NBA Notes: Finals format changed to 2-2-1-1-1

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NBA Notes: Finals format changed to 2-2-1-1-1

NEW YORK -- Beginning with the 2014 NBA Finals, the higher-seeded team will host Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The lower seed gets Games 3, 4 and 6, following the same format the NBA uses in all other rounds.

The change comes about as NBA owners unanimously voted Wednesday to scrap a format for the championship round that featured three home consecutive games for the lower-seeded team in the middle of the series.

Referred to as the 2-3-2 scenario, the higher seed opened with two home games, then played three straight on the road, before closing with two more home games. It was conducive to travel, especially when teams had to span several time zones, and was a favorite of outgoing commissioner David Stern.

In the new format, though there will be more travel inconveniences, the higher seed will host the first two games, before hitting the road for two games. At that point -- Game 5 -- the teams will alternate home games, ending with a potential Game 7 on the higher-seeded team's floor. This format, used in the other playoff rounds, is known as the 2-2-1-1-1 (see full story).

Cavs: Options picked up on Irving, 3 others
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers picked up the fourth-year contract options on All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and forward Tristan Thompson.

The team also exercised the third-year options on guard Dion Waiters and forward Tyler Zeller on Wednesday. All of the moves were expected and came one week before Cleveland opens the 2013-14 season at home against Brooklyn.

The options on Irving and Thompson are for the 2014-15 season. The Cavs can offer both players contract extensions starting next summer. Irving will make about $7.5 million next season and Thompson about $5.4 million.

Irving made the All-Star team in his second season, when he averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists in 59 games. The Cavs are counting on him to become more of a leader this season and lead the club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Kings: Assistant Brendan Malone resigns
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings assistant coach Brendan Malone has resigned.

The team said it accepted Malone's resignation Wednesday. It did not disclose why Malone resigned.

Malone is the father of new Kings coach Michael Malone. He has 27 years of NBA experience, including a stint as an assistant to Chuck Daly on two championship teams in Detroit. Malone also was the first head coach of the Toronto Raptors.

Michael Malone said in a statement that he was thankful to have his father on staff to help him transition into his new role. He says his father "will always be an invaluable source of counsel on all matters basketball and otherwise."

Chris Jent will assume Brendan Malone's responsibilities as the lead assistant.

Rockets: Howard is happy again
HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard says he is happy again.

The star center has put his lone disappointing and drama-filled season in Los Angeles behind him. He says he is ecstatic about joining the Houston Rockets and helping the young team compete for a championship.

Howard says: "I'm in a better place mentally, physically and spiritually now."

His delight is evident in watching him interact with his new teammates. He wears a broad smile fits of laughter are common as he chats with his fellow Rockets.

Howard spurned the Lakers to sign an $88 million deal with Houston, joining James Harden and a team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009 (see full story).

Orthopedist on Sixers' Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

Orthopedist on Sixers' Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

On Friday, Sixers fans got some bad news when the team revealed that No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

The Sixers didn't give a timetable for his return, saying that they were reviewing treatment options for the 6-foot-10 point-forward.

As a guest on CSNPhilly's Sportsnet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz gave a little insight into Simmons' injury. Schwartz is not treating Simmons, but has dealt with similar injuries. Schwartz believes the prognosis is good for the Sixers' rookie.

"The big question is where the exact location of this fracture is," Schwartz said. "That will dictate the prognosis and the treatment. If it's at the base of the fifth metatarsal, it's usually a non-surgical treatment. It's usually a cast/boot for six to eight weeks and return to play somewhere around eight weeks."

That would be great news considering Sixers fans didn't get to see Nerlens Noel the year he was drafted and are still awaiting the debut of 2014 draft pick Joel Embiid. 

Schwartz warns that the injury could be something known as a Jones fracture, which would likely require surgery and the recovery could be three to four months. The prognosis would still be good, according to Schwartz, but other NBA players have had lengthy recoveries with a similar injury.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

For more from Schwartz on Simmons' injury and possible timetable, check out the video above.

Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

As the Sixers get two bigs back from injury, another goes down.

First overall pick Ben Simmons suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot on Friday. Simmons rolled his right ankle during the team’s final training camp scrimmage at Stockton University.

Simmons underwent an X-ray and MRI on his right foot and ankle. Sixers head physician Dr. Christopher Dodson and Sixers chief medical officer and co-chief of sports medicine orthopedics at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center Dr. Jonathan Glashow reviewed the images.

Simmons’ timetable to return is to be determined. The Sixers are considering further medical evaluation and treatment options. 

Landing the No. 1 pick and selecting Simmons was the highlight of the Sixers’ next chapter. They were supposed to be healthy this time around as they entered a new phase following a 10-72 season. 

The news of the fracture adds to years of injury-related setbacks. Nerlens Noel missed his entire rookie season rehabbing from an ACL injury. After undergoing two foot injuries in as many years, the 2014 third overall pick Joel Embiid is slated to make his NBA debut Oct. 4 against the Celtics in preseason action. Jahlil Okafor is also expected to play next Tuesday for the first time since his season-ending knee surgery in March. 

The Sixers drafted Simmons to become a focal point of their system. At 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, he is a point-forward with the potential to change the look of a lineup. During training camp Brown experimented with multiple combinations, including playing Simmons at the point, shooting guard and small forward. 

Brown called the two-three combination of Simmons and Dario Saric “6-10, do-alls” (see story)

Simmons, 20, impressed his teammates during camp. In just four days of practices, it was easy for them to see how Simmons would improve the Sixers. 

“He’s really physical,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s just a big presence. When he pushes the ball, you can feel it. He makes you want to go with him. … He’s so fast and he’s so big.” 

Said Nerlens Noel, “He just plays basketball the right way. When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."

The Sixers will be faced with filling a role they haven’t actually had yet. They had gameplans of how to utilize Simmons, but they were implemented only in training camp. The Sixers have a frontcourt logjam which will allow them to plug in other players at the power forward spot. They also can fill his experimented role on the wings with traditional shooters. But his absence will eliminate versatile lineups in which players are essentially “positionless,” a Warriors-style of play that causes mismatches of size and skills. 

Even though the Sixers have an abundance of bigs, Embiid and Okafor will be monitored for minutes at the start of the season. Throw in Simmons’ injury and this creates opportunities for other frontcourt players such as Richaun Holmes and Elton Brand. With Simmons absence, there also could be more minutes for Saric to play his natural position at power forward. 

Simmons wasn’t letting himself get too far ahead as he entered his first NBA season. He has been taking each day one at a time with an excitement of the newness of his rookie year.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” Simmons said on Media Day. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

Now it remains to be seen when Simmons will play his first game.