Top DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy basketball picks for Friday, April 26 include Damian Lillard

The Thursday NBA playoff schedule features a trio of Game 3 matchups. In the Eastern Conference the Milwaukee Bucks hit the road to take on the Indiana Pacers, and in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks host the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Suns host the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Friday NBA DFS player pool is loaded with All-Star caliber talent and players who are capable of erupting and posting massive fantasy numbers.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic headlines the Friday NBA DFS player pool, but carries a hefty price tag at $11,700 on DraftKings and $12,100 on FanDuel. Doncic has the highest floor of any player on the Friday slate, and is coming off monster performances in Game 1 and Game 2. Should the 25-year-old be a part of your NBA DFS picks and NBA DFS stacks on Friday? Before making your NBA DFS picks, be sure to check out the NBA DFS advice, player rankings, stacks, and top daily Fantasy basketball picks from SportsLine’s Jimmie Kaylor.

Kaylor is a DFS and betting expert for SportsLine, who won a DraftKings Millionaire Maker contest in 2022. He uses a combination of his background as a former college and professional athlete and his keen eye for statistical trends when making his picks and locking in his DFS lineups. Kaylor enters the 2024 calendar year with multiple five-figure tournament cashes on his DFS resume.

Kaylor’s approach allows him to find the best NBA DFS values and create optimal lineups that he only shares on SportsLine. They’re a must-see for any NBA DFS player.

On Friday (when Kaylor last made picks), Kaylor highlighted Heat guard Tyler Herro as one of his top picks in his NBA DFS player pool on both sites. The result: Herro had a near triple double with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, returning 51.0 points on DraftKings and 44.5 points on FanDuel as one of the better values in the NBA DFS player pool. Anybody who included him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.

Kaylor has turned his attention to NBA action on Friday and locked in his top daily Fantasy basketball picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.

Top NBA DFS picks for Friday, April 26
For Friday, one of Kaylor’s top NBA DFS picks is Bucks guard Damian Lillard, who is listed at $9,300 on DraftKings and $9,700 on FanDuel. With Giannis Antetokounmpo still sidelined, Milwaukee is leaning heavily on Lillard to carry the load on the offensive end of the floor. Through two games in the Bucks’ series against the Pacers, Lillard is averaging 34.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per contest.

With the Milwaukee-Indiana series tied at one game apiece, Kaylor is expecting a big-time performance from Lillard on Friday night. Both teams play fast paced basketball, and Indiana was one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA during the regular season allowing 120.2 points per game. Kaylor believes Lillard will once again have the ball in his hands for the majority of the game, and is worth his high price tag in this matchup.

Another part of Kaylor’s optimal NBA DFS strategy includes rostering Pacers center Myles Turner ($6,500 on DraftKings and $7,400 on FanDuel). Turner has had his way with the Milwaukee front court through two games, and gives Indiana a mismatch option down low in this series. While he hasn’t been as productive as his teammate Pascal Siakam, Turner has proven to be a high-end DFS option at the center position while carrying a very reasonable price tag.

Through two games in the Pacers’ playoff series, Turner is averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. With Indiana having a distinct front court advantage, Kaylor expects the Pacers to continue to feed Turner the ball in the post early and often. The former Texas standout has double-double potential at a very reasonable price on Friday. See Kaylor’s other NBA DFS picks right here.

How to set your NBA DFS lineups for Thursday, April 25
Kaylor is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Friday because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is, and get the rest of Kaylor’s picks, here.

Who is DFS pro Jimmie Kaylor putting in his optimal NBA DFS lineups for Friday? Visit SportsLine now to see optimal NBA DFS picks, rankings, advice, and stacks, all from a professional DFS player who has a Millionaire Maker win on his resume, and find out.

Where to watch Game 3, start time, prediction, odds, TV, live stream online

The Timberwolves have been in complete control in this series, and while anything could happen, the Suns look in serious trouble getting swept in the first round. Of course, with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker you have to always assume Phoenix has a chance, even if their depth still remains a huge concern in this series.

“When they’re scoring on us and we’re not getting the right stops, we can’t not be organized offensively,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said. “We had too many possessions like that.”

It’s going to take a far better performance from the Suns in Game 3 if they have any shot at closing this gap against a Timberwolves team that looks incredibly dangerous in the West.

Here’s what to know about Friday’s Game 3:

Suns vs. Timberwolves — Game 3
Date: Friday, April 26 | Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Footprint Center — Phoenix
TV channel: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: Suns -4.5; O/U 208
Suns: Booker and Durant were efficient, Bradley Beal tacked on 14 points, and Eric Gordon had 15 points off the bench. It was the type of performance that would typically be good enough to win, but that wasn’t the case here. At this point, the Suns are going to need Durant and Booker to turn in 30-point performances to lift this team to a win or tighten up defensively. The former is probably the better bet because, with the size and length the Wolves possess, it has been difficult for Phoenix to slow down Minnesota. Phoenix needs its stars to go supernova in Game 3, otherwise they could be one loss away from a sweep.

