Archive for May, 2018

The Philadelphia 76ers and Head Coach Brett Brown have agreed to a contract extension. Brown, the Sixers’ head coach since 2013, will now be under contract through the 2021-22 season.

“Brett has done a terrific job over the past several years building and cultivating a program, but the substantially positive growth in the win column these past two seasons has proven he is the right man to continue leading this team in our quest for an NBA championship,” said Colangelo. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for Brett, his family and the organization to be moving forward for several years to come.”

During Brown’s time as head coach, the Sixers have increased their win total by 42 games since the start of the 2015-16 season, a run that tied Boston (2006-08) for the largest turnaround within a three-year span in NBA history.

“Brett has done a remarkable job in helping build a family-like culture centered around player development, work ethic and a commitment to long-term winning. We made incredible strides this past season with 52 wins and a playoff run,” said Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Philadelphia 76ers Managing Partner Josh Harris. “With a dynamic young core and opportunities to further strengthen our team, the 76ers are well-positioned for the future and we’re thrilled to reach this agreement with Brett to continue as our head coach.”

“Brett’s commitment to player development and culture-building is exceptional. With this contract extension, we look forward to the 76ers’ continued growth under his leadership. He has helped develop some of the NBA’s brightest young stars, and we’re excited for what awaits as we continue to add to this talented roster,” said Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Philadelphia 76ers Managing Partner David Blitzer.

The 76ers finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 52-30, good for third place in the Eastern Conference. The third-place finish was their best since finishing first in 2000-01 and marked the team’s first postseason appearance since 2012.

Brown, the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March/April, guided the 76ers to 16 straight wins to end the season, which set an NBA record for the longest winning streak by a team heading in the playoffs. The 16-game winning streak is a single-season team record.

“I am especially grateful to my coaching staff and my players,” said Brown. “It takes a village. I feel a tremendous responsibility to owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer to help grow and lead our program. They have treated my family and me with integrity and care. They are great owners to work for. The city of Philadelphia deserves a parade and this evolution is all that is on my mind. I am excited to partner with Bryan Colangelo and Scott O’Neil to continuously strive for this elusive goal.”

Philadelphia posted an Eastern Conference-best 27.1 assists per game, a mark topped only by the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (29.3). It was the 76ers’ best such mark in a single season since posting 27.6 per contest in 1981-82.

From March 16-April 1, the 76ers posted at least 30 assists in nine straight games. The nine-game streak was a franchise record and is tied for the third-longest such streak in league history.

With an overall defensive rating of 102.0, the 76ers ranked third in the NBA and second in the Eastern Conference. The only teams with lower defensive ratings than Philadelphia, were Boston (101.5) and Utah (101.6), which both qualified for the NBA Playoffs. Anchoring the defense were NBA All-Defensive selections forward Robert Covington (First Team) and center Joel Embiid (Second Team).

Covington, Embiid, forward Dario Šarić, guard JJ Redick and guard-forward Ben Simmons made up the team’s most frequently-used starting lineup, which held a record of 32-15 in its 47 games together. This lineup outscored its opponents by a league-leading 269 points on the season. No other five-man lineup outscored its opponents by more than 169 points.

Kevin Love cleared for NBA Finals Game 1

Some good news was released by the Cavs today. Kevin Love has completed the NBA’s Concussion Return to Play Program and will be available to play tonight in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

According to ESPN.com, “Love was still in the league’s concussion protocol as of Wednesday afternoon. He was injured during a head-to-head collision with Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.”

The Cavs and Warriors begin their 2018 Finals series tonight in Oakland.

The Warriors continue to be without Andre Iguodala, but are otherwise healthy.

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward today underwent successful surgery to remove the plate and screws that were implanted following the broken fibula he suffered on October 17. Hayward’s ankle and fibula are both structurally sound, and the removal of the plate and screws was necessary as they were causing irritation to his peroneal tendons. He is scheduled to return to basketball activities in six to eight weeks, and is expected to be at full strength for the start of training camp.

Additionally, Celtics center Aron Baynesbunderwent successful nasal septoplasty surgery for a nasal fracture he suffered during Game 6 of Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals series against Cleveland. Baynes is expected to return to basketball activities in two to four weeks.

NBA Finals Game 1 between the Cavs and Warriors takes place at Golden State tomorrow night, and so far one key player is definitely out while another’s status, as of this hour, remains uncertain.

The Warriors have their stars in tact — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are good to go — but the next player on the list of key contributors, Andre Iguodala, remains out with a leg injury.

