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Sindarius Thornwell absolutely destroys DeAndre Liggins with dunk (video)

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The Clippers were already eliminated from the playoff race. They were getting blown out by the Pelicans last night.

But Sindarius Thornwell brought life to L.A. – and figuratively ended DeAndre Liggins‘.

PBT Awards: All-Rookie

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Kurt Helin

First team

Second team

This is an incredibly deep rookie class, there are guys on the second team that would have been first team many other years, and guys left off — Zach Collins, Bam Adebayo and others — who would have made the cut most years. (It’s possible I will still change my mind on some of the second team before formally voting.) The top four on the first team are fairly clear cut, and Markkanen has averaged 15.2/7.5 for the Bulls. On the second team, Collins has been an efficiency monster, and Anunoby has started 59 games for the top seed in the East and been crucial to their defense.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • Ben Simmons, 76ers
  • Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
  • Jayson Tatum, Celtics
  • Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
  • Lauri Markkanen, Bulls

Second team

The first four first-team picks were easy. The final spot came down to Lauri Markkanen and John Collins. Not much separated the other second-teamers and a few players who didn’t make the cut – Raptors guard O.G. Anunoby, Jazz forward Royce O’Neal and Heat center Bam Adebayo.

Ben Simmons says he should 100% win Rookie of the Year, says no other rookies have caught his attention

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Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has repeatedly deflected any questions of whether he should win Rookie of the Year.

76ers point guard Ben Simmons answers directly.

Simmons, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“Who would I pick? Me, 100 percent,” Simmons told ESPN at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday.

“I think I have been playing solid all year,” he continued. “If you look at the numbers, you will see. People who know the game know.”

Asked what rookies have caught his attention this year, he didn’t mince words.

“None,” Simmons responded promptly. “I want to be where the greats are. So, for me, I watch the guys like [Kevin Durant], [LeBron James], [Stephen] Curry, Russell [Westbrook]. Guys like that. That’s where I want to be. I think for me, that’s what I love to watch.”

I’m here for Simmons’ cockiness. He backs it up and, I believe, deserves Rookie of the Year.

But Mitchell has had an attention-catching rookie year. For Simmons to ignore Mitchell looks like an intentional slight. Nearly everyone sees Rookie of the Year as a two-man race between Simmons and Mitchell, and Simmons knows that.

Simmons isn’t here to soothe Mitchell’s feelings, though. Simmons wants to boost his own profile, and he’s doing it.

Pat Riley now says LeBron James made right choice by leaving Heat for Cavaliers, but they reportedly haven’t spoken since

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Heat president Pat Riley barely hid his contempt for LeBron James leaving Miami for the Cavaliers in 2014.

But apparently Riley now better understands LeBron’s point of view.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, previewing Ian Thomsen’s new book, “The Soul of Basketball:”

“My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down,” Riley said. “That team in ten years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of [LeBron’s] life.

“While there may have been some carnage always left behind when he made these kinds of moves, in Cleveland and also in Miami, he did the right thing. I just finally came to accept the realization that he and his family said, ‘You’ll never, ever be accepted back in your hometown if you don’t go back to try to win a title. Otherwise someday you’ll go back there and have the scarlet letter on your back. You’ll be the greatest player in the history of mankind, but back there, nobody’s really going to accept you.'”

Riley told Thomsen that after James left, he had no contact with him until the 2016 NBA Finals, when Cleveland played the Golden State Warriors in Game 7. Riley said it was then he finally reached out.

“I didn’t want to send him anything that he could read before he hit the floor,” Riley said. “As soon as he hit the floor, I sent a text to him. I said, ‘Win this and be free.’

“He never got back to me with a response. In fact, he said something after the game.”

That’s when LeBron revealed his secret motivation:

When he left Miami and people who he grew to, he thought to, have trusting relationships with – he said, I’m not going to name names, but someone told me that you’re making the biggest mistake of your career. And he said it really hurt him. Basically, he felt taken for granted. Like, Look, I just gave you four years of my prime, and you’re not going to be comfortable with my decision and root me on? You’re going to make me feel bad going out the door?

MacMullan:

“It wasn’t me,” Riley told Thomsen. “I never said anything to him.

Sources told ESPN that James and Riley have not spoken to each other since James returned to Cleveland in 2014. James, according to a source familiar with his thinking, would be interested in thawing that icy relationship, but believes that Riley has no interest in doing so. “That’s just how Riles is,” said the source. “He’s old school. You’re either with him or against him.”

Riley and Wade went through something similar. Now, it’s all love with Wade back in Miami.

