Will Pistons stick with Stan Van Gundy?

With a huge dual role as Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations, Stan Van Gundy runs the show in Detroit. Will the team take some of his responsibilities away? Part ways altogether? With the team’s lack of success in recent seasons, anything is possible. It’s worth keeping an eye on. Here’s Michigan Live reporting:

It has been a week since the Detroit Pistons season ended and there is no word yet on the fate of Stan Van Gundy, or whether he has met with owner Tom Gores.

Gores said during the April 9 home finale that he planned on meeting with Van Gundy this week, likely at the owner’s home in the Los Angeles area. Gores said changes need to be made after the team missed the playoffs for the third time in Van Gundy’s four seasons as coach and president of basketball operations but did not mention anything specific.

Van Gundy has one year remaining on his contract.

Three teams have fired coaches thus far - the New York Knicks (Jeff Hornacek), Orlando Magic (Frank Vogel) and Charlotte Hornets (Steve Clifford).

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Justise Winslow willing to do whatever

The playoffs are not a time for friendship between foes. It’s about winning. Send the other guys home. And every winning team needs an enforcer or two. Or three. As for the Heat, here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting:

Justise Winslow is not here to win friends, not this time of year, and certainly not from the Philadelphia 76ers fans who took exception with his over-the-top defensive aggression against Ben Simmons.

“I can be the bad guy if that means winning,” the Miami Heat reserve forward said as his team prepared for Thursday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven, opening-round series that is tied 1-1.

Winslow said maximizing his fouls and physicality against Simmons has returned him to his basketball roots.

“Growing up I played on all types of teams that would just press and defend and run around with our heads chopped off,” he said on the practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena. “But this is more organized obviously in the NBA. It’s fun sometimes you get to go back to that and just go out there and make plays defensively. It’s kind of in my nature. I was brought up in AAU, high school.”

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Some Lakers offseason targets

The Lakers are loaded with young talent. Will some well-established veteran stars be added to the mix? Should they be? Here’s the OC Register (via the LA Daily News website) reporting on some of LA’s likely top free agency targets this summer:

These days, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are a bit more coy about their plans to rebuild the Lakers – funny the effect half a million dollars in tampering fines can have – but the team’s top executives remain no less certain of their ability to land superstars who can lead the Lakers back to the top of the NBA.

“We are going to find success one way or another,” Pelinka said Friday. “It is not going to be contingent on any specific decision of another player.”

The Lakers have long been expected to chase the top two free agents in this summer’s class, LeBron James and Paul George. After clearing salary cap space by trading Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson in February, Johnson and Pelinka massaged those expectations, saying their cap flexibility allowed them to add two maximum-level free agents from the classes of 2018 and ’19, and not both necessarily this year.

“We’re not going to give money away just to say we signed somebody,” Johnson said.

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Nets have not had an All-Star for years

In the NBA, players that make the All-Star team tend to be scorers above all. Or great point guards. But usually, regardless of position, it’s a player who can put points on the board. Which is pretty important. The Nets have gone years without an All-Star. For more on that, here’s the NY Post:

The Nets have not had an All-Star in four years, and it has been far longer since they had a young franchise player to build around. They’re convinced D’Angelo Russell can be that, but only if he buys in and gets more consistent.

“Nobody in this arena will question his talent. You just want him to do it consistently,” said DeMarre Carroll, 31, who has been tasked with taking Russell under his wing. “D’Angelo’s probably the closest thing we have to an All-Star on our team if he did it consistently. Me, being his big brother, being a leader, I just challenge him to come in and hit it hard every day…

The Nets haven’t had an All-Star since 32-year-old Joe Johnson in 2013-14. That might be unrealistic, but they have bet high on the 22-year-old Russell, who dealt with a knee surgery that cost him 32 straight games.

“We’ve got a long way to go, me and him,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “But he’s headed in the right direction. With each game I compare it to a rookie quarterback, second, third-year quarterback not forcing it into tight areas. His shot selection’s improving, defensively he’s getting after it. I’m just pleased. There’s a serenity to him now.”

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Kroenke Sports & Entertainment today announced the promotion of Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets President Josh Kroenke to Vice Chairman of KSE and KSE UK.

