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BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

With 1:12 left in the third quarter of the Toronto Raptors' blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 Monday night, frustrations started to boil over for the defending champions. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry committed a personal foul on Boston's Jayson Tatum, sending him to the line. Lowry had a little something extra to say and earned a technical foul after Tatum's first free throw. That's when Lowry's teammate Serge Ibaka yelled toward Lowry, "Come on man, we're losing!" as he walked away from the paint. Raptors guard Fred VanVleet calmed Ibaka immediately, but the reality of the situation was real. ESPN.com

Toronto was losing by 25 and it was symbolic of the frustrations the team was facing as the Raptors went down 3-2 in the conference semifinals. "Kyle had his moment with the ref. Serge had his moment with Kyle. But we moved on, we moved past it. It happens. We're brothers," VanVleet said. "It's a lot at stake. There's a lot on the line. Those type of things are going to happen. But it wasn't as bad as it looked, I can tell you that much. That's an everyday thing on our team. Guys just being honest. We have a lot of passionate guys. It's just part of the process." ESPN.com

The LA Clippers took a 2-1 series lead over the Denver Nuggets on Monday, overcoming a dominant 32-point, 12-rebound, 8-assist game from Nikola Jokic. Jokic's primary defender, Ivica Zubac, fouled out in 22 minutes, as he struggled to handle Jokic's combination of size and skill, but Clippers guard Patrick Beverley pointed to another factor: The Serbian big man is a flailer. "Jokic presents the same type of, I don't know, I wouldn't say problems, but he presents the same thing [Dallas Mavericks guard/forward Luka] Doncic presents -- a lot of flailing, you know, puts a lot of pressure on referees to make the right call," Beverley said. "I think Zu did a helluva job -- all the six fouls and what we needed him to do, big and-1 dunk, free throws at the end. He got a win. I think that is the most important." ESPN.com

In a different environment, [Danny] Ainge would be ensconced in the bubble with his team, visiting the locker room postgame to offer his observations and his encouragement. But when the Celtics flew to Orlando, Florida, on the team plane, Ainge was not on board. He had suffered a mild heart attack in 2009 that required surgery for a clogged artery, then had another mild attack in 2019 just shortly after he turned 60. Ainge was advised by his physicians that he would be "at risk" should he contract COVID-19. "My doctors said it would be best if I did not go," Ainge said. "But, as we've gone along -- and I've thought about it since -- I say to myself, 'Man, it feels to me like the bubble is the healthiest place to be.'" ESPN.com

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as questionable for Game 5 after he reinjured his sprained right ankle in the first half of Game 4, but he certainly will try to suit up -- if possible. The Milwaukee Bucks now trail 3-1 to the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinals series after rallying for an overtime win Sunday without Antetokounmpo. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

The Houston Rockets came up with a simple solution for the frequent double-teams and traps that teams threw at James Harden early in the season. They simply spread the floor, with no center in the lineup, and released Russell Westbrook to wreak havoc. As a result, the Rockets saw less and less of that extreme defensive strategy as the season went on, but they got a large dose of it from the Los Angeles Lakers in Sunday's Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals series. Westbrook, who is usually relentlessly confident, admitted that he struggled to find a comfort zone in countering the tactic. "Right now, I'm just running around," Westbrook said after the Rockets' 117-109 loss that evened the series. "I've got to look at film and figure out how to be effective." ESPN.com

But Westbrook hasn't been to get in that kind of efficient, dominant groove since the NBA's restart at the Walt Disney World campus in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. After reporting late due to a positive test for COVID-19, Westbrook missed four of the Rockets' eight seeding games because of a quadriceps injury that was originally diagnosed as a contusion before an MRI revealed a strain. That injury forced Westbrook to sit out the first four games of the Rockets' first-round series against the Thunder, and he hasn't played up to his high standards since returning, averaging 15.6 points and 4.4 assists while shooting only 39.1% from the floor in five playoff games. ESPN.com

The Los Angeles Lakers lost two members of their rotation to injuries in Sunday's Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals as JaVale McGee (left ankle pain) and Dion Waiters (pulled left groin) exited early and did not return. ESPN.com

Miami Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler acknowledged what anyone watching his team's 118-115 Game 4 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks could see in the moment. The Heat let their foot off the gas when reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo reinjured his right ankle early in the second quarter of Sunday's game. "Well, it shouldn't affect ours, but I think that we relaxed a little bit," Butler said when asked if the Heat's play changed after the Bucks' big man exited. "And we stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles. We weren't getting 50-50 balls. We were getting outrebounded. It was just all bad." ESPN.com

"I feel like we played like we were up 3-0," Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo said. "That's not giving enough effort, not sacrificing our body, and we ended up losing because we were up 3-0. They're a good team. So at the end of the day, we should have played like we were in Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3 ... I feel like we didn't play a maximum effort the whole game." ESPN.com

Denver Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic is questionable for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series against the LA Clippers with a sprained right wrist. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SUNDAY

After a 23-point loss in Game 1, Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone said his team had a completely new look and energy Saturday as it bounced back to win Game 2 110-101 and even its playoff series with the LA Clippers. "I thought tonight we were a noticeably different team than we were in Game 1," Malone said. "Our defense, our activity and the fact that we were willing to help each other." Coming off a grueling seven-game first-round series with the Utah Jazz, the Nuggets showed clear signs of fatigue in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals after having only one day off. Although Denver center Nikola Jokic said he "wasn't tired at all" following the opener, Malone acknowledged that there were some heavy legs, and guard Jamal Murray admitted that he was worn out from the previous series. ESPN.com

"Game 1, we were tired. Hate to admit it," Murray saidESPN.com

After the Boston Celtics shot the Toronto Raptors back into their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Saturday, Celtics star Kemba Walker placed the blame on his shoulders. "I got to be more aggressive," Walker said after finishing with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting with eight assists in Toronto's 100-93 win in Game 4, which tied the series at two games apiece. "I wasn't aggressive enough. "That's unacceptable on my behalf, to be honest. There's no way I can just be taking nine shots. That's unacceptable." ESPN.com

"Honestly, man, I thought we had great looks," Walker said. "I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game. "We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make. Like I said, we gotta make them. We have to make shots. When guys get shots, when guys are open, we gotta knock them shots down. "We'll do better. We'll do better." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SATURDAY

Jimmy Butler believes in the Miami Heat's culture as much as the organization believes in him. The perfect basketball marriage, one that has only been strengthened in the bubble as the Heat dominate everybody in their path, took another step closer to NBA paradise on Friday night when Butler scored 30 points in a 115-100 Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat now have a commanding 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series. ESPN.com

Never at a loss for confidence, Butler's own belief has only been strengthened this season after signing with the Heat this summer and watching them engineer the most impressive sustained run in the bubble. Miami is 7-0 in the Florida bubble heading into Game 4 on Sunday afternoon. Butler continues to say he isn't surprised by the Heat's success. After having issues fitting into several organizations over the past few years, Butler has thrived in Miami on a team that sees the basketball world the same way he does. His teammates and coaches have repeatedly praised his leadership and his play throughout the season, but especially since the playoffs began. ESPN.com

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 21 points with 16 rebounds and 9 assists, but he struggled down the stretch against a tough Miami defense, going 7-for-21 from the field with three turnovers in 34 minutes, 54 seconds. Despite tweaking his right ankle in the opening quarter, and seemingly grimacing throughout the game on certain plays, Antetokounmpo said he felt "great" and that "it wasn't bothering me at all." ESPN.com

However, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer continued to monitor his minutes and said he didn't regret not using him and Khris Middleton more in the game. Middleton put up 18 points with seven assists in 36:02. "No, I think we, obviously, it's 48 minutes. You gotta be good for the last 12. If anything, I think keeping us fresh and ready to go and compete and all those things," Budenholzer said. "Khris was in a little bit of a foul trouble. It's a high level. If you're going as hard as these guys are in a playoff game, 35-36 [minutes], I think that's pushing the ceiling." ESPN.com

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone went after the NBA on Friday, calling its policy of not allowing coaches to bring family into the bubble "criminal in nature." Speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday's Game 2 against the LA Clippers, Malone answered a different question about the bubble by saying he needed to get something off his chest. "First, I'm going to say something that has nothing to do with your question," he said. "Today is Day 60. All right? The guys that came down here on July 7 -- and there weren't many of us because we were ravaged with COVID -- this is the original crew. This is day No. 60. The reason why I bring that up is because the players have their families here, which they deserve, which is the right thing to do. The referees are allowed to bring one guest, which is great for the referees. The coaches, the coaches are not allowed to bring anybody." ESPN.com

Kendall Jenner traveled northeast with boyfriend Devin Booker -- double dating with pals Justin and Hailey Bieber -- during a trek to ID. Kendall and her Phoenix Suns BF have been making the rounds over the last few months. They've been camping, dining, and just hanging out ... and they've amped it up since the Devin left the NBA bubble. TMZ Sports



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM FRIDAY

Patrick Beverley played only 12 minutes Thursday, but the LA Clippers could hear and feel his impact. With Beverley back from a left calf injury that he said "humbled" him, the Clippers smothered the Denver Nuggets 120-97 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. Beverley's return marked just the 13th time that the Clippers have been at full strength this season. They improved to 12-1 when having their full rotation available. ESPN.com

