Three Things is NBC’s five-day-a-week roundup of the previous night in the NBA. Check NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the day before, plus the gossip, drama and dunks the NBA is famous for.
1) Nets soap opera drama continues as team loses to Cavaliers
Will James Harden leave Brooklyn? Will Kyrie Irving get vaccinated? When will Kevin Durant return and how far will the Nets go without him? Would Brooklyn Really Trade Joe Harris?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, tune in to the next episode of As Brooklyn Turns.
Or maybe The Bold and the Beautiful Nets? Empire, Brooklyn? Days of our lives in Brooklyn? Brooklyn landing?
We have to learn the name, but there’s definitely a soap opera around the Brooklyn Nets right now. The one that didn’t stop — in fact, was highlighted — on Martin Luther King Day when the Nets clearly missed Durant while being knocked down by the Cavaliers, 114-107. The Nets had the star power, but the Cavaliers had the highlights.
Here are the highlights of the Nets soap opera on Monday:
• Irving said nothing basketball-related – including Durant’s absence and the team’s loss without him – would lead to him getting a shot so he could play in Nets home games . He came back to the fact that it was a protest against the vaccine mandate and what was best for his family, and he does not get out of the fragile logic of these positions.
“I’ve already made up my mind and I’m sticking to it… It’s not going to be swayed by one thing in this NBA life that’s kind of brought to my attention as more important than what’s going on in the real world. It’s just not happening to me…I’m just rooted in what I believe in. And even though we’re dealing with this right now with Kev, I know I’m protected by the organization, I’m protected by my teammates, all the doctors I’ve spoken to, I’m rooted.
That means Brooklyn will have different starting rosters and rotations in the playoffs depending on whether the game is at home or on the road. What could go wrong with that?
• Rumors are swirling around the league that Harden is open to a change of scenery after this season – which leaves Daryl Morey holding out hope of a trade Ben Simmons for James Harden.
Harden talked about both the difficulty of leaving Brooklyn and this situation with Durant, and the fact that he was never a free agent, was never drafted like that and wants that experience. He could go through the free agency process this offseason, meet teams, and then decide to move back to Brooklyn.
If he’s leaving, it’s likely because he went for his $46.9 million option for next season and found a trade, or worked out a sign-and-trade deal (teams with cap space to sign as many players next offseason rebuilds, like the Thunder, not places Harden can go to compete for a ring). A sign and trade, as he would likely use to go to Philadelphia, would cap the 76ers and force them to lose salary and critical rotation players beyond Simmons, robbing the team of depth. It’s a complicated mess, but Morey could do it to pair Harden and Embiid and hope that’s enough to win the East.
The most likely outcome? Harden signs an extension to stay in Brooklyn, but anything can happen.
• The Nets must find a way to keep their heads above water without Durant and Harris, both injured. The loss to Cleveland showed just how much KD — playing at MVP level this season — has meant to Brooklyn. The Nets still have 11 of 16 games before the All-Star break on the road.
2) After LeBron promised the Lakers would be better, they deliver with a win over Jazz
I’m not about to say”THIS This is where the Lakers change their season” because we’ve seen this movie before: Los Angeles gets up for a big game, LeBron James looks like an MVP, enough other players are running around him, and they achieve an impressive victory. Then the next game (or a few later), their bad habits and adjustment issues return, and they drop back down to around .500. A match does not change a season.
But Monday’s victory over the Jazz was a good step.
The day before, LeBron had promised Lakers fans that the team would be better.
#LakerNation I apologize and I promise we’ll get better! 👑💜💛
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 17, 2022
Monday night they were better…at least LeBron and the bench players were. LeBron finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, 10-day contract player Stanley Johnson had 15 on 7-of-9 shooting, Malik Monk added 14 and Russell Westbrook was playing downhill at least.
Utah, the team that takes and makes the most 3-pointers in the league, remained icy throughout the streak, going from 0 of 9 to 3 while the game was decided. More concerning, Utah was -22 in the minutes LeBron was at center – a small ball bites the Jazz again. That’s been a concern in a few losses lately, and that’s what they’ll see in the playoffs. The Jazz must answer this question to reach the final.
3) Bam Adebayo returns, Heat claim victory
Thanks to a flurry of COVID-related injuries and absences this season, the Miami Heat have continued to find a way to win. It’s a tribute to their culture and the development of their players that guys deep on the bench, such as Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven, have contributed to the wins.
Now Bam Adebayo is back.
The All-Star center had missed 22 games after thumb surgery, but he came back against the Raptors and, although he looked a little rusty, he still had 14 points and nine rebounds in the game.
Jimmy Butler had a triple-double on 10/19/10, and Tyler Herro continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with 23 off the bench.
With Brooklyn and Cleveland struggling, Miami slipped to second place in the East. Despite all the beatings and health issues they have. We tend to talk about a healthy Bucks or Nets team coming from the East, but Miami may be more than just a sleeper. This team is a legitimate problem.
Highlight of the evening: Ja Morant with 360 layup against the Bulls
We could just rename this the “Ja Morant Highlight of the Night” and do well, because every time he steps onto a pitch, something awesome happens. Against the Bulls, it was a 360 lay-up that rocked Chicago.
Morant and Desmond Bane each had 25 in the Grizzlies win.
Last night’s scores:
Boston 104, New Orleans 92
Charlotte 97, New York 87
Washington 117, Philadelphia 98
Cleveland 114, Brooklyn 107
LA Clippers 139, Indiana 133
Memphis 119, Chicago 106
Atlanta 121, Milwaukee 114
Portland 98, Orlando 88
Miami 104, Toronto 99
Dallas 104, Oklahoma City 102
Phoenix 121, San Antonio 107
LA Lakers 101, Utah 95