“This appointment is a well-deserved and long overdue recognition of Josh’s many contributions to not only the Avalanche and Nuggets organizations but also his role in the overall global growth of KSE and our sister companies,” said Jim Martin, KSE CEO and President. “Josh has evolved into a respected leader and innovator in sports business, and is already leading many of our organization’s investments in forward-thinking multimedia platforms and emerging technologies.”

Kroenke, 37, serves on the Board of Governors of the NHL and NBA. He is also a member of the NBA’s influential Planning Committee. In addition to his NBA and NHL responsibilities, he is an Alternate Governor for the Colorado Rapids (MLS), and sits on the board of Arsenal Football Club of the English Premier League.

“While the business of sport has transformed in recent years, we are still just getting started,” Kroenke said. “Our current management structure won’t change, and Joe Sakic of the Avalanche and Tim Connelly of the Nuggets will continue reporting directly to me. This new position allows me the opportunity and flexibility to work closer with employees, fans, sponsors and community leaders to strategize and celebrate the power of sports and entertainment.”

Kroenke’s first role at KSE was with the Nuggets in 2007, where he began learning the organization from the ground up working with departments ranging from scouting to marketing and sales. He was promoted to President of the Nuggets and Governor of the Avalanche in 2010, before assuming the additional title of President with the Avalanche in 2013.

Kroenke has held numerous leadership positions for the Nuggets and Avalanche, playing a pivotal role in hiring Coach of the Year recipients in the NBA and NHL as well as multiple NBA Executive of the Year honorees. As Alternate Governor of the Colorado Rapids, Kroenke helped bring the MLS All-Star Game to Denver in 2015 and helped the Rapids acquire U.S. World Cup goalie Tim Howard in 2016.

Here’s the New York Post with the latest on Nets guard Jeremy Lin, who is coming off of serious injury and aims to be a key Brooklyn Net in 2018-19:

Jeremy Lin aims to start for Nets next season

Jeremy Lin endured hamstring injuries his first year with the Nets and ruptured his patella tendon in this season’s opener.

But after having to actually change the way he moves — undoing 29 years of muscle memory isn’t exactly like wiping a hard drive — his marathon rehab is finally in the home stretch.

As the Nets wrap up this season, Lin said when they tip off the next he expects to resume his role as a starter and leader — even in a crowded backcourt that includes D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.

“I came here having the same role. I don’t expect it to change,” Lin said. “If it does, it’ll be something we communicate over. But I’m not even thinking that far in advance. I’m thinking about my health, about moving properly. And I have full confidence if I’m doing that, everything will be [OK]. Everything will make up for lost time, and we’ll see what I’d envisioned my time in Brooklyn being.”

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No Joel Embiid in Sixers vs Heat Game 1

The Playoffs begin Saturday. The Sixers enter the postseason on a 16-game winning streak. But the health status of Joel Embiid continues to be a confounding issue. Here’s the Palm Beach Post reporting:

The Sixers will start the playoffs Saturday night without starting center Joel Embiid.

“[Embiid] will not play in Game 1,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said on the Dan Patrick Show on Friday morning. “He will not play in Game 1 and from that point going forward, we’ll figure some stuff out. Unless something remarkable happens, Dan, I don’t plan on him playing in Game 1.”

The Sixers officially ruled out Embiid for Game 1 on Friday afternoon.

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And here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

Embiid has missed the past eight games after sustaining the injury and a concussion in a March 28 game against the New York Knicks.

Journeyman big man Amir Johnson has been starting in place of Embiid, with the 76ers undefeated in the interim, with Philadelphia ending the regular season on a 16-game winning streak.

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Hornets fire coach Steve Clifford

Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has relieved Steve Clifford of his head coaching duties.

“I want to thank Coach Clifford for his contributions to the Hornets,” said Kupchak. “I know he has worked incredibly hard on behalf of the organization and we wish him the best moving forward. The search for a new coach will begin immediately.”

Clifford was named Charlotte head coach on May 29, 2013. He finished with a regular-season record of 196-214 (.478 winning percentage). Charlotte qualified for the NBA Playoffs in 2013 and 2016. The Hornets finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 36-46 record.