A quick scan of the Clippers' roster is eye-popping. They have defensive stoppers all over the floor and a pair of two-way superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who can draw blood from a stone in the half court. When fully healthy, this is a team that counts Patrick Patterson and Rodney McGruder as its 11th and 12th players on the roster. Yet during the regular season, the Clippers utilized the third-most starting lineups in the NBA. George started the season inactive while recovering from shoulder surgery. Throw in Leonard's careful load management program and some midseason acquisitions, and the Clippers were never quite whole. Banking on a team with such a thin record of success might be irrational exuberance. But seven games into the Clippers' playoff run, Leonard has demonstrated that he is reason enough to have blind faith in the team. ESPN.com

If not for an old Hubie Brown DVD, the Toronto Raptors could be looking at a 3-0 hole in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics. As he was walking toward the bus following Thursday night's come-from-behind 104-103 victory over the Celtics, Raptors coach Nick Nurse glowingly talked about the origins of the final play that ended with OG Anunoby's game-winning 3-pointer. He told The Undefeated's Marc Spears about a set of DVDs from 2008 that featured various basketball coaches talking about different plays. The one he remembered the most featured Hubie Brown. So when his team had 0.5 seconds left to steal a victory, he went to Brown's play. ESPN.com

The Boston Celtics were 0.5 seconds away from taking a commanding 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the defending champion Toronto Raptors. But after Raptors forward OG Anunoby shook free for a stunning buzzer-beating 3-pointer that saw Toronto escape with a heart-stopping 104-103 victory, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown didn't attempt to hide his disgust over allowing the Raptors to survive -- and remain in the series as a result. "That was just a f---ing disgrace at the end of the game," Brown said. "That was just terrible. "No way we should have lost that game. I take responsibility for that. Not just that play, but a lot of the plays before. And it happens. This is the NBA playoffs. Either you let them gain momentum or you come back and be ready to play next game." ESPN.com

"I think pressure's a big word, especially from where each individual comes from," Eric Bledsoe said heading into the NBA restart in Florida. "But [I'm] a little bit more motivated to get back to where we was." Fairly or not, Bledsoe has become the poster child for Milwaukee's early exits each of the past two postseasons. But it's not just Bledsoe. As Giannis Antetokounmpo has ascended, his supporting cast has declined when he needed them most, though the reigning MVP isn't dwelling on that. "We're all hard on ourselves, but basketball is not what you did in the past or what you're gonna do in the future, it's about what you're doing right now," he said. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM THURSDAY

The Brooklyn Nets have named Steve Nash as the 23rd head coach in the franchise’s NBA history. “After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” said General Manager Sean Marks. “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players. I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I have witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league. We are excited to welcome Steve, Lilla, Lola, Bella, Matteo, Luca and Ruby to Brooklyn.” Inside Hoops

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the bench in disbelief as Jimmy Butler sank a pair of free throws with an empty lane and no time on the clock Wednesday night. Just moments earlier, the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat were knotted at 114 after Khris Middleton sank all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt. It set up a wild finish, one that saw Antetokounmpo foul Butler after the ball had left his hands -- a call confirmed by review -- and allowed the Heat to walk off with a victory in just the third NBA playoff game ever to end on game-winning, buzzer-beating free throws, according to Basketball-Reference.com data. ESPN.com

Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, wasn't sure what to make of it. "I tried to make it tough for Jimmy," he said after a 116-114 loss in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, left the top-seeded Bucks in a 2-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference semifinals. "The refs said there was contact there. Maybe there was, I've got to watch the play. It is what it is. I tried to contest the shot, but they said there was contact there, so I've got to watch (the) play." ESPN.com

LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he's fairly certain point guard Patrick Beverley will be back for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. "You'll see him for sure," Rivers said Wednesday when asked if Beverley will play at some point during the best-of-7 series. "I'm pretty sure tomorrow [for Game 1], but I can't guarantee that. "But he looked pretty good [in practice]." ESPN.com

LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. was fined $35,000 for his Game 6 flagrant foul 2 on Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, the NBA announced Wednesday. The league office also announced that Doncic was fined $15,000 for throwing the ball at the legs of a game official in the third quarter of Game 6. Doncic received a technical foul for tossing the ball at referee Billy Kennedy's legs after being called for an offensive foul. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM WEDNESDAY

Kemba Walker chose to come to the Boston Celtics as a free agent last summer to finally have a chance to make a deep postseason run. So it came as little surprise that Walker, after hitting the two biggest shots of the game to lift Boston to a 102-99 victory Tuesday over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, was grinning from ear to ear in The Field House at the Walt Disney World Resort. In his ninth NBA season, Walker finds himself in the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time -- and now is two wins from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. ESPN.com

"We just lost two games. We have a chance to get one game. That's all we have to do," Lowry said. "Get one game, and take it one game at a time. The Celtics, they are playing extremely well. We have to find a way to get ourselves going better." Toronto led by as many as 12 in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter up 78-70. Then Marcus Smart hit five 3-pointers -- including a four-point play -- in the first 4:05 of the fourth quarter as Boston took control. It didn't help that the Raptors shot 5-of-21 from the field and 1-of-11 from 3-point range in one of their worst fourth-quarter performances of the season. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

Before the Oklahoma City Thunder boarded their bus Monday to head to the arena for an elimination Game 6 against the Houston Rockets, they had to pack their bags. Down six with 3:40 left, it looked as though the suitcases could be loaded up and the paperwork filed for checkout of the NBA bubble. But as they've done all season, with the game close, the Thunder turned things over to Chris Paul, who scored eight of their final 12 points, including two go-ahead free throws with 13.1 seconds left, to deliver a 104-100 victory and force a Game 7 on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. ESPN.com

Paul finished with 28 points -- and zero turnovers -- in 40 minutes, with a game-high plus-20. Every other Thunder starter was a minus in plus/minus, and the next highest were Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder at plus-6. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Paul now has four career playoff games of 25-plus points and zero turnovers, tying him for third most among active players. Only Kevin Durant and LeBron James have more. ESPN.com

Miami Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler scored a career-playoff-high 40 points in Monday's 115-104 Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, taking over the game down the stretch just like his teammates and coaches thought he would. Butler repeatedly made big plays on both ends of the floor, much to the delight of a Heat roster that is 5-0 in the NBA postseason bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. "I told my teammates I probably wasn't gonna pass the ball," Butler said of his late-game mindset. "I made a couple shots, and they said, 'That's fine with me.'" ESPN.com

Butler, who signed with the Heat last summer, became just the third player in franchise history to have a 40-point playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information, joining Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Butler also became the first player in franchise history to score 40 in Game 1 of a series. After the game ended, Butler noted that Wade, a close friend of his dating to their time playing together with the Chicago Bulls, has been in his ear the past few weeks pumping him up. ESPN.com

Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo, who finished with 17 rebounds and six assists, became the first player in franchise history with at least 15 rebounds and five assists in consecutive playoff games. Spoelstra got another huge lift from veteran Goran Dragic (27-6-5), who became the first Heat player to score at least 25 points, grab 5 rebounds and dish out 5 assists in a playoff game since James did so in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

As the LA Clippers watched a 23-point lead shrink to six with just over nine minutes left in Game 6, Kawhi Leonard didn't need to say much. The reigning NBA Finals MVP closed out the Dallas Mavericks by making four consecutive shots to fuel a series-clinching 17-7 run and propel the Clippers to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 111-97 victory Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. ESPN.com

Kawhi Leonard finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals to become just the seventh player to have 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a playoff game, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. "I mean Kawhi's a man of business," teammate Paul George said. "He stepped up and stepped in time after time, whenever we needed him he put us on his back and he finished the series. I can't say it enough. After this series, he's the most reliable guy. His shot-making and his time on awareness plays -- he is one of a kind." ESPN.com

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony isn't done yet. The 36-year-old Anthony, who had spent more than a year out of the NBA -- after sour endings in Oklahoma City and Houston -- before signing with the Trail Blazers last season, expects to return to the league next season. "In my mind, I'll be right back in the fray of things when next season comes," Anthony said Saturday after the Trail Blazers fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in a season-ending, 131-122 Game 5 loss. The Lakers won the series four games to one. ESPN.com

LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. was ejected late in the first quarter of Game 6 on Sunday for a flagrant 2 foul committed against Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, a continuation of the heated rivalry that has developed between the two players in their Western Conference first-round series. As Doncic drove to the basket, Morris swiped and smacked him on the right side of his head with 1:07 remaining in the quarter, causing Doncic to crash to the court. Morris glared at Doncic as he was down on the floor, and Doncic pounced to his feet to confront him before players and coaches separated the two. ESPN.com

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry started Sunday's 112-94 Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics after previously being uncertain to play because of a sprained left ankle. He had a team-high 17 points in 35 minutes. ESPN.com

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder and Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker each has been fined $25,000 after their altercation in Game 5 on Saturday. NBA executive vice president of basketball operations announced the punishment Sunday. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM FRIDAY

The Houston Rockets held an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday to get All-Star guard Russell Westbrook his first full-speed, 5-on-5 action since he was diagnosed with a strained right quadriceps, sources told ESPN. "He looked as explosive as ever," a source said. Barring any setbacks, there's an expectation that he will be ready to return for Game 5. ESPN.com

