Golden State Coach Steve Kerr became the target of bitter barbs over the past week for his decision to sit Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala out of a nationally televised game at San Antonio.
It is a shame fans paying an average of $97 a ticket might have a special family night spoiled by such decisions, but the league set up such an action. The NBA has reduced back-to-back sets in recent years and will improve the schedule further next season by adding a week to the 82-game schedule, but the Warriors still wound up with the most air miles of any team this season.
Funneling the Warriors to 28 national television dates will do that. In this case, the Warriors’ Saturday night game was their eighth in 13 days. They were playing in Texas less than 24 hours after playing in Minnesota.
Kerr is one of the more conscientious minds about all NBA facets, and he certainly did not want to surrender a game and the series tiebreaker to San Antonio with the Spurs pressing for the West’s No. 1 seed. Like every other coach, Kerr also has difficulty ignoring that sports performance analyses have proved that back-to-back games and road-trip finales carry increased injury risk.
The absence of Kevin Love showed that Cleveland needed him, but it also was a success because a 7-6 Love-less stretch was enough to maintain first place in the Eastern Conference.
Love returned to action Thursday night, two weeks early than projected after his Feb. 14 left knee surgery. His return is a boost to an injury-plagued Cavaliers team.
Cleveland general manager David Griffin has been creative in bolstering the roster with Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams and Larry Sanders, a replacement for the Andrew Bogut upgrade that lasted one game before Bogut’s season-ending leg fracture.
Sanders made an unexpected two-minute debut Tuesday for his first playing time since Dec. 23, 2014, when he left the first year of a four-year, $44-million contract with Milwaukee to seek anxiety and depression treatment. The Cavaliers will ease Sanders into NBA shape with a D-League assignment. They might wind up with a much-needed defensive bump if Sanders can regain some of his old form.
Into the blue
As March Madness takes over the basketball world, Kentucky’s high stature in the tournament is a reminder of how it feeds the NBA.
This season, Kentucky is followed by Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA. For an all-time count, UCLA’s total of 76 players is not far behind the Wildcats but comfortably ahead of North Carolina (62), Duke (58) and Kansas (53).
Neither Portland nor Minnesota may catch Denver this season for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves will have much to do with each other’s chances.
Portland’s March play, Damian Lillard’s scoring surge and the Blazers’ remaining schedule are renewing postseason hopes. Portland plays 10 sub-.500 teams in its final 14 games, including three meetings with Minnesota in the final 11. An April 3 meeting is a makeup for when a Blazers-Timberwolves game was canceled in Minneapolis for court condensation.
Westbrook: ‘Who’s he?’
Without Kevin Durant, TNT does not have the Monday night event it once claimed with Durant’s Warriors visiting his former home, Oklahoma City.
Thunder star Russell Westbrook fanned interest by dismissing an MVP opinion that Golden State guard Curry shared on “The Dan Patrick Show.” Curry favored Houston’s James Harden over Westbrook because “you’re going to have to reward the better team, I would think, record-wise.”
“I don’t care,” Westbrook told reporters in Toronto. “It don’t matter what he say. Who’s he?”
ATLANTA AT WASHINGTON: Wednesday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: ESPN.
The regular season will end three weeks after this game, raising the stakes of every intraconference matchup between playoff-bound teams in the East. The Wizards still could shoot for the No. 2 seed, but the Hawks have a more pressing need to pass Toronto for home-court advantage in the first round. Atlanta has been up and down for two months in a season plagued by turnovers and poor three-point shooting. The Hawks need to beat Washington, a great home team, to split the season series in case they make a run to catch the Wizards in the standings.