Andre Roberson steps up big in Game 4

The Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference Finals series. OKC shooting guard Andre Roberson, who generally plays as limited a role a starter on a good team can play, stepped up in dramatic fashion and was one of the best players on either squad. It was impressive. Here’s the Oklahoman reporting:

Andre Roberson steps up for Thunder in Game 4

Klay Thompson bricked a 3-pointer on one end, the sharpshooter drawing a rare blank as he tried to snipe his shell-shocked Warriors back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit.

Eighteen seconds later, Andre Roberson dropped in a corner 3 on the other, the non-shooter nailing a 3 for a fifth consecutive game, bumping the Thunder’s commanding lead to 16. It soon jumped to 18 to 20 and beyond, the cushion growing as Roberson’s point total kept rising…

“I’m a basketball player, man,” Roberson said, a bit peeved at the notion that he’s a one-sided liability. “I can go out there and do it all.”

His stat-line on Tuesday night bore that out: 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks – becoming the only player in the past four seasons to reach those numbers against Golden State. In his 40 minutes, OKC outscored the Warriors by 25.

There were very few bright spots for the Warriors on Tuesday, but if you forced us to pick one it was awesome third quarter play from shooting guard Klay Thompson, helped make a game out of this thing. For a stretch, at least. But the Thunder were collectively the clearly stronger squad last night. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle reporting:

Klay Thompson erupts in 3rd quarter but Warriors still lose Game 4

Thompson understandably saw himself as partly culpable for his team’s 72-53 halftime deficit. He scored all of four points in the half, on just four attempts from the field, and spent more time than usual on the bench because of foul trouble (he picked up his third with 7:55 left in the second quarter).

He emerged from the locker room with fresh bravado, essentially winging it — and scored 19 consecutive Warriors points during a scintillating, third-quarter stretch. By the time Thompson’s personal run ended, his team trailed only 80-74 and harbored genuine hopes of an epic comeback…

He finished with a team-high 26 points, on 9-for-17 shooting.

Draymond Green continues to struggle

The champs are in trouble. After getting blown out in Game 3 and beaten fairly soundly in Game 4, the Warriors are down 3-1 to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. One Warriors in particular who has struggled in dramatic fashion has been Draymond Green. Here’s CSN Bay Area reporting:

Draymond Green continues to struggle

Green’s performance in a 118-94 loss to Oklahoma City in Game 4 brought neither him nor the Warriors any comfort.

Game 3 was the worst of his four-year career, and Game 4 was about as bad.

“I don’t think the last 48 hours affected me,” Green said. “But I think it’s the first time in my life that I didn’t respond to critics. That’s what’s kind of been my story.”

A second-round draft pick in 2012 that was selected for the All-Star team in February played 38 minutes. The sum of his production was 6 points (1-of-7 shooting from the field), 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, one blocked shot – and six turnovers.

Warriors forward Draymond Green escaped suspension for his kick to Thunder center Steven Adams, though he still needs to be extra careful for the rest of the playoffs, as the Oklahoman explains:

Draymond Green must still be extra careful for rest of playoffs

On Monday, the Golden State Warriors forward was fined $25,000 and his Flagrant “1” foul on Thunder center Steven Adams in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals was upgraded to a Flagrant “2”. The ruling puts Green dangerously close to missing a postseason game, but keeps him eligible for Tuesday’s game at Chesapeake Energy Arena…

Green said Monday that his first thought was the Flagrant “1” was going to get rescinded and that he wouldn’t be facing a suspension…

Green already had a Flagrant “1” foul (worth one point) entering the series with the Thunder. Add that to the upgrade to a Flagrant “2” (worth two points), and Green is one point away from an automatic one-game suspension. Under NBA rules, if a player’s playoff total exceeds three points, he’s suspended for the game after his point total has exceeded three.

Draymond Green not suspended for Game 4

Draymond Green not suspended for Game 4

Warriors forward Draymond Green has many talents, and one of them appears to be nailing Thunder center Steven Adams in a painful place during playoff games.

It seemed possible that the league might suspend Draymond Green for Game 4, but their decision, revealed around 7:30pm ET Monday night, was to fine Draymond Green $25k and upgrade the foul on him to a Flagrant 2.

The incident occurred with 5:57 remaining in the second quarter of the Thunder’s 133-105 win over the Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on May 22 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“After a thorough investigation that included review of all available video angles and interviews with the players involved and the officials working the game, we have determined that Green’s foul was unnecessary and excessive and warranted the upgrade and fine,” said Kiki VanDeWeghe, the league’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“During a game, players – at times – flail their legs in an attempt to draw a foul,” VanDeWeghe continued, “but Green’s actions in this case warranted an additional penalty.”

