Eastern Notes: Harris, Irving, Harden, Bucks, Martin

Sixers forward Tobias Harris has become a reliable secondary option on offense for the franchise, Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times writes.

Harris, a respected leader in the team’s locker room, is averaging 23.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 34.6 minutes per game during the playoffs. He’s shot 54% from the floor during those contests, trailing only Joel Embiid in points per game.

“I would list him right now as one of my favorite teammates ever,” teammate George Hill said. “He has a great sense of awareness of how things are going. He’s very open-minded, he listens (and is) just a great guy to be around. I think he’s a big leader for us and we’re going to continue to lean on him as we go through this journey.”

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Nets won’t allow Kyrie Irving‘s ankle sprain to impact James Harden‘s return from a hamstring injury, head coach Steve Nash said, as relayed by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Harden missed most of Game 1 and hasn’t played since, with Brooklyn now missing two of its top-three players due to injuries. “I think it’s an independent case. I don’t want James to be rushed back,” Nash said. “If he’s able to play next game and the game after, that’s fantastic.” As of Sunday night, no return timetable has been issued for either player.
  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic examined how the Bucks can improve their offense prior to Game 4 on Sunday. Milwaukee bounced back with a much better offensive effort in the contest, winning 107-96 while shooting 44% from the floor. The team also recorded 27 assists in the outing.
  • Brendan Rourke of Pacers.com reviews the season from Kelan Martin, who appeared in a total of 35 games. The 25-year-old Martin joined the Pacers on a two-way contract last November, also playing 31 games with the Timberwolves in 2019/20.

Southeast Notes: Biyombo, Heat, Dragic, Lowry, Ross

Hornets center Bismack Biyombo provided much-needed leadership and guidance to his younger teammates this season, Sam Perley of NBA.com writes.

Charlotte has a young core of LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington and others. Biyombo held per-game averages of five points, 5.3 rebounds and 20.4 minutes this year, his 10th NBA season.

“The most special part was that this was a team where nobody had an ego,” Biyombo said. “We trusted each other, supported each other. We didn’t want to hear the outside noise. When you’re around a team that doesn’t have egos, it’s easy to lead and be a voice of the team.

“People are able to listen and you can listen to other people give their opinion and be willing to understand where the other person is coming from. I think overall, we trusted and relied on each other. I think that was the most special part about this season.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Some Heat players could still have a short offseason despite being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explores. While it won’t be nearly as short as last offseason, it’ll be shorter than usual — the league plans to return to a normal format next season, meaning training camps will start the final week of September. Should Jimmy Butler (or Bam Adebayo) participate in the Olympics, it would shorten their offseasons even further.
  • Ira Winderman examines in his “Ask Ira” mailbag whether replacing Goran Dragic with Kyle Lowry would be enough of an upgrade for the team. Miami holds a $19.44MM team option on Dragic for next season, while Lowry is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
  • Magic veteran Terrence Ross found new ways to score this season, elevating his game to another level, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Ross averaged a career-high 15.6 points per game, shooting 41% from the field and 34% from three-point range in 46 contests.

And-Ones: Maldonado, Holmgren, Banchero, Fieldhouse

Team Dynasty Academy guard Emmanuel Maldonado has decided to sign with the Overtime Elite League, he announced on social media.

Maldonado, who stands at 6’4″, is the sixth player to sign with the league thus far, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). He’s also a candidate to represent Puerto Rico at the FIBA U19 World Cup in July.

The Overtime Elite league serves as an alternative pathway for players to turn pro. Top recruits Matt and Ryan Bewley became the first prospects to commit to the league last month, as we relayed in a separate story.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Top 2022 prospect Chet Holmgren has been named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, ESPN’s Myron Medcalf writes. Holmgren, a Gonzaga commit, averaged 20.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.7 blocks last season for Minnehaha Academy. As Medcalf notes, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and several other high-profile players have won the award in the past.
  • Paolo Banchero is unable to join Italy for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this summer, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter links). Banchero, a Duke prospect, will reportedly miss the tournament due to school-related issues despite receiving his passport.
  • Renovations are ongoing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers and the WNBA’s Fever, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles tweets. As a result, the Fever will be forced to play the remainder of their season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum — the original home of the ABA Pacers.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Stevens, Williams, Green

Nets big man Blake Griffin has been happy, healthy and productive since signing with the team in March, as NetsDaily.com details.