The N.B.A. announced a plan to convert some of its arenas into polling locations for the November election as part of an agreement with its players’ union to resume the playoffs on Saturday, union and league officials said in a joint statement Friday. “We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between N.B.A. players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality,” said the statement signed by the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players’ union. NY Times

Some NBA teams -- including the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz -- have already announced that their arenas will be available to be used as voting locations in November. On this initiative, a statement from More Than A Vote, the nonprofit organization co-founded by LeBron James, read in part, "We stand ready to support the NBPA's and NBA's effort to convert every NBA arena possible into a polling location for this fall's election. ESPN.com

LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his players are ready to continue the NBA postseason after "they thought it was over" following Wednesday's emotional players' meeting. "Oh, they want to," Rivers said when asked if his team is ready to move forward during an interview Thursday on Fox Prime Ticket. "They are really looking forward to it. Yesterday was a very difficult day though. Like their emotions were all over the place. "They thought it was over. It was just a really tough day for all of them." ESPN.com

The players met again on Thursday morning and voted in favor of resuming the playoffs, a source told Wojnarowski. "To be fair, that vote wasn't us saying, 'We don't want to play basketball,'" Clippers guard Landry Shamet, appearing on "The JJ Redick Podcast," said of the initial poll Wednesday night. "It was just simply a poll of what we thought was best to do. That's what came out of our team." ESPN.com

The Milwaukee Bucks made the historic decision not to play Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers all followed suit and opted not to play their games on Wednesday as well. ESPN.com

"I loved it," Rivers said of the Bucks' decision on their own to not play Game 5. "I wish, obviously, they would've alerted all the players so they wouldn't have been blindsided by it, but I thought the action was the right action, especially because of who it was. I thought the one team that had to take action immediately was Milwaukee, if we were gonna take action at all, and again that's our choice." ESPN.com

Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul, who is the president of the players’ union, had the tedious and thankless job of uniting the players. Many were frustrated and emotionally drained after being caught off-guard by the Bucks’ refusal to take the court Wednesday for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic without informing anyone outside the team of their plans. Yahoo Sports

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon has left the NBA bubble because of a strained left hamstring injury, the team announced Thursday. Gordon has been out of action since the injury occurred during an Aug. 5 loss to the Toronto Raptors. In the second half of that game, Gordon went up for a dunk and was fouled hard by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. The foul caused Gordon to land awkwardly and Lowry was assessed a flagrant 1 foul after review. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM THURSDAY

NBA players met again Thursday morning - a day after the Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the floor for their playoff game against the Orlando Magic - and voted in favor of resuming the playoffs, a source told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Bucks' decision not to play Wednesday led to the postponement of all three playoff games that day. And Thursday afternoon, the NBA announced that it would postpone the three playoff games scheduled to be played later that day: Denver-Utah, Boston-Toronto, LA Clippers-Dallas. ESPN.com

When games officially resume hasn't been determined as players and the league continue discussions, though the expectation is that Wednesday's scheduled slate now will be played Saturday, and Thursday's games will be held Sunday. "There is a video conference call meeting scheduled later this afternoon between a group of NBA players and team governors representing the 13 teams in Orlando, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association and the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman Michael Jordan, to discuss next steps," NBA executive vice president Mike Bass said in a statement announcing the decision to postpone Thursday's games. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM WEDNESDAY

After NBA players spent days discussing a potential protest of playoff games, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic, prompting the NBA to postpone all three games scheduled for Wednesday. Milwaukee is about 40 miles north of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the city where 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police on Sunday. Blake was shot as he attempted to enter the driver's side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media. ESPN.com

The Milwaukee Bucks have decided to boycott Game 5 on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "We're tired of the killings and the injustice," Bucks guard George Hill told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James was among NBA players to react to the boycott on social media, tweeting in all capital letters: "F--- THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT." ESPN.com

After busting out of the worst playoff shooting slump of his career with 35 points against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 on Tuesday, Paul George plopped down into the interview chair and exhaled. It might as well have been a sigh of relief. In a candid and vulnerable postgame interview session, George admitted that his epic shooting struggles in his previous three games were in part due to his experiencing anxiety and depression inside the isolation of the NBA bubble. After helping the LA Clippers beat the Mavericks 154-111 in franchise-record-setting fashion to take a 3-2 series lead, the six-time All-Star revealed that he was "in a dark place" during his walk-off interview with TNT. ESPN.com

"It was just a little bit of everything," George later explained when asked what he meant. "I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn't there. I checked out. "Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn't there. I felt like I wasn't there. Shout-out to the people that were in my corner, that gave me words. They helped big time, help get me right, [get] me back in great spirits. I can't thank them enough." ESPN.com

LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. adamantly denied that he intentionally stepped on Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic's sprained left ankle during Tuesday night's Game 5. After a made basket by the Clippers early in the third quarter, Morris jogged from the left wing toward Doncic, who was awaiting an inbounds. Morris' left foot landed on the back of Doncic's left foot, knocking Doncic's shoe off. ESPN.com

"I play this game with a level of respect for myself and other players. To think I would try to injure somebody is crazy to me," Marcus Morris wrote on Twitter after the Clippers' 154-111 blowout win. "10 years going against the best. I stand on morals and hard work. I compete and leave it out there every game." In a follow-up tweet, Morris added, "Basketball has never been that serious to try to hurt somebody. Im not apologizing for s--- because I know what I put into this game day in and day out. It was a mistake deal wit it. Competing is why I play." ESPN.com

With the Nuggets facing playoff elimination and trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, Jamal Murray ripped Game 5 away from Utah’s grip and ensured Denver could fight another day. The Nuggets’ 117-107 white-knuckle win guaranteed, at least, a Game 6 on Thursday, with Utah holding a 3-2 lead. As his late 3-pointer rattled home, giving the Nuggets a 106-101 lead with 2:47 remaining, a smile crept across Murray’s face. If five games has proven anything, it’s that Murray thrives off postseason tension. And even facing the potential end of their 50-day Orlando odyssey, Murray couldn’t help but enjoy the late five-point cushion. His monumental 42-point masterpiece, to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists, saved the Nuggets’ season. Denver Post

Nikola Jokic added 31 points, six rebounds and four assists, his selfless nature more than willing to cede the spotlight to his counterpart. Neither Nuggets cornerstone rested over the final two quarters. Meanwhile, versatile forward Jerami Grant sat for barely over a minute of the second half, and Malone rode with Michael Porter Jr. and P.J. Dozier essentially the entire fourth quarter. Denver Post

For the second time, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to push back a 60-day window that preserves each side's rights to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, sources tell ESPN. The NBA and NBPA agreed on an Oct. 15 deadline to complete talks on modifications to the CBA for the 2020-2021 season, a date that guarantees an uninterrupted completion of the NBA playoffs and allows more time for the league and union to make better-informed decisions based upon on the virus' course and the league's revenue projections for next season. ESPN.com

The NBA and NBPA extended the original negotiating deadline in May to Sept. 10, sources said. "Extending is an easy call," NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN on Tuesday. "If everyone continues to be well-intentioned on how we deal with the economic effects of this virus, we'll just make the appropriate adjustments, and there won't be a need to terminate the CBA at all." ESPN.com

The NBA is moving toward pushing back this year's draft, scheduled for Oct. 16, along with the Oct. 18 start of free agency, partly because of a strong likelihood that the tentative opening of the 2020-2021 season will be delayed from Dec. 1, sources tell ESPN. ESPN.com

Calling all (rich) Kobe Bryant fans, an incredibly unique collectible from the Mamba's historic 60-point farewell game is up for grabs ... but it'll cost a fortune!! A large section of the Staples Center hardwood court -- where Kobe played his final NBA game -- is set to hit the auction block ... and the piece is truly 1-of-a-kind. TMZ Sports



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler has been dealing with a left shoulder strain over the past few days, but he does not expect the injury to limit him as Miami moves forward in the NBA playoffs. Butler's acknowledgement came after Monday's 99-87 Game 4 win over the Indiana Pacers in which the Heat completed a sweep despite Butler playing through pain and being hesitant to use or raise his left arm throughout the game. ESPN.com

Jimmy Butler, who signed with the Heat as a free agent last summer and quickly became the leader of the group alongside longtime Heat stalwart Udonis Haslem, gutted his way through the entire game. Butler left after just six minutes to get his shoulder checked out but came back into the game at the start of the second half and helped close out the Pacers in this Eastern Conference first-round series -- finishing with six points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. ESPN.com

The Heat will play the winner of the Milwaukee-Orlando series, which the Bucks lead 3-1 after Monday's Game 4 victory in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. ESPN.com

After a fifth straight exit in the first round of the playoffs -- including a second straight sweep and a third in the past four years, thanks to a 99-87 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday -- Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner said he's fed up with being immediately sent home from the playoffs. "At some point, you have to get over the hump, man," Turner said. "Five years of being in the playoffs, five first-round exits. So me, personally, I take that s--- personally. You gotta find a way." ESPN.com