Timberwolves: When you’ve got your defensive stopper in Jaden McDaniels putting up 25 points, chances are things are going extremely well. McDaniels is tasked with checking Durant on one end, a tiring job, so the fact that he was able to put up 25 points on an extremely efficient 10 of 17 from the floor is truly impressive. It also shows that the Wolves can get production in a variety of ways. Karl-Anthony Towns shot the ball just seven times, but it didn’t matter. It would nice to see Towns be a bit more productive on offense in Game 3, just to show that while he doesn’t always need to put up 20+ points, he very well can when required.

So far in the postseason, we’ve seen home teams win all but four games, so I’m going with the home team based on that. I also think Durant and Booker will be extra motivated to avoid a third-straight loss, especially in front of their fans. The Pick: Suns -4.5

If players aren’t willing to take it seriously, why does this game still need to exist?

The NBA All-Star Game served a critical purpose when it was conceived. All the way back in 1951, the basketball world was rocked by point-shaving scandals at the college level. The NBA needed to change the narrative and attract attention to the pro game. They settled on a concept Major League Baseball popularized two decades earlier: an All-Star Game. Boston hosted the first one and drew an enormous crowd of more than 10,000 fans. The All-Star Game was off to the races from there.

The NBA was still several years away from its first television broadcast when that first All-Star Game was played in 1951. That made seeing the league’s best players extraordinarily difficult for all but the most passionate fans. You either caught them when they came through your city or you missed them entirely. The proliferation of television over the next decade made it slightly easier for fans to watch the world’s best basketball players, but it’s not as though you could hop on Twitter and catch the highlights if you missed a big game in the 1960s. The technological limitations of the day made it hard for the league to showcase its best and brightest.

Putting all of them in the same place at the same time addressed that issue. Maybe you can’t see Oscar Robertson and Jerry West every night, but you’ll get them in at least one marquee event per year. The All-Star Game gave fans something they might not otherwise have been able to see.

Basketball became more accessible in the years that followed. The proliferation of highlights meant a great deal. League Pass offered fans the chance to watch every game. Now social media clips those games down into digestible pieces. But the All-Star Game managed to find ways to justify its existence even as its original purpose faded. Yes, you’ve surely heard the bellyaching this week about how competitive these games used to be, but their utility ran deeper. Remember Isiah Thomas’ infamous freeze out of Michael Jordan? Or Magic Johnson’s famous return to the floor in 1992?

Every now and then, an All-Star Game carried real historical significance. It gave fans a glimpse into how different eras of the games could coexist, real-time readings on the game’s tectonic shifts. Seeing an aging Jordan and an ascending Kobe Bryant share a floor as equals mattered in ways no modern All-Star Game ever really has. Fans would probably love to see a similar torch-passing moment in the coming years. Odds are Victor Wembanyama plays his first All-Star Game before LeBron James plays his last. But such a moment would ring pretty hollow in a game that sees one team score 211 points.

The league has tried plenty of tweaks to resuscitate its fading exhibition. A draft. An Elam Ending. Swift moves back toward a classic format. Nothing has yet coaxed real basketball out of the league’s current group of superstars. They’re not even hiding it anymore. “For me, it’s an All-Star Game, so I don’t think I will ever look at it like being super competitive,” Anthony Edwards said after the game. Anthony Davis credited the hype teams of the Bulls and Pacers for creating the best moment of the night.

There’s clearly still an audience here. Ratings actually rose 14% compared to last season. Younger fans may not be as discerning as their disappointed parents. The weekend as a whole matters to stakeholders for reasons that aren’t captured on the main broadcast. Owners and cities still love hosting for everything that comes along with it. Gathering the whole league in a single market for even a few days generates an economic boon and can serve as a strong advertisement for the region, even if it doesn’t for the product.

A night of bad basketball isn’t the end of the world. This particular night of bad basketball won’t help the league shake some of the less desirable portions of its reputation. Fair or not, there’s a perception that in the modern NBA, the regular season matters less than ever, and star attendance is no longer mandatory. Watching the league’s biggest stars sleepwalk through what is supposed to be its marquee regular-season event won’t exactly sway detractors. This event was conceived as a showcase seven decades ago. Sunday’s game directly contradicted those efforts.

There will be proposed tweaks in the coming days and months. A Team USA vs. Team World format is certainly worth a try. Watch any international competition and you know just how meaningful beating the Americans tends to be for other countries. How would you address possible roster imbalance? Would the league announce its 24 best players mid-season and then supplement the side with fewer by adding however many faces are needed? Recent shifts in roster construction have led nowhere.