Griffin, an 11-year veteran, has averaged 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.1 MPG through the team’s first eight playoff games, starting at center in every contest. He’s shot an impressive 52.5% from the floor and 37.5% from deep during those outings.

“Every time I talk to Blake, one of the things that always comes up is how much fun he’s having, playing in meaningful games and making an impact,” said Jeff Capel, Griffin’s college coach.

Griffin is seeking his first NBA championship, earning a starting role on a contending team at 32 years old. The Nets are currently tied with the Bucks 2-2 in the second round of the postseason.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of the Boston Sports Journal ponders whether Celtics fans will be ready to “trust the process” now that Brad Stevens is the team’s lead decision-maker. Boston dealt with numerous injury and COVID-19 issues this season, never getting a fair chance at developing chemistry and competing. The team finished with an underwhelming 36-36 record and lost to the Nets 4-1 in the first round.
  • Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston explores the factors that would go into a potential Robert Williams extension this offseason. Williams is eligible for a rookie scale extension after becoming the Celtics‘ top big man in the final stages of the season. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game this year.
  • The Sixers sent Danny Green home to Philadelphia to get treatment on his right calf strain, but hope to get him back around the team as quickly as possible due to his veteran leadership, head coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday (Twitter link via Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com). Of course, the team would love to welcome a healthy Green back on the court too, but he’s expected to miss at least two or three more weeks due to his calf injury.

Kyrie Irving Suffers Right Ankle Sprain

4:57pm: The X-rays on Irving’s ankle came back negative, head coach Steve Nash said, as relayed by ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link). He will undergo further treatment and testing for the injury. Rachel Nichols of ESPN reported that Irving left the arena in a walking boot and crutches.

3:53pm: Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving severely rolled his right ankle when he landed on the foot of Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo during a floater attempt during the second quarter of Game 4 of their second-round series on Sunday.

Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets that Irving will miss the second half of a crucial contest in Milwaukee. The Nets lead the series 2-1, as of this writing.

Irving joins fellow All-Star ball handler James Harden among the growing list of injured Nets as these playoffs continue. Harden remains sidelined with a right hamstring strain that kept him out of 18 games during the regular season and has kept him out of all but 43 seconds of this Bucks series.

The recovery timelines for Irving and Harden are currently murky, though Nets head coach Steve Nash said ahead of today’s game that Harden was “progressing in the right direction,” per Malika Andrews of ESPN. Nash stated that Harden has moved on to on-court workouts and shooting drills.

“When he’s able to get up to full speed and do it for two or three days without recurrence or setback … then I think that’s kind of the marker,” he said of establishing a recovery timeline.

Reserve point guard Mike James started in the place of Irving during the game’s second half. Another second-half starting adjustment came from head coach Steve Nash in the form of forward Jeff Green getting the nod ahead of shooting guard Bruce Brown, to provide more two-way firepower around incumbent starters Joe Harris (now the nominal starting shooting guard) and Blake Griffin (center), plus lone remaining healthy Nets All-Star Kevin Durant.

Rachel Nichols of ESPN tweets that Nash suggested to his team during the halftime break that the club would need to compensate for Irving’s scoring “by committee.”

Clippers Notes: All-Star Duo, PG-13, Jackson, Jazz Series

Clippers All-Star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are starting to exhibit their full potential as a tandem in these playoffs, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. The two stars made key contributions on both sides of the ball in the Clippers’ victory over the Jazz at the Staples Center yesterday to improve their second-round series record to just 2-1 in favor of Utah.

“They are two of the best in the league,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said last night of Leonard and George. “I don’t go to Mastro’s (an upscale L.A. restaurant) to order a ketchup. I go there to order a steak. And tonight, our guys want steak.”

