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Draft Lottery set to impact futures of NBA teams – WSAIGO Sports
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Draft Lottery set to impact futures of NBA teams



Even with the conference finals going on, the NBA’s eyes turn to the future this week.

A future that, perhaps, will have less tanking.

The draft lottery — the last before changes come next year to dissuade tanking — is Tuesday night, and then about 70 players will partake in the draft combine that starts on Wednesday. Those events are both happening in Chicago, as are some various league meetings such as a gathering of NBA general managers and other front-office executives.

But the biggest news will be made by 14 pingpong balls that will decide who drafts No. 1 next month.

“We’ve got to see what happens in the lottery first and see where our position is,” Memphis executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger said. “That’s going to dictate a lot of the decisions that come after that and how we use our time after that.”

Phoenix has a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, followed by Memphis (19.9 percent), Dallas (13.8 percent) and Atlanta (13.7 percent). The rest of the candidates for No. 1 are Orlando (8.8 percent), Chicago (5.3), Sacramento (5.3), Cleveland (2.8), New York (1.7), Philadelphia (1.1), Charlotte (0.8), Detroit (0.7), the Los Angeles Clippers (0.6) and Denver (0.5).


The Starters predict the results of the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery.

Many of those teams were at the center of tanking questions this season. Now they’ll see if it pays off.

“We did this year what we felt was in the long-term best interest of the Bulls,” Chicago vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again. And it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in. But it’s the way the system’s set up.”

For now. The NBA is changing the system.

Starting in 2019, with the NBA hoping that teams have less incentive to strive for the worst record and therefore the best chance of winning the lottery, the odds will be changing. The three teams with the worst regular-season record will each have a 14 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, the fourth-worst team will have a 12.5 percent chance and the fifth-worst 10.5 percent.

“My sense is we’re still going to have some work to do,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Tanking got plenty of attention this season, and a few minutes on Jan. 29 might have decided the race.

Phoenix and Memphis played that night. The Grizzlies scored 42 points in the second quarter – their only 40-point period all season — and forced the Suns into 10 consecutive misses in one stretch, on the way to a 120-109 win.

The Suns finished one game worse than the Grizzlies. Flip that Jan. 29 outcome, and it would been the Grizzlies with the best chance at the No. 1 pick.

“The league has been beating us up right now,” said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who hasn’t come even close to making the playoffs and is already on the fourth head coach of his three-year career now that the Suns have hired Igor Kokoskov. “But I think it’s going to be motivational for us. I know for myself, working out, I think about that all the time. I never want to be in these situations again.”

The new lottery format isn’t the only looming change related to drafts. It seems likely that by 2020, the one-and-done rule — in place since 2006 — will be gone and players will be allowed to jump from high school directly to the NBA again.

If that was the case this season, the rights to draft phenoms like R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish would probably be decided by those pingpong balls in Chicago on Tuesday. Instead, they’re all going to Duke this fall.

So they won’t be at the combine, nor will the likely top two picks in the June 21 draft – Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, and Slovenia’s Luka Doncic. Ayton declined the invitation to participate in Chicago, and Doncic’s season in Europe isn’t over yet.

“We sort of expected this, that we might not see the top couple guys there,” Hollinger said. “So we just have to adjust from that and get our information in other ways.”

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Kerr says Cousins still on track to make season debut Friday



Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins continues to put the finishing touches on his lengthy recovery from a torn left Achilles tendon.

Last week, reports circulated that Cousins was targeting Friday’s road game against the LA Clippers (10:30 ET, ESPN) as his return date. After Tuesday’s shootaround, Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters that Cousins remains on track to suit up for Friday’s game.

Kerr said last week that Cousins will start immediately when he makes his long-awaited Warriors debut. There was some thought that Cousins could suit up Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans (10:30 ET, ESPN) — which is Cousins’ former team — but that seems unlikely now. 

