Three things to know: Drama has Nets falling, how far will it go?

0 Comments

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 that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Drama has Nets falling, how far will it go?

Kyrie Irving will miss at least five games after being suspended by the Nets for a Tweet promoting an antisemitic movie. That seemed to prompt an apology.

Ben Simmons is out at least two more games with a sore knee, not that it is a huge loss the way he has been playing to start the season (6.2 points a game on a 45.6 true shooting percentage, with a G-League level 9.6 PER). His name is already popping up in trade rumors.

Brooklyn has already parted ways with its coach, Steve Nash, and appears willing to suffer another massive PR hit in a desperation move hiring Ime Udoka to replace him — the coach suspended for the season by the Celtics following his actions surrounding an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

All that on a 2-6 team with the worst defense in the NBA.

Whether it’s Udoka or someone else, no coach is suddenly going to turn Simmons back into an elite perimeter defender (he has not been that this season) or find enough rim protection on this roster.

Things are bad in Brooklyn. Really bad. Remember after last season when Nets’ general manager Sean Marks said he needed to focus on re-establishing the selfless, hard-working team culture Brooklyn had a few years ago? “The culture isn’t what it quite was. It’s going to be our job to pick that up.” How’s that going so far? Is hiring Udoka in the wake of the allegations against him picking the culture back up?

There’s a sense in some quarters that this is still a team with Durant — and he has played at an elite level this season — so how far can they really fall?

But in other quarters, front offices are watching and wondering if the Nets will again explore a Durant trade — but unlike this past summer, this time be serious about it. (This summer, the Nets’ plan was never to trade Durant or Irving, but to get the band back together and hope that winning would change everything. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.)

To be clear, there are no reports the Nets or GM Marks are even considering this path. Nothing is on the table. And before anyone starts to think “blow it up and rebuild,” remember the Nets traded their picks and ability to do that to the Houston Rockets for James Harden (who saw the writing on the wall and forced his way to Philly). Tanking is out for Brooklyn because it would only enrich Houston.

However, if the house keeps burning in Brooklyn, a re-evaluation of where this roster is headed must be part of the process.

If the Nets want to rebuild this roster, trading Durant for real talent and restocking draft picks may be the best path (something Vincent Goodwill discussed on Peacock’s Brother From Another today). Irving is a free agent this summer and is virtually untradeable right now — he very well may walk (what the market for him will be this summer should be interesting). Simmons’ value couldn’t be lower. While some of the Nets’ quality role players could bring back other role players or some picks, those are not game-changers.

Trading Durant would return a massive haul that could set the Nets on whatever their next path will be.

The Nets are not there, yet. There is zero talk of the Nets exploring a Durant trade right now. We are just eight games into a new season, there is time to turn this ship around in Brooklyn, even if from the outside that seems a futile task. Even if the Nets reach the point they would consider a Durant trade, that is more of an offseason move than a February deadline move.

But if the question is how far the Nets can fall this season, a Durant trade is the bottom. And it’s not out of the question.

2) Warriors once again can’t get stops, drop another on the road to fall to 3-6

Nobody is hitting the panic button around the Warriors. Their starting five — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney — remains one of the best lineups in the league (a +24.1 net rating this season) and nobody is questioning Jordan Poole as a sixth man.

But red flags are popping up — the latest is the team’s fourth straight loss (all on the road), this one to Orlando 130-129 on Thursday night. Jalen Suggs put up 26 and was clutch late, Paolo Banchero had 22, and the Orlando bench of Chuma Okeke, Kevon Harris and R.J. Hampton outplayed the Golden State bench.

This was the season Golden State talked about starting its transition to its youth, but that has gone poorly through the opening weeks of the season. Jonathan Kuminga is out of the rotation right now and didn’t play against the Magic. James Wiseman and Moses Moody combined to play a total of 21 minutes, Steve Kerr is not trusting them, and with that the Warriors bench has struggled all season.

This may mean heavier minutes for veterans — Curry played 38 in this game. Draymond Green didn’t throw the youngsters completely under the bus after this loss, but he wasn’t throwing them flowers, either, via NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I’m not gonna sit up here and point fingers or point to our young guys. It’s not how we roll,” Green said. “They gotta learn, they gotta figure it out. So yes, in fact, it is some of their fault. It is definitely some of our young guys’ fault. But it’s also some of my fault, and some of Steph’s fault and some of Klay’s fault. It’s all of our fault.

“We’re not playing at the level that it takes to win games. … I changed the tune of my answer. Yes, it is the young guys’ fault. But it is not more their fault than it is our fault.”

On the defensive end, the Warriors can’t stop fouling — Orlando took 46 free throw attempts to the Warriors’ 15. That’s not the officials, that’s all on the Warriors and it is a season-long pattern that is costing them games.

The Warriors have a lot of work to do to turn it around, but unlike the team in Brooklyn, or the more famous team in Los Angeles, the path back to contention is clear and reachable. It’s way, way too early to panic about the Warriors.

But Golden State is not playing good basketball right now and is digging itself a hole (the Warriors are already four games back of the Suns).

3) Nikola Jokic racks up historic triple-double in win

Nikola Jokic finished Thursday night with 15 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds, and he helped spark a fourth-quarter rally to give the Nuggets a 122-110 win against the Thunder.

With that, Jokic became the all-time leader in triple-doubles among centers, passing Wilt Chamberlain.

Jokic is averaging 20.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 9.1 assists a game this season — he may end up in the MVP conversation again with his play (he is going for a third straight).

However, the highlight of the night went to Jamal Murray.

Murray had 14 in the fourth quarter to spark the Denver win. Murray is back and he makes the Nuggets a threat in the West.

Celtics lock-up Al Horford with two-year, $20 million extension

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Brad Stevens has locked up the core of this Celtics team — the one that reached the Finals last season and has the best record in the NBA to start this one — through the summer of 2025.

They did that with a two-year, $20 million extension (that kicks in next season). The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and later confirmed by the Celtics.

Horford, 36, is making $26.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $109 million deal he signed in Philadelphia. While he never fit well as a stretch four next to Joel Embiid, he has worked well as a role player in Boston’s front line. The Celtics have locked him up at a deal closer to the league average and about his value now, at an average of $10 million a season (both years are fully guaranteed). It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a low enough number that if Father Time starts to win the race it doesn’t hurt Boston much.

With Robert Williams still out following knee surgery, Horford has seen his minutes increase to start this season but he has handled it well, averaging  10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 55.5% overall and 48.8% from 3-point range. Joe Mazzulla will likely try to get Horford some rest down the line when he can, but for now he’s leaning on the veteran.

And the team has rewarded him.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
0 Comments

Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

0 Comments

Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

0 Comments

Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.