Time heals most wounds, and that’ll probably be the case between Riley and LeBron. There’s a stubbornness involved now, but they accomplished so much together. The bond developed over those four seasons, including two championships, can’t simply be erased.

The only question is who makes the next move. If LeBron truly is interested in easing tension – especially if he left Riley’s 2016 text unanswered – LeBron could reach out. But LeBron, even if he’s putting out word he wants détente, might actually still be bitter. That’d be understandable given Riley’s reaction in 2014. On the other hand, it’d also be understandable if Riley feels he did his part with the 2016 text.

Something has to give, and it probably will. Eventually.

Tomas Satoransky patches Wizards’ annual hole

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DETROIT – Tomas Satoransky operates at his own pace.

The Wizards drafted Satoransky No. 32 in 2012, when he was playing for Sevilla. He didn’t feel ready for the NBA, so he stayed in Spain. His contract with Sevilla expired in 2014. He still didn’t feel ready and signed with Barcelona. He even signed an extension with Barcelona in 2016.

Later that year, Satoransky thought it was time. Still under contract with Barcelona, his buyout (reportedly about $2 million) was larger than what Washington could pay without it counting against the cap ($650,000). But Satoransky was so certain of his decision, he paid the remainder of the buyout himself. He knew that’d be a possibility and ensured his extension left the option open.

Yet – for all the years he spent timing his jump to the NBA juuust right – he realized his perception of the league was still based on his childhood in the Czech Republic.

“I just saw the stars, the shining moments and everything,” Satoransky said. “Obviously, when you come over, you have to also go through some tough times as a player, especially coming over from Europe, getting used to everything and like that. But once you have a good role in the NBA, you just feel like you’re blessed.”

By that standard, Satoransky is blessed.

And the Wizards might be, too.

Washington has struggled for years whenever John Wall sits. Eric Maynor, Garett Temple, Andre Miller, Ramon Sessions, Trey Burke, Brandon Jennings and Tim Frazier have cycled through as backup point guards. None did the job well enough. Wall called the Wizards’ bench their downfall last postseason, citing it as a reason he ran out of gas.

Satoransky might finally be the answer.

Since Wall’s first playoff season (2014), Washington has played like a 46-win to 54-win team with him on the court. In that same span, the Wizards’ win pace ranged from 16 to 29 whenever he sat. Teams obviously perform worse without their biggest star, but that gap was hard.

Washington has remained strong with Wall this year (52-win pace) – and is far better than usual without him (37-win pace).

Here’s the Wizards win paces the last five years, with Wall (red) and without him (blue):

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This chart probably sells Satoransky short. Washington has also used Frazier and Sessions at point guard when Wall sits. But Satoransky has proven most effective. The Wizards play at a 47-win pace with him.

The idea Washington was better without Wall was always silly. But Satoransky’s strong play in his absence helped sparked the discussion – and earned him a larger role in the playoff rotation.

“He’s played well, and he deserves some extra minutes,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

How is Satoransky flourishing? By continuing to put himself in comfortable positions.

That starts with his role.

“I don’t feel like I need to be a starter or anything,” Satoransky said. “That’s the thing the NBA has. You have to be a starter or a second-unit guy. It doesn’t bother me. And I don’t understand too much. For me, coming from Europe, it makes much more sense that you have 12 players and they all play based on how they play in the game. That’s what I get used to. I understand you cannot have it here, for some reason.”

And it continues on the court, where Satoransky plays so cerebrally.

He ranks sixth in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio. The leaderboard with per-game numbers:

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Satoransky’s 3-point percentage (47.4) would lead the league – if he shot enough 3s to qualify. He’s just so selective (which obviously contributes to his high efficiency).

Satoransky is also deadly on floaters, but he also passes up too many of them. Even Brooks – who says he mostly likes Satoransky’s methodical style – wants the point guard to take more floaters.

“People around me, they’re always like I should be more aggressive,” Satoransky said. “But it’s just the way I was taught to play the game, right way, in Europe.

“Mentally for me it’s tough, but for sure I think in the NBA, you have to be a little bit – in some moments – a little selfish.”

Satoransky could probably handle it. He doesn’t restrain his game purely out of necessity. At 6-foot-7 with above-the-rim athleticism he only shows in flashes, he could do more.

“I never force anything,” Satoransky said.

Except his way into the Wizards’ playoff rotation.

Washington (42-38) will enter the postseason as the No. 6, No. 7 or No 8 seed. The team has plenty of internal problems. Advancing is more unlikely than likely.

But, for once, backup point guard probably won’t be the primary reason for elimination.