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#pounditSaturday, May 28, 2022

Basketball

Funny photo of Rudy Gobert towering over Real Madrid star goes viral

Rudy Gobert warming up

Feb 24, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) warms up before the game against the Phoenix Suns at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gobert is so tall that he makes other elite professional athletes look microscopic in comparison.

The Utah Jazz big man was in attendance for Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool. The match took place in Gobert’s native country of France.

Following Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory to clinch their 14th Champions League title in club history, Gobert posed for a picture with Real Madrid star Eden Hazard. Gobert completely towered over Hazard in the shot. Take a look.

Hazard, one of the top left-wingers in the world, stands 5-foot-9. That explains the extreme height discrepancy with the 7-foot-2 Gobert.

Gobert is probably even taller with that new Simon Phoenix-esque hairstyle he is sporting. At least Gobert usually goes after people who are his own size.

Erik Spoelstra offers extremely high praise for Kyle Lowry

Erik Spoelstra looks on

Feb 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra on the sideline against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat avoided elimination on Friday with a 111-103 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Jimmy Butler was the undisputed star of the game with a 47-point performance, but Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra thought Kyle Lowry played just as big of a role in the win.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday after the game, Spoelstra raved about Lowry’s play on the court, and what he has meant to the Heat as a leader in clutch situations.

“I can’t say enough about Kyle and his veteran leadership,” Spoelstra said. “It means so much to us and you can’t put an analytic [to] what it means to your team of the feeling of calm and confidence that he can give everybody.

“He’s one of the all-time clutch players in this league.”

Spoelstra also said that Lowry excels at running the offense in important moments of a game. He even compared having Lowry on the floor in those key moments to having a “Hall of Fame quarterback.”

Lowry certainly rose to the occasion in a must-win Game 6.

After scoring a combined three points and shooting 1-of-12 from the field in Games 4 and 5, Lowry had 18 points and 10 assists in 37 minutes. He also made four 3-pointers.

Lowry had a reputation for struggling in the postseason throughout much of his career. But he has turned around that perception in recent years. In his postseason career, he’s averaged 14.8 points, 4.9 assists and 5.7 three-pointers per game.

The Heat will face even greater pressure in Game 7 on Sunday. They will need Lowry to provide a calming presence again if they are to advance to the NBA Finals.

Trae Young clowns FOX Sports host over on-air mistake

Trae Young handling the ball

Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA Today Sports

Trae Young is only 6-foot-1, but he had no problem this week dunking on a FOX Sports host.

Kevin Wildes, who is a co-host on FS1’s “First Things First,” was speaking during a segment comparing the Atlanta Hawks star Young to fellow 2018 draftee Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. Wildes correctly stated that Doncic won one game in the conference finals this year but incorrectly stated that Young got swept in the conference finals last year.

Young, whose team actually won two games against Milwaukee in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, clowned Wildes on Twitter over the goof.

“1st team ever to get swept in 6 games,” wrote Young. “kids don’t think everybody on tv know what they’re talking about.”

Young and Doncic will forever be linked after being traded for each other on draft day in 2018. The former has even lobbed some friendly trash talk at the latter in the past. But Young thinks that Wildes needs to get his facts straight first before jumping into the conversation.

Heat become latest team to receive NBA bench fine

Erik Spoelstra looks on

Feb 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra on the sideline against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat won a pivotal Game 6 in Boston, but they will be a bit lighter in the pocket as a result.

The Heat became the latest victims of the increasingly-common bench decorum fine, the league announced Saturday. Miami was fined $25,000, signaling a first offense.

As with other penalties, the league stated Heat players had been guilty of standing away from the team bench and encroaching on the playing area. While the NBA isn’t going to offer specific examples of these offenses, the Dallas Mavericks have been kind enough to give us repeated examples during the playoffs.

The Heat have been fined for other reasons this season without caring too much. They probably won’t be too bothered by this one either.

Nikola Jokic reveals interesting plans for his post-basketball career

Nikola Jokic in a nuggets sweater

Apr 28, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is a true Renaissance man and proved that once again this week.

Jokic spoke this week with European news outlet Expressen and revealed the unique plans he has for his post-basketball career. He said that he hopes to train horses (specifically at harness racing) in his native Serbia some day.

“My dream is to move back to Serbia and become a trotting coach after my basketball career,” said Jokic, according to a rough translation.

Jokic was speaking at Elitloppet, a prestigious annual harness racing event in Stockholm, Sweden.

This is definitely on-brand for the back-to-back NBA MVP winner Jokic. He received his MVP trophy this year at a horse stable in his hometown of Sombor, Serbia, making for a funny viral video.

The 27-year-old Jokic should also have plenty of funds to make his horse training dream become a reality. He is expected to sign a truly gargantuan contract with the Nuggets in the coming months.

Pelicans to hardball Zion Williamson in contract talks?

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy,” but their contract negotiations with Zion Williamson this summer may be anything but.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported this week on the impending contract talks between Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. As a member of the 2019 draft class, Williamson has until the start of the 2022-23 regular season to reach an extension with New Orleans or else become a restricted free agent in 2023.