The Cavs are in worse shape. The squad is clearly led by LeBron James, but their other player who fits in the star category is Kevin Love, and as of this afternoon he hasn’t been cleared from the NBA’s “concussion protocol” program that aims to protect players and make sure it’s safe for them to play after a head injury. He still may play, but as of Wednesday afternoon he isn’t ready yet.

Without Love, the Cavs will rely on the hustle of Tristan Thompson, and scoring from a lot of players who will collectively have to step up and play the games of their lives at the Finals level.

Steve Clifford, who helped lead the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals as an assistant coach and has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the NBA and collegiate level, has been named the team’s head coach, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced today. Clifford becomes the 14th head coach in franchise history.

Clifford returns to Orlando after spending the previous five seasons (2013-18) as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. He was named Charlotte’s head coach on May 29, 2013 and compiled a record of 196-214 (.478). Clifford led Charlotte to the NBA Playoffs in two of his first four seasons at the helm after the team qualified for the postseason just once in the previous 10 seasons.

“We are very excited to welcome Steve (Clifford) back into the Magic family,” Weltman said. “Steve is widely regarded throughout the NBA community as an elite coach and developer of players at all stages. His teams have always been disciplined and prepared, and have embraced the concept of playing for each other.”

During Clifford’s first season in Charlotte (2013-14), the team saw a 22-win improvement from the previous season, finishing 43-39 and earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2009-10. In 2015-16, the Hornets went 48-34, their best record since 1999-2000. Charlotte again made the NBA Playoffs, eventually falling in seven games to third-seeded Miami.

A native of Island Falls, Maine, Clifford arrived in Charlotte after spending the 2012-13 season as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, first under Mike Brown and then under Mike D’Antoni.

Prior to the Lakers, Clifford spent five seasons as an assistant coach with Orlando from 2007-12. As a member of Stan Van Gundy’s staff, he helped the Magic to a 259-135 record (.657) and five straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals. The team won 50 games or more in four straight seasons from 2007-11, winning three consecutive Southeast Division titles (2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10).

Before going to Orlando, Clifford spent four seasons as an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets from 2003-07. He began his NBA career with the New York Knicks, serving as the team’s advance scout in 2000-01 before moving to the bench as an assistant coach from 2001-03.

Prior to the NBA, Clifford spent 15 years coaching at the collegiate level, including four years as head coach at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York from 1995-99. He posted a record of 86-36 (.705) at Adelphi, leading the school to four straight 20-win seasons, becoming the first coach in school history to record consecutive 20-win campaigns, and four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament. His winning percentage remains the second-best of the 12 head coaches in the program’s 65-year history.

Clifford began his college coaching career at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he spent four seasons as an assistant coach. He then served as an assistant coach for one year at Fairfield University, four seasons at Boston University and one season at Siena University before becoming the head coach at Adelphi. Clifford also spent one season as an assistant coach at East Carolina University in 1999-2000 before moving to the NBA.

Clifford’s first coaching experience came at Woodland High School in Maine, where he coached for two seasons after graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington with a degree in special education. He played four years for the Beavers, being named Best Defensive Player in his final two seasons while serving as team captain.

It’s always fun to see where well-known former players wind up once they hang up the sneakers. Shane Battier is doing his thing in Miami, and reportedly might have left for Detroit but will stay put. Here’s the Miami Herald with the details:

Shane Battier, the Heat’s director of basketball development and analytics, has removed himself from consideration for a high-level front office job with the Detroit Pistons, a source confirmed Tuesday.

The Pistons had shown interest in several former players - including Battier, Brent Barry and Tayshaun Prince - for a role in their revamped front office. And Battier has ties to the state, having been born and raised in Birmingham, Mich., and attending Detroit Country Day school.

Battier had interviewed with the Pistons and was asked back for a second interview.

But Battier, 39, ultimately decided to stay with the Heat

Full article

And according to Michigan Live, “The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski last week as a special adviser to owner Tom Gores. Stefanski is leading the search for a new president of basketball operations and head coach after Stan Van Gundy was dismissed on May 7.”

Like many Celtics, Marcus Smart struggled in yesterday’s Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Cavs. But overall, Smart has been a key contributor on an excellent Boston squad. He hopes to stick around. Will it work out? Free agency is a complicated thing. Here’s the Boston Herald reporting:

In an ideal world, Marcus Smart expects a small scale version of Isaiah Thomas’ mythical Brinks truck to arrive when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

His comments to ESPN following the Celtics’ Game 7 loss to Cleveland revealed a player who believes he’s worth upwards of $12 million per year this summer. In a market that is once again expected to find most teams in a constricted state, the Celtics guard’s hopes may not match what he ultimately earns.

