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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Jaylen Brown praises Boston playoff crowd

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.

Celtics guard Shane Larkin may return soon

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.

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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.

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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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Bucks hire Mike Budenholzer as head coach

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.

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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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Heat on the outside in regard to 2018 Draft

The NBA front office world centers around Chicago right now — that’s the location of the 2018 Draft Combine. The Heat, however, face challenges, in that they lack draft picks. Which makes it hard to actually draft anybody. Here’s the Sun Sentinel reporting:

Getting into the room with free agents hasn’t been a problem for the Miami Heat in recent years, even if the results with Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward have. Over the next month, the Heat face an even greater challenge — getting into the room with NBA draft prospects.

Not only do the Heat stand with the Toronto Raptors at the only teams without a selection in either round of the June 21 draft, but the Heat also lack the funds — at the moment — to buy their way into the draft, with all $5.1 million of their allowable spending money through June 30 sent to the Dallas Mavericks in the July salary dump of Josh McRoberts.

Against that backdrop, the Heat front office is in Chicago for the annual draft combine, still afforded the ability to interview up to 20 participating prospects…

Although the Heat cannot complete a “purchase” transaction at the draft, having reached the limit of cash included in 2017-18 transactions because of the McRoberts move, the Heat can work with a team to select for them and then purchase the rights to that player after July 1, when next season’s “Maximum Annual Cash Limit” becomes available.

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LeBron James arrives early for Game 2

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals is tonight in Boston. The Celtics dominated the Cavaliers in Game 1, in somewhat alarming fashion — at least for Cavs fans. Here’s the Akron Beacon Journal with the latest on LeBron James:

There have been times in the past when LeBron James was the first to arrive at shootaround, ready to work on his game virtually alone.

In 2017-18, the most frequent early arrivals have been J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade, before he was traded on Feb. 8, along with rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic.

But on Tuesday, James was on the court by himself, with only assistant coach Phil Handy and another staffer, working up a sweat at least half an hour before the rest of the Cavaliers walked in to TD Garden.

James might have had a goal in mind as he prepared for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

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Big summer ahead for Markelle Fultz

The pressure is off Markelle Fultz, for now. At least for the summer. With his question mark-filled rookie season over, now he’s got the summer months to hopefully regain full health (if he hasn’t already), figure out what that jumpshot should look like, and proceed as planned. We’re rooting for him. There have been rumblings that he might play in summer league. Tough to say what the right move is on that. For more on Fultz, here’s NBC Sports Philly reporting:

After being taken with the top overall selection in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed time throughout the summer and training camp with ankle and knee injuries.

Then came the much-publicized shoulder issue. Whether the guard changed his shooting motion because of the pain or his newfound shot mechanics caused the pain will forever be the chicken-and-egg debate among Sixers fans, but it ended up sidelining him for 68 games.

Fultz was able to finally return and play in 10 regular-season games before dipping his toe into the postseason waters. However, that was short-lived as he saw action in only the first three games of the Miami series and then took a seat on the bench.

You got all of that? Now factor in the 19-year-old had to navigate his way through all of it while hearing questions and criticism every day about whether the organization made a mistake drafting him.

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The 2018 Eastern Conference Finals begin shortly, and the Celtics are making a starting lineup change, moving useful role-playing Aron Baynes to the bench and starting Marcus Morris.

While Baynes is more of a center, Morris is clearly a forward. The move, we speculate, is to allow Morris to help guard LeBron James, either fully or as a help defender alongside rookie Jayson Tatum. If we had to guess, Morris will likely guard James. And then Tatum shifting to him when Morris sits.

We’ll soon find out. Game 1 starts at 3:30pm ET on ABC television.

Paul George undergoes medical procedures

Thunder forward Paul George, whose time with the team could end this offseason, went through more than one medical procedure recently. Here’s the Norman Transcript reporting:

In addition to the left knee scope Paul George underwent this week, the Thunder star also had some work done on his arm.

George had been dealing with bursitis in his right elbow. Doctors drained the bursa sac to treat it, the team told The Transcript.