"We need to get full strength," McMillan said. "We haven't seen this particular team full strength for more than five, six games. When Victor came back, we had a couple guys with those injuries, so our starting lineup with Victor being in the lineup and Malcolm and Warren and Domas and Myles, we haven't seen that combination ... I don't have the number of games, but I know it's not more than 10 games. "We haven't seen the combination with Lamb and us just being a fully healthy team because we've had so many injuries. So that's the thing: to get ourselves healthy next season, and hopefully, we can stay healthy and see this team work together." ESPN.com

The Philadelphia 76ers have fired coach Brett Brown, the team announced Monday. Brown's dismissal is expected to be a precursor for more upheaval for the 76ers, whose senior leadership -- including general manager Elton Brand -- will begin exploring changes in the front-office structure, sources said. ESPN.com

The franchise's plan is that Brand will continue to oversee basketball operations, sources said, but the personnel and structure in the front office is undergoing significant evaluation and change is looming. ESPN.com

Paul George admits he is struggling and says if he shot better, the Clippers would not be tied 2-2 in this best-of-seven series with the Mavericks. He has only taken 20 or more shots once in this series, when he went 10-for-22 and knocked down four 3-pointers to score 27 points in Game 1. Since then, he has shot 4-for-17, 3-for-16 and 3-for-14 in the last three games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, George is the first player to shoot under 25% in three straight playoff games since Bob Cousy in 1960 with a minimum of 10 field goal attempts each game. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was a last-minute scratch for Sunday's Game 4 against the LA Clippers due to right knee soreness. Star guard Luka Doncic, who sprained his left ankle in Friday night's Game 3 loss, warmed up about an hour and a half before Game 4 before the decision was made for him to play. He started the game. ESPN.com

The NBA and sports worlds are paying tribute to Kobe Bryant on what would have been the Basketball Hall of Famer's 42nd birthday. Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Jan. 26. ESPN.com

On Sunday, Vanessa Bryant delivered a personal and heartfelt birthday message: "To my baby -- Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU!," the post read. "I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh... "Thank you for showing me what real love is. Thank YOU for everything. I know my Gigi in celebrating you like she always has on our special days. I miss my thoughtful princess so much! Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, Capri and I wish you a happy birthday my love. I love you now, forever and always." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SATURDAY

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic status for Sunday afternoon's Game 4 is in question due to a sprained left ankle that caused him to exit Friday night's 130-122 loss to the LA Clippers in the fourth quarter. Doncic went down after rolling his ankle while defending Kawhi Leonard on a drive to the basket with 3:58 left in the quarter. He immediately grabbed his left ankle, and after being helped to his feet, Doncic hopped on his right foot off the floor and up the tunnel. ESPN.com

After getting the ankle re-taped, Doncic returned at the beginning of the fourth quarter and was clearly hobbled before exiting with 9:02 left. The Mavs announced minutes later that Doncic would not return. "It's not that bad," said Doncic, who missed a total of 11 games this season due to twice spraining his right ankle. "Honestly, I had luck it's my left ankle. It's not my right. It's a little sprained. We'll know more tomorrow." ESPN.com

Since they arrived at the NBA's bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort, the Philadelphia 76ers have stressed the importance of Joel Embiid's improved reads out of double-teams to the Sixers' success. But in the final two minutes of Game 3 of Philadelphia's first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Embiid made crucial mistakes -- a terrible pass that went directly to Celtics guard Marcus Smart and a forced shot that was blocked by Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. The mistakes led to six Boston points, part of a 10-0 run to end the game that allowed the Celtics to claim a 102-94 victory Friday and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series between the league's oldest rivals. ESPN.com

"We just couldn't make a shot," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "We truly couldn't make a shot. The good news of 20 offensive rebounds is a fantastic effort, but lots of that were there's lots of rebounds to get. I give our guys credit for continuing to shoot the shots they should've. I give our guys credit for going to the offensive boards. Twenty is a large number. But it's tough to win when you shoot 29% for the game and 23% from the 3. It's really difficult to do that. We got to the line, we did a lot of good things. "We just did not make shots." ESPN.com

After winning Game 1 in overtime, the Nuggets have been blown out in the past two games by a total of 56 points and now trail 2-1 in the series. On Friday, they were beaten at the 3-point line by Mike Conley Jr., manhandled in the paint by Rudy Gobert and stifled by Utah defenders such as Royce O'Neale. "None of us are performing. I'm not coaching well enough; we're not playing well enough," Malone said. "And a lot has to change going into Game 4, because this is two games in a row we've gotten our ass kicked." ESPN.com

"I mean, it's not over," said Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, whose team is playing without injured starters Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (not with team to rehab knee). "There's still plenty of games. We just need to play a little bit with more discipline and a little bit more focused on small things -- going to the corner, running with discipline. Just be little bit more disciplined in my opinion." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM FRIDAY

The Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday won the 2020 NBA draft lottery and the right to the first pick in the draft later this year. The Timberwolves, who ended the season with the league's third-worst record, will be followed by the Golden State Warriors, who had the worst record, and then the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls in the draft on Oct. 16. ESPN.com

After returning to campus from the birth of his son, Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr., is clearing quarantine on Friday morning and will be in the lineup for the Western Conference first-round series Game 3 against the Denver Nuggets today, sources tell ESPN. Conley Jr. is expected to return as a starter with the series tied 1-1. ESPN.com

Thursday's game marked one win the Lakers had been awaiting for a long, long time. It had been more than eight years -- 3,016 days, to be precise -- since the franchise last won a playoff game on May 18, 2012. Davis was in college then. James was en route to his first title with the Heat. Now they are together, trying to stack up 15 more wins in the bubble to bring the Lakers their first championship in a decade. "Our relationship has been great the entire season," Davis said of James. "I've kind of just been leaning on him this entire season, just trying to figure out the tricks [of the] trade of playing with a guy like him and a team like this. ... He kind of has been there for me and supporting me and kind of guiding me through this entire process." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM THURSDAY

Down 0-1 in their first-round NBA playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup could look a little different for Game 2 on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). Point guard Rajon Rondo, sidelined the past 5 1/2 weeks with a fractured thumb on his right hand which required him to leave the bubble to undergo surgery, was upgraded to questionable for Game 2 by the team. "Rondo is working really hard to get back and we'll have him back when he's ready, not before," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Wednesday. "We're going to list him as questionable, which by definition means 50-50." ESPN.com

Kyle Kuzma wasn't shy about speaking up about his role when asked about the starting lineup, all but volunteering his services to join the Lakers' first unit that found itself down by nine points in the first quarter Tuesday before Vogel made a substitution. "It's me being confident saying, 'Yes,' but I'm not the coach," Kuzma said when asked if he could help the starters. "I'm just a player. So, I just kind of just do whatever they ask me to do. That's my job. Starring in my role. Playing with effort, playing with enthusiasm, and if they call on me to start, then obviously you guys have seen what I've done, what I do, I just come in and just try to be myself. So, play hard and play free-spirited." ESPN.com

The Denver Nuggets will have to find a way to bounce back from their Game 2 loss to the Utah Jazz and do it while knowing that they will be without starter Will Barton indefinitely. A source confirmed that Barton left the NBA bubble on Wednesday to rehab his right knee and seek a second opinion. The small forward left the NBA campus after his knee condition had not improved, the Denver Post first reported. ESPN.com

Barton and Harris have not played in any of the seeding games or playoff games. Denver coach Michael Malone has been saying that he will not focus on waiting for his injured starters to return. But he could have used two of his best defenders. Utah shot 51.7%, including making 20 of 44 3-pointers in Game 2. Jordan Clarkson scored 26 points off the bench. ESPN.com

Luka Doncic described it as "an amazing feeling" to get his first NBA playoff win after the Dallas Mavericks' 127-114 victory over the LA Clippers in Wednesday's Game 2, and it's a sensation he expects to experience again soon. "We've just got three left," Doncic said, referring to how many more wins the seventh-seeded Mavs need to pull off an upset over the heavily favored Clippers in their first-round Western Conference series in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. "I think we can fight with them. Any series we go in, we're going to believe we can win, for sure. If you don't believe it, you're not supposed to be here. You've got to believe it." ESPN.com

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he had no choice but to substitute for Doncic after his fifth foul, which was called when Dallas was protecting a 13-point lead. The Mavs managed to maintain that lead as Doncic sat for more than seven minutes. "I was frustrated for like 15 seconds," said Doncic, whose 70 points so far this series ranks second in NBA history for the most by a player in his first two playoff games behind Hall of Famer George Mikan's 75 in 1949, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. "Then I was focused on supporting my teammates. They did a great, great job. Being on the bench, it's hard for me. I want to help my team, but we won the game. Maybe if I don't pick up that foul, we don't win the game." ESPN.com

The LA Clippers were without Patrick Beverley in Game 2 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, due to a lingering left calf strain. Coach Doc Rivers said the team's starting point guard was not moving well in the morning shootaround. Beverley was added to the afternoon injury report as questionable before the team downgraded him to out. ESPN.com

Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris left the bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday to attend to a non-medical personal matter after the team's 104-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. Because of the NBA's rules for quarantining after a player leaves the bubble, even if Harris returns as soon as Thursday, he will miss, at minimum, Games 3 and 4 of this series. ESPN.com

Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins has been diagnosed with a stress reaction injury in his left ankle and will be reevaluated in a week, the team said after an MRI. That rules Collins out for Thursday's Game 2 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. ESPN.com

