NEWS OF THE MORNING
Sixers’ brass not fretting over slide | Reports: Marshall interested in D’Antoni | Gores makes big promise to Pistons fans | Warriors’ Jackson not worrying about next contract | Kings pass on signing White for rest of season
No. 1: Sixers’ brass not sweating team’s epic slide — Some might think at NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak would be enough to send even the most future-minded front office into a tizzy. But, apparently, that’s not the case for the folks guiding the Philadelphia 76ers’ ship. Both GM Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown said last night (after Philly lost its 26th straight game in a rout to the Houston Rockets) that they are not worrying or even eyeing the door during this swoon. Our Fran Blinebury was on hand for last night’s game in Houston and has more:
The Sixers’ march toward both ignominious history and hopeful resurrection continued as the Rockets punched their ticket 120-98 on Thursday night.
As general manager, president of basketball operations, Hinkie is the Dr. Frankenstein who reverse-engineered this monster that is now tied with the 2010-11 Cavaliers for the longest single season losing streak in NBA history. For that, some of the town folk would like to storm his door with torches and pitchforks, because, well, they weren’t paying attention. Not to Hinkie’s clearly-drawn blueprint from the moment he was hired last May and not to the long history of the league.
It was fitting that the debate about the NBA Draft lottery should land in Houston for record-tying loss No. 26. For it was here in the land of high humidity and semi-low skullduggery that the lottery was mid-wifed after the Rockets — by virtue of the worst record in the Western Conference — won back-to-back coin flips in 1983 and ’84 to secure the rights to Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Hinkie and the Sixers are only working within a system that has been in place for decades and, as far as anyone can tell, hasn’t jeopardized civilization or caused the ruination of the league.
It just makes no sense to be hopelessly stuck in the middle of the pack, maybe nibbling at the No. 7 or 8 playoff spots with no real hope of ever planning a championship parade down Main St.
Which is why first-year head coach Brett Brown said he doesn’t have the inclination to feel bad for his players who haven’t won a game since Jan. 29 at Boston and could be all alone in the history books if the streak hits 27 at home on Saturday against the Pistons.
“I won’t,” Brown said. “It’s part of everybody trying to execute a way where we can rebuild our program and this is one of the unfortunate byproducts that has come our way. I think that if we had sprinkled our 15 wins in perhaps a little bit differently, where it wouldn’t have received as much attention as it seems to being receiving, well, fair enough. Everybody’s doing their job. We haven’t changed our tune or changed our message because of that.
“It goes back to what we said from Day One. We’re trying to find keepers that can move the program forward and I think we’re doing that.
“I knew what I signed up for. This is no shock. I had the opportunity to research this position for several months and I like the risk-reward. I think that if we can ever get it right in such a fantastic city, the city will come out and support us.
“I respect that the people, the fans, follow us and we want to do the right thing by our city. We want to come out and play hard and have people be proud of our efforts. This year is not about that side of the judgment. We’re judged by different measurements this year. It isn’t winning or losing. I feel like my guys come in and they bring their ‘A’ efforts.”
No. 2: Reports: Marshall University contacts D’Antoni — Before he made his name as a star in the international game as a player, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was a standout guard for Marshall University in the early 1970s. As well, D’Antoni’s brother, Dan, played at MU and was an assistant on Mike’s staffs when he became coach of the Phoenix Suns and Lakers. Now comes word — both from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Jeff Goodman and CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello — that D’Antoni’s alma mater has reached out to him about filling the Thunder Herd’s coaching vacancy.
Here’s Stein & Goodman on the news:
Marshall has reached out to Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to gauge his interest in coaching his alma mater, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Thundering Herd have pursued D’Antoni before and made this latest inquiry — which coincides with his uncertain future in Los Angeles — because they “always sound him out” any time Marshall has an opening in a bow to D’Antoni’s stature in school history.
