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National Basketball League Headlines News & Notes

March 9, 2020

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Photo: Business Insider

After the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Memphis Grizzlies at home by 39 points, a team meeting took place and Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan were reportedly called out by their teammates, according to The Athletic.

Former head coach Kenny Atkinson wanted to have an airing of grievances. The Nets and Atkinson mutually parted ways on Saturday, while Jordan was inserted into the starting lineup by interim head coach Jacque Vaughn on Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Bulls:

Then on Wednesday night, after a 39-point home loss to Memphis, no one held back. Atkinson walked into the postgame locker room, sat down in a chair and told his players and staff: It’s time to air out our grievances.

It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Pascal Siakam put the Toronto Raptors on his back and carry them to victory, but we got that on Sunday night.

Siakam was perfect from the floor in the fourth period, scoring eight straight points in the clutch as Toronto moved to 3-1 on their road trip with a gutsy win over the Sacramento Kings.

And while Siakam’s scoring in the crunch time was a welcome sight for Raptors’ fans, it was his playmaking that should be getting the headlines.

Siakam had five assists on Sunday, but two big ones came in the fourth showing his growth as a playmaker and go-to-guy.

With under five minutes to play in the game and the score tied at 94, Siakam posted up and banged with Richaun Holmes looking to be aggressive and make a play. His aggressiveness drew the attention of Bogdan Bogdanovic who left the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Norman Powell to help get the ball out of Siakam’s hands.

Siakam reads the play, picks up his dribble and delivers an on-time bullet to Powell – who by the way is shooting 43% on catch and shoot threes so far this season. Powell strokes the triple giving the Raptors a much need bucket and a three-point cushion.

The Toronto Raptors defense is a living, breathing, artistic masterpiece.

Head coach Nick Nurse has the ability to squeeze excellence out of his players and has the bravery to try just about anything. One through 15 on the roster understand the ask, trust one another and execute every call. The Raptors defensive unit is up to something special, especially considering they lost two of the league’s best defenders.

One might assume that losing a two-time Defensive Player of the Year would cause a team’s defense to bottom out. That’s what happened to the Spurs after trading Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green following the 2017-18 season—they went from the fourth-ranked defense to the 20th-ranked defense.

No, not the defending champion Raptors. Somehow, some way, they got better.

That’s worth repeating. The Raptors lost Leonard and Green and went from the No. 5 defense last season (106.8) to the No. 2 defense this year (105.1).

“No one in this locker room is surprised by what we’ve done so far,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told Bleacher Report.

“We didn’t know what it would look like, but I know we weren’t forecasting the losses to be what everybody else thought it would be like,” VanVleet continued. “I mean come on, Kawhi is Kawhi and Danny is a huge, huge piece of what we did last year, but we knew we had enough.”

Enough would be one thing. The Raptors are absolutely suffocating. They’re long, fast, switchable, aggressive, disciplined and incredibly smart. They’ll full-court press, switch all screens, trap or drop or hedge against pick-and-rolls, or throw any different kind of zone at you. Their toolbox is filled with different options for disrupting the opposing offense and forcing it to react to the Raptors’ pressure. Their depth has allowed them to succeed despite an inordinate amount of injuries. They thrive in the chaos they create.

There’s now an attractive open head coaching position down in Brooklyn after the Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways last weekend. Whoever takes the gig will enjoy the privilege of coaching two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On the flip side, whoever takes the gig will take on the challenge of coaching Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The First Take crew discussed Atkinson’s surprising departure this morning, and Stephen A. Smith gave us three names he sees as the legitimate candidates for this job. Two (Mark Jackson and Ty Lue) are quite familiar and will be linked to the opening until it’s filled. But the last one is a doozy. Smith wants Gregg Popovich to leave San Antonio and coach the Nets.

“There’s only three candidates for this job as far as I’m concerned. Ty Lue, one of them,” said Smith. “Mark Jackson. Or! If Sean Marks can get the one and only Gregg Popovich to leave San Antonio. Those are the three, and not necessarily in that order.”

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