The Thunder currently lead the Western Conference Finals 2-1. Game 4 will be played in OKC Tuesday night.

LeBron James now 3rd in all-time NBA playoff total assists

The Cavs lost to the Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight, but at least LeBron James reached another career milestone, passing Jason Kidd in total playoff assists:

1) Magic Johnson
2) John Stockton
3) LeBron James
4) Jason Kidd
5) Tony Parker
6) Larry Bird
7) Steve Nash
8) Scottie Pippen
9) Kobe Bryant
10) Michael Jordan

Unlikely that Joel Embiid will play summer league

Sixers center Joel Embiid hasn’t played in an NBA game yet, though it’s expected he’ll finally make his debut this coming season (2016-17). But what about summer league? Is it worth it to include him in something that mostly involves players that aren’t even on the Sixers’ regular season roster and merely trying to make the league? Probably not.

Here’s CSN Philly reporting:

CEO Scott O’Neil was a guest on Philly Sports Talk Live last night and put things in a bit more measured tone.

“We’re going to take every percaution you’d imagine us to take and be resonsible,” O’Neil told Michael Barkann. “I think Bryan [Colangelo] has been on record saying it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see him in Summer League and I’ll say that’s a good assessment.”

It would be fun to see him in summer league, just to see him out there, but from a bball development standpoint there’s no reason for him to do it. So, there’s nothing bad about this. What actually matters is that a hopefully healthy Embiid finally begins his career.

And as for the Sixers beyond Embiid, they won the Draft Lottery on Tuesday and now get to decide which player is worth making the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft.

Brian Shaw may become Lakers assistant coach

Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton will become head coach of the Lakers once the Warriors’ playoff run concludes. Golden State is currently tied 1-1 with the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, with Game 3 on Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Shaw may soon become Walton’s lead assistant:

Shaw’s experience as a head coach, an assistant coach and as a championship player were the primary reasons why Walton wanted him on his staff, according to several NBA officials who are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Shaw won three championships with the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002, when he played on the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant teams.

Shaw has previous head coaching experience and is considered one of the better assistants available.

Rockets coaching search update

The Rockets finished 41-41 this past regular season and then were quickly tossed out of the playoffs. Some roster changes are needed. But first, they need a head coach. Here’s ESPN.com with the latest:

The Houston Rockets, after focusing their coaching search on Mike D’Antoni for much of the past week, have opted to broaden the search.

The Rockets, according to league sources, have scheduled a Monday interview with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach James Borrego, who is a finalist for the Memphis Grizzlies’ coaching vacancy.

ESPN reported earlier this week that Borrego and Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale had emerged as strong contenders for the Grizzlies’ post following the decision by Frank Vogel, Memphis’ top target, to take the Orlando Magic job.

Now that his legendary basketball career has wrapped up, Kobe Bryant is finding fun new things to do and reportedly tossing ideas around with some of the biggest bigshots around. Here’s the AP via the OC Register reporting:

Kobe Bryant getting advice from Hollywood bigshots

Kobe Bryant is getting advice from Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Jerry Bruckheimer as he redirects his competitive drive from professional basketball to his publishing and production company.

One month after retiring from the NBA, the Lakers star has a new daily routine. “I get up early and I train and I work out. Then I go to the office,” Bryant said in an interview.

He spends much of his day “kicking around ideas” with his staff of 10 full-time employees at Kobe Inc. in Newport Beach — and calls up those Hollywood heavyweights for guidance.

“I mean those are like unfair advantages,” Bryant said, laughing.

Timberwolves announce mass firings

Timberwolves announce mass firings

Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden this afternoon announced changes in the team’s front office and coaching structure:

“Effective immediately, the following individuals will be relieved of their respective duties: previous General Manager Milt Newton, Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Babcock, Vice President of Sports Performance Arnie Kander, Assistant Coach Sid Lowe, Director of Sports Performance Koichi Sato, Manager of Team Travel/Facilities Coordinator Bill Hohenecker, Head of Video Department and Manager of Basketball Technology Brice Long and Scouts Milton Barnes and Jason Hervey.”

“We would like to thank all of these individuals for their contributions to our organization and wish them well in their future endeavors.”