But sources stressed D’Antoni is highly unlikely to make such a switch even if the Lakers opt for a coaching change at season’s end. Although he has served as an unofficial sounding board for school officials in the past, D’Antoni has coached only at the pro level, with three stops in Italy and stints with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Lakers in the NBA.
“Come on, guys,” D’Antoni said in an exasperated tone when asked about the Marshall inquiry after the Lakers’ 108-105 loss to the last-place Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. “Come on. OK, good. That ESPN is all over it. That’s good.”
D’Antoni then was asked whether he had any recent communication with representatives from his alma mater.
“I hear from them all the time,” D’Antoni said. “I’m the head of their capital [fundraising] campaign. I’m close friends to them. Whatever they need, I try to do. But … who knows.”
Marshall is looking to replace Tom Herrion, who was fired after posting a 67-67 mark in four seasons.
And here’s Borzello’s report as well:
Marshall has reached out to Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni about its head coaching vacancy, a source close to D’Antoni confirmed to CBSSports.com on Thursday night.
ESPN.com first reported the interest from Marshall.
But D’Antoni is interested, too, a source said.
“I would think his days are numbered based on Kobe saying he had no interest in playing for him next year,” a source told CBSSports.com. “If he isn’t with the Lakers, I believe he will be at Marshall because there is mutual interest.”
The source added that Marshall has donors willing to pony up money in an attempt to woo D’Antoni.
No. 3: Gores makes serious vow to Pistons fans — Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores had no problem this summer doling out big money so his team could sign free-agent forward Josh Smith to a multi-year deal. Smith’s signing, along with Detroit’s other roster moves, hasn’t resulted in a playoff return for the Pistons this season as the team is working on its sixth straight season of 40 or more losses. The losing ways in Detroit are wearing on Gores, who told MLive.com’s Eric Lacy he has big plans for the team in the future:
Gores, a Flint native, appeared to speak passionately about turning his franchise around as the team has a 26-45 record, frustrated plenty fans and lost eight of its last 10 contests.
But he didn’t reveal any timeline for any personnel changes to be made and appears to keep his opinions on this current squad close to the vest.
Gores claimed he knows Pistons fans and described Detroit as a city that “is about hard work and getting to the top.”
His exact quote about the PIstons fan base when pressed on turning the franchise around:
“I know the fans, I know the people; they are dedicated. They are real. Sometimes they can be tough on you, but they are real. They will be there for you through thick and thin. And of course, having experienced (the Bad Boys era growing up in Michigan), it gave me a little more passion and understanding of what this community is about.”
Gores admitted that criticism from fans is “sometimes hard to hear,” but said he’s determined to “stay the course” with a plan aimed at winning.
“We’re going back to championship days,” Gores said. “There’s only one choice for us, that’s it. We’re going back there. Is hard to hear sometimes? Sure. I want the community to be proud, and that’s where we’re headed.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
No. 4: Jackson not fretting contract future in Oakland – Golden State coach Mark Jackson has been in the news the last few days for all the wrong reasons stemming from a report that he had assistant coach Brian Scalabrine demoted to the D-League because of a conflict between the two men. That move has led to a bubbling up of talk that Jackson and the Warriors’ front office has clashed repeatedly over various issues, although Jackson (and others) were quick to shoot down such talk. One thing is certain, though: Stephen Curry is decidedly in Jackson’s corner. Curry voiced his support of Jackson, who does not have a contract beyond this season, writes Diamond Leung of Inside Bay Area:
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Thursday that not having a contract extension past next season does not bother him.
“There is not a piece of me that’s bothered that an extension has not been agreed upon or anything of that nature,” Jackson said on his weekly radio show on KNBR. “We move forward. I had the deal. They picked up my option for next year, and I think that obviously speaks volumes even though for some folks it doesn’t say anything.”
Jackson also said that he appreciated Stephen Curry’s vote of confidence in response to a Yahoo Sports report on the team’s “increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere” in the wake of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine’s reassignment earlier this week. Curry said he and the rest of the team supported Jackson 100 percent.
