Three things to Know: Markkanen joins high-scoring show, drops career-high 49


Three Things To Know 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 that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Markkanen joins high-scoring show, drops career-high 49

Lauri Markkanen has found a comfort level in Utah as a finisher he has shown nowhere else in his career.

“I’ve said it over and over again this year, it’s just my teammates, the coaching staff, they put me in the right spots to succeed,” Markkanen said Thursday, via the Associated Press. “My teammates did a great job delivering me the ball and it was just finishing my shots.”

He finished them to the tune of a career-high 49 points.

Markkanen’s outburst sparked a 131-114 Jazz win over the Rockets, a needed win for a Utah team that has stumbled of late and fallen below .500 and into the play-in (leaving Danny Ainge and the front office with some hard choices heading into the trade deadline, but that’s another story).

One of the reported hesitations when Ainge and the Jazz traded away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert last summer was that owner Ryan Smith wanted to be sure his team had an All-Star when the Jazz hosted the NBA All-Star Game this year. It looks like he’ll get that wish in the form of Markkanen, who has played well enough for the coaches to put him in as a reserve. Games like this add to the odds he gets the invite.

2) Tatum’s triple-double sparks Celtics, who snap Mavericks’ win streak

After a frustrating loss to Oklahoma City, Jayson Tatum said the Celtics had gotten into the bad habit of picking and choosing when they played hard and were focused. That had led to a couple of straight losses on the road.

They brought the focus Thursday night on national television and reminded everyone why they have been the best team in the NBA for much of the season.

Jayson Tatum was at the forefront of a bounce-back game and put together just his second career triple-double — 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists — to spark a 124-95 win over Dallas, snapping the Mavericks’ seven-game winning streak.

As much as the 3-pointers were falling again and the offense was clicking, the Boston defense holding Luka Doncic to “just” 23 points on 7-of-23 shooting was the key to the game. Doncic has overwhelmed everyone of late, the Celtics made him look human.

The Celtics close out this road trip in San Antonio before heading home for a couple of games.

3) No surprises here: LeBron, Durant lead NBA All-Star fan voting

You, the fans, have spoken — and you want big-name, established stars in Salt Lake City next month for the All-Star Game.

The NBA released the first round of fan voting on Thursday, and LeBron James and Kevin Durant would be the team captains, they had the most votes from each conference (they would pick the teams playground-style on TNT, as has been done in recent years).

Based on this early fan voting, the starters would be:

WEST: LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic.
EAST: Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell

Lurking nearby and close to the top five in the West is Zion Williamson in the frontcourt, and in the East Jayson Tatum and James Harden are close. These fan votes for the starters will count for 50% of the total for each player, with votes from NBA players counting for 25%, and votes from a panel of NBA media making up the other 25%. (It will be interesting to see what kind of support Irving gets from players and the media, he’s unquestionably played well enough to be an All-Star, but will he get the starting nod?)

That is just the starting five, the reserves for each conference are picked by a vote of the coaches. From there all the players are put in a pool (starters and bench players are separated) and picked by the two captains for their teams.

Fan All-Star voting continues at the NBA app and through Jan. 21 (there is no voting via social media this year). On Jan. 6, Jan. 13, Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 all fan votes will count triple.

Damian Lillard says Trail Blazers shut him down, talks loyalty to Portland


Players feel the wrath of fans for load management in the NBA, but more often than not it’s a team’s medical and training staff — driven by analytics and the use of wearable sensors — that sit a player. Guys don’t get to the NBA not wanting to compete.

Case in point, Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers have shut him down for the rest of the season, but he told Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick Show that it was a team call, not his.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my decision at all. I think maybe the team protecting me from myself… Every time that I’ve had some type injury like that kind of get irritated or aggravated or something like that, it’s come from just like a heavy load, and stress, and just, you know, going out there and trying to go above and beyond. So, you know, I would say just; there is something there, and also them just trying to protect me from myself as well.”

Maybe it’s a little about protecting Lillard at age 32 — who played at an All-NBA level this season — but it’s more about lottery odds.

Portland and Orlando are tied for the league’s fifth and sixth-worst records. The team with the fifth worst record has a 10.5% chance at the No.1 pick, the sixth worst is 9%. More than that, the fifth-worst record has a 42% chance of moving up into the top four at the draft lottery, for the sixth seed that is 37.2%. Not a huge bump in the odds, but the chances are still better for the fifth seed than the sixth, so the Trail Blazers as an organization are going for it.

