NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Spurs wait for word on Parker’s injury — The San Antonio Spurs made quick work of the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half of Game 5 to wrap up that semifinal series and clinch a third straight trip to the West finals. As happy as Spurs fans are to see the playoff train rolling along, there’s a bit of concern this morning surrounding point guard Tony Parker. Parker left Game 5 with about 8 minutes, 45 seconds to go with a hamstring injury. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene and points out how this injury could put a severe cramp in San Antonio’s hopes of another run to The Finals:
In a season the Spurs have spent exorcising ghosts from Miami, it could just be an eerie coincidence.Or a scary bump in the night.
Tony Parker walked tenderly off the court with 8:46 left in the second quarter and limped to the locker room, followed by the team trainer and general manager R.C. Buford.
Tightness in the left hamstring. Tightness rippling throughout Spurs Nation.
The Spurs now advance to the Western Conference finals for the 13th time in franchise history, ninth time in the Tim Duncan era and for the third season in a row. It is a testament to consistency and excellence.
Yet it will not be enough if the Spurs don’t at least get a chance to return to the NBA Finals to clean up unfinished business that left them ringless.
That’s the Parker question. That’s the haunting flashback to last June. That’s the painful reminder that one small tweak can lead to big consequences.
Long before those ugly last 28 seconds of Game 6 became a lost championship, the Spurs watched Parker limp off the court in Game 3 against Miami with tightness in his right hamstring. He came back to play the rest of the series, but he was never quite at the same crackling level. He often looked tired, worn out and was no longer explosive.
Now Parker will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of any damage to his left hamstring and the Spurs will likely, for a night at least, become Clippers fans. It’s all about getting their point guard time to rest and rehab. If L.A. can win Thursday to force a Game 7 against OKC, that would push the start of the West finals back to next Wednesday, giving Parker a full week off.
“We hope for him to be back and healthy,” said Manu Ginobili. “It is too early to tell. I don’t know what’s going to happen. If we want to have a chance to make it to The Finals, we need him healthy.”
No. 2: Pierce has ‘something still left in tank’ — With about 5 minutes left to go in last night’s Game 5 in Miami, the Brooklyn Nets seemed primed for a Game 6 date with the Heat back in New York. But, then, LeBron James and Ray Allen went wild down the stretch while the Nets fell apart during the same span and Miami wrapped up the series with a 96-94 victory. Future Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce — who is playing in his 16th season — has played just one season in Brooklyn and told reporters after the game that he might be able to play a few more. ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk has more:
Paul Pierce’s first season with the Brooklyn Nets is over.And the veteran forward isn’t sure if it will be his last, either.
Pierce said after the Miami Heat’s series-clinching 96-94 Game 5 win over the Nets that he believes he still has a year or two left in his tank. Where the unrestricted free agent-to-be will play next is uncertain.
“I haven’t really put much thought into it,” Pierce said of what his future holds and if he wants to remain a Net. “I put my whole focus into this season, it’s my last year of the contract. I will sit back and talk to the family and see where my options are from there and go from there.”
Pierce, 36, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Nets own his Bird Rights, which allows them to offer him more money than any other team.
“I think I still have something in the tank I can give a team,” he added. “Maybe one or two (years) at the most.”
Kevin Garnett, 37, has one year remaining on his contract but has contemplated retirement in the past. Garnett did not speak after the game.
The Nets made a blockbuster trade last summer to acquire Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first-round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018). The goal was for Pierce and Garnett to complement a core that included Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and help the Nets get past the Heat and win a title.
But the Nets, trying to mesh new pieces which also included a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd, got off to a tumultuous 10-21 start. They lost Brook Lopez for the season and lost Pierce and Williams for stints due to injuries.
The Nets turned their season around after Jan. 1 and finished 44-38. Pierce averaged a career-low 13.5 points and 28 minutes a game as Kidd tried to keep his former Celtics vets fresh for the postseason.
“Unfortunately, we wish we had put together a better record,” Pierce said. “But it’s a brand new team, a lot of new players, got off to a slow start, a lot of injuries but we figured it out. Not where we want it to end today. Obviously the goal is to win a championship. But I am happy to go to war with the guys in here and the resolve they showed all year long.”
