Nets’ Joe Harris drops Luka Doncic with dribble move (VIDEO)

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If you didn’t know who he was before, you remember the Nets’ Joe Harris as the guy who beat Stephen Curry at the All-Star Saturday Three-Point Contest. In Curry’s hometown. That takes some ice water in the veins.

Monday night, Luka Doncic found out Harris can do more than just spot up.

Brooklyn’s D'Angelo Russell drove to the free throw line, and when the Dallas defense collapsed he kicked it out to Harris at the arc. Doncic closed out hard, Harris put the ball on the floor, and… timber.

Doncic got some back. He drained a half-courter to beat the halftime buzzer.

Then Doncic put one up on Harris with his stepback.

Brooklyn was in complete control of this game through three quarters.

Pat Riley: Heat will pursue two max players in 2020

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In the 1995-96 season, the Heat traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

In 2004, the Heat traded for Shaquille O’Neal.

In 2010, the Heat signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Will Miami makes its next star splash in 2020?

Near-star Josh Richardson is locked into a relatively cheap contract for two more years. Bam Adebayo has two more seasons on his relatively low-paying rookie-scale deal. Justise Winslow, who’s maybe finding his groove, is guaranteed two more seasons on his rookie-scale extension.

That core could appeal to free agents in 2020, when Hassan Whiteside‘s, Ryan Anderson‘s and Goran Dragic‘s contracts expire.

Heat:

Heat president Pat Riley, in an interview with Jason Jackson:

We’re chasing a playoff spot when we’re young. And then we’re going to be chasing some players that can come in. If we can get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple years.

We’ve done this four times now, had a good group of players, young players, and then either through free agency or through trade brought the superstar in.

In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room. We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts. And we’re going to do that. So, we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.

We’re very fluid. We’re very on top of it. And we are a destination place, Jax. The tax, the sun, the beautiful city. It’s a very progressive city, diverse city. So, we are a destination place. And we’re going to be moving in that direction.

That’s quite ambitious. But Riley has executed grand plans before. That will only embolden him to pursue this one.

It won’t be easy.

Miami projects to have just $34 million of cap space in 2020. A single max salary that summer projects to be $30 million-$41 million, depending on the player’s experience.

James Johnson ($16,047,100) and Kelly Olynyk ($13,598,243) have player options for the 2020-21 season. It’s difficult to see a 33-year-old Johnson or 29-year-old Olynyk declining those options. The Heat also owe Dion Waiters $12,650,000 that season.

Of course, there’s plenty of time to unload contracts. If this is Riley’s vision, keep an eye on those three players between now and next year’s trade deadline. Miami could also move its next two first-round picks to unload salary.

But even if the Heat clear double-max cap room, whom would the spend it on?

Anthony Davis is the big prize in 2020 free agency. After that, it’s slim pickings.

Most of this year’s All-Stars are already under contract for 2020-21. Several more – Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker, D'Angelo Russell and Nikola Vucevic – will be free agents this summer. While some could sign a one-year or 1+1 contract to return to free agency next summer, I wouldn’t bet on that. Dwyane Wade will be retired by then and is already in Miami. Dirk Nowitzki will also likely retire by then, but even if he doesn’t, he’s neither leaving the Mavericks nor commanding a substantial salary.

That leaves Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Simmons will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Even if he doesn’t sign one, he’ll be restricted in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to see him getting away in free agency that year.

Lowry will be 34. The Heat showed interest in him before, but that was five years ago. As he leaves his prime, he won’t draw nearly as much attention.

Aldridge will become a 2020 free agent only if waived. His $24 million salary for 2020-21 is $7 million guaranteed. But if his team would rather pay him $7 million to leave than $24 million to stay, that’d say something about his value.

Other players will emerge. This is far from set in stone. But a little more than a year out, the 2020 free-agent class looks very weak.

Is that really the year the Heat want to splurge?

Riley has already once admitted he regretted saying he planned to go whale hunting. I wonder whether his 2020 plan will eventually inspire a similar evaluation.

D’Angelo Russell calls trade from Lakers the ‘best thing that happened in my career’

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D'Angelo Russell is now an Eastern Conference All-Star, albeit as an injury replacement as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Just a short time ago, Russell was a top pick for the Los Angeles Lakers before a trade sent him to New York.

