Three Things to Know: That is the Nets team that strikes fear in the rest of the NBA


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) That is the Nets team that strikes fear in the rest of the NBA

The Nets were the betting favorite and the choice of most pundits to win the NBA title before the season tipped off because everyone envisioned nights like this:

Kevin Durant had 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting, plus nine assists. James Harden had 25 points and 16 assists. Patty Mills, back in his comfortable sixth man role, scored 21. Blake Griffin was diving on the floor for loose balls and was +34 on the night.

Brooklyn went into Chicago Wednesday night and routed the East-leading Bulls, 138-112.

Never read too much into a regular-season NBA game when trying to project a potential playoff match-up. There are always too many variables to say that is an apples-to-apples comparison (for example, Alex Caruso is out for the Bulls due to health and safety protocols).

However, this is the version of the Nets team that makes the team so scary — a team that can put up a 146.8 offensive rating on a night Kyrie Irving plays but looks just okay (maybe it’s the ankle issue that kept him out last game). Down two at the half, the Nets put on a statement in a third quarter that included a 30-8 run. Brooklyn’s stars were elite, their role players stepped up, and there was nothing the Bulls could do.

We could list everything that went right for the Nets, from the play of their rookies through a solid defense, but you get the point.

The Nets have their big three intact, and on nights like this they look inevitable.

2) Another frustrating night for LeBron, Lakers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: LeBron James had another strong game, the kind that gets you on MVP ballots, and scored 34 points. However, he didn’t get enough help, Los Angeles’ defense was a mess, and the Lakers lost to a team that had dropped five straight coming in and wouldn’t even make the play-in if the postseason started today.

Sacramento 125, Los Angeles Lakers 116

The Lakers are 21-21, and only five of those wins have come against teams over .500. There’s still a feeling around the team they can figure it out and flip the switch — ala the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — but watch them on the court and there’s little evidence the Lakers know where the switch is.

De'Aaron Fox had 29 points and Harrison Barnes 23 to lead the Kings.

Both the Lakers and Kings will be interesting to watch at the trade deadline.

The Lakers need to make plays for guys who could change their season — Jerami Grant of the Pistons would be a perfect fit — but they really only have one trade option, some combination of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and a 2027-28 first-round pick. That may not be enough to get it done.

The Kings have finally put everyone up on the trade block, including Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. However, while the Lakers need to think short-term with a 37-year-old LeBron on the team, the Kings need to think bigger picture and longer term. They need to build something that works, because what they have does not.

3) Damian Lillard is having abdominal surgery and is out indefinitely

Damian Lillard has not been himself this season, even dating back to the Tokyo Olympics. He’s suffering from lower abdominal tendinopathy, and he has tried rest, playing through it, and a cortisone shot. Nothing worked.

Now he goes under the knife — Lillard will have surgery to repair his abdominal issue and will be re-evaluated in a couple of months. At that point it will be March, and the currently 16-24 Trail Blazers will have to ask if it’s worth it for him to return so they can make a play-in push.

Hopefully for Lillard, this fixes the issue and next time he does step on a court, whenever that is, we get to see the dynamic top-10 in the league player again. We all miss watching that Lillard.

The question now is what does this mean for the Trail Blazers heading into the trade deadline? Will interim GM Joe Cronin be aggressive in retooling the team and trade CJ McCollum or Jusuf Nurkic? Does he have the backing of ownership to be that aggressive, or is he more of a caretaker until a new GM is hired? Nobody knows the answers to those questions outside Portland, and everyone is watching to see what they do.

Highlight of the Night: Tyler Herro was one second away from triple-double

Miami continued to show off its depth and strength of culture, going into Atlanta and thrashing the Hawks 115-91 despite no Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo.

Tyler Herro continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with a team-high 21 points off the bench, plus 11 assists and nine rebounds. Herro wanted the triple-double, and if there had been just one more second on the clock…

Last night’s scores:

Boston 119, Indiana 100
Charlotte 109, Philadelphia 100
Washington 112, Orlando 106
Miami 115, Atlanta 91
New York 108, Dallas 85
Houston 128, San Antonio 124
Cleveland 111, Utah 91
Brooklyn 138, Chicago 112
Sacramento 125, LA Lakers 116

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

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

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
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

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
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

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.

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Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.