February 28, 2018, 2:06 am
The process really does matter more than the results. But for the Portland Trail Blazers, fighting tooth and nail with five other teams for four spots at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff field, any win is cause for celebration – yes, even one at home against arguably the worst team in basketball.
The Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 116-99 at Moda Center on Monday night, winning their fourth straight game and moving to 35-26 on the season. Damian Lillard, naturally, led Portland’s ultra-efficient offensive effort with 26 points and 12 assists on 10-of-17 shooting. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Shabazz Napier broke out of a mini shooting slump to score 20 points on just seven shots. Ed Davis and Zach Collins got going again, too, combining for 17 points – including two triples by the rookie – and eight rebounds off the bench.
C.J. McCollum, who managed just 11 points on 18 shots, was essentially the only Trail Blazer who struggled in a performance that saw Terry Stotts’ team shoot 52.5 percent from the field, connect on 13-of-30 from beyond the arc and set a new season-high with 20 fast-break points. When Portland wasn’t running off one of its 10 steals and Lillard not abusing every defender Sacramento threw his way, the offense often made beautiful plays like this, harkening back to the heyday of Stotts’ ballyhooed flow attack.
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) February 28, 2018
Defense, though, was a (relative) problem for the Blazers almost from the opening tip. They allowed 53 points in the first half, and allowed a whopping 50 points in the paint overall – more than any team averages this season except the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans. Zach Randolph led the Kings with 20 points, and Willie Cauley-Stein added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
More troubling than any lack of resistance at the rim, though, was the number of open shots Sacramento missed. Dave Joerger’s team, which entered Monday’s action shooting 40.7 percent from deep over its last five games, made just 7-of-22 from beyond the arc against Portland, including 1-of-5 shooting from the left corner. The majority of the Kings’ missed 3-pointers were very makable looks, ones that a more seasoned team would knock down with regularity.
All that said, the Blazers should leave this game feeling good. Now fifth-place in the West and nine games over .500 for the first time all season, their odds to make the playoffs, low as they still may be, have never been higher. Lillard has been playing at a legitimate MVP level for weeks, while the collective bench made a huge impact – Napier, Davis, Collins and Evan Turner had 39 points, 20 rebounds, eight assists and five steals between them – for the first time in what feels like a month. The division-leading Minnesota Timberwolves, missing an injured Jimmy Butler, come to town on Thursday, too, for a nationally-televised road matchup against a team suddenly trailing them by just one and-a-half games in the standings. If Portland beats Minnesota, there’s a good possibility this team enters the weekend in line for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
That type of hopeful optimism is still premature, and frankly, wouldn’t much change the Blazers’ chances to beat the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors in a potential Western Conference Semifinal. Portland has already established itself as a worthy playoff team this season; that much alone ensures 2017-18 will be a minor success. But to make it something much more than that, the Blazers need to create a mix of defensive and offensive effectiveness that was absent even during their strong start to the season and stronger play of late.
Little in this win over the Kings makes that development seem more likely to transpire. What another victory does do, though, is increase the likelihood of Portland getting extra opportunities to achieve that two-way success in late April and May.
A win, especially in the 2018 Western Conference playoff race, is still a win.
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter