With 11 postponed games rescheduled and another 10 shifted, NBA believes it’s over hump of postponements

Kyrie Irving at Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers
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The NBA has rescheduled all 11 games that were postponed in December for virus-related reasons and either shifted the times or dates of 10 other games to help accommodate those changes.

“We think we’re sort of over the hump in terms of the meat of the postponements,” said Evan Wasch, an NBA vice president who helps oversee the league’s scheduling. “Hopefully, knock on wood, we won’t have any. But we certainly don’t expect another rash of them like we had, and so we thought it made sense to now put those 11 games back on the schedule.”

Toronto had six games affected, Chicago had five and Brooklyn had four. In all, 18 of the league’s 30 teams had at least one game date changed by the postponements or future adjustments, all of which were revealed Monday.

There are now seven teams that have at least one stint of playing four games in five nights: Chicago, Toronto, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Miami, New Orleans and Denver. The original NBA schedule didn’t call for any such stretches, though it was unavoidable with the changes.

“The objective and priority here was to avoid teams playing three games in three nights and look for a middle-ground approach,” Wasch said.

The Nets — who couldn’t play at Portland last month because they were missing nearly a dozen players with virus-related issues — have a most unusual schedule coming next week.

Brooklyn plays Sunday against San Antonio at home — then will fly across the country to play the rescheduled game at Portland the next day, Jan. 10 (another opportunity for Kyrie Irving to play). The Nets then come back East and visit Chicago on Jan. 12.

To help with the demands of that Portland trip, the NBA moved Sunday’s Spurs-at-Nets game to noon Eastern. The teams had been scheduled to play a night game, but now the Nets should be in Portland by late Sunday night.

There were a couple other options for that Nets-Blazers game, Wasch said, but having it played Jan. 10 was the best for everyone involved.

“The main reason to release these now is because we wanted to make sure that teams had at least one week’s notice on any postponements, from a travel perspective, basketball planning, business, ticket sales, all those things,” Wasch said. “It made sense to do it now.”

Simply plugging the postponed games back into the calendar could have been done, Wasch said, but moving other games opened more possibilities and avoided the dreaded three-game, three-night stints.

“We also didn’t want to massively disrupt the existing schedule,” Wasch said.

Among the other changes: the anticipated return of former Raptors guard Kyle Lowry to Toronto. It was scheduled for Feb. 3 and now will happen on Feb. 1, when Miami is now slated to make its first appearance there this season. It’s still unclear if fans will be at that game; officials in Ontario have limited attendance to 1,000 in the Raptors’ home arena.

And the All-Star break for Brooklyn and Washington got one day shorter, with the league rescheduling a postponed Wizards-at-Nets game to Feb. 17. Both teams were originally slated to play their pre-All-Star finales a day earlier.

The NBA had just under 90 players known to be in the health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus Monday afternoon, a significant drop from the middle of last week when the list peaked at 125 players. There are also dozens of head coaches, assistant coaches and team staffers in the protocols.

The postponed game changes, listed in order of the original schedule:

— Detroit at Chicago, scheduled for Dec. 14, will be played Jan. 10.

— Chicago at Toronto, scheduled for Dec. 16, will be played Feb. 3.

— New Orleans at Philadelphia, scheduled for Dec. 19, will be played Jan. 25.

— Denver at Brooklyn, scheduled for Dec. 19, will be played Jan. 26.

— Cleveland at Atlanta, scheduled for Dec. 19, will be played March 31.

— Orlando at Toronto, scheduled for Dec. 20, will be played March 4.

— Washington at Brooklyn, scheduled for Dec. 21, will be played Feb. 17.

— Toronto at Chicago, scheduled for Dec. 22, will be played Jan. 26.

— Brooklyn at Portland, scheduled for Dec. 23, will be played Jan. 10.

— Miami at San Antonio, scheduled for Dec. 29, will be played Feb. 3.

— Golden State at Denver, scheduled for Dec. 30, will be played March 7.

Other changes:

— Phoenix at Detroit, scheduled for Jan. 12, will be played Jan. 16.

— Philadelphia at Houston, scheduled for Jan. 24, will be played Jan. 10.

— Chicago at Atlanta, scheduled for Jan. 24, will be played March 3.

— Chicago at Oklahoma City, scheduled for Jan. 26, will be played Jan. 24.

— Toronto at Brooklyn, scheduled for Jan. 26, will be played Feb. 28.

— Denver at New Orleans, scheduled for Jan. 26, will be played Jan. 28.

— Toronto at Atlanta, scheduled for Feb. 1, will be played Jan. 31.

— Miami at Toronto, scheduled for Feb. 3, will be played Feb. 1.

Time changes:

— San Antonio at Brooklyn, Jan. 9, moved up to noon Eastern (was 7:30 p.m.)

— Boston at New Orleans, Jan. 29, moved to 7 p.m. Eastern (was 6 p.m.)

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.


Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.


Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.