The National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association (NBATA) has named Memphis Grizzlies Head Athletic Trainer and Vice President of Player Care Drew Graham as its 2015-16 Joe O’Toole Athletic Trainer of the Year. The award is chosen each year for exemplary achievement or outstanding service to the NBATA.

Graham, who recently concluded his 10th season as the Grizzlies’ head athletic trainer, has been on the executive committee and foundation committee for the last four years.

“Every year the NBATA recognizes a Head Athletic Trainer for exemplary achievement or outstanding service to the NBA and the NBATA,” said Kevin Johnson, Chairman of the NBATA and Head Athletic Trainer of the Philadelphia 76ers. “Drew Graham’s professionalism, knowledge and work ethic has made him our Trainer of the Year.”

Graham joined the Grizzlies in 2006 after working the previous six seasons (2000-06) as an assistant athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach with the New Jersey Nets. In addition to his NBA experience, Graham served three years (1997-2000 as the director of athletic training at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex and three years (1994-97) as an athletic trainer for the National Football League’s Cincinnati Bengals. Before beginning his career in professional sports, Graham worked for four years at The Ohio State University as an athletic trainer for men’s hockey (1994-95), football (1993-94) and baseball (1992-93).

“When there is an award given from your peers who know what your day and season consists of, there really isn’t anything more special,” Graham said. “I want to thank the NBATA, the Memphis Grizzlies and the entire medical staff I work with every day. Without their help, I wouldn’t have received this award.”

The award is named for Joe O’Toole, the long-time former head athletic trainer for the Atlanta Hawks who is regarded as the father of the NBATA.

2015-16 NBA All-Rookie teams announced

2015-16 NBA All-Rookie teams announced

NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks have been unanimously selected to the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today. Both players received all 130 First Team votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada.

Joining Towns and Porzingis on the First Team are the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker (103 First Team votes, 231 points), the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (73 First Team votes, 186 points) and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor (71 First Team votes, 186 points).

The NBA All-Rookie Second Team consists of the Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow (151 points, 44 First Team votes), the Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell (142 points, 25 First Team votes), the Nuggets’ Emmanuel Mudiay (140 points, 35 First Team votes), the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner (139 points, 28 First Team votes) and the Sacramento Kings’ Willie Cauley-Stein (50 points, two First Team votes).

The voting panel was asked to select five players for the First Team and five players for the Second Team at any position. Two points were awarded for First Team votes and one point for Second Team votes.

Towns, the No. 1 overall pick of NBA Draft 2015, led all rookies in scoring (18.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg, eighth in the NBA) and ranked second in blocks (1.68 bpg, 10th in the NBA) – making him the league’s only player to reach those averages in the three categories. The unanimous Rookie of the Year also ranked third in the league in double-doubles (51) and eighth in field goal percentage (54.2). Towns, one of six NBA players to start all 82 games, won all six NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards.

Porzingis was third among rookies in scoring (14.3 ppg), second in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and first in blocks (1.86 bpg). A three-time Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month winner, Porzingis became the first Knicks rookie to score at least 1,000 points in a season since Mark Jackson in 1987-88.

Booker finished fourth among first-year players in scoring (13.8 ppg), second in three-pointers made (99) and first in free throw percentage (84.0). Five of the 19-year-old guard’s rookie-high six 30-point games came after the All-Star break, when he averaged 19.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 28 games.

Jokic, the 41st pick in NBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm, made his NBA debut this season and averaged 10.0 points (eighth among rookies), 7.0 rebounds (tied for third), 2.4 assists (seventh) and 0.99 steals (fourth) while shooting 51.2 percent from the field (fourth).

The NBA All-Rookie First Team is rounded out by Okafor, who ranked second among first-year players in scoring (17.7 ppg), tied for third in rebounding (7.0 rpg) and fourth in blocks (1.15 bpg).

Kelly Olynyk undergoes shoulder surgery

Kelly Olynyk undergoes shoulder surgery

The Boston Celtics announced today that Kelly Olynyk yesterday underwent a successful right shoulder arthroscopy for recurrent subluxations. He will begin an immediate rehabilitation program and the time frame for his return to basketball activities has not yet been determined.

Olynyk, who completed his third year with the team, averaged 10.0 points, including shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 20.2 minutes per game during the 2015-16 regular season.

The 7’0” forward/center recorded a season-high 28 points on 11-21 (.524) shooting from the field, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block on December 11, 2015 against the Golden State Warriors.

Blazers and coach Terry Stotts agree to contract extension

As expected, the Portland Trail Blazers and head coach Terry Stotts have agreed to a contract extension.