The In-Season Tournament’s $500,000 prize visibly motivated players earlier this season. There are early rumblings hinting that All-Stars would like a similar payday even though they technically are already paid to appear in the game. Whether it would work or not, the notion is a bit dispiriting. A common refrain surrounding All-Star Games in any sport is that they are “for the fans.” The 24 All-Stars who suited up on Sunday have earned over $4 billion in combined salary as NBA players. Pushing for a substantial payday just to take the game seriously won’t exactly endear them to the fans this game is ostensibly supposed to be for.

How high would the pot have to get to generate sustainable effort? Is a $1 million check enough to risk $50 million through a possible injury? Part of what made the In-Season Tournament’s payout work was the nature of NBA balance sheets. Role players absolutely take $500,000 seriously, whether or not the stars do, and many of those stars, most notably Damian Lillard, were adamant about wanting to win the money for their two-way teammates. Most All-Stars bring eight- or nine-figure net worths into the games. Even the younger ones who haven’t yet reached their first max contract are usually already earning millions off the court.

Maybe one of these proposed changes sticks. More likely, we get brief glimpses of optimism that eventually fade as we did with the Elam Ending. Nothing matters if the players aren’t willing to take the game seriously, and if they aren’t? It’s worth wondering why this game still needs to exist. It had a distinct purpose when it was born. Today, the All-Star Game serves no discernible purpose to the majority of fans.

Could something else take its place? Perhaps there’s room for a lower-key All-Star Saturday-style event that doesn’t grind the league to a halt for a week. Imagine how many back-to-backs the NBA could knock off its schedule with seven extra days to work with. Maybe those days would be better used on an expanded In-Season Tournament, an event that drew rave reviews in its inaugural campaign. A 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 tournament has incredible potential. Still, it requires buy-in the league thus far hasn’t gotten from the traditional five-on-five format (and carries greater potential for the sort of embarrassment stars have avoided in the Dunk Contest). There are better ways to use this time than an All-Star Game that’s barely even a game anymore.

The most radical ideas are almost definitely off of the table. The non-star players who make up the bulk of the NBPA won’t want to give up their mid-season vacation. Star players may not care for the game itself, but they—and their agents—recognize how valuable the All-Star distinction can be in contract and endorsement negotiations and will fight tooth and nail to at least preserve the practice of naming rosters.

But none of this means all that much to the viewers who are tired of watching disappointing All-Star Games. What once was a rare opportunity to see the league’s best talent in one place has become a snoozefest that features those same players at their worst. If the players involved aren’t going to take it seriously, why should the fans? If the All-Star Game can’t find a purpose, it no longer needs to exist at all.

What NBA stars could be on trade block this summer? Five players who might move following quiet deadline

There was a sense around the league last summer that the 2024 offseason had a chance to be among the wildest in recent memory. Think about some of the reporting surrounding the league’s best players. The Mavericks were reportedly worried about Luka Doncic asking out. Joel Embiid openly said that his goal was to win a championship “in Philly or anywhere else.” Giannis Antetokounmpo was making similarly cryptic comments about his own future. The volcano was getting ready to erupt. Only one team gets to win the championship every year. The other 29 are disappointed. Three of them looked primed for a breakup with one more bad year.

The past eight months or so have largely been kind to all three. Dallas is trending in the right direction after an offseason revamp. Joel Embiid was on his way to a second consecutive MVP before getting hurt, and the James Harden trade set Philadelphia up for sustainable success once Embiid comes back. Antetokounmpo’s team traded for Damian Lillard, and while the results haven’t quite met expectations, the move at least bought the Bucks some time. Antetokounmpo inked a short-term contract extension last summer.

Could these players move in 2024? Sure. Again… it’s a league with only one champion. Strong regular seasons lead to underwhelming postseasons all of the time. But right now, all three feel relatively good about their short-term outlook. We’re probably not going to get the all-time offseason last summer portended.

But we are going to get some significant player movement, especially after an uncharacteristically quiet trade deadline. So let’s take a look at some of the names to watch this summer as we head into the second half of the season. They aren’t the MVP candidates we expected, but plenty of talent is going to be on the market.

  1. Trae Young, Hawks
    You’ve surely heard the rumors by now. The pre-deadline chatter centered around teammate Dejounte Murray. Atlanta ultimately held onto him, and Hawks head coach Quin Snyder was reportedly a major advocate for that decision. In regards to their two ball-handlers, one league source told Marc Stein that the Hawks “know they have to trade one or the other.” That has become a common sentiment. The Hawks acquired Murray hoping that both he and Young could grow as off-ball players when sharing usage. That hasn’t happened. They are both, emphatically, point guards. Murray’s value has dipped significantly as he’s played out of position in Atlanta.

Young would net more. He isn’t without his own flaws. He has at times been among the worst defensive players in the NBA. To be fair, he’s quietly improved on that front, but he still carries significant physical limitations. His shot selection is inching in a better direction as well, but 2.1 catch-and-shoot 3’s per game is still a tiny number compared to 6.7 pull-up attempts. He can be classified within the James Harden phylum of high-assist guards: he nominally sets up teammates, but does so while monopolizing so much of the offense that role players rarely feel involved in the ways that they do in, say, Indiana or Denver.