Ex-NBA player Gerald Wilkins -- younger bro of Dominique Wilkins -- was arrested Tuesday on 2 counts of battery and he's still behind bars, TMZ Sports has learned. The 56-year-old was taken into custody in Cobb County, Georgia on August 18. TMZ Sports



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

Luka Doncic made history in his first playoff game with 42 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds to set the NBA record for most points in a postseason debut. But the Dallas Mavericks' budding star could only sum up his Game 1 performance against the LA Clippers with one word. "Terrible," Doncic said. ESPN.com

The Mavericks point guard turned the ball over 11 times, helping the Clippers take a 1-0 lead in this Western Conference first-round series with a 118-110 victory. "I should never had like 11 turnovers," Doncic said after the game. "That is 11 more possessions, imagine that. I think a lot of this game, I got to do way better than that." ESPN.com

But the Mavericks stormed back, going on a 48-18 run at one point. Doncic gave coach Doc Rivers' vaunted Clippers defense problems, even with Kristaps Porzingis ejected early in the third after picking up his second technical foul. Doncic scored 23 of his points and made 8 of 13 shots in the second half. He scored or assisted on 66 of the 82 points the Mavericks scored while he was on the floor, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. ESPN.com

Referees gave Porzingis and Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. double technicals following a confrontation that began when Morris wrapped his arms around Luka Doncic, drawing the ire of the Dallas star. Porzingis confronted Morris, and they were separated after Morris shoved Porzingis. "I saw him getting into Luka's face and I didn't like that," said Porzingis, who had 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes before his ejection. "That's why I reacted. That's a smart, smart thing to do from their part. I've just got to be smarter and control my emotions the next time." ESPN.com

Crew chief Kane Fitzgerald said in a pool report that Porzingis was assessed the second technical foul for "being an escalator to the altercation,"ESPN.com

As the Boston Celtics have rebuilt their team into an Eastern Conference contender the past few years, they have done so around the idea that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be franchise cornerstone players for years to come. Monday night, Tatum and Brown showed how that vision is beginning to come together. Tatum's 32 points and 13 rebounds and Brown's 29 points -- including 15 in the fourth quarter -- propelled Boston to a 109-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series inside the NBA bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort. ESPN.com

With All-Star Ben Simmons out for the season with knee surgery, there are hopes Embiid can carry the 76ers with huge performances against the Celtics. But while the numbers looked OK Monday, both aspects of the game plan were left wanting. "I've got to do more. I got one job to do, to carry us," Embiid said. "I'm going to need my teammates to help but I need to do more. I've got to take more shots, I've got to be more aggressive, I've got to help my teammates." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

Rajon Rondo will clear quarantine Monday, according to Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel, but the team is unsure when the veteran point guard would be available to suit up for the NBA playoffs. "I'm not sure exactly when he's going to be available to be in uniform," Vogel said on a video conference call Sunday. "We'll get him on the court and see where he's at. But no specific timetable yet on him." ESPN.com

The Lakers discovered Rondo's fractured right thumb five weeks ago after just the second team practice in Florida. The team estimated Rondo would return to full basketball activities in six to eight weeks. Rondo left the NBA bubble to undergo surgery and reentered late last week, needing to undergo a four-day quarantine after turning in negative COVID-19 tests for seven days prior to the reentry. ESPN.com

Mike D'Antoni, who is in the last season of his contract, doesn't want to have similar regrets about his Rockets tenure as he has with the Suns. This time, he doesn't want to wonder what if he'd really followed his instincts, supported by analytics. "If you think something's right and the numbers prove it's right, then go all-in," D'Antoni said. "You can't muddy the waters. You can't just go halfway." D'Antoni departed Phoenix a dozen years ago, wondering what could have been if he didn't allow doubts to keep the Suns from straying too far from the NBA norms. ESPN.com

Thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers' struggles in the bubble, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the NBA championship entering the playoffs, for a change. Some sportsbooks have the Milwaukee Bucks as the team to beat, while other bookmakers still have the Lakers pegged as the favorites, and in Las Vegas, the LA Clippers can be found atop the odds to win the championship. It's the first time there hasn't been a clear-cut title favorite heading into the playoffs since 2015, the beginning of the Golden State Warriors' run. The Warriors were the overwhelming favorites in each of the past five postseasons, with odds never longer than +175. PN.com

As the Philadelphia 76ers prepare to face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Sixers coach Brett Brown said Sunday afternoon that he's contemplating inserting rookie wing Matisse Thybulle into the starting lineup for Game 1 Monday night. "We're talking a lot about doing different things," Brown said, when asked directly about the possibility of Thybulle going into the starting lineup. "It is being considered." Brown, of course, demurred when asked directly about whom Thybulle would replace in the starting lineup. He did, however, make it clear Thybulle -- whether he starts or not -- is going to have a big role in the upcoming series between the NBA's oldest rivals. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SUNDAY

After capping his rookie campaign with a season-best 35 points in a 126-122 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA's first play-in tournament, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant revealed he was playing hurt. "For the past four games, since the [Toronto] Raptors game, I was out there playing with a fractured thumb," Morant said Saturday. The Grizzlies' lightning-quick young star -- the overwhelming favorite to win Rookie of the Year -- wore a black brace over his right thumb, protecting the injury to his shooting hand. He shot 13-for-28 from the field -- accounting for the most attempts he has had in the league since Memphis selected him with the No. 2 pick out of Murray State -- with 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 8 turnovers. The turnovers were also a season high. ESPN.com

Less than two hours after announcing to the world that his grandmother had died from COVID-19 on Saturday, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic walked to center court, rubbed his face and loudly clapped his hands together. "I didn't want to play," Nurkic said after the game. "I think she made me play." Because Nurkic did play, Portland is now in the NBA playoffs. ESPN.com

Nurkic put up a dominant performance inside the NBA's bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort on Saturday, finishing with 22 points, 21 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 41 minutes to power the Blazers to a 126-122 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. As a result, Portland advanced to the NBA playoffs, where the Blazers will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round Tuesday. ESPN.com

Here's something else that makes Tyronn Lue's candidacy even more intriguing to contenders: Teams are aware that Lue has been talking with Chauncey Billups about joining his potential staff as an associate head coach, sources tell ESPN. Billups had been grooming himself for a top front-office role but turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, and his interest in leaving television for the team side has evolved from the front office to coaching, sources said. Owners and executives had courted Billups because of his innate ability to lead men in the NBA, and a belief that his intelligence, instincts and work ethic would translate into front office or coaching -- however he decided to proceed. For Billups, an apprenticeship under Lue on a contender likely fast-tracks him into a head-coaching job. ESPN.com

Entering their first playoff series together for the LA Clippers, Paul George said he and Kawhi Leonard visited each other during the season hiatus to continue to develop their chemistry together. "I went down to where he was at [near San Diego], he came to where I was at [near Los Angeles]," George said on Saturday when asked about the duo's improving chemistry. "We spent time together -- the whole group did, not just me and him -- on occasions. The whole group kind of spent time together through the hiatus. "I think we made up a lot of time. While not being together, I think we made all that back up during this hiatus. It kind of expedited this process being here." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM WEDNESDAY

Damian Lillard launched from 33 feet and could only watch and wait as the ball caromed off the back rim and shot straight up into the air, with the fate of the game -- and his Portland Trail Blazers' frantic playoff push -- hanging in the balance. The hottest player in the NBA bubble got the shooter's bounce. The late 3 gave Lillard 61 points, tying his career high, and propelled the Blazers to a 134-131 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. ESPN.com

As Lillard relished the victory that wrested sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference standings away from the Memphis Grizzlies with one seeding game to go, courtside cameras captured the All-Star making a demand. "Put some respect on my f---ing name," he said over and over again as teammates and coaches came to congratulate their hero. ESPN.com

Tuesday's scoring spree was Lillard's third 60-plus-point game of the season. He joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in league history with three or more 60-point games in one season. (Chamberlain had 15 in 1961-62 and nine in 1962-63.) "That's the most important game of our lives," Lillard told TNT in an on-court interview after the game, looking ahead to Thursday's game against the Brooklyn Nets. ESPN.com

After initially being questionable to participate, Milwaukee Bucks reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's night on Tuesday ended early against the Washington Wizards after he was ejected in the first half. Antetokounmpo was hit with a flagrant foul 2 for his head-butt against Moritz Wagner at 8:50 in the second quarter. Antetokounmpo finished the contest with 12 points and nine rebounds in 10 minutes, and Milwaukee held on to win 126-113. ESPN.com

"Terrible action," Antetokounmpo said. "If I could go back, turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn't do it. But at the end of the day, we're all human, we all make mistakes. I think I've done a great job all year, in my career at keeping my composure and focus on the game, but at the end of the day, we're human and make mistakes. But at the end of the day, you learn from it, keep playing good basketball and keep moving forward." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

Miami Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler loves being the man who sets the tone for his team. He enjoys the challenge that comes with bringing the high-level intensity each and every day for a team that believes it can contend in the Eastern Conference. That's why Monday's 114-92 win over T.J. Warren and the Indiana Pacers left Butler smiling from ear to ear. Not only did he get his team back on track after he missed three straight games because of a right foot injury, but he also did so against Warren, with whom he exchanged some heated words after a win over the Pacers in January. ESPN.com