Per the Charlotte Observer, “Clifford acknowledged Wednesday that this season’s Hornets failed to improve over the course of the season, as his previous teams did, and that the group lacked the “spirit” of previous teams on his watch. Clifford said he had a say in every player acquisition that assembled this roster, so he took responsibility for its failure.”

More from the Observer: “Clifford’s job performance was complicated this season by a health crisis: He missed 5 ½ weeks of the season treating severe headaches related to sleep deprivation. Working with a neurologist, Clifford has retrained himself to sleep at least 6 ½ hours a night; previously he wasn’t getting more than five hours of sleep.”

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis as a frontcourt duo. Big names to have alongside each other. Then Cousins got hurt. His season was over. Yet the Pelicans stayed strong and made the playoffs. And have looked just fine. Here’s The Advocate reporting:

As DeMarcus Cousins reached at his torn Achilles, roiling in pain, many in the basketball world erased the New Orleans Pelicans from playoff contention.

Nearly three months later, those same Pelicans unleashed their refurbished brand to seal up the third-best record in franchise history. They won five consecutive games to finish the regular season, including a road victory over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors before blowing out the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs to achieve the team’s best Western Conference finish since 2008-09.

Revamped. Revitalized. Renewed.

Those three words sum up the whirlwind renovation New Orleans underwent, piecing together a 21-13 record in the wake of Cousins’ devastating injury. An increased reliance on pace and defensive versatility allowed the Pelicans to earn a tie for the West’s fourth-best record, the No. 6 seed and a first-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Jazz enjoying great recent success

The Jazz have been a hot team for a big chunk of the season, and today a bunch of league awards confirmed recognition of that fact. Here’s the Deseret News reporting:

The NBA announced Thursday that Quin Snyder and Donovan Mitchell have been named the Western Conference Coach and Rookie of the Month for games played in March and April.

The honors came one day after the Jazz finished the regular season 48-34 to earn the fifth seed in the Western Conference versus the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. Action is set to begin Sunday, April 15 at 4:30 p.m. MT.

Utah went 17-4 under Snyder’s guidance in March and April — tying the Houston Rockets for the Western Conference’s best mark.

The Jazz also led the league in net rating (13.2), defensive rating (95.9), opponents’ scoring (95.4) and opponents’ field goal percentage (42.5) throughout that stretch.

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Knicks President Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry announced today that Jeff Hornacek has been relieved of his head coaching duties.

Mills and Perry stated: “Jeff is a true professional who has worked tirelessly for this organization the last two seasons. We sincerely appreciate his efforts and considerable contributions to the team and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

In addition, Associate Head Coach Kurt Rambis has been relieved of his coaching duties.

Mills and Perry continued: “Kurt has been a big part of the Knicks over these last four seasons, as both an associate head coach and interim head coach. We thank him for his dedication to New York and wish him the best moving forward.”

Per the New York Post, “Hornacek had one season left on his contract and the writing was on the wall — with the president stone silent virtually the entire season regarding his head coach. Mills and Perry now will embark on finding the Knicks their 11th coach since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2001. Mills is expected to meet the media Thursday afternoon to discuss the firing. Sources indicate the Knicks are expected to interview, among others, Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Kidd and David Blatt. Doc Rivers will be a candidate if he doesn’t return to the Clippers.”

Hornacek joined the Knicks as the 28th head coach in franchise history on June 2, 2016 and posted an overall 60-104 (.366) record over two seasons.

Per the New York Daily News, “Before Wednesday’s game, Hornacek made a pitch to return for the final year of his three-year contract, expressing belief that the foundation he helped build will soon “blossom.” Knicks brass evidently did not agree, as Hornacek, who was hired by Mills and Phil Jackson in the summer of 2016, helmed the team to his second straight disappointing season.”

Orlando Magic fire coach Frank Vogel

Orlando Magic fire coach Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel has been dismissed as head coach of the Orlando Magic, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced today.

“We would like to thank Frank for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” said Weltman. “We appreciate the sacrifices he made as head coach and certainly wish him and his family well going forward.”

Vogel was named the Magic’s 13th head coach on May 20, 2016. During his two seasons in Orlando, the Magic compiled a record of 54-110 (.329 win pct.). The Magic finished the 2017-18 season with a 25-57 record.

