- The Jazz have wrested control of their first-round series with the Clippers in large part to the return of Rudy Gobert. The big man has resumed shutting down the paint, which teammate Rodney Hood discussed with the Associated Press. “Rudy erases a lot of mistakes,” Hood said. “And he cleans up a lot of bad offensive possessions by rebounding the ball. It’s great just to have him back.“
- Although it’s his first time serving as a head coach in the NBA playoffs, Jazz bench boss Quin Snyder has no shortage of experience. Jody Genessey of the Deseret News discussed the coach’s leadership with club point guard George Hill. “He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around. His mind’s always going other places. He’s very technical with what we do,” Hill said. “We listen to him. I think he’s got a great coaching staff around him that give us one heck of a game plan. It’s our job to follow him.“
Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Cavaliers and Warriors, made quick work of their first round playoff opponents, dispatching the Pacers and Trail Blazers respectively in four games apiece. However, many of the other first round series around the NBA remain very much up in the air.
Currently, four series are tied at 2-2, with two of those Game Fives scheduled for tonight, and two more on tap for Wednesday. The Clippers and Jazz have each split their home games, resulting in a 2-2 tie, while the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies won two home games over the Spurs following David Fizdale‘s post-Game 2 “take that for data” rant, pulling even in that series. Those four teams will be in action tonight.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the No. 1 seeded Celtics find themselves tied with the No. 8 Bulls in an unusual series in which road teams are 4-0 so far. Meanwhile, the Hawks ripped through the Wizards‘ defense in two games in Atlanta, evening that series at 2-2. Both of those series will resume on Wednesday.
In each of those four series, the higher seed maintains the advantage, with two of the final three games on their home court. But most of those higher seeds don’t look as formidable as they did entering the postseason.
What do you think? Will any of these series result in upsets? If the Jazz are able to knock off the Clippers, should that series even be viewed as a legit upset, given the absence of Blake Griffin and the teams’ identical regular season records?
Vote below on which lower seeds will make it through the first round — you can pick as many as you want. After placing your vote, share your thoughts in the comments section!
The All-NBA teams were scheduled to be announced during the league’s inaugural award show on June 26th. However, because the selections may impact teams’ offseason plans, the league will unveil the winners in the weeks leading up to the draft, as Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes.
The newly created Designated Player Exception drove the change. Being selected on an All-NBA is a criterion for the massive extension and players such as Paul George and Gordon Hayward will be eligible for as much as $70MM more in an extension should they make one of the three teams.
The early unveiling arguably helps the Pacers the most. If PG13 lands on one of the teams, Indiana will have the inside track to signing him long-term as soon as this summer. If he doesn’t earn one of the spots, the organization can begin to seriously consider whether or not it should deal the small forward. George has long been linked to the Lakers and the Pacers may look to deal him rather than see him leave for L.A. without receiving any compensation in return.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Several NBA executives told Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News that they would choose Hayward over George if both were available to sign with their team. None of the executives said Hayward was the superior player based on talent alone, though they chose the Jazz star because he doesn’t come with the baggage that George comes with.
- Kobe Bryant doesn’t miss playing the game of basketball, as he discussed on recent episode of Good Morning America (h/t James Dator of SB Nation). “No, I don’t,” Bryant said about missing the sport. “No, it’s crazy but I started playing when I was 2, and so after playing for 20 years in the league — what I have now is, everything I’ve learned from the game I carry with me to this day. So, the game’s never truly left me.”
- Team USA announced who will be on the committees for the country’s men’s and women’s teams. Jerry Colangelo will continue to be the managing director of the Men’s National Team, while director Carol Callan will head the Woman’s National Team. Each committee will have an athlete representative. Shane Battier will serve as the men’s representative and Katie Smith will be the woman’s representative.
Gobert had been sidelined since banging his knee on the first play of Game 1. Shortly after the injury was sustained, the big man underwent X-rays and an MRI which both revealed that there was no structural damage.
With Gobert in the lineup, the Jazz will get the opportunity to exact revenge on a Clippers team that has hopped out to a 2-1 lead over their shorthanded opponents. In Game 3, of course, Clips forward Blake Griffin went down with a toe injury that will cost him the remainder of the postseason.
In 81 games for the Jazz this season, Gobert emerged as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate with an improved offensive game. His 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, coupled with the sheer length that he possesses around the rim, will serve the visiting Utah squad well.
- When the Jazz tip off for Game 4 of their first-round series later tonight there’s a 50% chance that they’ll see Rudy Gobert return to action, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. The big man was formally updated to questionable earlier today.
- The Jazz failed to capitalize when Clippers forward Blake Griffin left Game 3 injured but the fact that fans can ruminate on the team’s inability to slow Chris Paul simply means that they’re playing meaningful games again, Brad Rock of the Deseret News writes, and that’s something that they can be excited for.
Frank Jackson has declared for the draft but has not hired an agent, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The point guard will wait until after the pre-draft process before making a final decision on whether to stay in the draft or return to Duke.
Jackson’s father, Al, told Jones that had his son’s experience at the school was the only reason Jackson hasn’t hired an agent yet. “If he had gone anywhere else, we wouldn’t have had to struggle with this decision. Frank would’ve been a one-and-done player with no doubt,” Al Jackson said.
He added that he had a positive conversation coach Mike Krzyzewski about his son’s decision to test the waters. “The door is definitely open for Frank to return,” Al Jackson said. “Frank still may very well go back.”