Jimmy Butler went 5-for-13 from the field, but he made his impact all over the floor, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in 29 minutes. That he helped limit Warren to 5-for-14 shooting from the field in the win made it that much sweeter after Butler said in January that Warren said something "truly disrespectful" and that Warren was "trash." ESPN.com

Kyle Kuzma said not much, if anything, could have stopped him from taking the game-winning 3-pointer in the Los Angeles Lakers' 124-121 victory Monday night -- including a Denver Nuggets defender measuring 7-foot-2. "I think Jesus could be in front of me and I'll probably still shoot," Kuzma said after making the first go-ahead shot in the last five seconds of a game in his career. "Don't really matter to me. Got an open look. Play we kind of ran in practice a few times prior to the restart. Coach had in faith, called my number and it paid off." ESPN.com

The New Orleans Pelicans have ruled out Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday for Tuesday night's game against the Sacramento Kings, the team said Monday. Williamson and Ingram are listed as having right knee soreness, while Holiday is listed with a right elbow contusion. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Monday that all three players were being held out for "precautionary" reasons. ESPN.com

Still perfect in the bubble and continuing their postseason push with a 128-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said his team has to finish the job. "We haven't accomplished anything," Williams said after the Suns ran their record to 6-0 since the restart. "It may sound like coach speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. ... We're here and we're thankful for that. But we haven't accomplished anything as far as the main goal. Everybody is trying to get to the playoffs and we've just said we're going to take it one step at a time." ESPN.com

The Philadelphia 76ers say star big man Joel Embiid won't play Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns because of a left ankle injury suffered over the weekend. There's optimism that the injury isn't serious and that he'll be back soon, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross has left the NBA's bubble at Walt Disney World to undergo off-site medical tests not related to COVID-19, according to the team. The Magic announced Monday that Ross left the bubble after Sunday's game against the Boston Celtics because of a "personal matter" that will require the off-site tests. ESPN.com

LA Clippers power forward Montrezl Harrell posted that he has returned to the NBA bubble. Harrell posted on his social media accounts that he has rejoined the Clippers after leaving the team on July 17 to tend to his grandmother. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate's grandmother died recently. ESPN.com

As far as Austin Rivers is concerned, he proved himself right with his career-high 41-point performance in the Houston Rockets' 129-112 win on Sunday over the Sacramento Kings. "You continue to tell yourself, 'You can do this, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this,' for nights like this," said Rivers, who had the most points by a Rockets reserve since Sleepy Floyd in 1991. "I believe I'm a premier scorer. "That's just how I feel, but I'm on a team where that's not required of me every night. I play with the best scorer in the NBA, and I play with the other one of the best scorers in the NBA, in Russell Westbrook and James Harden. So you've got to play a role and buy in. That's what winning basketball is, and that's what I'm a part of, so that's what I do. But make no mistake, I know I can score the ball. When you get in that zone, there's nothing better than that. It's just different. Man, it was a fun, fun night." ESPN.com

Damian Lillard proceeded to do just that. After missing two free throws and a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds of Saturday's loss to the LA Clippers, he responded by scoring 51 points while adding seven assists in 40 minutes to power the Blazers to a 124-121 victory over the Sixers inside the NBA's bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort. With the victory, Portland moved within a half-game of the Memphis Grizzlies -- who lost to the Toronto Raptors earlier Sunday -- for eighth place in the Western Conference and eliminated the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings -- both of whom lost Sunday -- from contention for a spot in the league's first play-in tournament. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SUNDAY

The Orlando Magic have clinched the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference after the Washington Wizards became the first team of the 22 teams in the NBA's bubble to be eliminated. The Wizards' 118-107 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans helped solidify the Eastern Conference playoff picture, while eliminating the possibility of any East play-in games next weekend. The Wizards, playing without star Bradley Beal (right rotator cuff) and sharpshooter Davis Bertans, are now 0-5 in the bubble. After winning their first two games during the NBA's restart, the Magic have now dropped three straight after losing 108-101 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. ESPN.com

In a shared locker room that needed cleaning so the next team could take over soon, there was no celebration for the Brooklyn Nets as they officially secured a playoff berth Friday with a 119-106 win over the Sacramento Kings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. While it was a bit of a formality, there was still some satisfaction for the achievement, particularly with overcoming a swarm of injuries to do it with a patchwork, starless roster to clinch it. ESPN.com

The Nets do still have quite a bit to play for in their three remaining games, though. While they can't mathematically move up to the 6-seed, they could fall to the 8 (they're 1½ games up on the Magic) which would mean a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM FRIDAY

With four games remaining before the postseason begins, Doc Rivers hasn't been able to see the LA Clippers at full strength in the NBA bubble, which has been consistent with an annoying theme for the title contender all season. Without Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley and with multiple guards on a minutes restriction, the Clippers still beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. But Rivers wants to see his team whole before the playoffs begin. "That's a good question," the coach said when asked where the Clippers are on a scale of 1 to 10. "I don't know, 6 or 7. Still have Trez out. We still have several guys that have minute restrictions that put a major problem on us tonight, especially with guards. We still have Pat out." ESPN.com

After the Milwaukee Bucks came back from a 23-point deficit against the Miami Heat on Thursday to claim a 130-116 victory and clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked whether Miami was the biggest threat to stop the Bucks from emerging from the Eastern Conference and reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in 45 years. ESPN.com

The Utah Jazz will be without four starters when they take on the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, the first night of an important back-to-back for the team. Mike Conley (right knee soreness), Rudy Gobert (rest), Donovan Mitchell (left peroneal strain) and Royce O'Neale (right calf soreness) will all miss Friday's game, the team announced Thursday. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM THURSDAY

It’s still unclear whether Jimmy Butler and/or Goran Dragic will be able to return for the Heat’s next game, Saturday against the Suns. In addition, Heat rookie forward KZ Okpala (personal reasons) and two-way contract rookie guard Gabe Vincent (knee soreness) missed Thursday’s contest. Okpala and Vincent were both available for each of Miami’s first three seeding games, but they did not play. Miami Herald

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons left Wednesday's 107-98 victory over the Washington Wizards with a left knee injury. Simmons went up and grabbed a rebound midway through the third quarter, then slowly dribbled down the court and flipped an inlet pass to Al Horford. As a whistle blew to stop play, he turned toward Philadelphia's bench, flexed his left leg, touched the back of it and then walked off the court. ESPN.com

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon exited Wednesday's 109-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors early in the third quarter because of left hamstring tightness, the team announced. He did not return. Magic coach Steve Clifford said after the loss that the team didn't yet know the severity of the injury. ESPN.com

Brooklyn Nets guard Jamal Crawford will be out "a few games" after suffering a left hamstring strain during Tuesday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. "He'll miss a few games for us," Vaughn said prior to Wednesday's game against the Boston Celtics. "And still assessing [the injury] on a daily basis, but do look forward to him joining us going forward." ESPN.com

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. became only the third rookie since 2000 to post consecutive 30-point double-doubles but it was Nikola Jokic who left Gregg Popovich feeling like he had just faced a Hall of Famer. "Porter is a fine young talent," the San Antonio Spurs coach said. "And Jokic, he's like a reincarnation of Larry Bird. He does everything. He's amazing. They were great." After exploding for a career-high 37 points and 12 rebounds on Monday, Porter Jr. remained red hot with 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to lift Denver to a 132-126 win over the Spurs. ESPN.com

LA Clippers starting point guard Patrick Beverley has been ruled out of Thursday's game against the Dallas Mavericks with a left calf strain. Beverley suffered the injury in the first quarter of the Clippers' 117-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Clippers (45-22) once again will be shorthanded against the Mavericks with Beverley and Montrezl Harrell out. Harrell left the team on July 17 to tend to an excused family emergency and has yet to return. The grief-stricken Harrell has been mourning the loss of his grandmother. ESPN.com

Kevin Durant has been out since tearing his Achilles in the 2019 Finals but says he plans to be ready to go for the 2020-21 season. While his Brooklyn Nets are in the bubble and in good position to make the playoffs in the East, next season will finally see the Durant pair with Kyrie Irving. "I was at a level where I was focused in on every possession, so I want to get back to that point," Durant said of his comeback. ESPN.com

EuroLeague: TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz reached an agreement to keep scoring ace Zoran Dragic for the coming season, the club announced Wednesday. Dragic (1.96 meters, 31 years old) arrived at Baskonia in January 2020 from German club ratiopharm Ulm and averaged 7.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 11 games in the Spanish League as well as 7.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games last season. Euroleague.net



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM WEDNESDAY

Rajon Rondo will soon make his way back toward the NBA campus, about three weeks after fracturing his right thumb, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday. Rondo will travel to Florida on Wednesday, according to Vogel. A league source told ESPN that Rondo would continue his rehabilitation closer to the league's setup at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. ESPN.com

According to NBA protocol, Rondo would have to quarantine for four days upon returning to the bubble, as long as he returns negative tests for at least seven consecutive days preceding his reentry date. Rondo is averaging 7.1 points, five assists and three rebounds this season. He has appeared in 48 games for Los Angeles and has started in three. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

