Dante Exum

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Nine NBA players from Australia donate $750,000 to recovery efforts from brush fires

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Brush fires are devastating the continent of Australia, and the damage is far from over.

To help their homeland, nine NBA players from Australia to banded together — along with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Foundation and the National Basketball Association (NBA) — to donate a combined $750,000 to rescue and relief efforts on the continent.

The players are Aron Baynes (Phoenix Suns), Jonah Bolden and Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Ryan Broekhoff (Dallas Mavericks), Matthew Dellavedova and Dante Exum (Cleveland Cavaliers), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Thon Maker (Detroit Pistons) and Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)

“We are heartbroken over the devastation these fires are causing all across our homeland,” the players said in a joint statement. “Our thoughts are with our families, friends and all of the people of Australia. We hope you feel our love and support and know that we will continue to bring awareness to this crisis globally and provide assistance in any way we can.”

More than 25.5 million acres — roughly the size of the state of Kentucky — have been burned down by the wildfires across Australia in recent weeks. Experts estimate the fires have impacted more than half-a-billion animals on the continent.

If you are interested in donating, follow these links to the Victorian government or the Australian Red Cross, or find other reputable relief agencies. Every donation will help.

Three Things to Know: Denver’s offense is back sparking seven-game win streak

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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) Denver’s offense is back sparking seven-game win streak. In November, Denver’s offense looked lost. Blame injuries, a changing rotation, Nikola Jokic’s conditioning, or Mercury being retrograde, what mattered is a top-10 offense from last season was bottom 10 for the month. Denver only kept winning because its defense gave up less than a point per possession.

The past seven games, Denver’s offense is back — third-best in the NBA over that stretch, using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers (which filters out garbage time). Jokic is making highlight passes, guys are moving off the ball, and every shot seems to fall. The Nuggets have won their last seven, including Monday night in Phoenix, thanks to a Jamal Murray jumper with 3.2 seconds left.

Murray finished the night with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting. Jokic had his seventh triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Denver’s win streak started with five straight games at home against teams they should beat, although there were some solid teams in there such as Portland and Oklahoma City. Then they went on the road and won a back-to-back against the LeBron-less Lakers and now Phoenix.

Maybe there is no signature win in that streak, but it has jumped Denver up to the two seed in the West, which is closer to where we thought this team would be before the season tipped-off. They have the roster and staying power to stay up in the top four through the regular season. Whether they have the talent and team to win a second-round playoff matchup will be the ultimate test, but that’s five months away.

For now, Denver has found it’s groove again and returned to being one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch.

2) Looking for scoring off the bench, Utah trades for Jordan Clarkson. The Utah Jazz have been good this season — 18-12 after a loss in Miami Monday night — but nothing like the darkhorse threat to the Lakers and Clippers some pundits (*raises hand*) predicted before the season. Utah doesn’t scare anyone in the West right now.

There have been a few reasons for that. One of them is depth — Utah is second-worst in the league in bench scoring per game (27.1 points per game). That’s been made worse by the hamstring injury to Mike Conley, which has forced Joe Ingles into the starting lineup and robbed the bench of even more depth.

It forced Utah to make a trade, sending Dante Exum and a couple of second-round picks to Cleveland for Jordan Clarkson, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Clarkson will get Utah buckets. In his sixth NBA season, Clarkson averages 14.6 points per game, shooting 37.1 percent from three, and the Cavaliers have been +5.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court this season. He’s not going to be a playmaker, he’s not going to defend well, but he can get points. And that’s what the Jazz need.

The Cavaliers can take a flier on Exum, seeing if he can fit in their young-and-not-yet-impressive backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Exum is a good defender who has shown flashes on offense — when he gets rolling downhill — and should get some run with Cleveland. Plus, the Cavaliers get a couple of additional second-round picks for their rebuild. They did well in this trade.

We’ll see if this trade works out for Utah, too.