That’s a complicated player to absorb. How many teams are equipped to fully hand an offense over to a 6-foot-1 point guard that doesn’t really defend? San Antonio is the cleanest fit. If Tre Jones can turn Victor Wembanyama into the best NBA rookie in decades, just imagine what Trae Young could do for him. Wembanyama could protect him defensively better than any possible teammate. So could Anthony Davis, and you’ll hear Laker rumors for all of the standard reasons. Los Angeles market, Klutch representation, an unhappy LeBron James. Young isn’t quite a Russell Westbrook level of bad fit, but James isn’t exactly known for surrendering offensive control. They’d bump.

Some significant change is coming in Atlanta. It might be Young. It might be Murray. It might be both. But in such situations it’s always prudent to start with the player who’d bring the most back, and that’s clearly Young.

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
    The Mike Conley contract extension was simultaneously a clear bargain and an absolute assurance that the Timberwolves will be above the second apron next season if they don’t move a core player. His new deal takes them to within $5 million or so of the projected second apron. but with only nine players locked in. An Anthony Edwards supermax that would come if he is named to an All-NBA team alone would take them past the barrier. If he doesn’t, filling out the roster will. Minnesota could try to cut its tax bill by trading role players, but frankly, all of them have such valuable contracts that doing so would be reckless. How on Earth are you replacing everything Naz Reid does for less than $14 million next season?

The reality the Timberwolves are facing is that it is virtually impossible for a small-market team to justify carrying three max contracts (Towns, Edwards and Rudy Gobert) and another nine-figure commitment (Jaden McDaniels) while also surrounding those players with market-rate role players unless that team is consistently making deep playoff runs. Maybe the Timberwolves do that this spring. If nothing else they should be favored to earn the No. 1 seed out West. They have seven more home games than road games left and their overall schedule is fairly easy. Of course, the No. 1 seed in this year’s Western Conference might mean LeBron James or Stephen Curry in the first round. There’s not going to be one easy series in the West let alone three.

If the Timberwolves make it far enough, they can probably kick the financial can down the road for a year. The new CBA introduced a revised luxury tax structure that will be a bit more lenient on teams that just dip into the tax, but becomes far more punitive for teams that go deep into it. The Timberwolves are slated to be the latter, but this structure doesn’t kick in until the 2025-26 season, and the Timberwolves haven’t even started their repeater clock yet. Eventually, money is probably going to break up the Timberwolves. It’s just a matter of when.

Trading Edwards is a non-starter. The same goes for McDaniels, the only other starting Timberwolf in Edwards’ age range. Gobert is too essential to Minnesota’s playing style to move. That leaves Towns, whose skill set is loosely replicated by the far cheaper Reid, who himself is ready for a starting role.

Finding a fit here won’t be easy. Minnesota will justifiably ask for a significant return… except that return has to be comprised of relatively cheap win-now assets if it is going to help with these tax issues without compromising the team’s current ambitions. How many contenders have assets like that? And how many are going to want to pay Towns $61 million in his age-32 season? Someone will do it. For now, it isn’t clear who.

  1. Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers
    An 18-2 stretch leading into the trade deadline gets you out of the headline but not off of the list. Cleveland looked like Mitchell’s waystation two months ago. Now they’re sitting in second place in a wide-open Eastern Conference behind the Celtics, and even if he’s largely responsible for that, the New York rumors have largely cooled down in the wake of his brilliant 2024. There’s no longer any question about fit or hierarchy. This is undoubtedly Mitchell’s team, and the Cavaliers will do whatever needs to be done to ensure a clean roster fit around him… provided he decides to stay.

That’s where this gets tricky. The New York rumors may have slowed, but it’s not as though they’ve been replaced by a steady stream of “he’s staying in Cleveland”s. The past reporting has largely pointed east, but the Cavaliers adamantly refused to entertain talks when it looked like their season was going to fall apart. Do they know something we don’t?

How much risk are they prepared to entertain here? They will surely present Mitchell with a max contract offer after the season. If he signs it? Great. If not? They have a decision to make: move Mitchell for what would probably be around 60 cents on the dollar, or potentially keep him knowing he could walk for nothing… or lead them to a championship in 2025. The Cavs faced this decision with LeBron James twice. They kept him — and lost him — twice.

They wouldn’t do either decision over again, but Mitchell is not LeBron James. Akron’s native son, especially in his prime, existed in an extraordinarily rare category of superstar. Having him on your team, regardless of all other factors, guaranteed championship contention. That has been true of maybe two dozen players in NBA history. Those players are so good that there is no feasible trade package that would be worthwhile because the championship odds that single player generates in any given season are higher than any long-term backup plan could realistically hope for. Mitchell is incredible. He’s not that.

