First-round thoughts — J. Cole, pro — de Blasio, in color

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • J. Cole. Pro basketball. Africa. It’ll all make sense soon.  
  • Bill de Blasio has irreversibly cursed the Nets.
  • The NBA’s tank to the bottom was interesting until the final day.

Tonight's play-in games

1. The play-in games and first-round playoff series, ranked

The play-in games …


4. Grizzlies (-4) vs. Spurs, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

This game will be watched. Not by many, but by some.

3. Pacers (-3) vs. Hornets, tonight, 6:30 p.m.

Charlotte signed Gordon Hayward in the offseason for $120 million. He was a borderline All-Star for 41 games, then got hurt in early April and hasn’t played since. For their most important game tonight since 2016, he’ll be collecting checks on the sidelines.

Sound familiar?

2. Celtics (-2) vs. Wizards, tonight, 9 p.m.

On April 13, the Wizards had a two percent chance at making the playoffs. Now they’re a win away against the artists formerly known as the Boston Celtics from making it.

Side note: What’s more sad, the Nets (and James Harden and Kevin Durant) stomping the Wizards (and Russell Westbrook) in the first round, or the Nets (and Kyrie Irving) stomping the Celtics in the first round?

1. Lakers (-4.5) vs. Warriors, Wednesday, 10 p.m.

This is the Illmatic of play-in games -- four Hall of Famers representing two sexy franchises who are jointly responsible for the last six Western Conference championships.

LeBron James said whoever came up with the play-in game “should be fired.” Conversely, that person (or persons) will be partying from Wednesday night until the Nielsen ratings come out the next morning.

 

The playoff series, not including the ones impacted by the play-in games …


4. Four-seed Knicks (-142) vs. five-seed Hawks, Game 1, May 22

Neither team has much to lose, but whoever wins will suddenly be talking themselves into a competitive series against one-seed Philadelphia.

FWIW, Julius Randle averaged 37.3 PPG in three games against Atlanta this season.

3. Four-seed Clippers (-260) vs. five-seed Mavericks, Game 1, May 23

The Clippers lost to Houston and OKC in the last two games of the season to get to this desired matchup, which would make it even funnier if they somehow lost to Luka Doncic and a bunch of role players.

2. Three-seed Nuggets (-130) vs. six-seed Trail Blazers, Game 1, May 23

This is a rematch of the awesome seven-game series between these two in 2019, but it feels a little bit incomplete without Jamal Murray in the mix for the Nuggets. Still, -130 seems like good odds for Denver.

1. Three-seed Bucks (-240) vs. six-seed Heat, Game 1, May 22

Either the Bucks win this and feel good about themselves heading into round two vs. Brooklyn, or they lose (again) to the Heat and have to fire their coach and audit their entire franchise. Riveting either way.

[READ: LeBron said it didn’t matter what seed his team was. Now he has a chance to prove it.]

2. Daily GIF: J. Cole now has more pro basketball points than all of us

In case you’ve been slacking lately on news regarding the intersection of pro rappers and pro basketball …

  • This is a clip from Basketball Africa League’s game on Sunday between the Rwanda Patriots and the Rivers (Nigeria) Hoopers.
  • The person laying in the ball is rapper J. Cole, who signed with the Patriots on May 10. He finished with three points and three rebounds. 

J. Cole, 36, is famously pretty good at basketball. He was a walk-on at St. John’s but never played in a game. His contract with the Patriots is reportedly “for 3-to-6 games.”

Obviously, there’s an element of PR to this whole thing, which is fine, because now we all know about the BAL, which is a new league in its first season and is being funded in part by the NBA. You can watch some of its games on ESPN+. Here’s a good primer on it.

[READ: The oral history of J. Cole's basketball career]

3. Trivia time

On Sunday, Kyrie Irving became the fourth member of the 50-40-90 club to also average 25-plus points in the same season.

Who are the other three?

Answers at the bottom.

4. What does it look like this man does for a living?

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who last week thought it was a good idea to munch on a burger and talk with his mouth open at a news conference, decided today to rock this outfit at another news conference.

Regardless of your opinion on this guy, which is probably not high, you gotta give him credit for saying fuck it and going all out. Also, he isn’t Andrew Cuomo.

Four things he looks like: 

  1. The sports version of Steve Buschemi’s how do you do, fellow kids? meme
  2. The Nets version of that old guy Michael Rapaport who yells at everyone on Twitter and baited Kevin Durant into saying unspeakable things.
  3. The owner of a new sports team who awkwardly rocks sports gear at his introductory press conference. 
  4. A character on SNL’s Weekend Update who shows up once Michael Che says, “And now to discuss ___, here’s ____” except in this situation there’s not really a joke -- just Bill de Blasio wearing Nets gear.  
(How much do you wanna bet SNL has fake Bill de Blasio wearing Nets gear on its next episode?)

5. The final tankathon update

Via tankathon.com

Three things:

  1. Next time you think a task is too big, just remember that, in a 72-game season, the Rockets went 11-10 to start then finished 6-45. They have been rewarded justly with a 52.1 percent shot at a top-four pick. 
  2. Cleveland and OKC will settle fourth place in the lottery by a coin flip. The Thunder lost 23-of-25 to put itself in that position. 
  3. Remember: Minnesota’s pick is top-three protected, otherwise it goes to the Warriors. They have only a 27.6 percent chance at it landing in the top-three. So, in a top-heavy class, Golden State has a nearly 3-in-4 shot at a top-four through eight selection. All for a fews years of D’Angelo Russell. 

6.  Quick hits

  • The Hall of Fame class for 2021: Paul Pierce, Chris Webber, Chris Bosh, Ben Wallace. Pierce was a shoo-in, Webber was long overdue, and the other two are … eh.  
  • Saturday Night Live spoofed the quarters-throwing scene in “The Last Dance” in its most recent episode. 
  • Luguentz Dort, who is the man, broke the fourth wall and admitted he sees posts about himself on Reddit.
  • Here are all 337 of Steph Curry’s three-pointers from this season. 
  • Kwame Brown went on an incredible Instagram Live rant yesterday. Here he is talking about the time he and Kobe dropped 82 together. 
  • Luke Walton will return as the Kings’ head coach next year, according to a report.

7.  Reads and podcast pick

Trivia answer:  Larry Bird (twice), Steph Curry, Kevin Durant.


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