Prior to joining the Orlando Magic, Vogel served as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 2011-16 and has a career NBA regular season record of 304-291 (.511 win pct.).

Per the Orlando Sentinel, “Buoyed by far above-average shooting, the Magic opened their 2017-18 season with an 8-4 record. But the team struggled once its schedule toughened and it faced a staggering array of injuries to key players. From Nov. 11 through Jan. 12, Orlando posted a 4-27 record, and its playoff hopes evaporated.”

More from the Sentinel: “Vogel and his supporters can make a case that the roster he inherited upon his arrival in 2016 wasn’t good enough to contend for a playoff spot. Also, few substantial changes were made following the 2016-17 season. Making matters worse, during the 2017-18 season, Magic players combined to miss a total of 227 games due to injuries or illnesses.”

Wizards sign Ty lawson

Wizards sign Ty lawson

The Washington Wizards have signed free agent guard Ty Lawson.

“Ty’s experience and ability will give us extra depth in the backcourt during the playoffs,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld. “He’s a veteran player who can score and distribute while bringing additional postseason experience.”

Lawson has averaged 12.7 points (.460 FG%, .359 3FGt%, .770 FT%), 6.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 29.2 minutes per game in 551 contests (345 starts) over his eight NBA seasons with the Denver Nuggets (2009-15) Houston Rockets (2016), Indiana Pacers (2016) and Sacramento Kings (2016-17). During his time with the Nuggets, Lawson appeared in 416 contests (307 starts) over six seasons, averaging 14.2 points, 6.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He also averaged 19.0 points and 6.0 assists during the 2012 NBA Playoffs and 21.3 points and 8.0 assists in the 2013 NBA Playoffs (and helped the team reach the playoffs in his first five seasons).

His best overall season with the Nuggets came in 2013-14 when he averaged 17.6 points, 8.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 62 games. Lawson averaged a career-high 9.6 assists per game in 75 games for the Nuggets during the 2014-15 season. He was originally selected with the 18th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft before being traded to the Nuggets on draft night.

A native of nearby Clinton, MD, Lawson most recently played this year with the Shandong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), where he averaged 25.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 46 games. He scored 55 points for the Lions on February 12.

The Nuggets and Timberwolves play in Minnesota tonight. The winner makes the NBA playoffs. The loser has to go home and stare at a wall. Or they can watch TV. Maybe eat something. Or hop on a plane and fly to an exotic overseas beach destination. Which sounds cool. But making the playoffs is better. Beaches can wait.

The Western conference playoff seeding situation is complicated. Regarding these two teams, here are the possibilities:

If the Nuggets win tonight, they will either be the 6 or 7 West seed.

If the Timberwolves win, they’ll be the 6, 7 or 8 West seed.

Why? Because a big stack of West playoff teams have almost identical records, and therefore tiebreaker rules come into effect.

Here’s what’s set in the West through Tuesday:
Rockets are the 1-seed.
Warriors are the 2-seed.
Blazers or Jazz are the 3-seed.
The rest will be determined tonight.

InsideHoops.com will turn things things up for the 2018 playoffs. Roll with us daily.

The Toronto Raptors have converted guard Lorenzo Brown to a standard NBA contract. Brown, who signed a two-way contract July 25, 2017, is now eligible to participate for the Raptors in the playoffs.

Brown has appeared in 14 games with the Raptors this season. Averaging 2.3 points, 1.1 rebounds and 9.8 minutes. He scored a season-high 11 points Apr. 9 at Detroit and recorded a season-best five assists Jan. 11 vs. Cleveland.

Brown was selected as the 2017-18 MVP of the NBA G League on Apr. 10 after averaging team highs of 18.8 points, 8.9 assists and 1.78 steals in 32 games (all starts) for Raptors 905. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds and shot .468 from the field. Raptors 905 (31-19) went 25-7 with Brown in the lineup.

The Knicks came into the season with a fairly limited roster. Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr, and a supporting cast. Then Porzingis suffered a season-ending injury. So it was bound to be a fairly lost season. Making it tough to judge the job a head coach does. So what’s Jeff Hornacek’s future in NYC look like? Here’s the New York Post reporting:

Hornacek will take the sidelines Wednesday with a 59-104 Knicks coaching record to face the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Then, Hornacek will likely face the firing line.