The supporting cast around him is better than any James had in Cleveland outside of his 2016 championship campaign. The 2024 postseason will give them a better idea of whether or not 2025 contention is realistic. If they ride the No. 2 seed to a competitive Eastern Conference Finals battle with the Celtics, yeah, holding onto Mitchell is probably worth the risk. If they get bulled by the Knicks again in the second round? Probably not. Mitchell watch has been on hold during this brilliant stretch. Only time will tell if it needs to be taken off of the board entirely.

  1. Mikal Bridges, Nets
    The Nets are watching the Mitchell proceedings very closely, and they likely wouldn’t mind if Cleveland ran it out with Mitchell to free agency. After all, Brooklyn’s balance sheet is specifically built to pursue Mitchell then. Ben Simmons comes off of the books after the 2024-25 season, and the Nets will have a max cap slot to work with then. The dream, obviously, would be to sign Mitchell outright then, pair him with Mikal Bridges, and still have that mountain of draft capital from the Suns, Mavericks and 76ers to trade with elsewhere. That’s a championship equation, and it’s a path that isn’t really available to the crosstown Knicks, whose short-term success has made its roster too expensive for a free-agent pursuit of Mitchell. They’d have to trade for him.

But the better things look in Cleveland, the worse they do in Brooklyn. After all, their hometown advantage won’t extend to other superstars. Even if they have the draft capital to trade for such a player, would a Doncic- or Embiid-level star want to bet their prime on Bridges as a co-star? He can fit with anyone, but those players tend to seek out higher-level scorers first and foremost.

Whether they’d admit it or not, there has to be some temptation to go in the other direction. The Nets reportedly rejected overtures from the Rockets that involved sending all or most of the picks Brooklyn initially sent Houston for James Harden back home. Was that a great idea? We’ll see how the Mitchell pursuit pans out. If the Nets need to rebuild, it won’t matter how many external picks they have. No draft picks are ever more valuable in a teardown than your own because they are the picks you control. The Nets know from experience that rebuilding without tanking is possible, but they also know it’s not easy. There won’t always be a Kevin Durant waiting at the end of that rainbow.

The clock here isn’t ticking quite as loudly as it is in Minnesota, but there’s a timeline to keep in mind here. Bridges — who said Wednesday night he wants to say in Brooklyn — is on one of the best contracts in basketball for the next two years. The contract he signs after that, which will pay him market-rate and likely cover the bulk of his early 30’s, won’t be nearly as forgiving. His trade value declines with each day that ticks off of that current deal. The Nets either have to put a winner around him while he’s still cheap or move him before he gets expensive.

  1. One of the Pelicans
    Yes, we’re going back to the luxury tax well. The new CBA is forcing our hand here. The Pelicans can probably duck the tax next season while still re-signing Jonas Valanciunas. If they want to get especially creative, they can pull the same move with Jose Alvarado this summer that they did with Herb Jones last summer: let him out of his rookie contract a year early so he faces a depressed restricted free agent market and they can hopefully re-sign him, like they did Jones, at a bargain price. Doing both would probably push them over the line, but they can always duck back under before the trade deadline. The Pelicans can keep their roster in place without being a 2025 taxpayer.

But 2026? Yeah, this roster is a tax roster in 2026, and more likely an apron or second apron roster without significant changes. That’s when Trey Murphy jumps from his rookie contract to a hefty veteran deal and Brandon Ingram goes from his mini max to a far bigger 30% max. The Pelicans will get some relief a year later when C.J. McCollum expires, but by then they’ll have to pay Dyson Daniels, so 2025 is probably their last chance to avoid the tax if this is going to be their team moving forward. The Pelicans have never paid the tax before, so odds are, they don’t plan to any time soon.

If financial pressure is what ultimately forces the Pelicans to settle on an identity, well, that might not be the worst thing. The fit between Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram is… fine. Winning 60% of your games is fine. But it often feels as though there are several different iterations of this team competing for dominance within games, stretches and seasons. There’s a version of the Pelicans that unleashes Williamson as a ball-handler and surrounds him with shooting and defense. That group probably makes more sense without Ingram stopping the ball. Yet lineups featuring Ingram and no Williamson tend to perform better than most other iterations statistically. There’s more talent than touches here.

Williamson and Ingram can work together if you’re only looking for “fine.” They’re so talented that they might even be able to hit the low-end contention bar. But neither seems optimized next to the other, and even together, the roster has long-term questions. Valanciunas is 31 and a defensive liability in postseason play. Do they really want to invest in him as the long-term center? Heck, is McCollum their long-term point guard? He’s not really a point guard. How many wings does this group plan to keep, because they’re expensive and the Pelicans have a lot of them?

It’s a funky roster. At times, that works to their advantage. There is a ton of talent here and very little of it is maximized because of skill overlap. The Pelicans could solve that and their financial woes by splitting up their All-Star tandem. If they are as committed to ducking the tax as their history suggests, it’s an option they’ll probably at least explore.