George spent part of this past season referring to what he called “tightness” in his right forearm. He began making the complaints in December and spoke about the tightness most recently before the Thunder played in Miami during the second-to-last game of the regular season. He said at that time doctors had “not necessarily” given him a more specific diagnosis.

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The Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement in principle with Lloyd Pierce to become the team’s new head coach. Pierce will be the 13th full-time head coach in team history.

“As we set out to find a new head coach for our team, it was critically important to find a dynamic teacher who could connect with and develop our young core while instilling the culture and high standards we feel are necessary in a successful program,” said Hawks General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk. “Lloyd Pierce checks every box, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him leading the Atlanta Hawks into the future.”

Pierce, 42, comes to the Hawks following five years as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, who finished this past season third in the Eastern Conference with a 52-30 mark and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

“We are excited to start a new chapter of Hawks Basketball with Lloyd as head coach of our team,” said Hawks’ Principal Owner and Chair of the Board of Directors Tony Ressler. “Each part of our organization, from our ownership group to basketball to business operations, is aligned, and we are all committed to building a first-class organization that is working to bring a championship to Atlanta.”

Pierce joined the Sixers after two seasons with Memphis, where he was Assistant Coach-Player Development, helping lead the Grizzlies to back-to-back playoff appearances and the Western Conference Finals in 2013.

“This is a day I’ve been working towards for a long time and it’s an honor to be the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks,” Pierce said. “I have great respect for Travis and strong belief in his plan to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta. After spending time with ownership, it’s clear they have a deep investment in and commitment to making this a model organization. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me, and I’m eager to get started.”

Pierce spent the 2010-11 season as an Assistant Coach with the Golden State Warriors after three years as Assistant Coach-Player Development with Cleveland (2007-10), where the Cavaliers made three playoff appearances and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.

Prior to his NBA coaching career, Pierce was an Assistant Coach at his alma mater, Santa Clara University, from 2002-07. The San Jose, CA native played four seasons for the Broncos, where he teamed with two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. Pierce graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management.

It’s always fun keeping track of Nick Young, both on and off the court. He’s a personality. Here’s the SF Chronicle with an update on his Warriors rotation role:

Like most NBA head coaches, Steve Kerr has shortened his bench in the playoffs. It came as little surprise when reserve guard Nick Young, one of the Warriors’ more inconsistent players, spent much of the first two rounds anchored to the sideline.

That may change in the Western Conference finals. After Golden State’s Game 5 win over the Pelicans in the second round Tuesday, Kerr went out of his way to mention that Young could be a factor against the Rockets.

“Nick Young played really well against Houston this year, and he’s a good matchup for them,” Kerr said. “I think every series is different, and you have to look at your opponent and figure out what you need to do to match up and to win some battles.”

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Raptors fire coach Dwane Casey

Despite finishing this regular season with the most wins in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors, recently swept 4-0 in the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, fired head coach Dwane Casey today.

“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take. As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level,” said Raptors President Masai Ujiri. “We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”

According to the Canadian Press, “Casey was fired two days after winning the Michael H. Goldberg coach of the year award, which is handed out by the National Basketball Coaches Association. The Raptors’ historic season came after Ujiri called for a “culture reset” last off-season. Toronto revamped its offence to focus on three-point shooting and better ball movement, and focused on developing the bench, which became the envy of the league.”

Casey on June 21, 2011 became the eighth head coach in Raptors history. His record over seven seasons was 320-238 (.573), and those seasons include the only three 50-win seasons in franchise history. Under Casey, the Raptors won four Atlantic Division titles and advanced to the postseason in a franchise record five consecutive seasons. He was the longest-tenured coach in team history and is the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.

In 2017-2018, the Raptors won a franchise record 59 games and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in team history.

Per the Toronto Sun, “Casey had defended himself on Wednesday amid speculation he would be ousted, saying he was “an easy target.” “I take it. I’m a big boy. I’ve been through it. I know where we started here, I know what we’ve accomplished, I know the basketball world how they feel about us and respect us and what we’re doing, so it’s part of the territory,” Casey said at the time.”

Fan reaction and discussion of this news is here.

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