Russell is producing for the Nets, although whether he’s doing it at an All-Star level is up for some debate. Meanwhile, things are a bit tumultuous back in his old home of LA.

Trade rumors have plagued the young bucks on the Lakers all season long, and just because the trade deadline has passed doesn’t mean guys like Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, or Josh Hart can relax.

For that, Russell is glad. Talking to Bleacher Report this week, the Nets guard said that he was happy that he didn’t have to go through what the youngsters in Los Angeles are dealing with.

Via B/R:

“I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell says. Later, he adds: “If [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career.”

It’s certainly true that Russell would likely be part of a package or a superstar offer if he were still with the Lakers today. Whether LA will be able to pull off a trade with the guys they have now is another question altogether.

In any case, no young player wants to know that they aren’t wanted, or feel inferior, or be seen as merely an asset. Being in LA is great for LeBron James, but it doesn’t seem all that beneficial to younger players. It seems like Russell has found a home in Brooklyn and is happy to be part of a burgeoning young core with the Nets.

Three Things to Know: Kerr, Warriors start vacation early, Lillard takes advantage in win

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Steve Kerr, Warriors start vacation early; Damian Lillard, Blazers take advantage in a victory. NBA players generally treat the last game before the All-Star break the way you treat your last day at work/school before vacation — they have already checked out mentally. There was plenty of that with the Warriors heading into Wednesday night — DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston were all given the night off.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant played but started their vacation a quarter early. Both were brilliant through the first three: Durant had 16 points in the first quarter and after three had 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting; Curry led the Warriors third quarter push with 18 points in the frame on his way to 32 points on 24 shots. However, both of them were completely scoreless in the fourth.

The, after a controversial flagrant foul call on Draymond Green in the fourth, Steve Kerr decided to start his vacation early and got ejected.

Kerr will be writing a check to the NBA for that outburst. The league can’t let that slide. However, Kerr is right about the call — Green was in no way deserving of a flagrant. Collins was going in for a dunk, Green fouled him to stop it, but the definition of a flagrant foul is “unnecessary and/or excessive contact,” and you’re not going to convince me there was any of that. I know the league wants to protect players and not allow contact to the head, but there was very little if any and it was incidental. Even Zach Collins (the guy fouled) was surprised by the call. That was a common foul.

Portland owned the fourth 35-12 to get the win — credit the Blazers for showing up ready to play on getaway day. It was evident back in the second quarter when Maurice Harkless out-hustled five Warriors down the court for a transition dunk. It was evident in the play of a bench unit that has been up and down this season but brought it in this one, especially in the fourth, when Jake Layman had 12 of his 17 of the night and Rodney Hood pitched in five.

Lillard finished the game with 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting, the Warriors simply had no answer.

It was a good day for the Trail Blazers off the court, too — they added Enes Kanter for the stretch run off the buyout market. Kanter will provide some more scoring punch off the bench to go with Zach Collins (and behind Jusuf Nurkic), the Turkish star knows how to get buckets. He’s of limited help (if any) once the rotations shrink in the postseason because he gets exposed on defense, but Kanter will make sure the Blazers are well positioned entering the postseason.

2) James Harden extends his scoring streak to 31 to tie Wilt Chamberlain, but it’s not enough to get Houston the win. James Harden is an MVP candidate because he is willing the Rockets into the postseason.

Wednesday night he scored 42 points against the Timberwolves, extending his streak of 30+ point games to 31, tying the legendary Wilt Chamberlain for the second longest such streak ever. Remember when Harden started this streak the Rockets were a below .500 team sitting at 13th in the West, now they are fifth.

But Harden can only do so much. Or, more accurately, Harden can only do so much to cover up the putrid Houston defense. Especially with Clint Capela out. Houston lost to Minnesota 121-111 on Wednesday because they cannot get stops — Jeff Teague had 27 points on 16 shots, Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points on 18 shots, and as a team the Timberwolves had an offensive rating of 129. Minnesota got the shots in wanted and knocked them down all game.

Plus, Minnesota made some defensive plays.

