Why Luka Doncic is at risk of becoming James Harden 2.0 and how Mavericks superstar can set himself apart

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There are several critical things that will hinge on the first-round playoff series that kicks off Saturday between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers

For starters, there’s a clear path to the Western Conference Finals on a side of the bracket missing the Denver Nuggets. There’s a red-hot Mavs team trying to keep its stellar form alive now that we’ve arrived at playoff basketball. There’s what becomes of Paul George if the Clippers crash out in the first round, and what to make of the star-studded tandem in Dallas if it’s the Mavs who get eliminated early.

But atop the list of what could be at stake is a possibility sometimes whispered about in the NBA and, barring a change, creeping closer to reality: That Luka Doncic is actually James Harden 2.0. —

NBA, NHL playoffs to open with weekend marathon; NFL mock draft: Patriots must get offensive

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Five possible breakout players for NBA playoffs: Peyton Watson, Isaiah Joe set to make a name for themselves

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Bruce Brown’s stock dropped so low by the 2022 free agency that his former team, the Brooklyn Nets, didn’t even make a significant attempt to re-sign him. Why would they? They already had a questionable shooter who could handle the ball and defend multiple positions. His name… and I promise I’m not kidding… was Ben Simmons. So Brown hit the open market. The best he could do was a two-year, $13 million tax-payer mid-level contract with the Nuggets.

Well, that turned out to be one of the best decisions of his career. Brown’s shot improved just enough for the rest of his versatile skill set to flourish in the right setting. His high basketball IQ made him an immediate fit within Denver’s cerebral offense, and his positional versatility made him an essential defensive

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell is Under Duress ahead of NBA playoffs | First Things First

Chris Broussard alongside Nick Wright and Kevin Wildes releases the latest edition of the Under Duress List featuring Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Other nominations include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Golden State Warriors franchise.

1 DAY AGO・first things first・5:55

Ashley Moyer-Gleich is first woman picked to officiate NBA playoff game since 2012

Ashley Moyer-Gleich checked her email just before heading to the airport on Saturday for a trip to what she thought would be her final game of the season.

That’s when the news came in: She has more games to do.

Moyer-Gleich will soon become only the second woman in NBA history to referee a playoff game. She was one of 36 referees announced by the league Thursday as its referee selections for Round 1 of the playoffs starting this weekend.

“It’s surreal,” Moyer-Gleich said. “It really is.”

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She joins Violet Palmer as the only women picked by the NBA for a playoff assignment. Palmer worked nine playoff games between 2006 and 2012.

Moyer-Gleich, a former Division II player at Millersville University in her native Pennsylvania, was promoted to the full-time NBA officiating ranks in November 2018. She’s worked more than 200 regular-season games in her six seasons and is one of three first-time playoff selections by the league this year — Marat Kogut and J.T. Orr are the others.

“I worked four games as an alternate last year, so obviously, my goal was I wanted to be an alternate again because that’s just sustaining the growth that I’ve had in my career,” Moyer-Gleich said. “And then to see my name on list of working floor officials … I mean, my mom was with me, she came with me on my last two games for a little trip, and to open that email and have her there with me and share that news, it was really quite amazing.”

The full list of first-round referees chosen by the NBA: Ray Acosta, Brent Barnaky, Curtis Blair, Tony Brothers, Nick Buchert, James Capers, Sean Corbin, Kevin Cutler, Marc Davis, JB DeRosa, Mitchell Ervin, Tyler Ford, Brian Forte, Scott Foster, Pat Fraher, Jacyn Goble, John Goble, David Guthrie, Bill Kennedy, Courtney Kirkland, Karl Lane, Mark Lindsay, Ed Malloy, Gediminas Petraitis, Kevin Scott, Aaron Smith, Ben Taylor, Dedric Taylor, Josh Tiven, Justin Van Duyne, James Williams, Sean Wright, Zach Zarba, Kogut, Orr and Moyer-Gleich.

“Congratulations to these 36 officials on the well-earned and prestigious honor of being selected to officiate in the NBA Playoffs,” NBA President of League Operations Byron Spruell said. “We appreciate the professionalism, dedication and teamwork that our officiating staff displays on a daily basis throughout the season.”

The league trims the officiating roster down for each round, typically culminating with a 12-person list for the NBA Finals. Those referees receive white warm-up jackets for Finals games, something the league has made a tradition for years.

Moyer-Gleich isn’t there yet — but she’s one step closer.

“Just like playoffs are coveted, the white jacket is even more super-coveted,” she said. “Obviously that’s an aspiration and that’s a goal way far down the road. And hopefully I can continue on the same trajectory, continue to increase my responsibility on the floor, maybe going from the referee to a crew chief at some point and then hopefully getting to the finals — the epitome of what we do. And whether I’m the first or not, I think just a female breaking through and getting that opportunity would be monumental.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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