But based on his exit interview Monday with Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, Smart said he feels good about his future as a Celtic.

“Danny emphasizes all the time how much he loves me as a player and emphasized how much they want me here. I want to be here, so that’s the plan right now,” said Smart. “I’ve been here four years. Boston’s all I know. The atmosphere that the city just gives off to you is remarkable. It’s ecstatic and it’s a good feeling. You want to feel that way.

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And we’re back to this. LeBron James in a key playoff situation surrounded mostly by role players, while a key star or two are injured. In this case it’s one player, Kevin Love. Of course, the Celtics played this season without Gordon Hayward, and are now without Kyrie Irving. They’ve gotten extremely good play from guard Terry Rozier in Irving’s place, though. And Game 7 is in Boston. So, advantage Celtics. Except, the Cavs have LeBron. But the Celtics right now have looked like the better team. Especially when playing at home. So, advantage Celtics, still, right? But… LeBron… Anyway, enjoy the game, and here’s the Boston Herald reporting on K-Love:

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol Saturday and declared out for Sunday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

The 8:30 p.m. game at TD Garden will determine the East’s representative in the NBA Finals, which open May 31 at the home of the West champion. The Rockets lead the defending champion Warriors 3-2 going into Saturday’s Game 6…

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Love was flying with the team to Boston Saturday afternoon.

Love banged heads with Jayson Tatum with 6:58 left in the second quarter and went to the locker room to be evaluated.

Full article

These days, every good NBA player is up for a huge payday once they’re past their rookie contract and have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with. As for the specific case of young Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, here’s the St Paul Pioneer Press reporting:

Karl-Anthony Towns’ potential pay day just got a little bigger.

Towns, who’s eligible to sign an extension this summer, can now earn up to $188 million on a five-year extension after earning All-NBA honors on Thursday, per ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks.

The extension would come into effect at the start of the 2019-20 season. Minnesota signed Andrew Wiggins to a five-year, $146 million max extension last offseason. The All-NBA honors mean Towns can make up to 30 percent of the Wolves’ salary cap, which is higher than the extension for which Wiggins was eligible.

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Don Nelson has advice for Warriors

It’s always worth hearing what pro coaches who have no reason to censor themselves suggest in regard to other teams’ coaching strategies. In this case, it’s a legendary former Warriors coach discussing the current squad. Here’s NBC Sports Bay Area reporting:

What would former Warriors head coach Don Nelson like to see Golden State do differently in Game 5?

“As they watch film, they gotta see that they’re (the Rockets) overplaying all their good players,” Nelson explained on KNBR 680 on Wednesday. “When that happens, you don’t want to go to halfcourt to catch, and then take you three dribbles to get into your attack area.

“You want to catch and be in your attack area upon catch … and then, when there’s pressure on you a long distance from the basket, instead of shooting long — you gotta drive that ball. You gotta create something. There’s a lot of wide open layups there that we’re taking advantage of when we drive.”

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The headline isn’t a surprise — of course a player is going to generally say good or great things about his team’s fans — but it’s still fun to read the exact wording they use to do it. The Celtics are undefeated so far at home in these playoffs. Here’s Jaylen Brown discussing the home crowd, via NESN.com:

Jaylen Brown has said before that playing at home can be like having the best sixth man in the league, and the Celtics swingman doubled down Wednesday night after Boston defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-83 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

“The energy level, we feed off the crowd,” Brown told reporters in Boston. “The crowd is like the best sixth man in the league, is what the tale says. So when we’re out there, we can definitely feel the energy the Garden is giving us. And we use it to do what we gotta do.”

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Detroit Pistons hire Ed Stefanski

Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores announced today the hiring of Ed Stefanski as a senior executive reporting directly to Mr. Gores with responsibility for helping reshape the team’s basketball operations infrastructure and strategy.

In this new role, Mr. Stefanski will assist in the searches now underway for a new head coach and new head of basketball operations; conduct a broad review of the existing structure in which the two jobs were previously combined; recommend enhancements and improvements to that structure; and act as a long-term strategic adviser to Mr. Gores and the Pistons’ ownership team.

His contract has a three-year term.

