Gordon Hayward upgraded to Questionable for Celtics vs Heat Game 3

Playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, the Celtics lost Game 1 in overtime, then were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter of a five-point Game 2 loss.

Boston needs a boost. And according to the league injury report as of Friday afternoon, they may soon have one in the form of Gordon Hayward. The forward, who has been out with a right ankle sprain, has been upgraded to Questionable for Game 3.

Players coming off of injury often play limited minutes, so if Gordon does step onto the court it doesn’t guarantee he’ll be out there for long, nor that he’ll be at his best. But it would certainly be a positive development.

Game 3 is Saturday night. And then the squads have a few days off, with Game 4 not until Wednesday.

Some key Raptors players are free agents this summer, including Fred VanVleet

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was considered a respectable backup guard last regular season. And then emerged in the playoffs, rose his profile, and never looked back. He’s a very key member of the team, and with the future in mind is even more important considering that fellow starting guard Kyle Lowry, as good as he still plays, will turn 35 years old in March of 2021 and may start to slow down.

But VanVleet is a free agent this offseason. Here’s the Toronto Star examining how the Raps can potentially navigate the situation:

Keeping the 26-year-old guard, an integral part of a championship team and seemingly a foundational piece of the roster right now, has to be job No. 1 for Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster when it comes to retooling a roster that had a wonderful regular season and then fell in a seven-game, second-round Bubble Series against the Boston Celtics.

No one is running from or hiding the fact that the team will have no centres under contract when the off-season hits, because that is an issue, but the first domino needs to be VanVleet.

It’ll be costly, but it can be done. The Raptors could work some financial magic and pay VanVleet somewhere around $20 million (U.S.) a year — he made about $9.3 million this season — and still retain a maximum salary slot for 2021, when the free-agent market will be rife with high-profile stars.

The Raptors had an excellent shot at the Eastern Conference Finals this season, falling just one win short in the second round against the Celtics.

And they also soon might have a hole at the center spot, with both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka hitting free agency.

It would be smart to keep Ibaka. But the most important player for the Raps in the group is VanVleet.

Will Coby White emerge as primary point guard for Bulls?

The Bulls have Zach LaVine at shooting guard, ready to produce buckets. Who should the main point guard be alongside him in the starting lineup? Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times on one of the team’s prime candidates:

As of Friday, the Bulls players we’re still working out individually, with the full intrasquad scrimmages coming next week.

The main battle when the ball is rolled out? Heck yeah it’s White vs. Kris Dunn.

White feels he will be the starting point guard for this franchise moving forward, while Dunn – a restricted free agent this offseason – is not only fighting for his old starting job back, but a new contract, whether that comes from the Bulls or elsewhere.

White reminded the media of his versatility to play either guard spot, but make no mistake, he also made it very clear what his goal will be whenever the 2020-21 season is set to tip-off.

“I think moving forward my primary position is point guard but I also can play off the ball because I can score and shoot it so well,’’ White said. “So I think that this past year showcased that I can be a point guard but I can also play off the ball at times when I need to.’’

Last season, White averaged 13.2 points and 2.7 assists in 25.8 minutes per game, shooting 39.4% FG and 35.4% from three-point range, while Dunn averaged 7.3 points and 3.4 assists in 24.9 minutes per game, shooting 44.4% FG and 25.9% from three.

A look at Utah Jazz roster moves in the 2019-20 season

Here’s the Deseret News with a summary of the key Utah Jazz roster moves entering and during this past season:

Entering the 2019-2020 season, one of the narratives surrounding the Utah Jazz was the notion that they would have good depth after signing players such as Jeff Green and Ed Davis in free agency.

That proved to not be the case, as Green and Davis were an utter failure. Additionally, a third offseason signee, Emmanuel Mudiay, had a few good moments but nothing great and returnee Dante Exum was traded at Christmastime after once again not being impactful because of injury.

Before the Exum trade, which brought Jordan Clarkson to Utah from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Jazz bench was 29th among 30 teams in points per game and routinely gave up leads the starting unit had built. Clarkson proved to be a huge boost, and Utah was 19th in bench scoring after his arrival through the end of the season. Still not wonderful, but a huge improvement.

The good news for the Jazz was that the unit of Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert was arguably the best 5-man unit in the entire league with a net rating of 13.7 in 570 minutes, and the one replacing Ingles with Mike Conley wasn’t too far behind, with a net rating of 9.7 in 381 minutes.

Conley reportedly has an early termination option for his contract this offseason, but considering his salary next season for the Jazz would be over $34 million, there’s a good chance he’ll elect to stick with the team in 2020-21.

Jordan Clarkson is a free agent this offseason. He definitely helped the Jazz this year, and they’d be smart to try to bring him back — if salary demands match up, of course.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2019-20 NBA MVP award

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named the 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player.

This is the second straight NBA MVP Award for Antetokounmpo, who becomes the 12th player to earn the honor in consecutive seasons.

A native of Greece, Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to be selected as the NBA MVP more than once. Antetokounmpo, 25, also joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win multiple NBA MVP awards by the age of 25.

Antetokounmpo was previously named the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He joins Michael Jordan (1987-88) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94) as the only players to be selected as the NBA Most Valuable Player and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. (The NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award was first presented in the 1982-83 season.)

Antetokounmpo received 85 of 101 first-place votes and earned 962 total points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters as well as the NBA Most Valuable Player Award fan vote. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James received the other 16 first-place votes and finished in second place with 753 points. Houston Rockets guard James Harden (367 points) finished in third place, followed by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić (200 points) in fourth place and LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (168 points) in fifth place.

Players received 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five points for each third-place vote, three points for each fourth-place vote and one point for each fifth-place vote. The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played through March 11. The seeding games, which were played July 30 – Aug. 14 as part of the season restart, did not count toward voting for the NBA MVP Award or the league’s other traditional end-of-season awards.

