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#pounditSaturday, September 26, 2020

Basketball

Kevin Durant shares why NBA Bubble champion will be highly respected

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant disputes the narrative that this year’s NBA champion will lack respect.

Durant made an appearance on Joe Budden’s podcast on Monday. He was asked whether this year’s NBA champion would be respected in the same way as the champions of a standard season.

“Yeah, of course. You still have to play against these dudes,” Durant said.

Durant added that you can’t hold it against the players for winning amid the circumstances.

The Brooklyn Nets forward went a step further, saying he thinks this year’s champions will be even more respected.

“I think it will be respected for sure. Probably more respected. It’s tough for the boys in there. They’ve been away from everybody for that long. To be the last one standing? That’s going to be tough,” Durant said.

There are reasons to view this year’s champion differently from other seasons. This season had a four-month interruption; the regular season was cut short; not all the teams were involved in the restart; there is no homecourt advantage; there are no fans; and there is no travel. All these factors might mean we will get a pure champion that won in a neutral environment. The champion will have had to endure a few months of living in the NBA’s bubble environment. Achieving success in this environment is not easy, as one star showed us.

So even though a prominent NBA analyst felt this year’s champion deserves an asterisk, Durant is arguing otherwise.

Jamal Murray buries Lakers in Game 3 with clutch shooting

Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray turned Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday into a personal highlight reel.

Murray led his team with 28 points and 12 assists in the 114-106 win. He came up with some huge clutch shots.

Murray made a 3-pointer to put Denver up by seven with just over two minutes left:

Unsatisfied, Murray had a heat check a minute and a half later. He buried another 3-pointer, this one from even deeper.

Few players have showcased their talent in the “NBA Bubble” better than Murray has.

He averaged 18.5 points per game during the regular season and is averaging 26.6 points per game this postseason. He and Donovan Mitchell were trading big baskets in the first round of the playoffs. Murray is continuing to put on a show.

Dwight Howard taunted Nuggets after Lakers’ Game 2 win

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard’s antics after his Los Angeles Lakers won Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday may have helped motivate the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers won the game 105-103 on a 3-pointer by Anthony Davis at the buzzer. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Howard broke away from the Lakers’ on-court celebration to taunt the Nuggets after the game.

From Amick’s story:

“Go home!” he yelled over and over while laughing, jumping, pumping his fist and getting closer to the Nuggets’ side of the floor with every second. “Go home!”

Howard has only been playing 15.4 minutes per game this postseason and only played 13 minutes in Game 2. Seeing a part-time player like Howard taunt them may have rubbed the Nuggets the wrong way.

Denver came out motivated in Game 3 of the series on Tuesday night and won 114-106 to cut the Lakers’ series lead to 2-1.

Maybe next time Howard should look to the example Rajon Rondo set for how to react.

JJ Redick looking to play several more seasons

Even if JJ Redick is 36, he still thinks he has a lot left in the rank.

Speaking this week with Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports, the veteran sharpshooter spoke on his ambitions for continuing his playing career.

“I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible,” said Redick. “My goal is to play four more years. Year 18. That’s my goal. I’ll play to 39. Then my offseason, I’ll turn 40 and then I can walk away at that point. That’s my goal. We’ll see. The body has to hold up. But we’ll see.”

While Redick just missed the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career, he had a strong season nonetheless with the New Orleans Pelicans. Redick put up 15.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game on 45.3 percent three-point shooting, the second-highest mark of his career. He is under contract with New Orleans for $13 million in the 2020-21 season.

Multiple veteran marksmen such as Kyle Korver and Jamal Crawford are still playing at or near 40 years of age. Redick certainly seems like the type who could do so as well, especially with how young he looked in the bubble.

Video: Jamal Murray gets flagrant foul for elbow to LeBron James’ jaw

Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray was called for a flagrant foul for an elbow to LeBron James’ jaw.

James’ Los Angeles Lakers were taking the ball out early in the third quarter of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. After inbounding the ball, James then went to screen Murray. Murray elbowed James in the jaw as he was fighting off the screen.

The officials in the game reviewed the play and gave Murray the flagrant foul.

James made one of two free throws following the flagrant foul. He missed a jumper after that but then made three baskets in a row for the Lakers.

Murray had 14 points and 10 assists through that point in the game.

Joakim Noah could return to Bulls after Billy Donovan hiring?

Joakim Noah

One of Billy Donovan’s former University of Florida players may be returning to Chicago to join him.