“From what I have been told, the Pelicans, at this point, are not willing to offer [Williamson] a full five-year guaranteed deal,” said Windhorst. “And a lot of it is flowing down from ownership. Gayle Benson, the owner, is also the owner of the New Orleans Saints. And I have been told they’re going to take a football-style, Saints-style mentality with this contract negotiation.

“They will offer him a huge contract but will not guarantee all of it,” added Windhorst. “If Zion accepts those terms, he still protects himself, and maybe gets $100-plus million guaranteed, he signs, everything’s fine. If he doesn’t sign and wants the full guarantee, we could have some drama into the fall.”

The Pelicans’ stance here makes sense though. The former No. 1 overall pick Williamson is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength right now. He missed all of this season with a foot injury and has appeared in just 85 total games through his first three NBA seasons. Williamson has also faced questions over his weight, his work ethic, and whether or not he even wants to be in New Orleans at all.

This week did at least come with a promising update on Williamson’s health. But for a Pelicans team that made the playoffs and put up a fight against a 64-win Phoenix Suns team without him, it is difficult to justify maxing out Williamson until he proves he is healthy enough to justify such a price tag.

Jayson Tatum reveals his confidence level for Game 7

Jayson Tatum warming up

Jan 4, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during warm ups prior to the against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics’ difficult Game 6 loss has clearly not dented their confidence for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics let a late lead slip against the Miami Heat in Game 6, missing the chance to close out the series at home. After the loss, Jayson Tatum was asked about his confidence level to win Game 7 on the road. On a scale of one to ten, Tatum gave it a ten.

Tatum will have to back up his words after a quiet fourth quarter in Game 6. While the Celtics forward scored six points, he attempted just one field goal in the final period.

Tatum and teammate Jaylen Brown have both been called out by their coach earlier in the series, though that did get a response. They may be hearing it again in private ahead of a must-win Game 7.

Bucks star offers thoughts on Darvin Ham getting Lakers job

Darvin Ham in a suit

Apr. 7, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 125-105. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t exactly thrilled to see Darvin Ham go, but at the same time, the Milwaukee Bucks superstar is happy to see a deserving man get his due.

Ham, who has been in coaching since 2008, spent the previous five seasons serving as the Bucks’ assistant coach. On Friday, he was hired as the next Los Angeles Lakers head coach.

“I’m so happy for him. He’s the right fit for them. He keeps it real with you. No BS at all. It’s about damn time. He deserves it more than anyone,” Antetokounmpo said, via Adrian Wojnarowski.

During Ham’s time with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo earned four All-Star appearances, was named the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year and NBA MVP in both 2018 and 2019. They also won an NBA title in 2021.

As happy as Antetokounmpo was for the man he respects, Lakers superstar LeBron James was even happier.

Ham was ultimately chosen over several other finalists, including Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

Nikola Jokic preparing to sign massive deal

Nikola Jokic in a nuggets sweater

Apr 28, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets may be in the midst of a front office overhaul, but that hasn’t swayed two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

Although the man who drafted him, Tim Connelly, is headed to Minnesota, Jokic remains committed to the Nuggets. And the 27-year-old intends to show that by signing a five-year, $260 million supermax extension when it’s offered.

That offer is expected to come in July and then kick in following the 2022-2023 season. For now, Jokic will play out the remaining one year and $32 million on his current contract.

Jokic had previously made it clear that he intended to remain with Denver, but this latest news solidifies it.

“I would like it, of course, but it’s not something that I’m deciding,” Jokic said last month, via NBC Sports. “I think of course if it’s offered — if (the) offer is on the table — of course I’m going to accept it because I really like the organization and really like the people who work here.

“I’m (have a) really good relationship with people who work here, and a good relationship with everybody from the owner to, let’s say, the equipment manager. I think we have something that we’re building. It actually feels really good.”

Once Jokic signs his extension, Denver’s brand new front office will turn their attention to building a more competitive team around him.

Heat players respond to Draymond Green prediction

Draymond Green smiling

Feb 20, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) stands on the court before the game against the Houston Rockets at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat avoided elimination with their 111-103 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on Friday. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green may have provided some extra motivation for the Heat to do so.

After the Warriors clinched a spot in the NBA Finals Thursday, Green predicted they would face the Boston Celtics.

The Heat apparently took notice.

Durning a postgame interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt,” Heat forward P.J. Tucker had a simple message for Green.

“Tell Draymond I said I appreciate it,” Tucker said.

Fellow Heat forward Udonis Haslem echoed similar sentiments. ESPN game analyst Mark Jackson revealed what Haslem had to say about Green postgame.

“[Haslem] wants a message to be relayed,” Jackson said. “He said, ‘Tell Draymond Green thank you.'”

The Heat looked dead in the water during Games 4 and 5, but played with a sense of urgency in Game 6. Much of that could be credited to Jimmy Butler, who scored 47 points. But Green’s slight probably added fuel to the fire. If the Heat advance, it would set up an intriguing matchup from that standpoint.

Game 7 between the Heat and Celtics is scheduled for Sunday, with the winner playing on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.