Ben Simmons would become first player to make post-trade debut in playoffs

Ben Simmons at Brooklyn Nets Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden
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Traded from the 76ers to the Nets in February, Ben Simmons said he hoped to play in Philadelphia a month later. That didn’t happen. Nor did Simmons meet another targeted return date.

Finally, Simmons is reportedly set to make his Brooklyn debut Monday.

In Game 4 of the Nets-Celtics playoff series.

That’s a high-stakes time for a debut. Especially for Simmons. The last time he played, teammates reportedly suspected he faked a potential coronavirus exposure to dodge 76ers-Hawks Game 7. He hasn’t played all season due to some combination of trade demand/holdout, mental-health issues and back issues. His distinctive style – a tall point guard who’s an extremely reluctant shooter – could make it tough for him and his new teammates to mesh.

Even without Simmons’ unique complications, there’s no precedent for someone debuting for a new team in the playoffs after a trade.

Just 14 players have had their first appearance with a team that season come in the playoffs:

  • Jaylen Adams (2020 Portland Trail Blazers)
  • Ty Lawson (2018 Washington Wizards)
  • John Holland (2016 Boston Celtics)
  • Dorell Wright (2016 Miami Heat)
  • Dwayne Jones (2013 Golden State Warriors)
  • Scott Machado (2013 Golden State Warriors)
  • Tracy McGrady (2013 San Antonio Spurs)
  • Mike Brown (1998 Phoenix Suns)
  • Larry Krystkowiak (1991 Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Mike Mitchell (1990 San Antonio Spurs)
  • Ed Sherod (1982 New Jersey Nets)
  • Tom Hoover (1966 Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Jerry Fleishman (1953 New York Knicks)
  • Dick Schnittker (1953 Minneapolis Lakers)

Most of these are late-season signings. Krystkowiak missed the entire 1990-91 regular season due to injury then returned to the Bucks in the 1991 playoffs. Hoover signed with the Lakers well before the playoffs though didn’t play in the regular season. Dick Schnittker was coming off military service.

Just two of these players – Machado (Houston Rockets) and Fleishman (Philadelphia Warriors) – played for another team earlier in the season.

John Holland and Ed Sherod actually made their NBA debuts in the postseason.

But none were traded to their new teams.

That says something about about their level of play. They were mostly fringe NBA players, available for back-of-roster depth – not coveted in trades. Only Fleishman (13) and Ty Lawson (19) played more than even 10 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Simmons, a multi-time All-Star, was the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s return in the James Harden trade. The Nets will be down 2-1 or 3-0. They might not be counting on a ton from him, but expectations are more than minimal.

Even with Simmons coming in cold.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.