Notes from 2022 NBA schedule release: LeBron chasing Kareem, ‘baseball’ series

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The full NBA schedule dropped on Wednesday, all 1,230 games.

It’s a lot of information. Outside of the games you don’t want to miss, there’s a lot of ground to cover. So here are some news and notes from around the NBA about the schedule release.

• One thing the schedule makers couldn’t predict: When LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most regular season points in NBA history. LeBron is 1,325 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, and at his scoring pace of last season (27.1 a game), it would take 49 games to get there. It’s unlikely the Lakers will play LeBron in every one of their first 49 games this season as they try to keep him fresh for the playoffs (and there could be minor injuries that keep him out a few games) but expect to see some massaging of televised games schedule as we get into February and beyond, making sure LeBron is on national television when he breaks the record.

• The NBA says it cut down on team travel this season, with the average team traveling 41,000 miles. That is down 2,000 from last season.

• How the league is doing that: 55 “baseball series” sets where a road team plays two games in a row against the same home team. For example, the Boston Celtics head to Charlotte to face LaMelo Ball and the Hornets on Jan. 14, then both teams are off on the 15th and play again in Charlotte on the 16th. The upsides to this: It does reduce travel, which is good for player recovery; and those second games in a set can be a little more playoff like as teams adjust strategies and matchups based on what did and didn’t work in the first game. The downside is for people who go to the games. First, NBA fans aren’t used to and may skip the second game of that series, although the NBA says it didn’t see evidence of that in a smaller sample size in past seasons (that’s also less of an issue when an elite team like Boston comes to town, but is anyone looking to see the Magic or Thunder back-to-back?). Second, what if Jayson Tatum tweaks his ankle and has to sit out a couple of weeks in January — Charlotte fans will not see Tatum when he comes to town. That can be an issue when a star like Trae Young, Luka Doncic, or LeBron James comes to a city and the locals do not get to see him play because both games are within a day of each other.

• Add in times a visiting team can play the Knicks/Nets or Lakers/Clippers without traveling, and you get 88 sets of road games without travel this season.

• The best schedule release video goes to the New Orleans Pelicans, playing off the rumor GM David Griffin played piano to impress Zion Williamson.

• The Brooklyn Nets dropped from 26 nationally televised games a season ago to 13 this season because of the uncertainty about their roster and whether Kevin Durant will be on it (nationally televised meaning the game is on TNT, ESPN, or ABC).

• The Nets’ 13 is still two more nationally televised games than the Heat. The team that had the best record in the East last season, that made the Eastern Conference Finals, that went to the NBA Finals just a couple of years ago, that has Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo apparently isn’t sexy enough for the NBA schedule makers. The Heat are not even in the top 10 of teams with the most televised games. If any team should feel snubbed by the schedule makers, it’s Miami.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have the most nationally televised games with 30 (starting on opening night). They are followed by LeBron James and the Lakers (27), the Celtics (25), the 76ers and Bucks (23 each).

Ja Morant was happy with the Grizzlies getting 18 nationally televised games, including on Christmas.

 

• Nine teams have just one nationally televised game: Jazz, Kings, Magic, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs and Thunder. That’s a surprisingly low number for the Jazz, but it speaks to the depth of their rebuild (and the fact everyone around the league expects Donovan Mitchell to get traded).

• The NBA scheduled 45 games on weekends that start at noon Eastern (or a couple of hours later) this season because that puts them on in prime time in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. There are big stars in many of those games.

• The Houston Rockets have 10 of their first 13 games on the road this season, tying an NBA record for most road games in the first 13 of the season.

Ben Simmons returns to Philadelphia on November 22 (a TNT game), assuming he plays.

• The NBA is going international again, with the Bulls facing the Pistons on Jan. 19 in Paris, and the Heat and Spurs will play in Mexico City on Dec. 17.

• The final day of the NBA regular season is April 9, and all 30 teams will play that day.

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury

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Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.

 

Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’

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While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’

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Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80

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Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.