Zion Williamson has made his intentions known, and they are what we thought they would be. The Duke Blue Devils forward, a man that captured the imagination and attention of the nation throughout the whole college basketball season, is headed to the NBA.
This comes as no surprise, and it means that he should end up going number one. Now the question will be which team is going to have that distinction of getting what could be a franchise-altering pick.
Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics won had to be the ugliest game of the entire NBA season on Sunday when they held off the Indiana Pacers to record an 84-74 win Boston to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pacers found themselves up by seven at the half, but the Celtics held them to a lowly eight points in the third quarter to take control and pull away. Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 apiece, nearly equating for half of their team’s production in the process. Indiana’s top scorer was Cory Joseph, who had just 14 points in a majorly disappointing offensive showing.
Leading the other playoff games was the Portland Trail Blazers’ 104-99 home win over the OKC Thunder. Damian Lillard had 30 points to lead all scorers for his team, while Paul George had 26 in defeat. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets also went 1-0 up over the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz, respectively. Giannis had 24 points in a 121-86 rout for the Bucks, while James Harden had 29 in a comfortable 122-90 win for the Rockets.
The NBA Playoffs began on Saturday, and right out of the gate there were three upsets that will make for fine talking points. First of all, the Brooklyn Nets got a 111-102 win on the road over the Philadelphia 76ers to take a 1-0 series lead. The barely above .500 Nets got 26 from rising star D’Angelo Russell and 23 from Caris LeVert to establish a first quarter lead that they held on to throughout the game. Jimmy Butler had 36 points for the Sixers in the defeat.
The Orlando Magic also got off to the ideal start on Saturday in Toronto with a 104-101 win over the Raptors. While D.J. Augustin and Kawhi Leonard had matching point totals for their respective teams at 25, it was Augustin that stole the show, with three of those coming when he hit the game-winning three with only 3.5 seconds to go. Both Eastern Conference series have gotten off to an unexpected start.
So, too, has the Western Conference side of things, at least as far as the Denver Nuggets go. The San Antonio Spurs came into town and beat the #2 seed 101-96 to give Gregg Popovich a 1-0 series lead. DeMar DeRozan, no longer wanted by Toronto, led the Spurs with 18 points in a team effort as they saw off the battling Nuggets. Gary Harris led all scorers for the Nuggets. In the other game of the day, Golden State saw off the Clippers 121-104 in what was a fairly comfortable win for the defending champs.
It’s far from shocking news, but it is official. The Los Angeles Lakers have pulled the plug on the Luke Walton era after three years of him being the head coach of the purple and gold. The week began with news that Magic Johnson, a legend of the team and game, would be stepping down from his role as President of Basketball Operations.
A lot of the thought by many was that Magic was leaving due to this issue over the tenure of Walton, with others pointing out that main star LeBron James wanted to see Walton pushed out and replaced. If that’s true, he has now got what he wanted. It’s widely believed that former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is the favorite for the job. If so, that would all but confirm this theory, wouldn’t it?
In other basketball news, Zion Williamson, as expected, won the John R. Wooden Award and was declared the best college player in the country. Only two other players have done it as a freshman, both of which are now NBA all-stars.
The Duke forward joins Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis, quite lofty company to be keeping. With the award, Williamson became the sixth Blue Devil to win it.
RJ Barrett declared that he would be leaving the Duke Blue Devils after just one season on Wednesday, and his teammate Cam Reddish has now made the same decision on Thursday, announcing his intentions to head to the NBA Draft. Reddish, unlike Barrett, saw his season result in a lot of struggles.
He was a third option to Barrett and sensational forward Zion Williamson and went missing toward the end of the season both literally and figuratively speaking. With that said, he’s got tremendous upside. He and Barrett could be big players in the association in years to come should they fulfill their potential. Williamson has still yet to declare but is wide believed to be the consensus top pick. As for Coach K, he’ll now have to do it all over again come this winter.
Dwyane Wade had one final big night for his Miami faithful on Tuesday night, but Wednesday night would mark his very last time as an NBA player. And he didn’t let that go to waste. Playing in front of friends LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul, D-Wade lit up the Brooklyn Nets in a 113-94 loss to the playoff-bound team.
Wade did something he has rarely done throughout his career: post a triple-double. He scored 25 points, had 11 rebounds, and dished out ten assists in his last game, capping off an emotional week for the star that came from Marquette to Miami as a fresh-faced kid.
The Detroit Pistons made sure that it was their names that went into the hat for the Eastern Conference Playoffs on Wednesday night as they held off the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth seed thanks to a 115-89 win over the horrid New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. They had to get the win in order to clinch their place, and they had to do it without star forward Blake Griffin, too.
It was no problem in the end, however, as they rolled past their hosts and qualified for their first playoff appearance since 2015 with a record of 41-41 over the season. That sets them up with the unenviable task of having to take on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Luke Kennard led all scorers with 27 points for the Pistons, while Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond also scored 20+ in the rout.
It was an emotional night in Miami on Tuesday night as the end of era came. Dwyane Wade, once a fresh-faced rookie from Marquette, took the floor for his final game as an NBA player for the Heat. Having seen their hopes of securing a playoff berth fall just short thanks to Detroit beating Memphis elsewhere, there was little to do but honor the legend, a three-time NBA champion.
Wade, who spent more than 14 seasons as a part of the team throughout his 16 year professional career, went out with a bang by dropping 30 points in his finale against the Philadelphia 76ers in a 122-99 win over the playoff-bound team. Wade’s career not only includes a legacy of big shots and championships, but also includes a willingness to bring in big stars to surround him and to make a positive impact in the community. He will be missed on the court, but I’m sure he’ll be around. Exit stage left, D-Wade. Job well done.
Elsewhere, another era came to an end as Magic Johnson stepped down as President of the Los Angeles Lakers. The legendary former point guard decided to make the move, citing that he wanted to have “fun again.” And who could blame him. It’s been a tumultuous time for the Lakers in the past year.
And this only further underlines the struggles they are having to overturn a very poor period in their franchise’s history. Does this hint at the Lakers not being able to land any of the big name free agents that will be available in the summer? It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? Almost like he’s jumping ship before it comes crumbling down.