Lacking a vote of confidence from president Steve Mills or contract-extension talks, Hornacek looks like he is being set up as the fall guy for another depressing campaign that in some ways couldn’t have gone worse.

And the irony is the 28-53 record — already two games worse than last season’s final 31-51 mark — isn’t the coach’s fault. The Knicks could do worse — and possibly will — than Hornacek.

“John Wooden couldn’t win with this team,” one NBA scout told The Post. “But he’s just an OK coach — nothing special. A good person and smart basketball man, but there is more to the job. Both places [including Phoenix], there’s been some lack of discipline — whether that’s his fault or not.”

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The best thing teams who have clinched playoff spots can do in the final week of the regular season is stay healthy. Second best is to win or lose in order to best help themselves in regard to possible first round playoff opponents. But that first thing is most important. Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on a key Sixer:

Dario Saric had a game-ending injury on the first play of Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.

The 76ers power forward suffered a cut upper lip and a chipped left central incisor (big tooth) when he collided with Hawks power forward John Collins 13 seconds into the game. After falling to the court, Saric got up and immediately jogged to the locker room.

This was Saric’s third game back after missing the previous three with cellulitis in his right elbow.

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Jaylen Brown scores 21 first quarter points vs Wizards

Jaylen Brown is going to be a very important player for the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs, and he showed why Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards.

Brown dropped 21 points in the first quarter with most of his damage coming from the 3-point line, where he connected on five of seven attempts. He also shot 4-for-4 from the free throw line, while adding three steals and a rebound.

NESN

On Raptors success this season

Maybe you could see it in Casey’s reaction to C.J. Miles’ great performance in a win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, when Miles made five of 10 three-pointers.

“It’s huge. We need more. We need more,” said Casey, speaking of Miles’ good gunning. “If we’re going to be a three-point-shooting team, we’ve got to be a three-point-making team … It’s great to see C.J. (shooting well). We need C.J.’s threes with the second unit, because I think he makes the second unit click.”

A big part of Toronto’s offensive transformation this season has started from behind the arc — and not only, as Casey said, with Miles spreading the floor for Toronto’s vaunted bench mob. A year after ranking among the league’s bottom 10 teams in three-pointers attempted and made — a behind-the-times stat that had president Masai Ujiri demanding change — this year the Raptors are chucking at franchise record-shattering levels. Heading into Monday’s games only one playoff-bound team had shot more threes than the Raptors (that’d be Houston). Only two playoff-bound teams had made more threes than Toronto (Houston and Cleveland).

Toronto Star

Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan announced today that the team has named Mitch Kupchak President of Basketball Operations & General Manager.

Kupchak, who brings more than 30 years of NBA front office experience to Charlotte, including 17 seasons as an NBA General Manager, will be responsible for leading the organization’s day-to-day basketball operations.

“In every role and in every stop during his tenure in the NBA, Mitch Kupchak has brought the highest levels of success to his teams. He’s a proven winner,” Jordan said. “Having won championships as both a player and an executive, we have confidence that Mitch is the right person to lead our basketball operations, build a winning culture and bring sustained success to our organization, for our fans and for the city of Charlotte.”

“I’m excited to join the Hornets organization and I want to thank Michael for this opportunity,” said Kupchak. “I am well aware of the passion for basketball in Charlotte and throughout the entire state of North Carolina‎, and I am confident that we can build the Hornets into a successful team that our great fans can be proud of.”

Kupchak joins the Hornets after a very distinguished and successful career as a front office executive and player with the Los Angeles Lakers. He began working in the team’s front office in 1986 under two NBA Hall-of-Famers: legendary NBA executive Jerry West and Bill Sharman, the first person to win a championship as a player, coach and executive. Kupchak was named general manager in 2000, serving in that capacity for 17 seasons. During Kupchak’s tenure as general manager, the Lakers won four NBA Championships and six Western Conference Championships, posting a 747-607 (.552) regular-season record and winning 63 percent (111-66) of their postseason contests.

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