Giannis Antetokounmpo explains belief in ‘Doc f—ing Rivers’ and says less is on plate after Bucks’ change

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo “had to be more vocal this year,” he told The Athletic’s Eric Nehm in an interview heading into the All-Star break. Specifically, for the first 43 games of the season, when Adrian Griffin was the coach of the Bucks, he had to talk more in film sessions and diagram plays.

“Things (weren’t) the way they were supposed to be, how can I say it?” Antetokounmpo said. “The last couple of years, I’m used to a specific structure of things, a specific culture, there’s a certain way that you have to do things in order for you to win games, you know? And if that level is not being met, as a leader, you have to push that envelope. Push everybody, your coaching staff, your teammates.”

The Bucks were 40-13 when they fired Griffin, who had spent the previous 15 seasons as an assistant coach. Leading up to that, Antetokounmpo had argued with Griffin at the scorer’s table, criticized the team for being disorganized late in games and, after a particularly bad loss in Houston, said, “We have to be coached better.” (He also said the equipment manager “has to wash our clothes better.”)

Milwaukee is 3-7 under Doc Rivers, who had been an NBA head coach for 24 consecutive seasons before spending the first few months of this season as an analyst for ESPN. According to Antetokounmpo, though, Rivers has made his life easier.

From The Athletic:

“[Rivers brought] some peace of mind,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s tough. He’s Doc f—ing Rivers. He knows his s—. Same thing for Coach Bud. Same with Joe Prunty, J-Kidd. And Coach Griff was a great coach, a great person to work with, but, at the end of the day, it was his first time.

“He was figuring things out, how to lead a group of guys, how to operate with star players and sometimes, that might be hard. I think everybody did a good job. His coaching staff did a good job too, helping him and making him adjust and I think he did a tremendous job leading us to a 30-13 record, but Coach Doc has won 1,100 games. So it’s totally different.”

With a veteran coach at the helm, Antetokounmpo feels like quite a bit has been taken off of his plate.

“Now it’s almost like I don’t have to do that anymore,” Antetokounmpo said of the extra emphasis he had put on leadership to start the season under Griffin. “I just have to keep the guys together and try to go out there and try to win.

“Coach Doc, he’s a great guy, been in the league for a lot of years, won a lot of games. Like you go to bed, you sleep well at night. Win or lose, you know that the coaching staff is going to be prepared. And not just him, from Rex (Kalamian), from Dave Joerger, like come on, man, Joe Prunty, we have guys that are extremely smart and know the game of basketball. So, from that aspect, you don’t have to worry anymore.”

The story, which published Wednesday morning, follows a couple of eyebrow-raising comments from Rivers during All-Star weekend in Indianapolis:

At media day on Saturday, via Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman: “Taking a job when you’re about to go on the toughest road trip of the season is not the smartest decision. I even told them that: ‘Can we wait till All-Star break?’ You know, it would have been a lot nicer.”
In an interview on SiriusXM with Frank Isola and Ryan MacDonough: “Personally, I’ll be honest, I told our owners when they called, I said, ‘I don’t understand why you’re doing this.’ You know? And one of the things they said was, “Well, it doesn’t matter, we’ve done it now. And we want you.’ And so that was a tough one.”
Both times, Rivers said taking over the team had been harder than he thought and noted that he’d had the job for three weeks but only spent four days in Milwaukee. This led to ESPN analyst JJ Redick, who played for Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers, to call him out for “always making excuses” and “always throwing your team under the bus.”

Preceding all of this was a rough loss against the severely shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies last Thursday, after which Rivers said, “We had some guys here. We had some guys in Cabo.”

In his interview with The Athletic, Antetokounmpo said that he was willing to “talk more in the film sessions like I’ve been doing all year” and “f—ing grab the f—ing board and write something down” if he needs to, adding that “you cannot just let opportunities like this go to waste.” The Bucks are 35-21, third in the Eastern Conference, with a 1.5-game lead on the fourth-place New York Knicks. Their defense has better in the early days of the Rivers era, but their offense has fallen off. The hope is that, in the final 26 games of the regular season, they will get Khris Middleton healthy, find some cohesion and string some wins together. Antetokounmpo sounds pleased to be playing for Rivers, but he’s clearly not satisfied with the results.

“I feel like I don’t want to look back and be like, ‘Damn, I had some great teams and I wasn’t able to get over the hump,'” Antetokounmpo said. “We have to stop feeling bad about ourselves. I’m tired of this. We have to stop doing that. Things are not going to be given to us. We have to go and take it. Like I’ve played with guys that never felt bad about themselves. Came in, did their job, went home, did their job, went home, did their job. That’s what we have to do. We’re not doing it right now, but hopefully we can do it.”

How the sports world is honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

Across the United States, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is being celebrated with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an annual holiday celebrating his life and legacy. The commemoration of MLK Day includes multiple celebrations throughout sports, from the professional to collegiate ranks.

Here is a summary of notable games and events commemorating Martin Luther King Day, from traditional NBA matchups to initiatives seeking to continue King’s dream of racial equality in America.