“Terry has been an outstanding partner and this extension represents our desire to build a model of stability and consistency,” said Olshey.

Stotts completed his fourth season as head coach of the Trail Blazers in 2015-16, going 44-38 to solidify his third consecutive winning season and third straight postseason berth, despite not returning four of five starters from 2014-15. Portland defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons.

“I am very pleased that we were able to agree on a contract extension and look forward to continuing the progress that we have made,” said Stotts. “As an organization, we have developed a culture and continuity that is exciting to be a part of, and I could not be more appreciative of the players and coaching staff.

“There is not a better fan base in the NBA. Jan and I love Portland and are extremely happy to call it our home.”

Runner-up for the 2015-16 NBA Coach of the Year award, Stotts was named the NBA’s Western Conference Coach of the Month in February of 2016 after the Trail Blazers finished the month with a 9-2 record.

In 2013-14, Stotts led the Trail Blazers to a 54-win season, marking the largest improvement in franchise history and the sixth-best record all-time. Portland won its first playoff series in 14 seasons, defeating the Houston Rockets in six games.

A 21-year coaching veteran, Portland introduced Stotts as the franchise’s 14th head coach on August 7, 2012. He has compiled a 182-146 (.555) record in four seasons at the helm in Portland, good for fifth-most wins in team history, and has a 297-314 (.486) overall NBA coaching record with Atlanta, Milwaukee and Portland.

Nate McMillan is new Pacers head coach

Nate McMillan is new Pacers head coach

The Indiana Pacers announced Monday they have named Nate McMillan as their head coach.

McMillan has spent the last three seasons as Associate Head Coach for the Pacers under Frank Vogel.

“I truly believe Nate is the right coach for us at this time,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird. “When I heard he was interested, I got in touch with him, met with him and in our conversation I came away with all the confidence in the world in Nate to lead our franchise to where we want to go. His experience as a player, head coach and assistant coach in the NBA are valuable assets for us.”

“I want to thank Larry, Herb Simon and the Pacers for this opportunity, which is a great opportunity,” said McMillan. “I’ve been around this franchise three years and understand what the expectations are and look forward to working hard to try to meet them. We have a good team and good base to build from. I’m very anxious to get started.”

The 51-year-old (8/3/64) McMillan has a vast basketball background as a player and a coach. After playing collegiately at North Carolina State, McMillan was drafted by Seattle (30th overall) in the 1986 NBA Draft. He played his entire 12-year career with the Sonics and had his number (10) retired. He is second in franchise history in assists and steals and ranks in the top 10 in eight other categories. He was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team twice (1994 and ’95) and led the league in steals in the 94-95 season with 2.96 per game.

After his playing days, McMillan was a Seattle assistant coach for two years and became the interim coach in 2000. He remained the Sonics’ coach until 2005 and then became Portland’s head coach until he was let go in March, 2012. In 2008-09, he led the Trail Blazers to a 54-28 record, the sixth-best record in franchise history. McMillan compiled a 478-452 (.514) record as a head coach for both teams. He also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team where he won gold medals in the 2006 FIBA World Championships, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. McMillan was also inducted into the National Junior College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 after playing at Chowan College before transferring to North Carolina State.

Karl-Anthony Towns wins 2015-16 NBA Rookie of Year award

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who set franchise rookie records in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage, has unanimously won the 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, the NBA announced today. The 7-foot center becomes the fifth unanimous winner since 1984 and joins teammate Andrew Wiggins, the 2014-15 honoree, to make the Timberwolves the first team with back-to-back winners in 42 years.

Towns received all 130 first-place votes (650 points) from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada, joining Damian Lillard (2012-13 season), Blake Griffin (2010-11), David Robinson (1989-90) and Ralph Sampson (1983-84) as unanimous winners in the last 32 years.

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis finished second with 363 points, and Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic was third with 59 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

The No. 1 overall pick in NBA Draft 2015, Towns led all rookies in scoring (18.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg, eighth in the NBA) and ranked second in blocks (1.68 bpg, 10th in the NBA) – making him the league’s only player to reach those averages in the three categories. He also ranked third in the NBA in double-doubles (51) and eighth in field goal percentage (54.2). Towns was one of six players in the league to start all 82 games.

The 20-year-old Towns swept all six NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards on his way to becoming the seventh rookie in NBA history to average at least 18 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks and shoot 50 percent or better from the field. Since blocks became an official statistic in 1973-74, the other players to post those numbers are Sampson (1983-84), Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-85), Robinson (1989-90), Alonzo Mourning (1992-93), Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93) and Tim Duncan (1997-98).