“Obviously he’s a guy that had an opportunity and a platform to show his loyalty, his support for me,” Jackson said of Curry. “I don’t take it for granted, and it’s not a surprise because he knows how I feel about him.”
Jackson didn’t seem sure how much of a factor the support of Curry and his teammates would be in influencing his contract status. Curry had said he hoped the team’s decision-makers would ask his opinion on Jackson.
“It depends on who’s making the decision,” Jackson said. “To some ownership groups or management groups, it means a lot. To some, it doesn’t matter what franchise players or players feel, it’s business as usual. I don’t know.
“I’m thankful and grateful (for the support), and it says that we’ve got a tied-together group, but with that being said, I’m not even concentrating on that, to be quite honest. It doesn’t matter. That will take care of itself. This is an ownership group that believes in me, pulled the trigger when nobody else decided to make me a head coach, so that will play itself out.”
No. 5: Kings pass on signing White for season — It took two years, but Royce White can finally say he has played in an NBA game. Whether he’ll get to play in more again is another question. White, a first-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2012, suffers from an anxiety disorder and traveled a long, winding path to get his first NBA minutes last week as a member of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings signed him to a 10-day deal on March 6 and a second 10-day deal on March 18, but when it came time to sign him for the rest of the season, the team passed. Jonathan Santiago of CowbellKingdom.com has more:
Royce White‘s stint with the Sacramento Kings is over. At least, for now it is.
The 22-year-old forward was not in the gym when the Kings practiced Thursday afternoon as his second 10-day contract expired today. The Kings did not sign him to a new contract for the rest of the season, but head coach Michael Malone wouldn’t rule out a possible return for the rookie forward.
“The door is not closed,” Malone said after practice when asked about the potential for White to rejoin the team after its upcoming three-game road trip. “The 10-day has ended, but that doesn’t mean that the relationship has ended for good.”
Whether White returns will be up to Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro. The Kings GM is attending personal matters in his home state of New York, but Malone expects D’Alessandro to revisit with White and his representation when he returns. The Kings, however, are expected to sign 23-year-old forward Willie Reed to a contract for the remainder of the season.
The Kings signed White to two consecutive 10-day contracts, starting with one on March 6. He spent the duration of his first deal playing with the Reno Bighorns, the franchise’s D-League affiliate, where he averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists over the course of four games.
Malone spoke in complimentary terms in regards to White’s stay in the capital city. The Kings head coach said that the 22-year-old forward did everything that was asked of him in both Sacramento and Reno.
“The NBA skill that he possesses right now is his ability to be a facilitator, almost like to be a point forward out there,” Malone said of White. “But when you’re out of the game as long as he was, just kind of back home, not playing, it’s gonna take a while for you to get back into a rhythm and step into an NBA game to play.”
White was originally selected by the Houston Rockets with the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. However, he did not make his NBA debut until this recent stint with the Kings. Disputes over how to handle his highly-publicized battle with generalized anxiety disorder has so far derailed his aspirations of an professional career.
“I think for him and his future and his career, he has to start amending some of the things that have happened in the past,” Malone said of White. “Everybody here can only speak positively about our time with Royce and as we just mentioned, it doesn’t mean that his time here is over. For right now it is, but I appreciate his hard work.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sixers coach Brett Brown says the team won’t be pursuing free agents any time soon … Metta World Peace is reportedly hoping to land back with the Knicks … Words from a doubting writer inspired LaMarcus Aldridge to go hog wild on the Hawks last night … Doc Rivers says that whenever J.J. Redick does return to the court for the Clippers, he’ll be a starter again … The Mavs are quietly getting solid production from Samuel Dalembert down the stretch
ICYMI of the Night: Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a really impressive defender one day, consider that as a rookie, he can already do this on the perimeter …