Mr. Stefanski brings nearly 20 years of NBA executive-level basketball operations experience to Detroit after serving in lead management roles with Memphis (2014-18), Toronto (2011-13), Philadelphia (2007-11) and New Jersey (1998-2007). He most recently served as executive vice president for the Memphis Grizzlies. Previously, he helped transform the Nets into the team that won back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships in 2002 and 2003.

A 1976 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Mr. Stefanski played three seasons for the Penn basketball team, where he was coached by Chuck Daly, who later would lead the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA championships, become the franchise’s all-time winningest head coach and be named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Mr. Stefanski was a member of two Ivy League Champions (1974 and 1975) and helped the Quakers reach the NCAA Tournament in both of those seasons. He was drafted by Philadelphia in the 10th round of the 1976 NBA Draft.

The L.A. Clippers have agreed to a contract extension with head coach Doc Rivers.

Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer had this to say: “Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers… We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”

Under Rivers’ leadership, the Clippers have earned the NBA’s fifth-best record (259-151, .632) during his five-year tenure. When joining the team in 2013, he led L.A. to its best record in franchise history (57-25, .695), winning a second straight Pacific Division title. The Clippers have reached the postseason in four of Rivers’ five seasons with the team. He is the winningest coach in Clippers franchise history by both total victories (259) and winning percentage (.632). Despite coaching an NBA-high 37 unique starting lineups throughout the 2017-18 season, Rivers’ squad was in playoff contention until the final homestand of the season, finishing with a 42-40 record.

“I am proud of the success we have had here over the last five seasons, but there is more work to be done,” Rivers said. “We are coming off a year where our team battled through many challenges and much adversity, proving deep talent and even greater potential. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the court to develop our players and compete with the NBA’s elite.”

Now entering his 20th season as a head coach in the NBA, Rivers is one of just two active coaches (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich the other) to win at least 800 games and his 846 career regular season wins are 14th-most in NBA history and second-most among active coaches. The 1999-2000 NBA Coach of the Year, Rivers led the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship, and has earned two Eastern Conference Championships and seven divisions titles. A 13-year NBA veteran and former Clippers point guard (1991-92), he coached in Boston from 2004-2013 and prior to that, led the Orlando Magic from 1999-2003.

The Celtics lead the Cavs 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals series. Game 4 is tonight in Cleveland. Here’s Boston.com with a Celtics roster update:

Celtics backup point guard Shane Larkin took part in a lengthy individual workout with assistant coach Jay Larranaga after Sunday’s practice, his first since spraining his left shoulder in Boston’s May 7 loss to the 76ers in the conference semifinals. On Monday, Larkin said he made it through the session with minimal soreness. Although he remains sidelined in this conference final against the Cavaliers with no return date set, he believes he is “pretty close’’ to getting back on the court.

Full article

Jaylen Brown annoyed by Game 3 effort

The Celtics played two great games vs the Cavaliers in their Eastern Conference Finals series. Then came Game 3. Here’s Boston.com reporting:

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was unimpressed with his team’s — and his own — effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the conference finals.

“I thought it was embarrassing,” the 21-year-old said during a light practice at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday. “The way we came out, the way I played.”

Brown — who scored 13 and 14 points in the opening quarters of Games 1 and 2, respectively — finished with just 10 points in Game 3. The Cavaliers constituted a pointed effort to limit him, particularly during the first quarter.

Full article

Must-win Game 3 for Cavs tonight

The Cavs, down 2-0 to the Celtics in their second round playoff series, face a must-win game in Cleveland tonight.

Well, mostly must-win.

Historically, it’s pretty must-win. But historically, few players like LeBron James have ever existed.

Boston has looked to us like the clearly superior basketball team in the first two games. However, they’ve regularly been better at home.

The Cavs in these playoffs have of course been led by LeBron (33.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 9.2 apg, 54% FG this postseason). But second-in-command Kevin Love (15.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is shooting just 40.2% in these playoffs. Kyle Korver at 10.2 ppg has been their third leading scorer, but next up is JR Smith who has hit at just a 37% FG clip.

And defensively, the entire team needs to step up.

But can they? The Cavs looked excellent in the final month of the regular season, but playoff intensity is other-level, and to be taken seriously as a team, they can’t just rely on LeBron.

Tonight’s Celtics at Cavs Game 3 is at 8:30pm ET on ESPN TV.

Will Thunder keep Corey Brewer?

