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#pounditFriday, April 23, 2021

Basketball

Ex-Kentucky G Terrence Clarke dies in car accident at 19

Terrence Clarke

Former Kentucky Wildcats guard Terrence Clarke died in a car accident on Thursday. He was 19 years old.

Clarke, who was from the Boston area, played in eight games for Kentucky last season. He averaged 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 28.6 minutes per game.

Clarke was working out in the Los Angeles area with fellow former Kentucky teammate BJ Boston. Boston was in a vehicle traveling behind Clarke’s car.

According to WKYT, Los Angeles Police say “Clarke was traveling at a high rate of speed when he ran a red light, hit another car turning left, and continued on to then hit a pole and block wall. Police say Clarke was not wearing his seatbelt properly.”

Clarke played in seven games for Kentucky before suffering a foot injury. He returned for the SEC Tournament.

Clarke and Boston recently signed with agents Klutch Sports.

“We are saddened and devastated by the tragic loss of Terrence Clarke. He was an incredible, hard-working young man. He was excited for what was ahead of him and ready to fulfill his dreams,” Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul said in a statement.

Clarke was taken to Northridge Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Kyle Lowry explains why he is in favor of play-in tournament

Kyle Lowry

The NBA’s upcoming play-in tournament has been getting a bad rap lately. But Kyle Lowry actually thinks that it could be a lot of fun.

The Toronto Raptors guard spoke with reporters on Wednesday and said that he was in favor of next month’s play-in tournament.

“I think the play-in is pretty cool,” said Lowry. “In this type of year, I think it’s something that the league has talked about for a while now. I think that if you’re gonna do anything, you would do it in this type of year. It’s been a little bit of a weird year for everyone. COVID year. Shortened season.

“I think it’s also something that generates more revenue for the TV,” Lowry went on. “And I think it’s fun. It’s more engaging for the fans. It’s kind of NCAA Tournament-like for a couple days. I think it’s just something that gives fans something to look forward to.”

The 35-year-old Lowry may have a bit of self-interest here as well. Toronto is having a lousy season with a 25-34 record. But the expanded field for the play-in means that they are just 0.5 games back right now of qualifying.

Still, Lowry’s comments here are pretty interesting. We have seen multiple stars come out against the NBA’s decision to have a play-in this year. In fact, one of Lowry’s own teammates even went off on the league recently over their supposedly poor handling of the season.

H/T NBA Reddit

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0

Charles Barkley gives his prediction for who will win Eastern Conference

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley on Thursday gave his prediction for who will win the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

TNT aired the clash between the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, who are two of the top teams in the conference. During halftime of the game, Barkley talked about how competitive the top of the conference is. That led Ernie Johnson to ask the crew who they were picking to win the conference.

Shaq picked the Brooklyn Nets. Kenny Smith was unsure. Barkley said he thought the Bucks would not only finish with the top record in the conference, but also reach the NBA Finals.

“I think they’re going to finish with the No. 1 record in the East,” Barkley said. “I truly believe that. I think the addition of Jrue Holiday, (PJ) Tucker … I think Milwaukee’s going to win the East.”

The Bucks ended up beating the Sixers 124-117 and are 2.5 games behind the Nets and Sixers for the top spot in the conference. So they have some ground to make up.

Winning the East won’t be easy given how tough both Philly and Brooklyn can be. The injuries Brooklyn is facing will likely be a big factor in determining who emerges.

Joel Embiid grateful for Shaq’s criticism of him

Joel Embiid

Shaquille O’Neal now has another player to whom he can say, “you’re welcome.”

Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid spoke this week with Shams Charania of The Athletic. During the interview, Embiid credited O’Neal’s criticism for providing him with motivation.

“When all those guys, Shaq, Charles [Barkley], they just kept talking about how dominant I could be, I understood,” said Embiid. “They saw the talent. They saw what I could really do. But I wasn’t using it. I wasn’t doing it. So when they were criticizing me, I just saw it as a way to kinda open my eyes and actually be better.

“So instead of using it as criticism, I just took it to want to be better,” added Embiid. “So when I look back, when that was going on, I have nothing but love for Shaq. Because whatever they were saying, it just opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.”

The 27-year-old also said that he has “no doubt” that he should be the NBA MVP this season.

O’Neal has been on Embiid’s case for a couple of years now (like this). Shaq also tends to be especially tough on big men in today’s game. But Embiid is currently having his best NBA season yet, averaging career-highs with 30.1 points per game on 51.5 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from deep. The Sixers also have the best record in the Eastern Conference at 39-19.

Sometimes, O’Neal’s words can border on unnecessarily petty. But Embiid is at least one example of a player whom the criticisms have worked on.

Wizards rookie Deni Avdija to miss 12 weeks with leg injury

Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards on Thursday shared news on Deni Avdija’s injury timetable.

The rookie is expected to miss 12 due to a right fibular hairline fracture. He will not need surgery.