LeBron James arrived for the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-108 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday -- a game that clinched the franchise's first No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in a decade -- in a black T-shirt meant to address a message bigger than basketball. On the front, in white screen print, there was a stopwatch showing the time 8:46 on its face, with "Minneapolis" printed below it. On the back there were several stopwatches -- all frozen on 8:46 -- with various city names below them, including New York, Houston, Tokyo and Paris. Below the stopwatches there was a message: "The World is Watching This Time." ESPN.com

Anthony Davis was not going to be invisible two games in a row. From the first moments of Monday’s bout with the Utah Jazz, the Lakers won the tip and handed off to their 6-foot-10 forward to get to work. He missed his first few shots, but the message was clear: The Lakers were going to lean on him for the evening, for better or worse. That commitment to leveraging Davis’ size and skill paid off handsomely as the evening unfolded, giving the Lakers a 116-108 win over the Jazz and finally clinching the best record in the West. Davis was at the heart of the effort, racking up 42 points and 12 rebounds. OC Register

Of course, the Jazz miss Bojan Bogdanovic and his shooting prowess. But they also miss Clarkson shooting 36% from three, Joe Ingles shooting 40%, Georges Niang shooting 40%, O’Neale shooting 39%, and even Emmanuel Mudiay shooting 34%. The only Jazzmen who could hit a three were Mitchell and Conley, who combined for a pedestrian 7-19. It’s three games now where the Jazz have been disappointing from beyond the arc. I saw a couple of Jazz fans online say “Well, if the threes aren’t falling, attack the paint more!” But that misses how the Jazz got the threes: by attacking the paint, drawing the extra defender, and finding the open man. They were terrific at that tonight. But they can’t attack the paint and then take wild layups while being double-covered by Anthony Davis and a help defender. That would be bad basketball. Salt Lake Tribune



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder left the NBA bubble Monday morning to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "Dennis is away from the team right now with his family," Donovan said before the Thunder played the Denver Nuggets. Considered a leading candidate for the league's Sixth Man of the Year Award with averages of 18.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists, the Thunder were anticipating his absence at some point and worked on how that would look during training camp. ESPN.com

Patrick Beverley was … ready. Ready on Thursday, when the Clippers restarted the season against the Lakers on the same day he rejoined his squad after leaving the bubble July 21 to mourn the death of a loved one, and then waiting out a four-day quarantine upon his return. Ready on Sunday, when he was back in the starting lineup, accounting for three of the Clippers’ franchise-record 25 3-pointers and a host of other contributions that Coach Doc Rivers called “immeasurable” in the 126-103 victory over New Orleans. OC Register

The Milwaukee Bucks' Mike Budenholzer and Oklahoma City Thunder's Billy Donovan were voted the National Basketball Coaches Association co-coaches of the year, the organization announced Monday. "I am honored and humbled to be recognized by the Coaches, they are a great group of people that I admire and respect," Donovan said in a statement. ESPN.com

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac left Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings in a wheelchair after sustaining what appeared to be a left leg injury. Isaac drove the lane and did a hop step between two defenders then immediately fell to the floor untouched while clutching his left knee in pain with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter. ESPN.com

Jonathan Isaac had his head in his hands as he was wheeled off the court while being accompanied by Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman. ESPN.com

Zion Williamson says it has been hard to watch from the sideline as the New Orleans Pelicans lost their first two games in the NBA bubble while his minutes have been limited. "It's very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game," Williamson said Sunday. "Also, when I do catch the flow of the game, like I said, that horn goes off and it's for me." ESPN.com

Neither Williamson nor Gentry could give an indication as to what Williamson's minutes will be on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Gentry said he still had to ask the medical team about what Williamson's bursts will be and Williamson declined to answer saying he didn't want to give an answer and then the amount of minutes he gets turn out to be something different. ESPN.com

Entering the bubble, it appeared the end of the San Antonio Spurs' historic postseason streak was all but a formality. But two games in, including a 108-106 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, the Spurs are right back in it, jumping to ninth and only two back of Memphis. "At the end of the day, if you're showing up to lose a basketball game, you shouldn't be here," guard Dejounte Murray said of being counted out before the restart. "Obviously, we don't have some players playing, but it's a next-man-up league, we're pros and we get paid to step up and do our jobs. We can't control what people say on the outside. We've got to keep the love and keep the faith inside the locker room." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM SATURDAY

Doc Rivers has told LA Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell to take as much time as he needs following the death of Harrell's grandmother. Harrell posted a message titled "I LOVE YOU GRANDMA" on his Instagram story describing just how heartbroken he is. Harrell left the Clippers on July 17 for an excused family emergency. ESPN.com

Miami Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler had to change jerseys before the start of Saturday's seeding game against the Denver Nuggets because he originally came to the floor with a jersey that had no name on its back. An official blew a whistle, and Butler walked back to the Heat bench so he could switch into a jersey that had his last name on the back and the game could begin. Butler said he was never given an official explanation from the league as to why he could not keep the back of his jersey nameplate empty. ESPN.com

In what was already an emotional outing with it being his first official game back since breaking his leg in March 2019, Jusuf Nurkic revealed after the Portland Trail Blazers' 140-135 overtime victory Friday over the Memphis Grizzlies that his grandmother is in a coma with COVID-19. "The last couple of days have been the toughest days of my life. My grandma got COVID and she's in a coma," Nurkic said. "I think people don't realize the s--- is real out there. We've been fortunate to be here in a safe environment, we're tested every day, but please take care of yourself, wear a damn mask if you need to wear it." ESPN.com

The Dallas Mavericks' young stars, fresh off blowing a double-figure lead in the fourth quarter, tried to put a positive spin on their 153-149 overtime loss Friday night to the Houston Rockets. "This one is, I would say, a great loss for us," Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis said after his 39-point, 16-rebound performance in their opener of the seeding schedule for the NBA restart in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. "We have to take lessons from this game. We have to look at the film and see what we could have done better at the end to close out the game. That's it. I feel like we have to take the positive of this tough loss that we had and try to learn from it." ESPN.com

Statistically, the Mavs feature the most efficient offense in NBA history, which was on display as Dallas torched the Rockets for 119 points through three quarters. However, the Mavs' offense has sputtered miserably all season in clutch situations, averaging only 92.9 points per 100 possessions when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime. That ranks 29th in the league, ahead of only the bubble-excluded Detroit Pistons. ESPN.com

The way the New Orleans Pelicans handled the minutes of rookie forward Zion Williamson was seemingly the talk of the NBA on Thursday night as the league returned to play in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. On Friday, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin spoke to reporters to try to clear up the situation -- including why Williamson played only at the beginning of quarters and wasn't on the floor as the Utah Jazz took the lead in the fourth and ultimately handed New Orleans a loss. ESPN.com

Griffin added Williamson wouldn't play "significant minutes" against the LA Clippers on Saturday and "may not" in the game against Memphis on Monday night. The Pelicans are 4.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. ESPN.com

The Sacramento Kings had to quarantine a player for two days after an inconclusive coronavirus test result on Wednesday, but successive negative results on Thursday and Friday are expected to allow for his availability against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, sources told ESPN. Inconclusive tests -- or "false positives" -- require an individual to register two consecutive negative tests in the next 48 hours for clearance, according to NBA protocols. The process of clearing players from these inconclusive tests is a significant concern for teams in the bubble; they worry that this scenario could cause a key player -- or players -- to be lost for a game or more in seeding or playoff games. ESPN.com

Wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Becky Hammon opted to stand while players and coaches on the Spurs and Sacramento Kings kneeled during the national anthem Friday night. Popovich, who has long spoken out against racial injustice, explained he preferred to keep his decision to stand "to myself" and that "everybody has to make a personal decision." Popovich's star guard DeMar DeRozan said people should not "vilify" either Popovich or Hammon for standing. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM FRIDAY

Despite the fact they were playing in the NBA's bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Thursday night, they produced the same entertaining, high-level game they had played the three times they met earlier this season at their shared home arena of Staples Center. "We're two teams in the same city and two teams that's fighting for one common goal," Lakers star LeBron James said on a video conference call after scoring 16 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists in the Lakers' 103-101 win over the Clippers. "And that's to win a championship and bring it to the city of Los Angeles and [each] fan base. So you have so many competitors on the floor -- going out there and representing the purple and gold, representing Laker nation; those guys are doing the same thing for their fan base. No matter what the [situation] is, no matter what the bubble is, no fans, or [with] fans, basketball is basketball and competitive spirit is competitive spirit, so we're right back to where we left off." ESPN.com

What made it even more special for James was the fact that he scored the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds left after missing a 16-foot jump shot and getting his own rebound. It was the first time in his two seasons with the Lakers that he made a go-ahead basket in the final 15 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. James previously had been 0-for-6 on those shots in his brief Lakers career. ESPN.com

Anthony Davis looked the best of the bunch, scoring 34 points -- inside, from the short corners and the stripe. Paul George looked like his best, healthiest self. Both he and Leonard controlled their share of possessions. James struggled through much of the evening but notched two of the biggest buckets when he rumbled to the rim against the Clippers' late help defense inside of two minutes, then converted an aggressive putback off his own miss with 12.8 seconds with the score tied. He also played the role of defensive stopper in the final possession. ESPN.com