No. 3: Fisher on Knicks’ revised short list of coaching candidates?— Our own David Aldridge first broke the news that TNT analyst Steve Kerr was heading to California (to coach the Warriors) and not New York (or the Knicks) to take his first crack at coaching an NBA team. The move came as a surprise to many, who expected Kerr to eventually end up with the Knicks, which are led by Phil Jackson (Kerr’s former coach when both men were with the Chicago Bulls). With Kerr out of the picture for New York, who might be next on the list of names? Al Iannazzone of Newsday says Jackson’s former point guard on the Lakers, Derek Fisher, is in the mix:
With Kerr gone, Jackson will look for someone to help implement his triangle offense. So the coach he taps to replace Mike Woodson will have to be well versed in it.
Derek Fisher, Jackson’s point guard on five championship Lakers teams, is a likely candidate when the Thunder’s season is over.
Jackson said he is looking for “a leader,” and someone “who has charismatic appeal, and has a forward-looking idea about the game.” Fisher also has been a vocal leader and was the president of the NBA players union.
Kurt Rambis, an assistant under Jackson with the Lakers and former head coach, also is a possibility.
Bill Cartwright has head coaching experience, too. But he had been a candidate to be an assistant under Kerr. Cartwright has been in contact with Jackson. Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Ron Harper also could join the Knicks in some capacity. There are some big-name coaches available, including Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins and Mark Jackson. They are not a part of the Phil Jackson tree, though.
Jackson was banking on Kerr joining him in New York, and it was believed he would come because of their strong relationship. Kerr was mentioned as a candidate long before Woodson was fired. People close to Kerr repeatedly pointed to his “allegiance to Phil.”
No. 4: New Pistons coach Van Gundy a fan of Monroe — Almost immediately after Stan Van Gundy was officially named the new coach and president of the Detroit Pistons, a story from the Sporting News began making the rounds on Twitter. In said story, it was reported that Van Gundy was not a fan of restricted free agent big man Greg Monroe and was willing to let him walk this summer. That Sporting News report may not be entirely true though, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, as Ellis reports that one of Van Gundy’s first actions as coach/president was to reach out to Monroe:
Stan Van Gundy had agreed to coach the Detroit Pistons and run the franchise’s basketball operations. The decision culminated a nearly two-week flirtation with the ownership group, and there was much excitement about the marriage.
But during the hubbub, Van Gundy took a moment to call Pistons big man Greg Monroe, an off-season priority for the team. Monroe, who turns 24 next month, is a restricted free agent.
A person with firsthand knowledge of the situation said that Van Gundy is a big fan of Monroe and spoke glowingly of him during the interview process. And it was important for Van Gundy to let Monroe know his thoughts. Van Gundy joins team owner Tom Gores in thinking highly of the high-character big man.
The Sporting News report leaves out another reason the Andre Drummond-Monroe pairing didn’t work: the signing of Josh Smith, who was forced to play out of position at small forward.
There is the strong possibility that the Pistons could seek to trade Smith this off-season, with the expectation of not getting much in return because of the $40 million he is owed over the next three seasons. It could be a case of addition by subtraction.
There is still a school of thought that Monroe and Drummond can work if a more traditional shooter joins the frontcourt.
But the variable is whether Monroe’s agent, David Falk, can coax another team to offer a max deal. If the price is too high, the Pistons could try to work a sign-and-trade or let Monroe walk.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Mavs are hoping they’ll be able to re-sign free-agent forward Shawn Marion this summer … Warriors All-Star Steph Curry is apparently a fan of the Steve Kerr hiring … The Pacers have a sense of desperation as Game 6 vs. the Wizards nears … UConn coach (and former Cleveland Cavaliers player) Kevin Ollie isn’t likely to be interested in Cleveland’s coaching vacancy
ICYMI(s) of the night: Big buckets from LeBron James and Ray Allen led the Heat to a thrilling, series-clinching win in Game 5 against the Nets, but don’t overlook their late defensive gems in the win…