Golden State’s coaching staff has spent the past couple of weeks more intensely planning for Cousins’ return and how he will be incorporated into different rotations throughout games, while also holding regular discussions with Cousins about the plan.

“It’s a relief. It’s been a long year for me, a lot of ups and downs,” Cousins said after practice last week. “But the finish line is ahead and I’m extremely excited to be back on the floor.

The big man has made significant strides with his condition in recent scrimmages, showing Kerr and the Warriors medical staff he is nearly ready to play in games again.


DeMarcus Cousins is closing in on his return to the lineup.

Cousins tore his Achilles late last January and it prematurely ended his season with the Pelicans. Before the injury, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 48 games.

The 28-year-old Cousins doesn’t expect to dominate from Day 1, especially playing in a lineup that will feature four other All-Stars — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Kerr said he hasn’t thought about the star-studded lineup yet, knowing there’s still half the season to go for Cousins to get comfortable and acclimated.

Not that the fiery Cousins, known for drawing technical fouls, will change. He loves that Kerr and Green and the others love to show their emotions during games.

“Same person. I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Cousins said last week. “I use different things as fuel to keep me moving forward. I’m going to use the same things. I’m looking forward to proving myself on the floor.”

Cousins is appreciative of the support he received from family to get through the tough days of rehab. In turn, the young Warriors centers were grateful for the guidance from Cousins as he dealt with watching night in and night out from the bench.

“A lot of things switch up for you when you kind of are out of the picture. Reality hits,” Cousins said. “It’s kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of thing. A lot of people that were all about you kind of disappear. Reality hits you and you realize the people that really are in your corner, so this was a good year for me on top of all the negatives because you really realize who’s in your corner. Family.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Shumpert tried to enter Blazers’ locker room after win



SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kings guard Iman Shumpert was stopped from going into Portland’s locker room by arena and Trail Blazers security after Sacramento’s 115-107 victory Monday night.

Shumpert apparently was angry at Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who set a hard screen in the second half.

“Some stuff needed to be between me and him, a conversation between two men,” Shumpert said. “Some stuff happened out there that we needed to have a conversation about. That’s it.”

Nurkic shrugged it off.

“I’m not going to worry about it,” he said. “He’s going into retirement soon. I’m not going to worry about a guy who’s going into retirement soon.”


The Kings edged past the Blazers on Monday night.

The 28-year-old Shumpert was called for a technical foul in the third quarter. He later was walked to the bench by a teammate after arguing with someone on Portland’s bench.

After the game, Shumpert tweeted : “I apologize to the fans if I made a scene. Wasn’t my intention but this 2019 stuff is all about a `story.’ Don’t let that distract you from this young Scores ball club getting a great victory against a tested Blazers team.”

An hour later, he tweeted a link to ESPN’s recap of the incident and tweeted the following: “Don’t believe the internet. I was respectful of their team’s space and privacy. I waited outside and asked to have a conversation. I was greeted by team security that talked to me and I left. No story. #scores win.”

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About Last Night: Parker’s triumphant return



Tony Parker makes it clear: If it was fully up to him, he never would have left the only NBA team he’d ever played for.

Coming off a catastrophic Achilles injury in the midst of his 17th season, with the prospect of ample time on the bench as the San Antonio Spurs’ third-string point guard, Parker instead said no thanks and shocked pretty much everyone by signing with the Charlotte Hornets last summer. 

“They really didn’t take me seriously that I was going to leave,” said Parker, as reported by ESPN.

Monday, however, was no time to obsess about the past.

Both parties have moved on, and Parker’s first appearance in San Antonio since he departed was an opportunity not to grieve, but to celebrate a player who joined the Spurs as a raw teenager from France and left with four championship rings, six All-Star appearances, a Finals MVP award and status as one of the very best players to ever wear their uniform. 

It started early as Parker was shocked during warmups to find his immediate family at courtside, flown in from France by the Spurs.