Avdija got injured in Wednesday’s win over the Warriors. His lower right leg got bent awkwardly when he landed after a shot attempt.

Avdija had six points and three rebounds before exiting on Wednesday. The No. 9 overall pick was averaging 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this season.

Trae Young gets good news on ankle injury

Trae Young

Trae Young suffered a bad-looking ankle injury on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, but the diagnosis is a positive one for the Atlanta Hawks’ star guard.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Young has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 lateral ankle sprain. The guard is expected to be able to play again once the swelling clears up.

NBA injury expert Jeff Stotts said the typical recovery time for this sort of injury has been slightly over two weeks.

This is a relief, since the injury looked pretty bad when it took place, as you can see here.

The timing on this isn’t great for the Hawks, as they sit just a game above the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. If they drop much lower, they’d be in danger of landing in the play-in tournament. However, this does make it likely that Young will be back before the end of the regular season, and almost certainly good for the playoffs.

The 22-year-old guard is averaging 25.3 points and 9.6 assists per game in 54 games this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie suggests playoff return is ‘realistic’

Spencer Dinwiddie

The Brooklyn Nets could have even more firepower available to them for the NBA Playoffs with a possible return from Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie suffered a partial ACL tear on Dec. 27 and was expected to miss the remainder of the season. However, on Thursday, the Nets guard said it was “realistic” that he could ramp up enough to return during the playoffs if he can get his conditioning up to speed.

The Nets obviously have top-end talent, but recent injuries to Kevin Durant and James Harden have demonstrated that there is a degree of vulnerability in the team’s depth. That’s particularly true of the backcourt. Getting Dinwiddie back, even in a modest role, would help that issue to no end.

Dinwiddie, 27, averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game last season. The injury, as well as the Nets’ new core, has led some to apparently forget he’s even on the team, so a playoff return would certainly serve as a good reminder.

Photo: Erik Drost/Flickr via CC-BY 2.0

LeBron James reveals why he is happy Knicks have been winning

LeBron James

The New York Knicks are suddenly on fire in their first season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, and at least one rival star player is happy to see it.

LeBron James took to Twitter on Thursday to give the Knicks a shoutout. Someone pointed out that New York has done nothing but win since the team released a hype video featuring the hip-hop group Dipset at Madison Square Garden. LeBron responded by saying the NBA is better off when the Knicks are a winning team.

The Knicks have won eight straight games to climb to fourth in the Eastern Conference. They appear to be headed for their first playoff appearance in seven years and have already surpassed their win total from the past six seasons.

While they have become somewhat of a laughing stock this decade, the Knicks are one of the most storied and popular franchises in sports. Zion Williamson was the latest players to explain why playing at Madison Square Garden means so much, and that sentiment is generally shared across the NBA. LeBron is right that the NBA is better off when the Knicks are relevant.

Kevin Porter Jr. violated safety protocols with strip club visit

Kevin Porter Jr

Sterling Brown will be out indefinitely after he was assaulted outside a Coral Gables-area strip club on Sunday night, and one of his Houston Rockets teammates will miss some time stemming from the same incident.

Kevin Porter Jr. will be out until at least Sunday for violating the NBA’s health and safety protocols, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz that Porter will be sidelined for several days, though he did not specify the reason.

According to MacMahon, the NBA has ruled Brown ineligible because he visited a strip club with Brown. The league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols limit where players can go during road trips.

The Rockets announced before Monday’s loss to the Miami Heat that Brown suffered facial lacerations after being assaulted by a group of people with whom he “had no prior knowledge of or interaction.” Brown is expected to make a full recovery, but the details from the incident sounded incredibly frightening.

Porter has averaged 15.5 points and 6.2 assists in 21 games for the Rockets. He’s been one of very few bright spots on a team that entered Thursday with a record of 15-44.

Russell Westbrook has funny comment about all his abilities

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook had another rough shooting night in Wednesday’s win over the Golden State Warriors, but the cold hand clearly has not shaken his confidence.

Westbrook scored 14 points on just 5-of-17 shooting, but the Washington Wizards star’s biggest contributions of the night came on defense. He guarded Stephen Curry for the majority of the game and held him to a miserable 2-of-14 from three-point range. Curry scored 18 points after averaging around 40 per game for the last month or so.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks praised Westbrook for his defense following the 118-114 win. Westbrook praised himself with an awesome quote, too. The nine-time All-Star said he considers himself “a player that can do it all.”

“I’m one of those players that if I need to defend at a high level, I can do that,” Westbrook said, via Fred Katz of The Athletic. “If I need to score at a high level, I can do that. Pass? I can do that. Rebound? I can do that. Want me to coach? S—, I can do that, too.”

Westbrook has always been one of Westbrook’s biggest fans. He had every reason to beat his chest after making life difficult for Curry, especially given that Curry was scorching hot prior to that.

Of course, the timing of Westbrook’s remarks also might not be a coincidence. Kevin Durant recently snubbed him in a big way, so Westbrook may have been sending a message to his former teammate.