Wednesday, June 16 saw Wednesday, June 2 and said hold my beer.
If you don’t fully recollect what unfolded in the basketball world exactly two weeks ago (weird, but OK), allow me to remind you: Mike Krzyzewski announced he will retire after next season, Danny Ainge moved on from the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens was promoted to GM and Joel Embiid had an MCL tear.
To be fair, we’ve lived some life since then … Specifically in the hours since 9 a.m. ET today.
If the NBA were my internet I would have unplugged and attempted to reboot the router hours ago. But seeing as that’s not how this works, I will instead regale you with the happenings of a wild day in the association so you too can head into tonight’s playoff action (Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz) feeling slightly overwhelmed.
9:10 a.m. ET: Chris Paul placed in NBA health and safety protocols
The collective NBA high we were riding after Kevin Durant’s otherworldly performance on Tuesday night (49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists) came crashing down as sources confirmed that Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul is out indefinitely upon entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The timing of the league’s mandated coronavirus-related isolation period puts the star’s availability for the Western Conference finals in jeopardy.
In a four-game sweep of the Denver Nuggets, 36-year-old Paul averaged 25.5 points on 61.8% shooting, 58.3% from 3, 100% from the free throw line, plus a 41-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio. The health and safety protocols mark the most recent obstacle in a history of playoff woes for the Point God who led the Suns out of obscurity this season only a year after being banished, I mean, traded to Oklahoma City from Houston.
9:12 a.m. ET: Kawhi Leonard out for Game 5
Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst reported that Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will miss Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Utah Jazz with a right knee injury and could be out the remainder of the series. Sources told ESPN that more imaging needs to be done to determine the severity of the sprained ligament after swelling subsides, but there is “no timetable for his return.”
Aside from Kevin Durant in the East, nobody has been more impressive this postseason. In the first round, Leonard became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to both score 200 points and shoot 60% or better in a single series. In four games against the Jazz, he averaged 27.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. To say that the Claw is critical to the Clippers’ playoff success would be putting it mildly.
11:02 a.m. ET: Stan Van Gundy out with New Orleans Pelicans
Here for a good time, not a long time? After one season at the helm in New Orleans, Stan Van Gundy is out as the head coach of the Pelicans. His limited tenure with the franchise was underwhelming as the team finished a bleak 31-41 this past season and fell short of making the play-in tournament in the Western Conference.
New Orleans was Van Gundy’s fourth stop as an NBA head coach and his first since sitting out the previous two seasons. Van Gundy had success at his first two stops in Miami (.605 winning percentage) and Orlando (.657). However, he had just one winning season in four years with the Detroit Pistons from 2014 to 2018. Van Gundy joins Nate Bjorkgren as coaches who’ve parted ways with their teams after being hired before the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the fifth time in the past 30 seasons that multiple teams have changed coaches who were with the franchise for just one season.
11:34 a.m. ET: Scott Brooks and Wizards part ways
The Washington Wizards announced that they will not extend the contract of coach Scott Brooks, which expired after their first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Sources told Adrian Wojnarowski that the two sides failed to come to an agreement on a new deal.
Just last month, Brooks led the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons despite a 34-38 season. In five seasons, Brooks — who was hired in hopes of luring Washington-area native Kevin Durant home to play for the Wiz Kids (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen) — was 183-207 with three playoff appearances, including making the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2016-17.
2:22 p.m. ET: Donnie Nelson out as Mavs president of basketball operations
It’s the end of an era for the Dallas Mavericks as the team announced longtime president of basketball operations and general manager Donnie Nelson is out after 24 seasons with the franchise. Nelson has been widely credited for scouting and pushing for the two biggest acquisitions in Mavericks history: the draft-day trades for Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic 20 years apart.
According to sources, Nelson’s departure comes after internal friction due to the increasing decision-making influence of Mavericks director of quantitative research and development Haralabos Voulgaris. Sources expounded that the former professional gambler was hired by the Mavs in 2018 and has reported directly to owner Mark Cuban and communicated directly with coach Rick Carlisle despite Nelson’s objections.
2:53 p.m. ET: LaMelo Ball named Rookie of the Year
LaVar Ball tried to tell us how it was going to be. Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball was voted Rookie of the Year, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski. The youngest Ball brother’s path wasn’t conventional, as LaMelo spanned the globe to start his professional career before taking his talents to the NBA. But his first season was undeniably special. Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Charlotte this season, shooting 35.2% from 3-point range and was an immediate factor in the Hornets playing winning basketball in a way uncommon to rookies.
Despite all this, his fellow Rookie of the Year finalist, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards was less than convinced that Ball was deserving of the honor. As exhibited by this tweet:
— Anthony Edwards (@theantedwards_) June 16, 2021
… Hey, can’t fault Edwards for wanting to win.
On the other hand, Ball’s teammates seemed satisfied with the selection:
Told y’all 😂🤷🏾 https://t.co/wTtQDhfYxf
— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) June 16, 2021
— PJ Washington (@PJWashington) June 16, 2021