Lillard also talked about his loyalty to Portland, which is partly tied to how he wants to win a ring — the way Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis Antetokounmpo did, with the team and city that drafted them.

“I just have a way that I want to get things done for myself… I just have my stance on what I want to see happen, but in this business, you just never know.”

Other teams are watching Lillard, but they have seen this movie before. Nothing will happen until Lillard asks for a trade and he has yet to show any inclination to do so.

But he’s got time to think about everything as he is not taking the court again this season.

Seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge officially retires

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

LaMarcus Aldridge retired once due to a heart condition (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome), back in 2021. That time it didn’t take, he came back to the then-a-super-team Nets and showed there was something in the tank averaging 12.9 points (on 55% shooting), 5.5 rebounds and a block a game. However, the Nets did not bring him back this season (leaning into Nic Claxton) and no other offers were forthcoming.

Friday, Aldridge made it official and retired.

Aldridge had a career that will earn him Hall of Fame consideration: 19.1 points a game over 16 seasons, five-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star, and one of the faces of the Portland Trail Blazers during his prime years in the Pacific Northwest. Teammates and former coaches (including Gregg Popovich in San Antonio) called him a consummate professional after his initial retirement.

This time Aldridge got to announce his retirement on his terms, which is about as good an exit as there is.



Report: NBA minimum draft age will not change in new CBA, one-and-done remains


While the NBA — representing the owners — and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) continue last-minute negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) before an opt-out deadline Friday night at midnight, one point of contention is off the table:

The NBA draft age will not change in the new CBA, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The NBA one-and-done rule will remain in place.

The NBA one-and-done rule is unpopular with fans and college coaches (and, of course, players coming up). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had worked to eliminate that restriction saying it was unfair, but he could not get it done.

There wasn’t much motivation from either side to make a move. From the players’ union perspective, lowering the draft eligibility age to 18 would bring more young players in to develop in the league and take away roster spots from veterans (and the union is made up of those veterans, not undrafted players). The union has suggested ways to keep veterans on the roster (possibly a roster expansion) as mentors, but a deal could not be reached. As for the teams, plenty of GMs would prefer an extra year to evaluate players, especially with them going up against better competition in college/G-League/Overtime Elite/overseas.

There are other impediments to a CBA deal, such as the details around a mid-season NBA tournament, the configuration of the luxury tax, veteran contract extension language, a games-played minimum to qualify for the league’s end-of-season awards.

If the sides do not reach a deal by midnight, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would likely opt out of the current CBA, meaning it would end on June 30. The two sides would have until then to reach a deal on a new CBA to avoid a lockout (although they could go into September before it starts to mess with the NBA regular season calendar and not just Summer League).


Timberwolves big man Naz Reid out indefinitely with fractured wrist

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: Naz Reid had surgery on that fractured wrist and will be out six weeks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That means he is not only out for the rest of the regular season but likely the first couple of rounds of the playoffs, if the Timberwolves can make it that far.


This sucks for a Timberwolves team finding its groove.

Part of that groove was the offensive spark of big man Naz Ried off the bench, but now he will be out indefinitely with a fractured wrist, the Timberwolves announced. From the official release:

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) taken yesterday at Mayo Clinic Square by Dr. Kelechi Okoroha on Reid revealed a left scaphoid fracture. He will be out indefinitely and further updates on his progress will be provided when available.

A scaphoid fracture involves one of the small bones at the base of the hand that connects the wrist and fingers. Reid injured his hand on this dunk attempt against the Suns, he instinctively used his left hand to help break the fall and it took the weight of the landing.

Impressively, and despite being in pain, Reid played through the injury.

Reid developed into the sixth man, spark plug roll for the Timberwolves behind starters Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. In his last five games, Reid averaged 18.8 points on 59.1% shooting (including 45% from 3 on four attempts a night) and grabbed 5.2 rebounds in his 22 minutes.

Reid is a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves want to keep him and have had talks with him, but he will have plenty of suitors.

His loss will be a blow to Minnesota, especially heading into crucial games down the stretch — starting with the Lakers Friday night (a team Reid had some big games against) — and into the postseason. Expect coach Chris Finch to stagger Towns and Gobert a little more, and he can turn to Nate Knight or Luka Garza off the bench, but their role would be limited (especially come the playoffs).