NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Pacers, Vogel ponder changes after Game 5 shocker — As our own Steve Aschburner pointed out last night, the Pacers find themselves and their Finals-hopeful season on the brink after a Game 5 loss at home to the Hawks. A telling second quarter — in which Atlanta outscored Indiana 41-19, mostly on the heroics of reserve Mike Scott — has the Pacers thinking some lineup changes will be necessary for Game 6, although even that notion is a bit mixed. Mike Moneith at Pacers.com has more on the team’s state after the loss:
This qualifies as a desperate time, and therefore calls for a desperate measure.
Then again, is it really desperate to change the starting lineup when you’re down 3-2 and in danger of becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed? The bold thing would be to go with the status quo.
“I consider everything at this point,” Frank Vogel said in the wake of his team’s 107-97 loss to the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday.
Changes to the starting lineup, or even playing rotation, aren’t as simple they’re often made out to be, given the lack of time for preparation between games in a playoff series, but a team trailing 3-2 doesn’t have the luxury of getting virtually nothing from its starting center. None of the voices heard in the Pacers’ somber postgame locker room could be heard calling for a drastic change. David West even went so far as to say “we can’t change our starting group.”
When they were down 30 midway through the third quarter, the Pacers’ lineup consisted of Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Paul George, David West and George Hill. That group got Atlanta’s lead down to 20 by the end of the period. Lance Stephenson and Ian Mahinmi started the fourth quarter but Mahinmi was subbed out less than three minutes later and Stephenson was back on the bench with 5:23 left. The group that started the comeback from 30 down finished the game from there, and got within nine points twice before it was too late. Their last reasonable hope came after Paul Millsap missed twice and the Pacers got the ball back, but George missed a three-pointer with 1:10 left that could have made it a six-point game.
Still, the lineup worked.
No. 2: Heat soak in another first-round sweep — Through the many ups and downs of the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” era, one thing has been reliable: beating the Charlotte Bobcats. Miami did just that last night in Game 4, finishing off their first-round series with Charlotte and improving to 19-0 vs. the Bobcats in the Big Three era. Miami isn’t taking this series win for granted but will surely enjoy the extra rest an early dismissal of the Bobcats gives them, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
For now, these past four matchups against the Charlotte Bobcats felt more like games Nos. 83, 84, 85 and 86 of a regular season that never quite brought out the championship best in Erik Spoelstra‘s team. Completing their second first-round sweep in as many seasons, the Heat took advantage of a Charlotte lineup lacking hobbled center Al Jefferson in a 109-98 victory Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena that now will give them at least five days off, perhaps even more.
“This does not get old and we do not take it for granted, having the opportunity to move on to another round,” Spoelstra said when it was over. “We’re very pleased that we’re able to move on and we’re not jaded enough that we don’t enjoy this process.”
“The best thing about this series is that we improved every game,” said LeBron James, who closed the series averaging 30 points on .557 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists. “And that’s what it’s about, you improve every game.
“I feel pretty good. I’m getting to my game.”
“When you get a team on the ropes, you don’t want to let them have life,” Dwyane Wade said.
For the Heat, there now is time to move into a heightened playoff state on the practice court.
“I’m sure our guys will love it,” Spoelstra said of getting time off, “but the most important thing is you have a chance to move on.”
No. 3: Report: Ex-Warriors assistant taped conversations — The Golden State Warriors’ coaching staff under Mark Jackson has seen its share of changes since the season began. On March 25, assistant coach Brian Scalabrine was demoted to the NBA D-League because of what was called a “difference in philosophies” with Jackson. On April 5, Warriors assistant coach Darren Erman was fired for, as GM Bob Myers put it, a “violation of company policy.” Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reports that Erman’s firing may have had to specifically do with him secretly taping conversations between the coaching staff:
Sources said Erman, who was coach Mark Jackson’s second assistant, would record coaches’ meetings, meetings between the coaches and players, and informal discussions among coaches that took place in the team’s coaches room — all without the participants’ knowledge.
“He was taping everything,” one source said. “Taping pregame speeches wouldn’t have been that bad, but he was taping guys just sitting around talking in the coaches’ office.”
Sometimes Erman would be present during the tapings. Other times, he would leave the room and leave his phone behind to record conversations the other coaches were having.
It is unclear what Erman did with the recordings. The sources weren’t sure if he shared them with the club’s owners or front office executives.
“Was he taping it for himself or was he taping it for management? That’s not known,” a source said. “But he had a lot of communication with members of the front office.”
The Warriors’ other coaches began noticing a change in Erman’s demeanor and behavior in March, a source said. A few weeks later, they discovered that he was recording them. After being caught, Erman told the club he had been recording the conversations for three weeks. Jackson kept Erman on his staff for another week before Warriors’ management fired him.
No. 4: Rockets owner has own solution for Sterling situation — We will all find out today (2 p.m. ET, NBA TV & NBA.com) what the NBA’s ruling will be about Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling and his alleged comments that came to light over the weekend. Many an NBA voice has chimed in on the situation, from Mavs owner Mark Cuban to Warriors coach Mark Jackson to others all along the spectrum. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has his own solution for the issue, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports:
Calling the comments “disgusting,” Alexander said he told NBA commissioner Adam Silver he should stab “a sword” into the heart of Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers.
“I thought that there’s got to be a way to disrupt him from owning the team,” said Alexander, who after 20 years owning the Rockets is one of the longest tenured owners in the NBA. “I gave him the sword to deal with this. I said, ‘Let the players become free agents.’”
Alexander said the goal of his suggestion was not to break up the Clippers, considered among the league’s top teams, or even to punish Sterling. He said the objective was solely to back Sterling into a corner from which he will choose to sell the Clippers.
The NBA constitution does not allow the league owners to remove Sterling, Alexander said. But he added that the NBA needed to take steps to drive Sterling from the league.
“This kind of behavior can’t be allowed in the NBA by owners, players or anybody,” Alexander said. “This guy has no place in the family of the NBA. Whatever it takes, we have to make sure this kind of event never happens again.”
The first step to ensuring that, he said, was to get Sterling out of the league.
“I mentioned that to Adam,” Alexander said. “I told Adam I don’t think he can be removed because the constitution (of the NBA) only allows him to be removed except for gambling. I’m not sure that legally can be done. But if he loses his players, nobody is going to want to go there. He’ll only be able to get a player that is worth $2 million and will play for $12 (million.) And who is going to want to coach there?
“If you’re a player in the NBA you don’t want to play for somebody like that. If you worked for a company, you would walk away and say, ‘I’m gone.” I think the players should have that right.”
Though Alexander had referred to the NBA “family,” and said that he and Silver did discuss if there was anything that could have been done sooner to sanction or even remove Sterling, he was especially dismayed by the suggestion that he and other NBA owners are in any way represented by Sterling. Though they share inclusion in a 30-member club, and an even smaller group of owners with decades long place in the league, Alexander said theirs is more of a forced association.
“I’m really upset that some of the press has lumped us together as one,” Alexander said. “We are 30 different individuals and most of us are not even friends. We are business associates. To lump us together is beyond the pale.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Magic have reportedly reached out to their 2005 Draft pick, Fran Vasquez, to gauge his interest in coming over to the NBA from Spain … Magic Johnson, via Twitter, shoots down talk that he’s interested in buying the L.A. Clippers … If the Hawks end up eliminating the Pacers in the first round, is it really an upset? …
ICYMI OF THE NIGHT: The guys over at The Starters are sure to enjoy this one … a playoff game dunk “wedgie”, courtesy of the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson …