Former Rockets GM Daryl Morey praises James Harden in newspaper ad

By Erin Walsh  |  Last updated 10/18/20

Daryl Morey stepped down from his position as general manager of the Houston Rockets on Thursday after 13 seasons, saying it was the “right time” to do so. 

Morey’s resignation won’t go into effect until Nov. 1 as he continues to help Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta in the franchise’s search for a new head coach. Still, his time in the organization is winding down, and Morey took the time to thank the numerous amount of people who helped him during his tenure with the team. 

The 48-year-old took out a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle for Sunday’s paper and saved his highest praise for James Harden, who he says changed his life. 

“James Harden changed my life,” Morey wrote in bold print. “An entire page could be dedicated just to James. He not only transformed my life but also revolutionized the game of basketball — and continues to do so — like almost no one has before. The game is played differently because of James, and on every playground in the world, the next generation of talent is studying and imitating his game.”

Clippers promote Tyronn Lue to head coach with five-year deal

Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Luke Adams | Last updated 10/15/20

The Clippers and assistant Tyronn Lue have agreed to a deal that will promote him to fill the team’s head coaching vacancy and lock him up to a new five-year contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Lue was the Clippers’ lead assistant under head coach Doc Rivers during the 2019-20 season. When Rivers and the Clippers parted ways last month, Lue immediately emerged as the front-runner to fill the newly opened head coaching position.

A former head coach in Cleveland, Lue compiled a 128-83 (.607) regular-season record during two full seasons and parts of two others with the Cavs. He led the team to three straight appearances in the NBA Finals, including a championship in his first season as head coach in 2016.

Lue’s championship résumé and his familiarity with the Clippers players were presumably major factors in the team’s decision to promote him to replace Rivers. Wojnarowski previously reported that Lue’s understanding of the pressures of the job was important for Los Angeles. He was also said to have the support of “prominent players” on the roster.

Lue was nearly hired in 2019 by the Lakers but couldn’t reach an agreement with the club on the terms of a deal, prompting the franchise to turn to Frank Vogel. Now, after the Lakers won a championship and the Clippers flamed out two rounds earlier, Lue will be tasked with leading Los Angeles’ other team to title contention. He won’t have much room for error, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both eligible to reach free agency during the 2021 offseason.

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NBA targeting Martin Luther King Jr. Day for start of 2020-21 season?

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 10/14/20

The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA champions after beating the Miami Heat in six games at Walt Disney World. With the 2019-20 season finally over, the NBA has begun preparations for the 2020-21 campaign. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed recently that the original Dec. 1 target start date isn’t happening. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, the league now is targeting Jan. 18 for the start of next season, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

MLK Day seems like a logical choice for the start of the 2020-21 campaign, especially given the emphasis put on the Black Lives Matter movement in Orlando this past season. MLK Day has become an important event on the NBA calendar, and it presents an easy way for the league to turn opening night into something memorable. 

Silver is reportedly planning to give teams eight weeks notice ahead of the start of the season, Hollinger adds, so we could know the official start date as soon as Nov. 23. 

After deciding on a start date, the NBA will meet more challenges of actually designing the season schedule. Things like how many games, if fans will be allowed to attend, COVID-19 restrictions and much more will need to be ironed out. 

Simply put, the league still has a lot of work to do before next season can begin. The 2020 NBA Draft is set for Nov. 18, with free agency to follow. Before we know it, teams will be back on the court. 

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LeBron James wins fourth NBA Finals MVP Award

Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Luke Adams | Last updated 10/11/20

Superstar forward LeBron James has been named the Most Valuable Player of the 2020 NBA Finals, as the Lakers clinched the 17th title in franchise history on Sunday night with a 106-93 win over Miami in Game 6.

It’s the fourth championship and the fourth Finals MVP Award for James, who previously earned the honor in 2012 and 2013 with the Heat, and again in 2016 with the Cavaliers.

Entering this series, James had been one of five players in NBA history to earn at least three Finals MVP awards. Now he’s one of just two players to earn that honor four or more times — Michael Jordan won the award six times. James is also the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three separate teams.

While Anthony Davis had a monster series for the Lakers, anchoring the defense and averaging 25.0 PPG, James led Los Angeles in points, rebounds and assists, making him the obvious choice for the MVP award.

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Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo plans to play Game 4 of Finals vs. Lakers

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 10/6/20

A day after the Miami Heat upgraded 2020 All-Star Bam Adebayo to questionable ahead of Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the 23-year-old expects to play. 

Adebayo aggravated a shoulder injury in Game 1 of the series and has also been dealing with a neck strain that sidelined him for Game 2 and Game 3. Thus far, he’s played only 21 minutes and scored eight points against the Lakers. 

Adebayo averaged 21.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists in six games against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals but also dealt with similar physical issues during that series. He nevertheless told reporters on Monday that he’s eager to return to Miami’s rotation. 

“I’m trying to get back as quickly as possible,” he explained. “They’re just trying to make sure I’m safe and I’m ready to play. It’s really day-to-day. When they say I’m ready to play, I’ll be out there.” 

Miami guard Goran Dragic remains doubtful because of the torn left plantar fascia he suffered in Game 1 against the Lakers. Dragic spent 15 minutes on the court in the opening contest of the Finals. 

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Kevin Durant: I didn’t ‘want to be the savior’ of the Knicks

Originally posted on Empire Sports Media | By Alder Almo | Last updated 9/10/20

Kevin Durant doubled down on his claim that signing with the New York Knicks was never an option during his free agency last year.

The Knicks were made to believe they had an inside track on Durant and another star free agent of his liking. But as it turned out, it wasn’t the case. Durant discussed his decision to sign with the Nets instead of the Knicks on “The Old Man and the Three Podcast”:

“I never planned on going to the Knicks. That was just the media putting that out there especially when I didn’t sign a three-year deal that previous summer. Once I signed a 1+1, just the noise got louder around me just going to the Knicks for some reason. The Knicks need a savior, you know how that goes. Every time a big free agent is up, the Knicks are going to get him. It just took off. …

“Around February, I was thinking I didn’t want to be the savior of the Knicks or New York. I didn’t care about being the king of New York. That never really moved me. I didn’t care about being on Broadway. I just wanted to play ball and go to the crib and chill. I felt like that’s what Brooklyn embodied. …

“Brooklyn was everything I’m about: chill, on the low, all black, we quiet, just focus on basketball. There’s no show when you come to our games. No Madison Square mecca, all of that s–t. We just gonna hoop and build something new in Brooklyn.”

The Brooklyn Nets star accused the media of spreading the rumor during his tumultuous last season with the Golden State Warriors. His former teammate Draymond Green publicly feuded with him, which put a strain in their locker room chemistry. While it was injuries that ultimately caused their downfall in the Finals, it was clear that all the drama that surrounded the Warriors factored in his decision to leave.

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Billy Donovan, Thunder part ways after five seasons

Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Alex Kirschenbaum | Last updated 9/8/20

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, whose contract with Oklahoma City expired after his team was eliminated in the playoffs this season, will not be returning to the club for the 2020-21 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team issued a press release confirming that the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways.

After Donovan and his representatives could not come to terms on a new deal with the Thunder, both sides opted to move on. As ESPN’s Royce Young tweets, the break-up is more about the two sides not aligning on a long-term fit than any strong desire to make a change.

“We had planned to sit down at the end of the season and discuss the best way to move forward for both of us,” general manager Sam Presti said in a statement on Donovan. “After those discussions, it became apparent that we couldn’t provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career. Therefore, we close this chapter and reflect fondly on all that he has given to the team, organization and community.”

The fact that the club’s front office, led by Presti, anticipates an eventual rebuild helped put a damper on contract talks, Wojnarowski tweets. The Oklahoma City roster features several veterans that the team could soon be looking to move for future assets, especially with league revenues suffering as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Woj notes (Twitter link).

When the Thunder traded All-Stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the summer of 2019, expectations for the team were lower than they had been at any point in Donovan’s tenure with the club, and there was a league-wide belief that an OKC rebuild was imminent.

However, Donovan and new additions Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to a 44-28 record in 2019/20, good for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. The team eventually lost Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs to former Thunder MVP Westbrook and the Rockets.

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WNBA announces all playoff games to be televised

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 9/8/20

The WNBA and ESPN came together on Tuesday to announce that each of the league’s postseason games will be televised by the Worldwide Leader, with fixtures airing on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and the ESPN App.

Due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, the WNBA scheduled a 22-game campaign and housed teams and other league personnel at the bubble site of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The final games of the regular season will be played this Sunday, with the playoffs set to begin on Sept. 15.

The postseason tournament tips off with a single-elimination format featuring the No. 5 seeds playing the No. 8 seeds, and the No. 6 teams facing the No. 7 teams. No. 3 and No. 4 seeds receive byes into the second round, while the top two teams advance directly into the semifinals.

Second-round match-ups are also single elimination and include No. 3 seeds playing the lowest-seeded first-round winners. The semifinals and WNBA Finals are contested in best-of-five series, with No. 1 seeds playing the lowest-seeded second-round winners in the semis. 

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NBA announces 2019-20 All-Defensive teams

Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Alex Kirschenbaum | Last updated 9/8/20

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2019-20 season. Not surprisingly, Defensive Player of the Year (and possible repeat MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo was mentioned as the leading vote-getter with 195 total points. Players receive two points per First Team vote and one point per Second Team vote.

This is the Bucks forward’s second consecutive appearance on the All-NBA First Team. Antetokounmpo was listed on 98 of 100 ballots from the 100 broadcasters and writers who comprised this year’s voting panel. Ninety-seven of those ballots awarded him a First Team vote.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis received the second-most votes this season, for a total tally of 187 points (including 87 First Team votes). Sixers guard Ben Simmons tallied 185 points with the third-most votes this year. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the 2018 and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, netted the fourth-most votes this season, with 95 total (85 First Team), for 180 total points. Celtics guard Marcus Smart rounded out the All-Defensive First Team with 152 points, including 57 First Team votes.

Gobert’s inclusion into the All-Defensive First Team has earned him a $500,000 bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Antetokounmpo’s Bucks teammates Brook Lopez (67 points) and Eric Bledsoe (59 points) each made the All-Defensive Second Team.

Here are the full voting results for the All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with each player’s point total noted in parentheses:

First Team:

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Giannis Antetokounmpo goes down, but Bucks rise up

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports By Steve DelVecchio | Last updated 9/6/20

Giannis Antetokounmpo appeared to aggravate his right ankle injury early in Game 4 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat on Sunday, and the reigning NBA MVP will not return.

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly on his right foot while driving to the basket early in the second quarter. He immediately dropped to the floor and clutched his ankle area in pain. He could barely put weight on his right leg when he limped off the court, but he was fouled on the play. Giannis had to return to the game to shoot his free throws, otherwise he would have been automatically ineligible for the remainder.

As it turns out, Antetokounmpo will not return anyway. The Bucks announced that he has been ruled out with a sprained ankle.

Antetokounmpo had 19 points in just 11 minutes prior to exiting. He looked explosive early on after entering the game questionable to play. Giannis expressed a desire to play more minutes after he was limited in Game 3, but he’ll now need his teammates to keep Milwaukee’s championship hopes alive without him.

The Bucks kept their season alive with a 118-115 victory. Game 5 is Tuesday night.

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