3) Tacko Fall conducted the Boston Pops. Tacko Fall is many things. Tall. A fan favorite in Boston. A guy who needs high ceilings wherever he goes. One of two NBA players from Senegal (Gorgui Dieng). A project.

Maestro.

He proved that last one on Monday night, when Fall stole the show at the Boston Pops, conducting the orchestra in “Sleigh Ride.” He threw in a twirl for good measure.

Maybe the most impressive feat on that stage was from the tailor who made the custom tux for Fall.

We’d all like some Tacko for Christmas, but on the road against the Raptors it seems a long shot he gets in the game.

Cleveland reportedly trades Jordan Clarkson to Utah for Dante Exum

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The longest trade drought in NBA since the 1960s – lasting five-and-a-half months — has ended because the Utah Jazz need some scoring off the bench.

Cleveland is sending Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz for Dante Exum and a couple of second-round picks, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For the Jazz this is about depth — Utah is second-worst in the league in bench scoring per game (27.1 points per game, only Houston is worse). Clarkson is a quality rotational player averaging 14.6 points per game, shooting 37.1 percent from three, and the Cavaliers have been +5.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court this season. Clarkson can step right in and get Utah some buckets.

Utah gave Exum every chance to be their future point guard, but injuries slowed his development and he just never caught on like the front office believed he would. Exum is owed $9.6 million next season, and the second-round picks sent to Cleveland are to cover that expense. This trade eats into some of the money Cleveland can spend on a free agent next summer, but the rebuilding team should not be targeting big-money free agents right now anyway.

This is a good, low-risk move by the Jazz to try and boost a squad that is 18-11, but sixth in the West and not striking fear into anyone’s heart right now.

This is also the third straight season the Jazz and Cavaliers have made a trade.

The last NBA trade before this one was the Russell Westbrook/Chris Paul trade back in the summer. That long a break in trades was almost unprecedented, it was the longest non-lockout related break in trades since 1968. All the player movement over the summer led to the trade drought this fall and winter.

 

Mike Conley aggravates hamstring injury in first game back, reportedly could miss weeks

Mike Conley
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Jazz point guard Mike Conley missed two weeks with a left-hamstring injury then couldn’t make it even 20 minutes before leaving again.

That’s never a good sign.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Conley has underwhelmed in his first season with the Jazz. But his backups – Emmanuel Mudiay and Dante Exum – don’t inspire confidence. Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can share point-guard duties, but using those two there exposes Utah’s lack of wing depth.

The Jazz, primarily by trading for Conley, made a push for the present last summer. Yet, they’re just 16-11. They need Conley playing better, which will require him to build chemistry with his new teammates, which can’t happen while he’s out injured.

Did Utah rush him back too soon? It’s impossible to say what would have happened otherwise, but Conley aggravating his injury so quickly is certainly troubling.

Either way, the Jazz are in a bigger bind now.

76ers’ Brett Brown to coach Australia at Tokyo Olympics

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown will guide the Australian men’s team at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Basketball Australia said Wednesday he will succeed Andrej Lemanis, who coached the Boomers to the semifinals at the 2016 Olympics – the team’s best Olympic result – and this year’s World Cup. The governing body did not say how long Brown will coach Australia.

Australia is one of seven men’s teams to have already qualified for Tokyo. Its roster could include Philadelphia star Ben Simmons. Australia also has several other NBA players, including Utah’s Joe Ingles and Dante Exum, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova and San Antonio’s Patty Mills.

Brown coached the Australian team from 2009 to 2012 and was an assistant from 1995 to 2003, including the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

“We’re going to the 2020 Olympics to win a gold medal,” Brown said in a Basketball Australia statement. “This is our mission and my message to our team.”

He said when the opportunity arose to again coach the Boomers, “I was reminded of my deep history with Australia and Australian basketball.”

“I felt a duty to try and help in any way that I could,” he added. “The spirit of the country and the athletes of the country exemplify on a day-to-day basis the passion that is Australian sport … I’m very excited to be a part of that again.”