The elder Jackson said he has received feedback from sources within the NBA, many of which have expressed interest in his son. “It’s clear to us enough teams consider Frank an NBA player,” Al Jackson said. “He has superior athleticism, he has high character and he has a high basketball IQ.”
The 19-year-old Jackson is the 45th best prospect in the upcoming draft, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. He averaged 10.9 points and 1.7 assists in 24.9 minutes per game during his lone season at Duke.
Jones adds that the prospect is a native of Utah and has long been a fan of the Jazz. Jackson is hoping for a pre-draft workout with the organization and he also hopes to be invited to the pre-draft combine, which takes place in Chicago in May.
- Derrick Favors, who has one season and $12MM left on his contract after this season, is seeing extended playing time for the Jazz while Rudy Gobert recovers from a knee injury. Favors didn’t play particularly well on the defensive end, but coach Quin Synder understands that the struggles are a result of playing too many minutes, as Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News relays. “You don’t have to look any further than the guy played 38 minutes and he hasn’t played that many minutes all year,” Snyder said. “He’s battling. He’s competing, playing hard, and we’re asking a lot of him right now. We’re going to keep doing that, and he’s going to give us everything he has.”
It hasn’t been decided if the All-NBA teams will be announced during the league’s first ever award show on June 26 but regardless of when the teams are revealed they’ll have an impact on two pending free agents, John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
Neither Blake Griffin nor Gordon Hayward will win the MVP of Defensive Player of the Year award, Smallwood writes, but the two will be in contention to land a spot among the three year-end teams. This year, that’s more important than ever.
Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, players whose portfolios boast particular impressive accolades will be eligible for more money in the form of the Designated Veteran Exception.
Another player that will be impacted by the new exception is Stephen Curry but since the MVP clause covers anybody who won that award in the previous three seasons, his is already locked in.
It’s unclear how exactly the formal announcements will unfold but even without the drama of a formal award show, this year’s revelations will be more dramatic than any we’ve seen previously.
There’s more from around the league:
- Though he’s no longer the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern is still very much involved with the league and the sport of basketball, Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press writes. The article discusses some of the 74-year-old’s latest endeavors.
- For the first time ever, Basketball Without Borders is setting up camp in Israel, E. Carchia of Sportando writes. BWB has reached 134 countries and territories since 2001.
- The NBDL Player of the Year is former Cavaliers training camp invitee John Holland, the Cleveland D-League affiliate announced in an official press release. The guard averaged 22.9 points per game for the Canton Charge.
APRIL 21, 8:10am: Withey’s attorney, Alan Jackson, has issued a statement calling the allegations against his client “salacious and patently false,” suggesting that it’s not a coincidence that the accusation came during the playoffs (Twitter link via HoopsHype). Jackson added that he’s confident the “falsity of the claims… will be exposed.”
APRIL 20, 4:06pm: Jeff Withey‘s former fiancee, Kennedy Summers, has filed a police report accusing him of domestic violence, according to TMZ Sports. Sources tell the publication that the charges, which were filed in California on Tuesday, reference multiple incidents, though one 2016 incident is law enforcement’s focus.
Summers filed the police report this week because the Jazz are traveling to Los Angeles, where she lives, and she’s concerned for her safety, sources tell TMZ. “Given the ongoing circumstances, our client now needs to protect herself and come forward about everything so this doesn’t happen to her or others in the future,” Summers’ lawyers contends. The publication reached out to Withey, but received no response. The 27-year-old has seen extra playing time
The 27-year-old center has seen playing time this postseason with Rudy Gobert sidelined. In 18 minutes over Utah’s first two playoff games, he scored five points on four shot attempts. He also pulled down four rebounds.
ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the Thunder should seriously consider playing Russell Westbrook the entire game during the postseason, as he told Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman. The Thunder outscored the Rockets in Game 2 by 11 points in the 41 minutes that Westbrook played. Westbrook’s 51-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist effort was wasted in a 115-111 loss that gave Houston a 2-0 series lead. Oklahoma City is better off with Westbrook staying on the court even if he wears down as the game goes on, Van Gundy told Bracht. “I think he gives them a better chance even if he is diminished somewhat due to fatigue by playing the whole game,” Van Gundy said. “Maybe it will be different at home, but the dropoff is huge.”
In other playoff developments around the Northwest Division:
- Thunder coach Billy Donovan doesn’t want Victor Oladipo‘s shooting woes to affect his overall game, the Associated Press reports. The shooting guard is averaging 8.5 PPG and shooting 19% from the field through the first two playoff games. Donovan wants Oladipo to realize his defense and rebounding are also important. “Victor’s not a one-dimensional player — he can do a lot of different things,” Donovan said. “Taking his mindset off the ball going in the basket, and him realizing, ‘I’m not going to allow myself to be defined by that because there’s too many other things I can do out there to help this team.'”
- Forward Doug McDermott was a bright spot for the Thunder in Game 2, as he scored 11 points in 14 minutes. “I knew I could have an impact on this series,” McDermott told Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “I know my shot’s always gonna be there, and they have to respect that.”
- Jazz center Rudy Gobert will remain sidelined for Game 3 of the series against the Clippers, according to another AP story. He hyperextended his left knee and suffered a bone contusion in the opening minute of the series. The Jazz were outscored 60-38 in the paint in Game 2 while going with a smaller lineup most of the way.
- The Jazz will also be without shooting guard Alec Burks for Game 3, the team’s PR department tweets. Burks received a platelet-rich plasma injection into his left knee on Thursday. Burks, who averaged 6.7 PPG in 15.5 MPG over 42 games during the regular season, has not appeared in the series.