Wednesday was one of the wildest
NBA news days in recent memory.
Before noon Eastern Time, we
learned that two All-NBA players will be out indefinitely, two head
coaches and a general manager have been fired, plus there was an
If you missed it, here’s a recap
of today’s breaking-news stories (plus reactions from our
CHRIS PAUL TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul has
tested positive for COVID-19 and is out indefinitely while he’s in
the NBA’s health-and-safety protocol, according toJohn
Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com.
It remains to be seen if Paul
will be available for the Suns at any point during the Western
Conference Finals. Fortunately, Paul was vaccinated in February
(as reported byGambadoroand confirmed byESPN’s Jalen Rose), so hopefully he doesn’t have many symptoms
and can return sooner than later.
The 36-year-old has been a huge
reason for the Suns' first Western Conference Finals run since
2010. This postseason, Paul is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 assists,
4.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.4 turnovers on 50.9/44.4/91.2
If Paul does miss time, Cam
Payne will need to step up, as he did in the first round against
the Los Angeles Lakers (when Paul injured his shoulder). In that
series, Payne averaged 12.5 points, 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2
steals and 1.0 block while shooting 42.3% from three.
Here’s how our staff reacted to
the CP3 news:
I’d spent the past couple weeks telling everyone that would listen
that the Phoenix Suns were going to win the championship, and with
such a dominant performance by Chris Paul in their four-game sweep
of the Denver Nuggets, I think many others were beginning to buy
in. The news of Paul testing positive for COVID-19 just sucks, and
there’s no other way to put it. Without him running the show,
Phoenix is obviously a much different team. The silver lining is
that Paul was reportedly vaccinated. While being vaccinated doesn’t
prevent one from contracting COVID-19, it should, in theory, equip
them with the tools necessary to defeat the virus sooner.
Fortunately for the Suns, the Western Conference Finals won’t begin
any earlier than June 20. If Paul is able to beat the virus
relatively quickly, he could return soon. Personally, I’d be
surprised if he ends up missing more than the first two games of
the Conference Finals since he’s been vaccinated, though I would
certainly be concerned about his conditioning and whether the virus
negatively impacts his ability to perform. Things could be worse
for the Suns (look at Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, for example),
but for a team that has emerged as a credible threat to win the
whole thing, their MVP contracting COVID-19 is a gut punch,
especially as NBA arenas are nearly at full capacity and we have,
in many ways, begun to emotionally “move on” from the
This news came out of nowhere, which is why it’s so surprising. The
NBA’s health-and-safety protocols caused many players to miss time
throughout the regular season, but we hadn’t seen COVID-19 impact
the playoffs very much. Now, just when the Suns were rolling and
looking like a legitimate contender to win it all, they may be
without arguably their most important player for at least part of
the Western Conference Finals. Paul has the worst luck when it
comes to his health in the playoffs, and I hope he’s
KAWHI LEONARD HURTS ACL, OUT INDEFINITELY
Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out
for Game 5 tonight and the Los Angeles Clippers fear he has
suffered an ACL injury, according toShams Charania of The
If that’s the case, not only
would Leonard likely miss the remainder of the Clippers-Jazz
series, he’d likely be sidelined for quite some time. He’s
currently listed as out indefinitely and there’s no timetable for
him to return.
The All-NBA First-Team selection
suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' 118-104
win over the Jazz, and while he played on for a bit, Leonard did
not finish the game.
Leonard has been outstanding
this postseason, averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists,
2.1 steals and 2.2 threes on 57.3/39.3/88.0 shooting splits. This
series is currently tied at 2-2 after Los Angeles won both of their
Here’s how our staff reacted to
the Kawhi news:
The Kawhi news absolutely stinks. I think we all felt the Clippers
were being precautionary by keeping him out toward the end of Game
4, so for him to potentially have an ACL injury of some sort just
adds to the frustration of this injury-riddled season. Call me a
fool, but I don’t think the injury is a death sentence for the
Clippers in this series. They still have Paul George, who has a
strong argument for the “Best-Player-in-the-Series” title that
Kawhi no longer holds. The Clippers still have the personnel to
switch and trap the way that they have been. The Jazz do not have
the personnel to switch or downsize like the Clippers can, so there
will still be pockets for the Clippers to attack from a scheme
perspective. It also helps, from the Clippers side, that Mike
Conley has once again been ruled out with his hamstring injury. I’m
interested to see how George and the crew respond.