One hundred and forty-one nights after his positive coronavirus test triggered the suspension of the NBA season, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert scored the first points of the league's restart, converting a drop-step move over former teammate Derrick Favors on the opening possession of Thursday night's game against the New Orleans Pelicans in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. More important, Gobert also scored the game's final points, hitting a pair of go-ahead free throws with 6.9 seconds remaining. ESPN.com

"I'm just grateful," Gobert told ESPN in a telephone interview after the Jazz's 106-104 victory at Walt Disney World's HP Field House. "Just grateful to be able to do what I love to do. After everything that I've personally and everything the world is going through right now, to be able to keep inspiring millions of kids around the world and keep spreading positivity is just a blessing. "And it's great to start with a win, of course." ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM THURSDAY

After a long search process and nearly a week since deciding on a coach, the Knicks finally made it official Thursday morning, announcing Tom Thibodeau as their next head coach. The Knicks did not disclose terms of the agreement, but it is believed that the 62-year-old Thibodeau has agreed to a five-year deal to join on with his long-time agent and friend, Leon Rose. From the day the Knicks hired Rose as team president, this has seemed a fait accompli, a coach with long ties to Rose and a record of success unlike any other candidate available. Thibodeau served as an assistant coach with the Knicks from 1996 to 2003, then went on successful turns as an assistant in Houston and Boston before becoming an NBA head coach. NY Newsday

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is a game-time decision for the opening game of the NBA restart on Thursday, coach Alvin Gentry said on Wednesday afternoon. Gentry said the medical team will ultimately decide whether Williamson -- who was away from the team for 12 days due to a family medical emergency and his four-day quarantine -- is ready to play against the Utah Jazz. ESPN.com

The LA Clippers assembled one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and coach Doc Rivers believes it is built for the bubble after having already been tested by the unpredictability of the NBA's restart during the coronavirus pandemic. The Clippers were without five of their top 10 players last week after Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams each left the Orlando, Florida, campus in the span of seven days for excused family emergencies. Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet didn't arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort until last Saturday after both tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined at home. ESPN.com

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis says the plan is for him to play against the LA Clippers when the NBA kicks off its season restart Thursday night. "That's the plan," Davis said after fully participating in Wednesday's practice. "I'll get evaluated again tonight by one of the doctors here and kind of get an update from them. "That's the plan, for me to play." ESPN.com

Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has spoken with Michael Porter Jr. about the second-year forward theorizing the coronavirus pandemic is "being used for population control." Connelly did not make a statement, but Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said he learned about Porter's comments -- which were made on a Snapchat Q&A session -- when he boarded the team bus to practice on Wednesday morning. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM WEDNESDAY

Montrezl Harrell has yet to return to the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, and is expected to miss the LA Clippers' restart opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, a source confirmed to ESPN. The Clippers already will be without reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, who is in the midst of a 10-day quarantine after he left the NBA campus with an excused absence. Harrell left the bubble on July 17 to tend to an excused family emergency, and his return remains in the air. ESPN.com

Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon is feared to be lost for one to two weeks because of a left ankle injury suffered in a scrimmage Tuesday, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Rockets are expected to have a clearer sense of Gordon's injury timeline once he's evaluated again Wednesday, sources said. ESPN.com

It has been a difficult season for Gordon, who signed a four-year, $76 million contract extension with the Rockets in September. He missed six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Nov. 13 and scored just 14.5 points per game -- his lowest average in his four seasons with the Rockets -- while shooting a career-low 37% from the field and 31.9% from 3-point range. ESPN.com

New Orleans Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson returned to practice with his team on Tuesday, just hours after he finished his four-day quarantine after returning to the NBA campus on Friday. Williamson's workload was light, according to Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who said Williamson did 3-on-0 and 5-on-0 work and did not participate in five-on-five drills. Williamson left Orlando, Florida, on July 16 to tend to a family emergency and returned Friday, completing his quarantine on Tuesday before the Pelicans took the floor for a late practice. ESPN.com

As the NBA prepares to officially restart its season in its bubble inside Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday -- and other sports, most notably Major League Baseball, struggle to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic -- National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said returning to a bubble might be the only feasible way for the NBA to complete next season, as well. "If tomorrow looks like today, I don't know how we say we can do it differently," Roberts told ESPN in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge -- and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, 'This is the way to do it' -- then that's going to have to be the way to do it." ESPN.com

When the NBA announced its schedule to resume the 2019-20 season, it set a target date of Dec. 1 to begin the 2020-21 campaign. What Roberts knows now is that, at least so far, the bubble is working. And, after she expressed to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne in May that she was concerned a bubble could have players feeling like they were incarcerated, Roberts said she's quite pleased with the conditions on the ground. ESPN.com

The NBA has decided that players who make their NBA debut in the bubble -- a group most notably led by Denver Nuggets forward Bol Bol -- will remain eligible for the Rookie of the Year award for the 2020-21 season, league sources told ESPN. Bol, a 7-foot-2 forward on a two-way deal with the Nuggets, didn't play in an NBA game before the league shut down in March. He has impressed in scrimmages at the Walt Disney World Resort bubble, so the question arose whether Bol would be eliminated from Rookie of the Year contention next season if he played in one of Denver's seeding games this summer. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM TUESDAY

As they face the reality of a sea of red ink playing in empty or near-empty arenas for the 2020-21 season, some NBA owners are quietly preparing to find cash to weather the storm. Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob has informed fellow owners of a deal he's considering with Goldman Sachs to raise up to $250 million to manage coming expenses, sources told ESPN. Other owners are investigating opportunities to raise capital as well, ownership sources said, with some pursuing legal action against insurance companies that have denied coronavirus pandemic claims. ESPN.com

Earlier in the summer, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told players that roughly 40% of the league's revenues come from ticket sales and arena sponsorships as he prepared them for challenges ahead. The league and players' union are expected to make adjustments to the current collective bargaining agreement before next season. ESPN.com

The Warriors are an outlier, as they derive around 80% of their revenue from Chase Center and can clear more than $5 million for some home games, according to league and team sources. Many teams earn less than $2 million per home date, and some get less than $1 million on average. But unlike some teams, the Warriors haven't laid off or furloughed any employees. Lacob has also already significantly invested in technology and testing methods in an attempt to safely get fans back into Chase Center sometime next season. ESPN.com

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans filed for an initial public stock offering in early July. Once the private company's finances -- it had more than $800 million in profit in 2019 -- were revealed, it became clear that Gilbert might soon be regarded as one of the wealthiest owners in sports, as his net worth could balloon by tens of billions after the IPO. ESPN.com

LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer owns more Microsoft shares than Bill Gates, and the tech company recently saw its shares hit a record price, pushing Ballmer's net worth to more than $70 billion. He has gained $10 billion since the start of the year and recently spent $100 million to buy the Forum in Inglewood, an arena he's not interested in playing in, so that he could construct a new billion-dollar arena for the Clippers down the street. ESPN.com

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta took out a $300 million loan at more than 10% interest in April to handle the debt service on his hundreds of restaurants, hotels, casinos and the Rockets, whom he bought for $2.2 billion in 2017. His recent purchase of the Rockets franchise, which he wholly owns, at a record price means he is more leveraged than other owners. Fertitta has said recently in multiple interviews that he doesn't intend to sell any portion of the team to raise money. Brokers who have approached him privately representing bidders have been told the same, sources said. ESPN.com

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said he expects Zion Williamson to join the team in practice by Wednesday. Williamson returned to Orlando on Friday night, after leaving the NBA bubble for eight days because of a family emergency. NBA protocol says that because the Pelicans' star rookie returned negative COVID-19 tests daily while he was away, he must quarantine for just four days while he returns four more negative tests. ESPN.com



BASKETBALL RUMORS FROM MONDAY

LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley has returned to the Orlando, Florida, bubble after leaving for a family emergency on Tuesday, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Beverley, who participated in the Clippers' practice Tuesday morning, has played in 48 games this season, all as a starter. He is averaging 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. ESPN.com

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet left Sunday's 110-104 scrimmage victory over the Trail Blazers after banging knees with Portland guard Anfernee Simons in the first quarter, but isn't expected to miss extended time. "He knocked knees and I don't think it was too bad," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "But it's just a scrimmage. There's no sense in trying to play him through that in this deal." ESPN.com

VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, was trying to get in front of Simons in transition when he and Simons banged their left knees together. VanVleet immediately grabbed at his knee, signaled to the bench for a sub and got up and jogged off the court. ESPN.com

The NBA has placed Lou Williams in 10-day quarantine after the LA Clippers guard was investigated by the league for what he did while on an excused absence from the Orlando, Florida, campus. The league announced Williams' quarantine on Sunday, three days after Williams was photographed by the rapper Jack Harlow at an Atlanta strip club. Harlow quickly deleted the post from his Instagram story and tweeted Friday, "That was an old pic of me and Lou. I was just reminiscing cuz I miss him." ESPN.com

Sunday afternoon marked the return of two point guards for the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns. Boston's Kemba Walker made his Orlando debut, but he wasn't on the floor for long, while the Suns got Ricky Rubio back after he joined the team in the bubble just six days ago. Walker, who has been dealing with a left knee injury, sat out Boston's first scrimmage but played on Sunday in the Celtics' 117-103 win over the Suns, although he was on the floor for only nine minutes. ESPN.com


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