The NBA will continue its decades-long tradition of games on MLK Day, with 11 games in total scheduled for Monday. That slate of games includes annual games in Atlanta, where King was born, and in Memphis, where King was assassinated in 1968.

In Atlanta, the Hawks will continue a tradition of hosting a gospel choir, which will sing the name of each player during pre-game introductions. Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies will honor athletes who “have made “significant contributions to civil and human rights they have made through their careers in sports, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” prior to their game against the Golden State Warriors. This year, the Grizzles will honor eight-time NBA All-Star Alex English, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome and former NFL running back Calvin Hill.

Prior to the beginning of Super Wild Card Weekend, the NFL announced a five-year commitment to Realizing The Dream, a platform created by Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King and Yolanda Renee King to “unite more than seven million young people, 200,000 educators, and millions of employees around the globe through a series of service initiatives focused on the tenets of social change and community impact.” Over the next five years, the NFL and other corporations will work with the King family and Legacy+ to “help fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for an equitable and united America.”

Each team playing during the weekend, and all four teams playing on MLK Day, will wear circular MLK helmet decals and “Be Love” helmet phrase decals, which will also be stenciled in one end zone. The King family has also provided PSAs to NFL teams in the playoffs to be integrated into their in-stadium game programming and amplification on media platforms.

For MLK Day, the Columbus Blue Jackets will host “Hockey Is For Everyone,” an event celebrating diversity and inclusion in the sport, at their game against the Vancouver Canucks. The event will include a pre-game activation before Ayodele Adeniye, a member of the Adrian College men’s hockey team that won the 2022 NCAA Division III Championship, drops the ceremonial puck for the game. Adeniye learned to play hockey through the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, one of 26 official Hockey is for Everyone grassroots hockey organizations across North America.

During the game and intermissions, the Blue Jackets will honor diversity among hockey participants including CIHC as well as Blue Jackets Hockey League (BJHL), Capital Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), CCYHA Special Hockey (athletes with special needs), Central Ohio Girl’s Hockey (COGH), Central Ohio Gay Lesbian Ally Hockey Association, Chiller Adult Hockey League (CAHL), Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association (CCYHA), Ohio High School Athletic Association, Ohio Sled Hockey (athletes with physical disabilities) and Ohio Warriors Sled Hockey (veterans with physical disabilities).

College basketball
Games and events honoring MLK Day are being held throughout college basketball, including in the Atlantic 10 Conference with its third-annual MLK Day triple-header. All three conference games will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

In the Ivy League, Harvard will host Brown for its first conference home game of the season. Harvard’s team has been active over the past several years in honoring MLK Day under the leadership of Tommy Amaker, the head coach of Harvard men’s basketball.

Dreamchasers Basketball Club has hosted a HBCU MLK Day Invitational throughout the weekend and leading into Monday, which will feature four HBCU Basketball games. The games are being contested primarily between HBCUs throughout the Carolinas, including Claflin University, Clinton College, Fayetteville State University and Johnson C. Smith University.

Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama commits to 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend event, per report

San Antonio Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, has committed to participate in the Skills Challenge at 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend, according to Shams Charania. This year’s All-Star Weekend is set for Feb. 16-18 in Indianapolis with the Skills Challenge kicking off All-Star Saturday Night on Feb. 17.

Wembanyama was one of the best prospects to ever enter the league and has lived up to the billing with a phenomenal start to his rookie season. He’s averaging 19.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and a league-leading 3.1 blocks per game, and is first among all rookies in all three categories. And that’s despite being on a minutes restriction for the last month as the result of a freak ankle injury that occurred when he stepped on a ball boy’s foot prior to a game against the Dallas Mavericks.

In a win over the Pistons on Jan. 10, Wembanyama recorded the second-fastest triple-double in NBA history when he put up 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in just 21 minutes. Back on Dec. 8, he became the youngest player ever with a 20-20 game when he finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds against the Bulls. He has eight games with at least five blocks, which is already tied for the 12th-most such games in a season this decade.

You could go on and on with the accolades. The point is, Wembanyama is having an incredible debut season and would be the runaway Rookie of the Year if it wasn’t for Oklahoma City Thunder big man Chet Holmgren. (Who, it must be said, is playing in a far better situation.)

Wembanyama may even have a case to make the All-Star Game as a reserve, but even if he doesn’t he’ll be on his way to Indianapolis. In addition to the Skills Challenge — which has been a team event for the past two seasons — on All-Star Saturday Night, he’s a shoe-in for the Rising Stars Challenge on that Friday.

Indianapolis International Airport installs full basketball court ahead of NBA All-Star Game

The Indianapolis International Airport has installed a full basketball court in the middle of its main lobby ahead of next month’s NBA All-Star Game being hosted by the Indiana Pacers. The court features everything from stanchions to glass backboards to a hardwood paint job.

