Monday NBA Musings ... on a Tuesday
Notable comebacks, Philly vs. Boston, All-NBA discussion and more ... all part of our latest spin around the league
The Monday Musings we just published, in truth, were focused on one team and one lengthy spell of musing about Kyrie Irving's first six weeks as a Dallas Maverick.
So we've shifted the usual collection of Mondayesque material, on this occasion, to the Tuesday Newsletter Extravaganza.
My latest reactions, opinions and reflections regarding #thisleague and associated matters:
🏀 Wednesday could be a massive day on the regular-season schedule for grand returns with Memphis' Ja Morant expected back from suspension for the Grizzlies' home date with Houston and Minnesota hopeful that both Karl-Anthony Towns (out since late November thanks to the nastiest of calf strains) and Anthony Edwards (fortunate to have only missed two games after a scary-looking twisted ankle) are in contention to play against Atlanta.
Then again …
Wednesday might prove too soon for both Towns and Edwards, according to Timberwolves coach Chris Finch:
🏀 Another cautionary note about Wednesday night in a West teeming with significant injuries: Dallas remains unsure if it will have either Luka Dončić (out for the past five games due to a thigh strain) or Kyrie Irving (who trudged out of Memphis on Monday night wearing a precautionary boot on his right foot) when it plays host to Golden State on Wednesday night in a West showdown of No. 6 visiting No. 7. Both are listed as questionable.
There is likewise still no definitive word about whether we will see the Lakers’ LeBron James or New Orleans’ Zion Williamson play again in the regular season.
🏀 The concerns are all still there when it comes to the 76ers.
Can Joel Embiid stay healthy through an entire postseason? Will James Harden and Doc Rivers finally hush their playoff skeptics? Do the Sixers have enough depth?
Fine. Rinse, repeat and recite those issues as often as you’d like.
I've nonetheless reached the point that I like Philly's playoff chances better than Boston's in the East. The Sixers are 36-11 since I watched them lose in double overtime in Houston on Dec. 5 in Harden's first game back from a lengthy injury absence. For the last three months, Philadelphia and Milwaukee have been the league's clear-cut top two teams.
I can also list just as many concerns about Boston's playoff outlook as the Sixers face. Will Robert Williams and Marcus Smart be sufficiently healthy to get through four rounds? Do the Celtics have the same belief in Coach Joe Mazzulla as they had in Ime Udoka as Mazzulla’s first postseason looms? Have you noticed, furthermore, that Jayson Tatum is shooting 29.2% on 3-pointers since the All-Star break?
I know this much for sure: Both Philly and Boston would be wise to prioritize securing the East's No. 2 seed over these final few weeks over the regular season. You do not want to be No. 3 in the East.
Beyond losing homecourt advantage in the second round, landing at No. 3 is likely to mean a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat, who I fully expect to pass Brooklyn for the No. 6 seed.
You don't want to see Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Erik Spoelstra in the first round. You just don't.
🏀 To quote the one and only Peter King: I think I think that the six All-NBA guards, in some order, will wind up being Stephen Curry, Dončić, De'Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell.
Agree? Disagree? Who has been left out unfairly? Who should be deleted from the sextet above to make room for them?
Ja Morant, Anthony Edwards, Jrue Holiday, Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton and Harden would be the most obvious snubee candidates ... with Jaylen Brown likely to be in contention for a forward spot rather than All-NBA guard. Injuries have limited Devin Booker to 44 games, or else this would get even more complicated.
(You really don't hear Kyrie Irving mentioned at all as an All-NBA possibility, by the way, even after Irving started in the All-Star Game.)
Could Portland’s limp end to the season affect Dame's candidacy when he's having perhaps his finest individual season statistically? Could Steph's 26 games lost to injury be held against him?
I will load this topic into Substack Chat for further discussion.
🏀 If those projected six selections pan out, of course, it means that the value of Morant's max contract that kicks in next season will top out at $194.3 rather than $233.6 million.
Missing out on an All-NBA spot, in other words, would cost Morant nearly $40 million, which would amount to a far harsher penalty than the eight-game suspension he just completed. The lost salary from those eight games fell just shy of $670,000.
My pal @KeithSmithNBA has a comprehensive breakdown of Morant's contract situation on Spotrac.
🏀 The All-NBA take I feel much more strongly about: Sacramento's Domantas Sabonis and Fox both have to wind up on the second or third team.
The Kings, at worst, are on course to finish third in the West. No one — NOBODY — predicted that. Sabonis, Fox and Coach of the Year favorite Mike Brown are the driving forces.