In games played through March 11, Antetokounmpo averaged 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.04 steals and 1.02 blocks in 30.9 minutes in 57 games. During that time, he ranked third in the NBA in both scoring average and rebounding average. Antetokounmpo also shot 54.7 percent from the field and sank 83 three-pointers, which is 31 more threes than he made in any of his previous six seasons.

Behind Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee posted an NBA-leading 53-12 record in games played through March 11, a mark that included an 18-game winning streak Nov. 10 – Dec. 14. The four-time NBA All-Star selection helped the Bucks excel on both ends of the court as they led the league in net rating (outscoring opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions), scoring offense (118.6 ppg) and defensive rating (101.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) in their first 65 games of the season.

Antetokounmpo was honored as the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October/November, December and January, in addition to being named the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week four times. He was also voted as a starter to the NBA All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive season, serving as a team captain for the second year in a row.

Steve Nash discusses new job as Nets head coach

New Nets coach Steve Nash really, really knows how to play basketball. But he’ll be learning coaching on the job. Here’s the New York Daily News:

Not even Steve Nash expects himself to be a tactical expert on the sideline. As the head coaching job has evolved in the NBA over the years — from essentially strict principal to guidance counselor — Nash said he’s focusing on his strengths of relationships and culture, which was why the Nets hired him for a championship run despite zero coaching experience.

“I wasn’t hired to come in and be a tactical wizard,” Nash said in JJ Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast. “I think they understand that my acumen for the game is strong and I can catch up on any of the tactical aspects. I think they hired me because of my experience, the personality to work with these guys and help them grow and reach their potential and bring it all together. I can’t lose sight of that.

“I can’t come in and start being Mr. X’s and O’s, and lose sight of the fact that of course I want to be strong in all departments, but I have to lead with my understanding of group dynamics, leading, having gone through the experience that these guys have gone through. I’ve been there… I got to lead with why I was brought here and what they saw in me and catch up in other departments.”

After observing Nash both on and off the court for a long time, it seems he definitely has potential to be a natural on the sideline. And he’s joining a talent-filled team that is built around proven stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, up-and-coming star Caris LeVert, and a very capable supporting cast.

It’ll be fun to watch unfold.

No timetable on a Will Barton return for Nuggets

The Nuggets, who will face the Lakers in the 2020 Western Conference Finals, will remain without the services of Will Barton. Here’s the Denver Post with a report:

It’s been nearly a month since Nuggets wing Will Barton left the “bubble” to continue rehabilitation of his right knee, and there remains “no timetable” for his return, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told The Denver Post.

Barton left Aug. 19 in search of a second opinion due to the knee issue that had lingered and had led to soreness in other areas of his body, a league source told The Post.

Barton was the third-leading scorer for the Nuggets this regular season, averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

The Lakers in these playoffs remain without guard Avery Bradley, who was one of a small handful of players who elected not to participate in the league restart at the Disney NBA bubble.

Game 1 between the Nuggets and Lakers is tomorrow at 9PM ET, televised on TNT.

Raptors and team president Masai Ujiri not talking contract extension yet

The Raptors won the championship last season, had an excellent regular season despite widespread predictions of a drop-off, and fell one win short of a trip to the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Here’s the Canadian Press via the Toronto Star on the front office:

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said he hasn’t had any contract discussions with team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment since the club’s season ended last week.

Ujiri’s contract has one year left.

The team recently announced an extension for head coach Nick Nurse. A similar announcement for Ujiri is certainly expected as well. The only question is when.

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez has role in new Adam Sandler basketball movie

The latest Timberwolves news isn’t the usual. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune on a fun development:

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez won’t be present at the team’s voluntary group workouts the next two weeks. But Hernangomez isn’t injured, nor he is staying away because he’s a restricted free agent. Instead, he’s filming a movie…

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia. Netflix is producing the film called “Hustle.” It revolves around a basketball scout who searches for talent overseas.. Lakers forward LeBron James is also listed as a producer on the movie.

I haven’t looked into the storyline for this movie beyond much more than the quick description above, but anything involving Adam Sandler and basketball, I’m definitely watching.

Sacramento Kings hire Monte McNair as General Manager

The Sacramento Kings have hired Monte McNair as General Manager. In this role, McNair will be responsible for all decisions made in the Kings basketball operations department and serve as the team’s top basketball executive reporting to the owner and chairman. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Monte is one of the NBA’s top basketball minds who has played an instrumental role in building several winning teams in Houston,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “I am excited to bring his extensive experience and vision onboard to lead our basketball operations department, and it is my pleasure to welcome Monte and his family to Sacramento.”

“I am thrilled to join the Kings organization and honored to shape the franchise’s bright future for the team’s loyal fans,” said McNair. “I would like to thank Vivek for this opportunity and look forward to becoming a part of the Sacramento community.”

A native of Oak Park, California, McNair returns to his home state from the Houston Rockets, where he has held the title of Assistant General Manager since 2018. Prior to that, McNair led the analytic efforts of the Rockets basketball operations department where he worked closely with Houston’s coaching staff to provide on-court strategy and analysis along with opponent preparation.

During his time in Houston, the organization has reached the NBA Playoffs over the course of eight consecutive seasons, including two trips to the Western Conference Finals, while amassing seven seasons with 50+ wins.

Over his 13 years with the Rockets, McNair was involved with all aspects of player evaluation, including trade, free agency and the Draft. He began his career in Houston as a Basketball Operations Senior Analyst in 2007, was promoted to Director of Basketball Operations in 2013 and became Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2016.

Before joining the Rockets, McNair worked as a sports programmer and researcher at STATS LLC. McNair played football at Princeton University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.