According to WTHR, fans and travelers won’t be permitted to actually play basketball on the court, but they will be welcome to walk on it and take photos. The airport will also be featuring custom basketballs painted by local artists among many other decorations and activations throughout the terminal in the leadup to the All-Star Game.

— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 14, 2024
The basketball court capitalizes on the state of Indiana’s long-held love of basketball, which ranges from the Pacers in the NBA to the Indiana Hoosiers in college basketball. Much of the state’s championship glory belongs to the Hoosiers, who boast five national championships including three from 1976 to 1987. The Pacers won three championships in four years in the ABA in the early 1970s, but have yet to win their first NBA title.

It remains to be seen which members of the Pacers will have made the All-Star roster, which will be revealed at the conclusion of Fan Voting.

2024 NBA picks, Jan. 15 best bets by proven model

The Memphis Grizzlies (14-25) host the Golden State Warriors (18-21) as part of the MLK Day NBA schedule. This is the first matchup of the regular season between these Western Conference rivals. Golden State narrowly leads the all-time series 53-50. Draymond Green is expected to return from a 16-game absence (suspension/reconditioning) for Golden State. The top-five scorers for Memphis are all on the injury report with Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Santi Aldama (knee) listed as questionable, while Ja Morant (shoulder), Desmond Bane (ankle) and Steven Adams (knee) are all out.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET at FedExForum in Memphis. Golden State is an 8-point favorite in the latest Warriors vs. Grizzlies odds via SportsLine consensus. The over/under for total points is 226. Before making any Grizzlies vs. Warriors picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Warriors vs. Grizzlies and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Grizzlies vs. Warriors:

Warriors vs. Grizzlies spread: Golden State -8
Warriors vs. Grizzlies over/under: 226 points
Warriors vs. Grizzlies money line: Golden State -327, Memphis +260
GS: The Golden State Warriors have hit the 1Q game total Under in 15 of their last 21 games
MEM: The Memphis Grizzlies are 16-23 ATS this season
Warriors vs. Grizzlies picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Warriors can cover
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Green are the headliners, but the Warriors have had some role players step up recently. Forward Jonathan Kuminga is an athletic, downhill scorer for the Warriors. The 21-year-old is averaging 13.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. In his last contest versus the Bucks, Kuminga dropped a season-high 28 points with three boards.

Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has been thrust into more playing time as of late. Jackson-Davis is a standout defender and has the length to be a reliable shot-blocker. The Indiana product is tough to stop in the open court and is always cutting to the rim for easy looks. He’s logged 12-plus points and at least one block in four straight games. On Jan. 10 against the New Orleans Pelicans, Jackson-Davis totaled 19 points, five boards and one block. See which team to pick here.

Why the Grizzlies can cover
With the Grizzlies decimated by injuries, guard Luke Kennard is getting opportunities to help carry the scoring load. Kennard thrives at moving off the ball to create space from defenders. The Duke product is putting up 9.1 points while shooting 40% from beyond the arc. In Saturday’s game against the Knicks, Kennard supplied 14 points and two assists. This was his third straight game in double figures.

If Jackson Jr. can go for the Grizzlies, he would give them a massive boost. Jackson Jr. plays lights-out defense around the rim due to his length and recovery speed. The Michigan State product also has a smooth jumper that can stretch the floor. Jackson Jr. logs 21.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. On Jan. 7 against the Suns, he finished with 28 points, 10 boards and six assists. See which team to pick here.

How to make Grizzlies vs. Warriors picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under on the total, projecting 223 combined points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in nearly 70% of simulations. You can only see the model’s picks at SportsLine.

Victor Wembanyama in for Skills Challenge, Dunk champ invited back

The 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend is fast approaching, with all the festivities set for Feb. 16-18 in Indianapolis. As per usual, the action will begin with the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, followed by the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, before the All-Star Game closes the show on Sunday.

As the showcase approaches, players are starting to make commitments for the All-Star Saturday events, and we’ll soon learn who will start the All-Star Game. Here’s a look at who will be involved:

Skills Challenge
The league has switched up the Skills Challenge on a regular basis and no format has been announced for this year’s event. Each of the last two years featured a team event, but it’s unclear if that will continue in Indy.


Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs (reported)
3-Point Contest
There’s been little change to the 3-Point Contest since it’s first appearance at All-Star Weekend in 1986. Five racks are set up around the arc with five balls each. Regular balls are worth one point, while “money balls” are worth two. In addition, there are two deep shots positioned on the wings that are worth three points each. While there has not been an official announcement yet, there’s no reason to expect any surprises this year.


Slam Dunk Contest
Many view the Slam Dunk Contest as the true main event of the weekend, and it certainly was last year when Mac McClung stole the show. He’s been invited back even though he’s playing in the G League, but has not made a commitment yet. Regardless of who’s involved, the classic format features four dunkers who get two dunks each in the first two round. The two players with the highest combined score advance to the championship round, where they’re each throw down two more slams.