The two lefties deserve to be immortalized as two of the best 15 players from the 2022-23 season given the team success their standout production has led to rather directly.
🏀 Given my lifelong fascination with basketball abroad, this was a development I couldn’t resist highlighting: Puerto Rican teams are increasingly luring former NBA players there to continue their careers.
I checked in with the foremost expert on tracking such things — HoopsHype's Alberto de Roa — and promptly learned he has a working list of 20 players with NBA experience who have signed to play in Puerto Rico this season.
The most recognizable names among them: Earl Clark, Norris Cole, Ed Davis, Tyreke Evans, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Eric Paschall, Elfrid Payton and Hassan Whiteside.
The Baloncesto Superior Nacional league season starts this week and runs through July.
🏀 The NBA was hit with some very sad news Tuesday when it was announced that Knicks legend Willis Reed has died at age 80. Reed was one of the NBA’s most universally respected figures and will be tremendously missed.
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Chatter Box (+ Anthony Davis dish)
On Monday morning, Turner Sports’ Chris Haynes and I dropped another edition of our #thisleague UNCUT podcast.
A good one, too, as the legendary voice of NBA Jam (as well our humble little pod) Tim Kitzrow might put it.
If you're interested in Lakers injury Intel regarding LeBron James and Anthony Davis that you'll hear nowhere else, detailed analysis of both the West playoff and various award races, Chris' passionate plea for Sacramento's Mike Brown to win Coach of the Year honors unanimously and some stories about sneakers and dress shirts that you'll barely believe … this is the podcast for you!
Please click here and subscribe:
And enjoy an audio sampling here featuring that AD update:
This season's Warriors are an unsightly 8-29 on the road after finally halting an 11-game skid in games away from Chase Center with a victory Monday night in Houston. I'll see the Dubs in person Wednesday night ... on the road in Dallas. One key culprit: Golden State is tied for third leaguewide in defensive rating in home games but all the way down in 28th in road games to account for an overall defensive ranking of 18th entering Tuesday’s play.
Don’t forget that the defending champion Warriors have won a road game in a league-record 27 consecutive playoff series.
Stephen Curry will arrive for that showdown with the Mavericks shooting 49.8% from the floor in addition to his 43.3% shooting from 3-point range and a 91.5% success rate at the free-throw line. Curry has lost 26 games to injury in this frustrating campaign but still has a shot to join Larry Bird and Steve Nash on the short list of players to record multiple 50/40/90 seasons in their careers. Curry revealed how obsessed he is with achieving that level of efficiency in this one-on-one interview we conducted with him in January.
Nash, for the record, recorded four 50/40/90 seasons (2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10) while Bird did it twice (1986-87 and 1987-88).
There have been only eight other 50/40/90 seasons in league history. Three active players besides Curry have done it — Kyrie Irving (2020-21), Malcolm Brogdon (2018-19) and Kevin Durant (2012-13) — and five retired players: José Calderón (2007-08), Dirk Nowitzki (2006-07), Steve Kerr (1995-96), Reggie Miller (1993-94) and Mark Price (1988-89).
Big-time hat tip to my statistician pal Brian Sperry and Mavericks radio play-by-play voice Chuck Cooperstein for helping me calculate the gem I used in Monday's column about how the Mavericks have now converted on a possession in the final five seconds to tie the game or win the game 3 out of 17 times after Maxi Kleber's game-winning 3 at the buzzer to stun the Lakers last Friday in Los Angeles.
Kleber's shot was the 16th buzzer-beater for the win this season, according to Basketball Reference's tremendous bookkeeping here. There were 14 such shots last season. Atlanta's AJ Griffin sank two of this season's 16.
Let's end with a quick soccer detour: FIFA announced last week that the first 48-team World Cup in the sport's history — coming to Canada, Mexico and the United States in 2026 — will feature 12 groups of four teams. FIFA scrapped its original plan to have 16 three-team groups, in which the two top teams would advance to the knockout stages, to adopt a format in which the top two teams from each group and the top eight third-place teams advance. Utilizing four-team groups rather than three will necessitate 104 tournament matches rather than 80.
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Sacramento is amazing story. Brown should be coach of the year. Everyone ripped them for trading Halliburton and they are making it work.
Agreed on the east outlook and all nba guards. I do need to point out that 2 years embiid suffered broken orbital bones which were completely out of his control. I think he's in the best shape he has ever been and much more mature. I expect him to play all post season.