That’s what separates this Rockets team from a season ago (that and Chris Paul is still good but looks like he has lost a step). Last year’s Rockets team was a threat to the Warriors because of their defense, maybe that team can flip the switch and come back for the playoffs, but after 57 games it looks like this is who the Rockets are. And that’s not going to be good enough.

3) Nets win triple-overtime thriller thanks to DeMarre Carroll three, then D’Angelo Russell sinking dagger. The most entertaining game of the night happened in Cleveland. Which is why you didn’t watch it. But we’ve got the highlights of overtime for you, complete with DeMarre Carroll forcing triple overtime with a shot at the buzzer, then D'Angelo Russell sealing the win with the last of his 36 points on the night. There are some nice Collin Sexton highlights in there as well.

BONUS Thing To Know: Kevin Knox had the ridiculous poster dunk on Ben Simmons. Damn, this is just nasty.

Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook passes Chamberlain, Harden still chasing

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook passes Wilt Chamberlain with 10th straight triple-double — and it’s still Paul George’s night. I fear we take what Russell Westbrook is doing for granted. Nobody — not Jordan, Dr. J., Bird, Magic, LeBron, Smush Parker (especially Smush Parker) — had been able to average a triple-double for a season since Oscar Robertson did it back when John F. Kennedy was president and gas cost 28¢ a gallon. It was an unreachable mark.

Russell Westbrook is on pace to do it for a third straight season. The former MVP is averaging 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game.

Monday night his 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists was his 10th consecutive triple-double — surpassing Wilt Chamberlain to set a new NBA record. Any time someone passes Wilt on a scoring list, that’s a legendary feat.

And he was the second best player on his team.

Paul George continued his “put me in the MVP race” run of play with 47 points 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The MVP talk for George is no joke.

Westbrook and George made even more history: This was the first time ever teammates have had 20-point triple-doubles in the same game.

Oklahoma City picked up the 120-111 win against Portland in a game that could have seeding implications in a crowded West down the line.

2) James Harden’s 30-point streak extends, barely, to 30 games in Rockets win. Dallas looked as if it was going to be the team. At some point, James Harden’s streak of 30+ point games is going to end. He’s going to miss some shots, a team will have the waves of long defenders to throw at him, or like Monday night the Rockets could be well ahead (21 points) and Harden would sit the fourth and not be needed, not have the chance to get his numbers.

Harden almost was going to ride this one out on the pine, but Dallas made a 17-7 fourth-quarter run that had the game in single digits more than midway through the fourth, so Mike D’Antoni had to turn back to his star to seal the win.

Harden scored 11 quick points to secure the victory. He drained a step-back three and then hit another from beyond the arc, he got to the line for some free throws. Finally, he drained a deep three that extended the streak — watch him laugh and point to his mother as he runs back down the court.

That’s 30 games in a row of 30+ points for Harden, one short of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s second-longest streak ever of 31 games. The all-time streak is 65 from Wilt, and it’s wild to think Harden isn’t even halfway there.

Houston got the 120-104 win Monday, and that’s been the real MVP move about Harden’s streak — when it started the Rockets were below .500 and out of the playoffs at 13th in the West. Harden is in a zone and putting up points, but more importantly, he’s willed his teams to win and into the postseason chase.

3) Brooklyn makes Toronto work for it, but Kawhi Leonard hits the game winner. Even if he didn’t call bank. A lot of teams, down heading into the final minutes against one of the better teams in the NBA, would roll over and accept their fate. Not Brooklyn. They scrap, they fight, they will not go quietly into that good night.

Monday night the never-say-die Nets went on an 8-0 run late to make it a tight game and force a dramatic ending.D'Angelo Russell hit from beyond the arc to put the Nets up three, but then Danny Green answered to tie the game. However, after a Joe Harris miss, Kawhi Leonard got the rock and knew he was brought to Toronto to hit shots like this.

That Leonard shot had echoes Kobe Bryant — got to his spot at the elbow, elevated, and wasn’t afraid to use the glass. Not a bad guy to mimic.

After the game, Leonard admitted he didn’t call bank. Doesn’t matter. Russell missed a contested three as time ran out, and the Raptors held on for the 127-125 win.