Three Things to Know: Injuries to Durant, Green mean less time for Nets, Warriors big 3s

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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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) Injuries deal Durant and Nets, Green and Warriors setbacks

Just as the wave of COVID upending the NBA is starting to fade, the basketball gods decided the two betting favorites for the title needed another hurdle in their season.

The Nets’ Kevin Durant will be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained knee against the Pelicans this weekend. Draymond Green — who has missed all but seven seconds of the last five Warriors games — will be out another two weeks minimum as an MRI showed the pain in his calf is tied to a disc issue in his lower back. It is likely Green is out longer than the minimum.

This is a setback for both teams as their “big three” try to develop (or regain) chemistry.

It’s a bigger blow to the Nets.

Last season, the trio of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played just 15 games together (including the playoffs). This season they have played two games together — with Kyrie Irving just brought back to the team but only allowed to play road games because he is unvaccinated — but that was about to change. The Nets will play 11 of their next 14 on the road, that was when the chemistry was to be built.

Durant likely will miss all of those games. That leaves little time to develop chemistry on the road the rest of the season.

The Nets will need Irving to be strong in those games to make up for the loss of Durant, who has played at an MVP level this season (missing this many games will essentially kill his MVP chances). Durant leads the NBA in scoring at 29.2 points per game, is playing 36.5 minutes per game (fifth-most in the league), and the Brooklyn offense falls off by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he is out.

We have yet to see the Warriors “big three” this season, but they have more time to get their chemistry right.

Green’s return timeline is vague. He will be re-evaluated closer to the end of the month, but back issues are delicate and hard to gauge. The idea he could be out until after the All-Star break is not out of the question.

He will be missed. Green is both a defensive quarterback — he is in the Defensive Player of the Year running — and a critical secondary playmaker when opposing teams trap Stephen Curry.

The good news for the Warriors is they are entering a softer part of the schedule, including a seven-game homestand that starts this week. Even if Green is out until after the All-Star break, that would give the Warriors 24 games together to build their chemistry and good habits before the playoffs start.

Green’s injury is a setback for the Warriors but not an insurmountable problem.

2) Who says Rudy Gobert doesn’t have an outside shot?

NBA players routinely wait a beat before taking their end-of-quarter/half heaves from beyond halfcourt, until just after the buzzer sounds, so it looks like they tried the shot but it doesn’t impact their stats.

Rudy Gobert took his heave just after the buzzer — but he drained it.

Not that it mattered in the end, the Jazz routed the Nuggets 125-102, snapping a four-game losing streak (that not so coincidentally was tied to games Gobert missed). Donovan Mitchell scored 31, Gobert finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds.

3) Cade Cunningham ejected because he dared show emotion on the court

What we want to see as fans is passion. Yes, team fans would like to see high-flying athleticism and their team win, but if we can see the passion and how much the player cares — if they leave it all on the court — they win our hearts.

Which is why the referees injecting themselves into the game in moments like the one that happened to Cade Cunningham Sunday make me angrier than they should. Let the players show their passion — this is an entertainment product.

Cunningham already had one technical from a play earlier against the Suns. In the third quarter, he threw down an athletic and impressive reverse slam over Jalen Smith, then pointed at him (or someone). Instantly he was hit with a second technical and ejected.

Here was how referee crew chief Kevin Cutler explained the ejection postgame, answering a question from pool reporter Rod Beard of the Detroit News:

“After he dunked the ball, he was assessed a technical foul for a physical taunt for pointing at the defender.”

He pointed. That’s not taunting worthy of an ejection, that’s just emotion.

We need more passion, more emotion in the game, not less, and the officials need to let it happen.

The ejection didn’t change the course of the game, it was a blowout Suns win, 135-108 in the end. Devin Booker led the way with 30 points.

Highlight of the Night: Kings’ Davis with the steal on one end, poster on other

This is just nasty: The Kings’ Terence Davis strips the ball from a driving Kevin Porter Jr. on one end, then slams it over Kenyon Martin Jr. on the other.

Last night’s scores:

Phoenix 135, Detroit 108
Houston 118, Sacramento 112
Minnesota 119, Golden State 99
Utah 125, Denver 102

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract


Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.


Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade


While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers


The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.