The Thunder face major decisions this summer. Their roster could shake up pretty dramatically, depending on what happens with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Looking beyond those players, here’s the Oklahoman with a glance at all that is Corey Brewer:

A breakneck pace on offense. Dribbling that tenses up the muscles. Corner 3-pointers galore. Welcome to the Corey Brewer Experience.

Was the acquisition of Brewer worth it for the Thunder, and worth enough to bring back the veteran swingman for another season?

“I think the pickup of Corey late gave us some added length and size on the wing, and he did a really good job for us,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

When the Thunder acquired Brewer on March 3, it was searching for a replacement for Andre Roberson. In the 12 days following Roberson’s season-ending knee injury on Jan. 27, Thunder general manager Sam Presti and the front office didn’t make a deal before the trade deadline. For many contending teams, the price of business at the deadline was too much. First-round picks were hoarded like water in a drought, only three changing hands in a three-month span from early November to the Feb. 8 deadline.

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The Milwaukee Bucks today named Mike Budenholzer as the team’s new head coach.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mike Budenholzer as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks,” said Bucks General Manager Jon Horst. “Mike has played a key role in building successful teams throughout his career. He’s widely respected and has shown a special ability to teach and develop players. His leadership, basketball intellect, championship-level experience and communication skills make him the right fit to take our team to the next level.”

“After a thorough coaching search, it was clear that Mike was the ideal choice as we enter into a new era of Bucks Basketball,” said Bucks owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan. “Mike has demonstrated the ability to lead and communicate, and understands what it takes to build a winning culture. This move puts our organization in a terrific position as we work together toward our collective goal of sustained success and winning championships.”

Budenholzer, 48, most recently served as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks where he guided the team to a 213-197 (.520) record over the last five seasons, including four playoff appearances and a franchise best 60-22 record in 2014-15. He was named NBA Coach of the Year following the 2014-15 campaign that saw the Hawks reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

“I’m extremely grateful to the Bucks ownership group and Jon Horst to be named the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Budenholzer said. “There are terrific people throughout the organization and together we have a tremendous opportunity to take the Bucks to the next level. I look forward to working with our group of young and exciting players and helping us evolve in many ways to succeed on the court. The venues are also in place with an incredible, new state-of-the art arena and first-class Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. The tremendously supportive fans in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin are waiting and ready. Now it’s up to us to put all the pieces together, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Prior to joining the Hawks, Budenholzer spent the previous 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, including the final 17 seasons as an assistant coach. During his time with the Spurs he was part of one of the most successful eras in NBA history. As an assistant coach, he helped lead San Antonio to a league-best 908-438 (.675) regular season record and four NBA Championships (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). Budenholzer spent his first two seasons with the Spurs as a video coordinator and also served as the team’s summer league head coach on numerous occasions. He served as an advance scout for Team USA for the 2004 Olympics.

A native of Holbrook, Ariz., Budenholzer is a 1993 graduate of Pomona College where he received a bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics and was a four-year letterman in both basketball and golf. Following college, he played professionally in Denmark for the Vejle Basketball Klub, averaging a team-high 27.5 points per game during the 1993-94 season and getting his start in coaching, serving as the head coach for two different teams in the Vejle system.

We’re down to four teams still alive in the 2018 playoffs. Every possession matters. Does every heckle matter? Depends how strong the material is, and who the target is. CJ Paul, the brother of Rockets guard Chris Paul, appears to be refining his heckling skills, in Kevin Durant’s direction. Here’s the SF Chronicle reporting:

When cameras caught Kevin Durant shouting at a fan during Wednesday’s Western Conference finals game against the Rockets, it took the announcers a moment to recognize what was happening.

“Don’t wake a sleeping giant when he already has 36,” TNT announcer Chris Webber cautioned the fan.

“That’s C.J. Paul,” commentator Reggie Miller realized. “That’s Chris’ brother.”

Indeed, the man heckling Durant was the older brother of Houston star Chris Paul. And it’s not the first time he’s been caught in a court-side controversy.

Full article

Draymond Green reportedly has a bit of business on his mind during these basketball playoffs. Here’s the San Jose Mercury News reporting:

Nice to see that Draymond Green is getting some down time during the most intense portion of the Warriors schedule.

As the NBA’s MVP — Most Versatile Player — Green is pretty busy during the late regular season and the playoffs.

His versatility extends beyond the basketball court, by the way. Recently, according to TMZ Sports, Green applied to trademark the phrase “Hampton 5.” Not surprising, considering Green fancies himself an entrepreneur-in-training and has set a goal of being a billionaire before he’s 40.

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