Three Things to Know: Injuries, ejection, huge comebacks, highlight wild NBA night

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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) Injuries just before the All-Star break suck, just ask Anthony Davis, Chris Paul

All-Star week, for most players a week off to relax with friends, maybe get away to Mexico or Las Vegas, a chance to let their body heal a little after grinding through 70% of the NBA season.

Anthony Davis is going to spend it with ice packs and treatment on his right ankle after he rolls it badly on a play where Malik Monk threw a pass behind him, Davis leapt and spun to get it, Rudy Gobert backing up lightly bumps him (nothing malicious, it was a basketball play) and Davis just came down wrong.

The X-rays were negative, Davis will get an MRI on Thursday, and the Lakers say he will be re-evaluated after the break (ESPN reports he is out at least two weeks). Don’t be surprised if he misses a fair amount of time, this could well be a Grade 2 sprain. For more on how this game ended, skip ahead to No. 2 on our three things.

Chris Paul — slated to play in the All-Star Game Sunday — will undergo an MRI on his injured hand suffered Thursday night.

The play happened just before he got ejected — skip ahead to No. 3 on our three things to see that fiasco — when Paul deflected a Dennis Schroder pass and instantly grabbed his hand. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious, but Adam Silver better have an emergency call up in his back pocket for the All-Star Game, just in case.

2) Shorthanded Nets come from 28 back to beat Knicks; Lakers comeback on Jazz

The Knicks were in charge of this cross-town showdown — and should have been. No Kevin Durant (knee), no Kyrie Irving (refusal to get the vaccine), no Ben Simmons (still readying himself after the trade) for Brooklyn. New York led by as many as 28.

And the Nets rallied to win. In Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn dominated the fourth quarter, 38-19 and finished off New York 111-106 behind 20 points from Seth Curry and the fact rookie Cam Thomas is a walking bucket already.

Durant decided to call out Knicks fans — and have some fun with the cross-bridge rivalry — because the Nets fans were the loud ones in the fourth.

Out West, the Lakers lost Davis and were down double digits in the fourth quarter when LeBron James took over with 15 points in the frame (meanwhile, the Jazz mentally left early on vacation). This was vintage LeBron and Lakers fans — desperate for something positive this season — were into it. Meanwhile, Jazz defenders were standing around blaming each other while Austin Reaves was sinking the dagger in them.

3) Watch Chris Paul get ejected because referee runs into him

Fairly early in the third quarter, Chris Paul was grabbing his injured right hand when the Suns were frustrated with an out-of-bounds call. They all complained, but CP3 got in J.T. Orr’s ear specifically and earned a technical for it.

Orr walked over to the scorer’s table, Paul walked with him to continue to complain, Orr made the official call then spun around, got in Paul’s path and bumped into CP3 — then ejected Paul for contact with an official.

Terrible ejection.

What bothers me about this one — and other plays like it — is the “we have to stick up and defend our fellow referee even when he’s wrong” mentality. (Which we too often see from law enforcement and others in positions of power too often in society, but that’s another topic.) What could have happened here is another official coming over to Ott, pulling him aside and saying, “Hey, you spun into him, it’s not something to eject Paul over,” everyone could put their egos aside and get the call right rather than feel insulted and injured. Instead, nobody is going to question that call of another official, so a bad call just goes unquestioned.

That wasn’t my favorite call of the night. That honor went to the official to gave Patrick Beverley and Gary Trent Jr. double technicals before the game even tipped off. (You’ll be shocked, shocked to learn Beverley instigates this.

Highlight of the night: Monte Morris drains game-winner against Warriors

This could have been in the comeback situation as well because the Warriors led all game, but the scrappy Nuggets hung around all game and had a chance to tie or win it at the end, down two. Denver got the ball to Nikola Jokic, who found a wide-open Monte Morris for the game-winning 3-pointer.

Watch that again, and focus on Stephen Curry. He has Morris, but he instead gets sucked into the paint, looking like he might help on Jokic but hesitating — he basically guards nobody through the play. Curry admitted he blew it after the game.

Yesterday’s scores:

Atlanta 130, Orlando 109
Detroit 112, Boston 111
Indiana 113, Washington 108
Brooklyn 111, New York 106
Chicago 125, Sacramento 118
Portland 123, Memphis 119
Toronto 103, Minnesota 91
San Antonio 114, Oklahoma City 106
Phoenix 124, Houston 121
Denver 117, Golden State 116
LA Lakers 106, Utah 101

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

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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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

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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

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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

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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.