News and notes from around the NBA:
NBA adopts "DeAndre Jordan Rule"
On Thursday, the NBA and the NBA players union agreed to shorten July's moratorium, reducing the league's dark period by five days. While teams are able to negotiate with free agents as of the first day of July, deals cannot be inked until after the league sets the coming season's salary cap, following its annual audit. Now, instead of 11 days off, the moratorium will run for six.
The rule was partly inspired by last year's DeAndre Jordan fiasco. The center agreed to a long-term deal with the Dallas Mavericks, but soon after had second thoughts. His Clippers teammates gathered in Houston, waiting for the moratorium to expire until Jordan was able to officially sign back into the fold. Now, the window to renege has been appropriately reduced.
Lakers get big win in loss
The Lakers' Friday-night comeback against the Phoenix Suns came up five points short, an important step toward securing a higher position in May's NBA draft lottery. The Philadelphia 76rs appear to have the top slot locked up, with a 25% chance at the top overall pick. In second, the Lakers have nearly 56% odds of staying in the top three — a dip to fourth or fifth obligating the team to send their selection to the Sixers, to close out the Steve Nash trade.
The Brooklyn Nets and Suns are battling for third and fourth position. While Philadelphia may end up with two high selections (should they get the Lakers' pick), Brooklyn's pick will go to the Boston Celtics as part of the trade that briefly landed Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett with the Nets. The 2016 NBA draft has two early standouts in forwards Ben Simmons (Louisiana State) and Brandon Ingram (Duke).
On Saturday, San Antonio Spurs guard Andre Miller turned 40 years old. He'll be joined by teammate Tim Duncan, who will reach 40 on April 25. Garnett will reach the milestone on May 19, but his season will be long over with the Minnesota Timberwolves out of playoff contention.
Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant is the 12th oldest player in the league. He'll retire in mid-April at the age of 37. Only Garnett, drafted in 1995, has more time in the league than Bryant's 20 seasons. Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter will reach 40 next January. Clippers point guard Pablo Prigioni is the league's fifth-oldest player, reaching 39 on May 17, although the Spaniard is playing just his fourth season in the NBA.
Memphis walking wounded
The Grizzlies are still holding on to the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, but injuries have decimated the team. The list is long, including Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Brandan Wright and Chris Andersen. Forward Zach Randolph is pushing his way back from a knee injury, while Carter is touch and go with a strained calf. To field a team, the Grizzlies have turned to NBA Development League prospects such as Briante Weber, Xavier Munford and recent Clippers forward/center Alex Stepheson. The schedule ahead won't do Memphis any favors, with two contests apiece against the Golden State Warriors and Spurs.
Jazz making push
The Dallas Mavericks have dropped below .500 to 34-35, keeping the hopes of the ninth-place Utah Jazz alive. Despite playing without forward Gordon Hayward, sidelined briefly because of a foot injury, the Jazz dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers. With one of the top defensive frontcourts in the NBA with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, Utah still has a viable chance to not only catch Dallas in the standings, but also the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. With a visit ahead in Houston, and one at home against the Mavericks, the Jazz have a real opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Hawks surging, Celtics falling
The Atlanta Hawks have gone on a recent surge that featured the team winning seven of its last eight, including important victories over the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Behind the Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the next four teams (Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics and Hawks) are all bunched together. After climbing to the top of the second-tier Eastern Conference teams, the Celtics have lost four straight games, endangering their position ahead of teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Pacers and Pistons, all fighting for the last two playoff berths.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Clippers at Golden State
When: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPN, Prime Ticket.
It seems long ago, but as recently as the spring of 2014 the Golden State Warriors actually lost a playoff series, falling in seven games to the Clippers in the first round. Since then, it's been a complete role reversal. Golden State won a title and is the heavy favorite to win another this June. Along the way, the Warriors have rolled over the Clippers, winning five consecutive regular-season meetings and six of the last seven. This is the final regular-season game between the teams before a possible second-round playoff matchup, if current seedings hold true.