Good morning. Reminder: Tom's off this week, so you're stuck with me. Let's get right to it.
OUR LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE IS OVER: The NBA made it official: division winners will no longer be guaranteed a top-four seed in the playoffs. In fact, they won't be guaranteed playoff spots at all, opening the very real possibility of the Atlantic Division winner missing the postseason. (They should hang a banner anyway). The next obvious move is to eliminate divisions entirely, which could happen as soon as next year.
THAT'S JUST STEP ONE: The next step is to remove conference and/or seed the playoffs 1-16. That's a tougher nut to crack because it requires a three-fourths majority and those East teams aren't about to vote away their cakewalk paths to postseason play, but we can now have a real conversation about it. When brainstorming ideas, the league would be smart to consider Tom's five regions approach.
THE STANDOFF CONTINUES: The NBA fined Markieff Morris $10K for issuing a public trade demand. Morris tweeted a Kayne shrug picture in response, then quickly deleted it. Meanwhile, Jeff Hornacek is optimistic that Morris' disposition will turn around once he gets to training camp. Might be wishful thinking there.
ACTUAL BASKETBALL! Mighty Spain is now 1-2 in EuroBasket play after falling to Danilo Gallinari and Italy. (Here are the latest scores from EuroBasket). Elsewhere, Canada routed host Mexico to clinch its semifinal spot at the FIBA Americas.
FLAGGED: Nikola Mirotic, who was born in Montenegro but is playing for Spain, is in trouble because he ripped a Serbian flag in frustration after Spain's opening-day Eurobasket loss. He claimed he didn't realize it was the Serbian flag, which sounds hard to believe. Then again, his head is down as it's waived in his face, so maybe I'm being too harsh.
MOLDING KLAY: Jason Patt explains how Klay Thompson could jump to another level if he adopted some of Jimmy Butler's shot distribution habits. Since a number of readers were confused: the point wasn't to say that Butler is a better overall player or even that the two have similar games. It was to say that the next step in Thompson's progression is to improve in areas that are Butler's biggest strengths.NB
THE FORGOTTEN JAZZ MAN: Sporting News' Adi Joseph profiles Derrick Favors. Here's a bold statement: Favors, and not Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, is Utah's best player.
THE EXTRA MILE: LeBron James is already promising 1,100 college scholarships as part of his I Promise campaign. Now, he's helping those kids' parents earn GEDs.
AS HE SHOULD: Kevin Durant still believes he's the best player in the league. He did win MVP in his last healthy season, so ...
LEE JENKINS SIREN: The best NBA feature writer alive profiles Seth Curry, the less famous basketball-playing younger brother of Steph.
ZACH LOWE SIREN: Ranking every logo 1-30, with the help of actual design experts. It's amazing that the Bulls have never once changed their logo.
SPEAKING OF ... The Suns unveiled a new black alternate jersey, which I'm not feeling.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: CBS Sports' Matt Moore explores whether Byron Scott can change his ways to fit his unique, young Lakers roster.
ENDING MANIMAL'S HIBERNATION: Denver Stiffs on how Kenneth Faried can bounce back after a disappointing 2014-15.
THE BEST NEWS: Glad to hear USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt won't need chemotherapy.
BROKE: That's the title of Spencer Hall's annual essay to open the college football season. I can't recommend this one enough. Go read it.