Medina notes that both players have improved their scoring efficiency and remained healthier than they did last season. A lot is riding on how the Clippers fare in the playoffs this year. Leonard is anticipated to decline his $36MM player option for the 2021/22 season and sign a new long-term deal with the club this summer, while George inked a four-year, $190MM extension with L.A. during the 2020 offseason. Medina wonders if Leonard may reconsider or George may become a trade candidate should the Clippers flame out in the postseason for the second consecutive season.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • George’s terrific three-point shooting in the first half helped spark a crucial 132-106 Clippers victory over the Jazz on Saturday night, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. He connected on four triples in the first half and shot 6-of-10 from deep overall.
  • Clippers starting point guard Reggie Jackson has evolved into a reliable third scoring option during this postseason, writes Royce Young of ESPN. The 31-year-old’s three-point shooting and ball handling have helped open up scoring options for stars George and Leonard. Across 10 playoff games thus far, Jackson is averaging 16.3 PPG (on 48.3% shooting from the floor), 2.8 RPG, and 2.7 APG in 29.3 MPG. Jackson appears to have outplayed the $1.6MM veteran’s minimum contract he inked with the club during the 2020 offseason, when he was slated to be a reserve behind original starting point guard Patrick Beverley, who is scheduled to earn $14.3MM in 2021/22, his age-33 season.
  • With the Clippers securing a pivotal Game 3 win Saturday against the top-seeded Jazz, the team may have found a method for winning the whole series, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. L.A.’s switch-everything defense and impressively effective offensive shot diet made for one of the club’s best games this postseason, Jones writes.

Jeff Green Available For Nets

1:32pm: Green will be available to play for the Nets in Game 4 of their second-round matchup against the Bucks this afternoon, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. Andrews notes that Green will be suiting up for the first time since the second game in Brooklyn’s first-round contest against the Celtics on May 25.

1:22pm: Nets forward Jeff Green, still dealing with a left plantar fascia strain, will be a game-time decision for this afternoon’s crucial Game 4 contest against the Buckstweets Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. The Nets lead the series 2-1.

The 6’8″ tweener forward has been an effective role player for the Nets this season, averaging 11.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 1.6 APG during 27.0 MPG. He boasted a slash line of .492/.412/.776. Across the Nets’ first two games in the postseason, Green averaged 4.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.5 APG over 19.3 MPG.

Per Goodwill, Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash indicated that Green would need to successfully complete his pregame warmups and get a green light from team physicians before he’d be able to take the floor.

Brooklyn is of course still missing guards James Harden, out with a right hamstring strain for the third straight game, and Spencer Dinwiddie, recovering from a partially-torn ACL incurred during the first week of the 2020/21 regular season. Word recently surfaced that Dinwiddie still hopes to return to the floor for Brooklyn at some point during the playoffs, possibly during the NBA Finals.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Micic, Beasley, Newman-Beck

The Game 3 loss to the Clippers showed that the Jazz will likely need Mike Conley to win the series, writes Christopher Kamrani of The Athletic. Conley hasn’t played since suffering a strained hamstring on June 2 in the first round against Memphis.

Conley has experienced hamstring issues throughout the season, Kamrani adds, and the Jazz avoided playing him on back-to-back nights to minimize the risk of a serious injury. Utah was able to beat L.A. twice at home without its All-Star point guard, but it will be tough to close out the series without him on the court.

Before Game 3 on Saturday night, Jazz coach Quin Snyder dismissed the notion that Conley was being kept on the sidelines because his team had a 2-0 lead.

“It has nothing to do with us feeling any form of accomplishment, having won a couple of games. Mike’s not ready to go yet,” Snyder said. “He’s working hard every day to try to get back. But, in no way are we feeling even some small form of success. Obviously, you’re glad you won a couple of games, but seeing we lost Game 1 against Memphis last series, and the Clippers obviously lost against Dallas and then won the series — we know how difficult a series this is going to be. And when Mike’s ready, he’ll be back.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder own the draft rights to Vasilije Micic, who was named MVP of the EuroLeague last month, but a decision on his NBA future will have to wait a few weeks, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The 27-year-old Serbian point guard may be ready to consider the NBA this summer, but Oklahoma City isn’t willing to commit a roster spot until after the July 29 draft, when it could have two picks in the top five. Micic is much older than the Thunder’s core and the team is already set at point guard, so his draft rights could become a valuable trade asset, Mussatto adds.
  • Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley, who is serving a 120-day jail sentence for a gun incident last year, posted a letter to fans on his Instagram account this week, relays Jeff Wald of Fox 9. “I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that, just to understand I could easily fold and I won’t,” Beasley wrote.
  • The Timberwolves won’t bring back Sam Newman-Beck as head coach of their G League affiliate in Iowa, tweets NBA writer Dane Moore. Newman-Beck was hired at the same time as former Wolves coach Ryan Saunders, but coach Chris Finch wants to build a new coaching staff all the way to the G League.

