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#pounditSaturday, April 10, 2021

Basketball

Isaiah Thomas paying tribute to Kobe Bryant as he joins Pelicans

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas is officially back in the NBA, and he is using the opportunity to pay tribute to The Black Mamba himself.

The former All-Star Thomas, who has not played in the league since Feb. 2020, signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans this week. He will be wearing No. 24 with the team and let it be known on Twitter this weekend that the jersey choice was in honor of the late Kobe Bryant.

Thomas was very close with Bryant. He was one of the athletes included when Bryant memorably issued several Twitter challenges back in 2017.

Countless tributes have sprung up in Bryant’s honor since his passing over a year ago. Thomas rocking the No. 24 jersey will be another cool one.

Look: Al Horford got Tim Duncan treatment during game against Suns

Al Horford

Al Horford caught one heck of a stray during Friday’s game against Phoenix.

The Oklahoma City Thunder center has been shut down for the rest of the season so that the team can focus on developing their younger players. The Suns’ broadcast had a bit of fun with that much, hilariously listing Horford as out for being “old.” Take a look.

The “old” designation may sound familiar to you, and you would be right. Recall that retired San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan got some similar treatment back in the day, being listed as “DND-Old” for a game in 2012.

Duncan was nearing 36 at the time, and Horford is not far behind — he will turn 35 in June. Horford also seems particularly ancient on a Thunder team with 11 players age 23 or younger. Thus, he might not disagree with the reason given for his absence.

Photo: Flickr/All-Pro Reels via cc-by-sa 2.0

Kevin Durant nearing return to action for Nets

Kevin Durant

The Brooklyn Nets are just days away from finally getting a healthy contingent on the court together.

Nets coach Steve Nash revealed Saturday that there is a “high probability” that Kevin Durant will return to action this week. Nash said the return could come as early as Monday, but made no guarantee of that.

Durant has not played since Feb. 13 due to a lingering hamstring strain. The Nets have changed significantly since then, having added both Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge in the buyout market. Durant has still had an impact, having played a role in bringing one of those players to Brooklyn.

The Nets’ big three of Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving have only started six games together this season. Those three will want to get their chemistry as good as it can be before the playoffs, where the Nets will be among the favorites.

Spencer Dinwiddie disputes report about Kelly Oubre trade

Spencer Dinwiddie

Spencer Dinwiddie disputed a trade report involving him and Kelly Oubre.

Marc Stein reported in his newsletter during the week that the Brooklyn Nets attempted to trade Dinwiddie, who is out with a torn ACL. Stein reported that the Nets tried to trade Dinwiddie for Oubre, but the Warriors rejected the trade.

From Stein’s report:

“Among the options they explored, I’m told, was sending Dinwiddie to Golden State for Kelly Oubre. Golden State rejected those overtures because it is still desperate to make the playoffs. While numerous Oubre trade scenarios came up, Golden State was not going to trade him for someone who couldn’t help the team in the short term.”

Dinwiddie says things worked the other way around.

In a video that was posted on TikTok, Dinwiddie said “they actually lied about that s—. The Warriors offered Kelly Oubre for me, and the Nets declined.”

Who knows what the truth is? Only the teams actually involved in the trade could tell you what really happened. But it’s in both teams’ interests to tell their players that they weren’t actively being shopped. They want to keep their players happy and assured they are wanted.

Oubre has had somewhat of a rough season and has admitted to having struggles with Golden State. Dinwiddie is just trying to get healthy again.

Photo: Erik Drost/Flickr via CC-BY 2.0

Teammate says Klay Thompson was ‘fired up’ after Warriors’ blowout loss

Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors put forward one of the worst efforts of the NBA season so far Friday night, and it apparently left their injured star fuming.

The Warriors, playing without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green due to injury issues, were blown out by 53 points against the Toronto Raptors on Friday. At one point early in the fourth quarter, the Raptors led by as many as 60 points.

After the game, Warriors reserve Kent Bazemore revealed that injured star Klay Thompson had been “fired up” after the loss and let the team know how unacceptable the defeat was.

Thompson is out for the season with a torn Achilles, so he’s largely been relegated to cheerleader duty as he rehabs. The Warriors are only 23-26 and could really use him, and watching them struggle like this must be killing him.

That said, watching the Warriors play like this is likely only going to fuel Thompson as he tries to make good on a recent pledge.