To me, the most shocking news of the day was learning about Kawhi
Leonard's ACL injury. The momentum of that series had drastically
changed when the Los Angeles Clippers returned to Staples Center,
especially with Donovan Mitchell hobbled and Mike Conley still out.
Now, the onus is on Paul George to become the No. 1 option, and
Marcus Morris will have to increase his production to have a shot
at winning this matchup and getting to the Western Conference
Finals. And with Chris Paul shockingly out due to COVID protocols,
the Phoenix Suns are in their own world of hurt. The league's
champion, at this rate, will be the last men standing.
Ethan Fuller:The developing news surrounding Kawhi Leonard's
knee injury could be foreshadowing serious concerns for the NBA in
the short- and long-term. Yes, this is a devastating blow for the
Clippers when they feel close to breaking through to at least the
Western Conference Finals. But beyond that -- with Shams Charania
reporting fears of an ACL injury -- this becomes yet another
serious injury suffered in the playoffs after a short offseason.
Think about this upcoming offseason: it's only 18 days longer than
2020, and precedes what's likely to be a normal 82-game schedule.
If we're concerned about injuries right now, who knows where the
league's general health could be by next spring?
MacMahon of ESPN, this
decision was made Sunday, prior toThe
Athletic’s shocking articleabout dysfunction in the Mavericks’ front
office and Haralabos Voulgaris serving as a “shadow GM” (and
rubbing people the wrong way). Still, this timing feels
Nelson had been with the
Mavericks for 23 years. According toMarc
Stein of The New York Times, the Mavs have hired a search firm to help
them find a new head of basketball operations.
Nelson drafted Dirk Nowitzki,
acquired Luka Doncic, and made many other big moves over the years.
He also built the Mavericks’ 2010-11 title team, which took down
the heavily favored Miami Heat in six games. At 58 years old, it’s
unclear if Nelson will join a different team’s front
Here’s how our staff reacted to
Chris Sheridan:The news on Donnie Nelson, Stan Van Gundy and
Scott Brooks was all incredibly shocking. Donnie has been a fixture
in that organization for a very long time, and he is not quite
ready yet to retire to Hawaii with his dad (Don Nelson) to play
cards with Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson. My
jumping off thought is that the Mavs’ leadership is in the hands of
Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle and Bob Voulgaris, in that order.
Somebody always takes the fall in this business.
PELICANS FIRE STAN VAN GUNDY
The New Orleans Pelicans have
fired head coach Stan Van Gundy after just one year with the team.
The Pelicans missed the playoffs this season, finishing with a
disappointing 31-41 record.
Brandon Ingram and Van Gundy had
a “strained” relationship, and some players seemed to “tune out”
SVG, according to a report fromChristian Clark of the New Orleans
Advocate. This lines up
with a recent report fromSam
Amick of The Athleticthat Van Gundy and some players were “not
vibing.” Van Gundy is very demanding, which sometimes rubs players
the wrong way.
The Pelicans struggled on the
defensive end for much of the season, giving up the sixth-most
points per game to opponents. They allowed 111.6 points per 100
possessions, which ranked 23rd in the NBA.
Over the course of his 13
seasons as an NBA head coach, Van Gundy has a 554-425 record (.566)
in the regular season. In the playoffs, his teams are 48-43 (.527).