Nets Notes: Durant, Griffin, Harris, Game 4

Two significant anniversaries occurred this week for Nets star Kevin Durant, notes Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post. Thursday marked two years since he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals, and Saturday was the second anniversary of his surgery.

Durant has made a full recovery after sitting out last season and has returned to his spot among the NBA’s elite players. He’s averaging 30.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and his Brooklyn team is favored to capture its first NBA title.

“Yeah, it’s really hard to tell the difference,” coach Steve Nash said. “He’s not only executing at that level, but he’s able to play the minutes and able to sustain such a high level of efficiency. So it’s hard to say that he has any dip at this point. And his game has picked up as we go.

“He’s gotten more reps, more comfort, especially defensively and on the boards. … When you’re a player that hasn’t played for a long time and you’re a scorer like that, you’re going to focus on trying to get that back first. So he did that, and then he started to pick up the other parts of his game. So it’s very difficult to distinguish him now opposed to before the surgery.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The toughest defensive assignment of the second round has been given to Blake Griffin, who is charged with slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. The two-time MVP scored 33 points in Game 3, but he shot just 14 of 31 from the field and was 1 of 8 from three-point range as Griffin gave him plenty of space to shoot from outside. “I know he’s got points here and there,” Griffin said, “he had points in the last game, but we’re just trying to make it tough on him.”
  • Joe Harris called it “a shooter’s dream” to be surrounded by so much offensive talent in Brooklyn, and Ian O’Connor of The New York Post looks at how he has benefited from the presence of his Big Three teammates.
  • Today’s Game 4 in Milwaukee will be a chance for the Nets to prove that they’re really a great team, O’Connor contends in a separate piece. He states that Brooklyn needs to bounce back from the Game 3 loss, just as it did after Jayson Tatum‘s 50-point outburst when the Celtics won Game 3 in the first round.

Donovan Mitchell Leaves With Sore Ankle, Says He’ll Be OK For Game 4

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell had to leave Saturday’s game midway through the fourth quarter because of pain in his right ankle, but he says it won’t keep him out of Game 4, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Mitchell has been dealing with discomfort throughout the playoffs after suffering an ankle sprain that forced him to miss the last 16 games of the regular season. It hasn’t affected his performance, though, as he has averaged 32.2 points per game during the postseason, including 30 in Saturday’s loss.

“It’s when I land,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s been just trying to manage it. I don’t really know what else to tell you; I don’t want to say too much. It was just the landing, but I’m good. I’ll be ready for Game 4.”

Mitchell limped toward the locker room with 7:05 left in the quarter, then returned to the sidelines and talked to coach Quin Snyder. Mitchell said he could have returned to the game, but the score had gotten out of hand and a decision was made not to risk further injury.

Snyder confirmed that Mitchell would have been able to play if the game had remained close.

“He’s in good shape,” Snyder said. “He could have gone back in the game, but at that point, the lead had stretched. In fact, while we were talking, I think Kawhi (Leonard) hit a 3. That was my decision not to put him back in at that point. The game had gotten away from us at that point, but he’s fine.”

Instead, Mitchell watched the final few minutes with ice on his ankle. Even with the loss, the Jazz are up 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinal series and have a chance to take a commanding lead with a victory in Monday’s Game 4.

“Obviously, it’s not going to be 100 percent, but you go out there and you try to compete,” Mitchell said. “Things like this are going to happen. You just got to find ways to manage it and get out there and get ready. It’s not going to be perfect, but it is what it is.”