Rajon Rondo looking forward to Lakers-Clippers rivalry

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is excited to dine on the other side of the table of Los Angeles’ most heated rivalry.

The new LA Clippers guard appeared Friday on ESPN’s “The Jump” and said he was looking forward to doing battle with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s different,” said Rondo of the dynamic between the two teams. “It was a rivalry. I’ve been getting just a lot of welcome-backs. I’m looking forward to the competition.”

The 35-year-old Rondo had been with the Lakers for the past two seasons. He had a massive impact on their NBA championship victory last year with his elevated play in the postseason. But Rondo left in the offseason to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and was dealt to the Clippers at the trade deadline.

Rondo has yet to make his Clippers debut due to an adductor issue. But a potential showdown with the Lakers in the playoffs will be must-see TV, especially since Rondo has beef with some current members of that team.

Doc Rivers responds to criticism from former player

Doc Rivers

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers can’t help but scoff at the shade that one of his former players recently threw at him.

Ex-Sixers center Vincent Poirier criticized Rivers this week for not reaching out to him after Poirier was traded to the New York Knicks.

“I wish someone had told me, ‘We were wrong. You can’t play with us’. I like it when things are straight,” said Poirier, per EuroHoops. “The coach didn’t even send me a message although I know he sent others. I’m not asking him to give me compliments but just a message to wish me good luck.

“We are not commodities, we are still human beings,” Poirier added. “It’s a minimum of sending a message, to say that the situation was complicated, but thank you for your professionalism. A bogus thing, even if he doesn’t really mean it.”

Before the Sixers played the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, Rivers responded to Poirier’s criticisms.

“I don’t get involved in that crap,” he said, per Justin Grasso of SI. “You know that. So, Vince and I have talked. That kind of talk and all that kind of stuff … That’s for, I guess newspapers. So, I’ll let you guys [the media] do that. I don’t get involved in that stuff.”

The 27-year-old Poirier was a non-factor for the Sixers after they acquired him last offseason. He finished his Philadelphia career with 0.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 3.9 minutes per game over ten total appearances. Poirier went to the Knicks as part of the three-team trade where the Sixers acquired guard George Hill. Poirier was then waived by the Knicks just days later.

Rivers has built up a reputation as a players’ coach and a highly-respected professional over his multi-decade NBA head coaching career. But Poirier is not the first former Rivers player who seems to have an issue with him.

Video: Luka Doncic gets technical foul for yelling ‘and one’ after basket

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic will probably feel unfairly punished for the technical foul he received late in Friday’s win over the New York Knicks.

Doncic made a nice spin and drive move to get to the basket for a layup in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, pushing the Dallas Mavericks’ lead to 15 points. Doncic felt he was fouled on the drive, as evidenced by his extremely authoritative cry of “and one” after the basket.

That didn’t go over well with the referee, who hit Doncic with a technical foul.

You don’t normally see this for a player calling for a foul on a basket, but Doncic likely didn’t help himself by stopping and staring at the official after the non-call. That may have even been the decisive factor.

Some might label Doncic a whiner for doing things like this, but be careful — Mark Cuban will have something to say to you if you do.

This is why Rick Carlisle is not coaching the Mavericks on Friday

Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was surprisingly missing from the sideline for Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, but there’s a good reason for the absence.

Carlisle unexpectedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, he told reporters. The Mavericks coach stated that it could possibly be a false positive, as he has been fully vaccinated since January.

Carlisle was not cleared ahead of the game, and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley took charge of the Mavericks in Carlisle’s place.

Mosley is regarded as a promising up-and-coming coach, and he actually interviewed with the team he’ll be coaching against during the offseason. It could be a good opportunity for him to spotlight himself and show what he can do.

Kevin Durant fined $50,000 over threatening messages to Michael Rapaport

Kevin Durant

The NBA on Friday announced it was fining Kevin Durant $50,000 for his threatening messages sent to actor Michael Rapaport.

On Tuesday, Rapaport shared screenshots of several threatening messages Durant reportedly sent him in private over social media (more here). The Brooklyn Nets star tried to downplay the feud and act as if they two engage in such behavior regularly.

The NBA didn’t see it that way and is fining Durant for the exchange. They cited KD’s “offensive and derogatory” language used in the messages.

The NBA said in its statement that Durant acknowledged his actions were “inappropriate.”

Durant has been out since February with a hamstring injury.