It continued before tipoff with an emotional video tribute that brought the AT&T Center to its feet …

… and then another standing ovation as Parker checked in for the first time.

And they still weren’t finished! Not satisfied with the 150-minute lovefest, Spurs fans urged Hornets coach James Borrego to sub Parker back in for the final seconds, so they could shower him with adulation one more time. 

Not surprisingly, it was a stark difference from the recent homecoming of former Spur Kawhi Leonard, who was booed relentlessly throughout his return game earlier this month. 

While Parker didn’t have the best game, shooting just 4-for-12 from the floor, he did finish with eight points, including a vintage coast-to-coast drive as the Hornets pulled away for their 108-93 victory. Given how many times he ripped off that exact same play over nearly two decades with the Spurs, it was only fitting he did it to help finish them off. 


Important as it was to the Hornets, who are battling hard for a lower-tier playoff spot in the East, the victory couldn’t help but take a distant back seat to the reunion between Parker and the franchise he served so well, for so long. 

“I’m very tired,” Parker said. “It was draining, mentally and emotionally. It was just an awesome night. I want to thank the fans. It was unbelievable love, and I appreciate everything. It’s a great memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who shared a lengthy embrace/exchange with his long-time point guard after the game, “I expected nothing less. Tony was a great player for us and he deserved all the love that he received.”



Back on track

James Harden continued his monster scoring run with 38 points against the Magic on Sunday, but it came with a rare blemish: His 16 missed 3-pointers tied the single-game record for most misses from beyond the arc. 

But the relentless NBA schedule offers immediate opportunities for atonement, and Harden took full advantage.

The reigning Kia MVP punished the Grizzlies with one of the best games of his career, a 57-point onslaught in which he set the Rockets team mark with 36 in the first half while extending his streak of 30-point games to 17, the NBA’s best since the 1976 merger and trailing only Elgin Baylor’s 18 among everyone not named Wilt Chamberlain. 

Even more impressively, it came just as the Rockets learned they’ll be without interior lynchpin Clint Capela for up to six weeks. With starting point guard Chris Paul expected to be out for at least a few more weeks with a bad hamstring, the Rockets will need as much greatness as Harden can give them.

And as he’s proven over the past 17 games (41.3 points, 9.2 assists) — indeed his entire tenure with the Rockets — he’s more than ready for the challenge.


James Harden dominates the Grizzlies with 57 points.


Dog days of winter

Rumors of the Celtics’ ascendance have, once again, been greatly exaggerated. 

Just as a previous eight-game streak was followed by a lengthy stretch of mediocrity, they’ve now dropped three straight after a modest four-win stretch had seemingly signaled that they were ready, finally, to pursue their expected perch near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. 

The latest setback came courtesy of the Nets, who outscored the Celtics by 23 in the third quarter and led by as many as 27 in the fourth before a cosmetic run in garbage time made the 109-102 final far closer than it should have been.  

Adding insult to injury, Nets fans taunted the Celtics after star point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed the game with a quad injury, criticized his teammates following Saturday’s loss to the Magic. 

Irving was contrite at Monday’s shootaround, attributing the censure to his competitiveness. 

“I just want to win so bad,” he said. 

He followed that up by reportedly praising his teammates after their comeback attempt against the Nets in what was described as a “positive message” by NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely. 

But at least one of those teammates, Jaylen Brown, didn’t seem quite convinced after a pointed statement of his own. 

“We have to have everybody’s back,” he said. “We can’t make comments, we can’t point fingers. It starts from the top to the bottom, not bottom to the top. It’s not the young guys’ or old guys’ fault — it’s everybody.”


Big rig

The world’s largest 12-year-old, Clippers center Boban Marjanovic, motors to the locker room.


Kiss of death

Some Pistons fans bought courtside seats in Utah. Channeling his inner Mario Elie, Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles happily sent them on their way after drilling the game-clinching 3. 


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