Before last season, the Timberwolves had never had a Kia NBA Rookie of the Year winner since joining the NBA for the 1989-90 season. With Towns and Wiggins now honored in back-to-back years, the Timberwolves are the first team with consecutive winners since the Buffalo Braves in 1972-73 (Bob McAdoo) and 1973-74 (Ernie DiGregorio).

We knew it was coming: Sponsor ad logos appearing on NBA jerseys. On April 15, 2016, the NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of jersey sponsorships as part of a three-year pilot program. And now the Philadelphia 76ers have broken ground.

The Sixers and StubHub have announced the first jersey patch sponsorship among major sports leagues in American history, making the 76ers the first NBA team to declare a jersey sponsor. The StubHub patch will feature the brand’s recently launched new logo and appear on the front left of Sixers’ game jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season. Starting in the 2017-18 season StubHub’s jersey patch will be included on all jerseys sold at Sixers’ home games.

“This marks another groundbreaking first for the Philadelphia 76ers and StubHub. Our brands are now inextricably linked as we create lifelong memories for our fans in Philadelphia and around the world,” said Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil. “Our partnership with StubHub continues to generate progressive and forward-thinking platforms created to improve the fan experience and advance our industry. The essence of our relationship with StubHub is our shared culture and ambition to innovate, which drives us to reimagine traditional partnership activation and continually ask, ‘What if?’”

“Since day one, StubHub has been a pioneer and innovator within the live entertainment ecosystem and we could not be more excited to join the Philadelphia 76ers in making history with this ground-breaking partnership,” said StubHub President Scott Cutler. “The Philadelphia 76ers are not only a beloved global brand, but they also serve as incredible partners and collaborators for StubHub – and we look forward to continuously innovating and improving the fan experience together.”

It’s safe to say that other NBA teams will follow suit. It makes sense. It’s extra revenue, sitting there waiting for teams to take it. And presumably, most squads will take advantage.

Game 7 of the Heat-Raptors series is Sunday afternoon. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on a key Heat coaching decision from the series:

Justise Winslow playing big role for Heat

Justise Winslow figures the last time he played center was in high school. Maybe even earlier.

But there he was on Friday night, during an elimination game in the Eastern Conference semifinals taking the opening jump for the Heat as they tried to keep their season alive against the Raptors.

And as he has throughout the season, the rookie showed the kind of moxie that has earned him praise from teammates and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who said he and Winslow shared a laugh after the coach opted not to play the former Duke standout in Game 3 of the series, a game Toronto won 95-91.

Since that decision, Winslow has responded with a 9-point, 4-rebound performance in Game 4, an 8-point, 7-rebound performance in Game 5, and then a 12-point, 3-rebound performance in Game 6, his first career postseason start and a game the Heat won 103-91 to force Sunday’s deciding Game 7.

Thunder reach West Conference Finals

The Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the 2016 Western Conference Finals after defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 113-99, Thursday night, winning the second-round series 4-2. The third-seeded Thunder will now play the first-seeded Golden State Warriors in Oklahoma City’s fourth Western Conference Finals appearance in the past six seasons.

The Thunder and Warriors will face off starting on Monday, May 16, in Oakland at 8 p.m. (CT) followed by Game 2 on Wednesday, May 18, at 8 p.m. (CT) at Oracle Arena.

The series will then shift to Oklahoma City for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will take place on Sunday, May 22, at 7 p.m. (CT) and Game 4 on Tuesday, May 24, at 8 p.m. (CT) at Chesapeake Energy Arena. If necessary, Games 5, 6, and 7 will be played at alternating sites beginning with a road contest on Thursday, May 26, followed by Game 6 in Oklahoma City on Saturday, May 28, and concluding with Game 7 in Oakland on Monday, May 30. The game times for Games 5, 6 and 7 will all be 8 p.m. (CT).

The defending champion Warriors will be considered the favorites in the series, but OKC poses a very respectable threat. And from an entertainment perspective, the point guard matchup of Russell Westbrook versus Stephen Curry makes the series must-watch. Kevin Durant against anybody is also top-notch viewing. It’ll be interesting to see who Golden State sticks on Durant. It could be Harrison Barnes for some stretches but Draymond Green for others. Like the point guard matchup, Green against Durant would also be must-watch — at least when Durant’s the guy with the ball.

We’ll of course post more on the series this weekend.

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