The last time one of his teams made the playoffs was 2015-16 with
the Detroit Pistons (who were swept in the first round by the
Pelicans player development
coach Corey Brewerrecently wrote a piece for
working as an assistant under Van Gundy and detailing his work with
Ingram, Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and the rest of the team’s
Here’s how our staff reacted to
the SVG news:
Van Gundy's team underperformed, and there will always be a place
on TV for him. But there also comes a point where you have worked
your way around the league and people expect the worst instead of
the best, and Stan is straddling that line... The bottom line is
this: There are a bunch of very savvy, very experienced front
office and coaching candidates who are now available.
Sharon “Shy” Brown: The most shocking news to me was the firing
of Stan Van Gundy after just one season. Zion Williamson will have
had three coaches in three seasons. It's not a good look for the
franchise at all. I don't know if this will affect the likelihood
of Zion reupping with the Pelicans after his rookie contract is up,
but it’s worth monitoring. Who will the Pelicans hire as their next
coach? I honestly think Pelicans assistant coach Teresa
Weatherspoon should be hired from within to shake things up.
Hermotivational videofrom a few months back was awesome. I believe
she would be able to get the players to buy-in to whatever she
wants. (Also, I feel really bad for Chris Paul, and I hope he has a
chance to compete in the Western Conference Finals. Plus, I wish
Kawhi Leonard a speedy recovery).
WIZARDS, SCOTT BROOKS DECIDE TO PART WAYS
Scott Brooks' contract with the
Washington Wizards expired after the team was eliminated from the
playoffs, and the two sides weren't able to agree on a new deal,
Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Brooks was the Wizards’ head
coach for five seasons, making the playoffs three times in that
span. This season, Washington went 34-38 before advancing to the
first round through the play-in tournament, where they subsequently
lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.
Brooks went 182-207 during the
regular season across his five years in Washington, and the Wizards
were 10-14 in the postseason under his control.
For his career, Brooks’ teams
are 521-414 (.557) in the regular season and 49-48 (.505) in the
postseason. Here’s how our staff reacted to the Brooks
regards to Scott Brooks, he coached as best as he could with the
hand he was dealt. He is one of the most pleasant people in the
business and will not be lacking for work down the
LAMELO BALL WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo
Ball has won the Rookie of the Year award, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. An official
announcement is expected soon.
Ball was considered a lock to
take home the award for much of the season, as he averaged 15.7
points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals on 43.6/35.2/75.8
shooting splits. A wrist injury in March opened the door for
Minnesota Timberwolves’ No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards, who got better
as the season progressed.
However, Ball was able to return
late in the year and solidified himself as the ROY. In February,
shortly before the injury, Ball was dominating to the tune of 20.1
points, 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Nekias Duncanwrote a terrific articleexamining Ball’s impact on the
Hornets and breaking down film from his superb rookie
JAZZ RULE OUT MIKE CONLEY FOR GAME 5
Mike Conley was ruled out for
Game 5 between the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers due to the same
hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for the entire
The 33-year-old was previously
listed as "questionable" for the game. Conley has not played since
the first round, when he exited Game 5 against Memphis Grizzlies
after feeling a “little tug” in his hamstring.
Conley is still hoping to return
at some point during this series. Today, during his media session,
reporters:“I had been pushing really hard to
play earlier in the series [and] had a small setback related to the
hammy during that process. This is why it’s been extended a little
bit longer than I know we all would like. Obviously, if I could
play, I would."
Conley missed 21 games during
the season, mainly due to his hamstring issue. The All-Star
averaged 16.2 points, 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game during
the regular season for the top-seeded Jazz.
This series is currently even at
2-2, and both teams are now missing a key piece (since the Clippers
are without Kawhi Leonard).
Here’s how our staff reacted to
the Conley news:
“Today’s flurry of breaking news has been shocking in terms of both
the nature of the news and the frequency. The hits, one after
another, were endless. To me, I’m interested in the Kawhi Leonard
injury because now Utah likely has some confidence that they will
not lose two games to the Clippers without Kawhi. Also, Utah is
holding out Mike Conley as he continues to battle his hamstring
issues. There’s no need to play Conley if they don’t have