At midnight Wednesday around the NBA, those who were still awake were still in awe.
Kevin Durant had just achieved one of the best playoff performances in NBA history. Since then, the news has continued to evolve for a number of reasons. The league has been rocked by amazing news regarding key injuries, front office changes, coaching changes and just general stuns. And when the league finally aired, there were two playoff games to play later that night.
It’s not uncommon for these events to take place separately, but this is the rare time it gets compressed like this.
Anyway: Let’s recap the flashes of the day, which will have implications for the teams involved, both short and long term:
Kawhi Leonard’s right knee injury. It’s a disappointment on so many levels, if only because it contributes to a rash of serious injuries affecting important players – and therefore hurting the playoff product on the floor. Leonard appeared to have twisted his knee in a non-contact moment at the end of Game 4 against the Jazz, stayed in the game momentarily, then sat on the bench, never to return. The Clippers were comfortably ahead at the time, but still his eyebrows rose. Kawhi brushed off the subject of the knee in interviews after the game, which reduced concerns. But less than two days later, Leonard was ruled out of Game 5 in Utah with no schedule for a comeback. And then came a report later that the Clippers feared the injury was an ACL tear. The team did not release any medical information as of midday Wednesday. But that’s never a good sign.
– LeBron James (@KingJames) June 16, 2021
Chris Paul protocol problem. Paul was reported by medical staff on Wednesday and entered health and safety protocols. This calls into question his status for the Western Conference Finals, although this series doesn’t start until Sunday at the earliest. The possibility of Paul missing a significant time in the next series for the Suns is unknown and the next update will arrive on Saturday. “Fortunately, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have time,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “But at the same time, as a coach, I have to think about these scenarios.” If Paul misses the start of the series, the team that waits on the other side is also not in great shape at the moment, whether it’s LA or Utah.
Mike Conley still on the sidelines. That brings us to the Jazz announcing that Conley would miss Game 5, meaning the All-Star goalie has yet to adapt this round due to slight hamstring strain. The Jazz won a pair of games without Conley, then lost a pair in LA when they clearly could have used his presence, especially his ball handling and shooting, with the whole burden on Donovan Mitchell. Conley has expressed frustration with the injury and the timing, but it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands at this point.
Mike Conley: “I had pushed very hard to play earlier in the series [and] had a little hammy related setback during this process. This is why it has been extended a little longer than I would like. Obviously, if I could play, I would. “
– Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 16, 2021
Kyrie Irving still on the sidelines. Nothing has changed for the Nets point guard, who suffers from a spanked ankle and did not play in Game 5. The Nets won without him, but nothing can be taken for granted. Irving has already been kicked out of Game 6 and is unlikely to travel with the club to Milwaukee. Harden, meanwhile, is listed as active as Brooklyn looks to progress.
Stan Van Gundy in New Orleans. The Pelicans were applauded for hiring Van Gundy as a coach last fall, but just eight months after starting a four-year contract he was finished. The team fired Van Gundy after a disappointing first season, where the Pelicans didn’t even make the Play-In tournament despite a pair of dynamic young 20-point scorers in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, as well as Lonzo Ball having a career season.
David Griffin on how they arrived at today’s decision pic.twitter.com/zYcPdF0bXn
– New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) June 16, 2021
Scott Brooks in Washington. Brooks’ contract has expired and has not been renewed by the Wizards, who are now competing with five other teams for a head coach. Brooks lasted five seasons and helped the Wizards make two playoff appearances. He has also helped the club become respectable again this season after coronavirus concerns crushed the roster in the first few months. The bigger question for the organization is what to do with Bradley Beal, who has a player option after next season, and Russell Westbrook: keep them or trade them?
Donnie Nelson in Dallas. He spent 24 years in the organization and was the general manager responsible for the draft day transactions that brought Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic, a pair of franchise cornerstones, and helped Dallas win their only championship. But there has been an apparent power struggle behind the scenes lately, and Nelson has struggled to find a complementary rotation to surround Doncic. The era is therefore over. Either way, one of the names that will certainly be on Mark Cuban’s radar as a replacement is Masai Ujiri, who has yet to strike a deal on an extension with the Raptors. Either way, it’s an attractive job mainly because of Doncic; no need to find a superstar to build around.
LaMelo Ball wins Kia Rookie of the Year award. Good news at last ! Well, not for Anthony Edwards, however. Ball was voted best rookie despite missing 21 games with a broken wrist. He displayed brilliant vision on the pitch and raised the level of entertainment in Charlotte with his passing and playing, then returned after the injury to help the Hornets reach the Play-In tournament, where they lost. against the Pacers. He averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds, compared to 19.3 points (leading all rookies) and 4.7 rebounds by Edwards.
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him here, find his archives here, and follow him on Twitter.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.