to sit and the Rockets continue to focus on the future. But this situation isn’t going away.

2) The Clippers would appreciate the referees not pissing off Stephen Curry in the future

It was a battle of the top two defenses in the NBA, and in a lot of ways the first three quarters of the Warriors at Clippers game Sunday afternoon lived up to that billing. Aside from the Clippers shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers, it was a well-played game and offense was not easy to come by.

Then early in the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry attacked the rim and thought he was fouled by Terance Mann (he was), but there was no call. Curry snapped and drew a technical.

That lit a fire under an unstoppable offensive force.

Curry responded with 13 points in the fourth quarter, hitting 3-of-4 from 3, and for good measure he gave the referee a “T” after draining a 3.

Curry finished with 33 points, 7-of-13 on 3-pointers, and the Warriors got the win, 105-90.

Remember this win was all about the defense — the Clippers scored less than a point per possession in this game.

3) Frank Vogel, Lakers still searching for right formula

The Lakers right now will take their wins where they can get them. Even if it’s by four points at home against a 4-16 Pistons team they had down by 19 in the third. Which is what happened Sunday night. It’s still a win and pulled the Lakers up to 11-11.

What is obvious to everyone — coaches, players, fans, and haters — is that the Lakers are a work in progress. As LeBron James noted postgame, the Lakers had nine new players in training camp this year, guys have missed time with injuries (including LeBron), and everyone is still figuring things out.

Coach Frank Vogel may be feeling the pressure, but for whatever reason he is undoubtedly throwing a lot of things out there to see what works. Among the things the Lakers have done recently:

• LeBron at center lineups. For a couple of stretches Sunday night, the Lakers went small and played Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Wayne Ellington, with LeBron at the five. Vogel preferred the term “centerless lineup.”

“I feel this is part of our evolution as a team and what our lineups are going to look like,” Vogel said. “We played a second unit that basically closed the game out in Indiana, with LeBron and ‘Melo at the four/five. Call it a centerless lineup. There is a lot more space for Russ, ‘Bron has a lot more space to be a roller going to the basket, which was effective, and we just have more switchability on the defensive side of the ball.

• The Lakers started big with DeAndre Jordan at center and he played 20:38, but in the other 27:22, it was either Davis or LeBron at center — the smaller lineups that have looked better for them. Vogel is looking for the line where he isn’t overtaxing his stars, but he is getting them more in the 4/5 role.

• There was an obvious effort to attack the rim and play inside out — and the Lakers finished with a strong 58 points in the paint. It helps that the Pistons don’t have a real shot blocker, so guys have cleaner looks, and that meant Davis could overpower guys on his way to 24 points, but it still was a step in the right direction as they were aggressive, playing downhill, and trying to play fast.

The paint does get clogged with Jordan on the court, which is why the smaller lineups can be so effective.

• The Lakers’ defense may be improving… slowly. The Lakers held the Pistons to a 101.9 offensive rating in this game, which is good, but this is the 30th ranked Detroit offense scoring below a point per possession coming into the game. There has been a sense among Lakers’ watchers that the defense has looked better through stretches of both the loss Friday to the Kings in triple-overtime and against the Pistons, but it’s not been consistent.

“That’s why our lives are hard right now. Because we’re not fully committed,” Vogel said.

The Lakers remain in the bottom 10 in the league in defense for the season, and that has continued over the last eight games.

• The Lakers have gotten better with their third quarter problem. That quarter was their undoing for a while. The Lakers have focused more on winning the third and they have won 5-of-8 thirds, including going on a 16-0 run against the Pistons on Sunday. That stretch essentially decided the game.

Highlight of the Night:

LeBron and Davis recreated a little Showtime for the Staples Center crowd (which felt appropriate on the night the team honored the legacy of Chick Hearn):

Last night’s scores:

Golden State 105, LA Clippers 90
Milwaukee 118, Indiana 100
Boston 109, Toronto 97
Memphis 128, Sacramento 101
LA Lakers 110, Detroit 106

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.

 

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, 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.