Donovan was officially hired as the new head coach of the Bulls on Tuesday. Nick Friedell of ESPN suggested that former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah could now return to the Bulls, noting that Noah has “a great deal of respect” for Donovan and still loves Chicago.

The 35-year-old Noah spent the final months of this season with the LA Clippers. Team reporter Lucas Hann notes he still has a non-guaranteed contract with the Clippers for next season. If Noah were to be released or traded as salary filler and bought out however, that could potentially open the door for a return to Chicago.

For what it’s worth, Noah had an Instagram post congratulating Donovan on getting the job with the Bulls. He also referred to Donovan as “family” in a statement to KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Noah was drafted by the Bulls in 2007 and had the best years of his career there before departing in 2016. Prior to that, he played three seasons under Donovan at Florida, winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.

The former All-Star Noah might have some fences to mend if he were to return to Chicago. But the 2-for-1 reunion special with both Donovan and the Bulls would make for one heck of a homecoming for him.

Report: Doc Rivers’ decisions had Clippers players scratching their heads

Doc Rivers

The Los Angeles Clippers were a major disappointment during the NBA playoffs, and head coach Doc Rivers is becoming a target for some of the blame.

The Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven games to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. They held leads in all three closeout games but failed to win the series. Rivers has now presided over three series in which his teams blew a 3-1 lead.

As the team’s disappointing season gets dissected, we’re hearing about some dissatisfaction players had with Rivers.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania wrote an article about the Clippers and said some players were confused by some of Rivers’ decisions.

From the story:

“Head coach Doc Rivers had several strategic decisions that left players scratching their heads, such as the decision not to ride a bigger lineup against Nikola Jokic, choosing rotations that did not prioritize more minutes for JaMychal Green and various defensive adjustments.”

Not only that, but there is some blame being ascribed to Rivers for the team’s chemistry issues.

Of course, it is easy to point out these issues when you lose. But when the Clippers were up 3-1 in the series, players probably weren’t questioning things in the same way.

One issue the Clippers will likely have to address is the situation with Paul George. He reportedly was called out by a teammate in Game 2 against Denver. It also seems like some players did not view George as a team leader.

Despite the issues involving Rivers, the Clippers reportedly plan to bring back the veteran head coach.

Bulls star Zach LaVine reacts to Billy Donovan news while playing video game

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine is one of the Chicago Bulls’ key players, and a major building block for their future. So it’s fun to see him learn who his new head coach is just like the rest of us.

LaVine was playing “Call of Duty” on a Facebook livestream when news broke that Billy Donovan would be named the Bulls’ new head coach. LaVine offered his reaction in real time, and seemed quite enthused by the hiring.

LaVine had his share of issues with former coach Jim Boylen. Donovan is widely respected around the game and has been successful at both the college and professional levels. It’s easy to see why that sort of hire would make LaVine optimistic.

The 25-year-old guard is coming off his best NBA season statistically. He averaged a career-high 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game last season. He figures to be a key part of Donovan’s plans going forward, and it sounds like LaVine is already looking forward to working with him.

Billy Donovan to become Chicago Bulls’ head coach

Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan was not out of a job for long.

Donovan has agreed to become the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday.

Donovan was let go by the Oklahoma City Thunder after the team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs. The Thunder reportedly are preparing to go into a rebuild and decided not to renew Donovan’s contract.

The Bulls were deciding on the future of Jim Boylen and fired him last month, creating a vacancy. They now have made a huge upgrade with the addition of Donovan.

Donovan, 55, won two national championships as a head coach in college at Florida before jumping to the pros. His teams made the playoffs all five years he was the coach of the Thunder, though they lost in the first round the last four years.

Enes Kanter pokes fun at Celtics’ locker room fight

Enes Kanter

The Boston Celtics can now afford to laugh about their well-publicized locker room incident last week.

Celtics big man Enes Kanter posted a funny video on Monday of a wrestling match that he had with teammate Marcus Smart by the pool in the Orlando bubble. Kanter’s caption read, “We couldn’t settle the fight in the locker room so we took it out to the pool.” Take a look:

Smart, of course, was the primary combatant during the team’s locker room episode after a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat. Reports did suggest however that it was a different Celtic, not Kanter, who Smart got into it with.

The Celtics bounced back in Game 3 on Saturday with a statement double-digit win against the Heat following the incident. Kanter’s funny post further confirms that the locker room fireworks are now all but behind them.