NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Hill, Yao want to buy Clippers — As of today, Donald Sterling remains the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. But as the NBA moves closer and closer to June 3, when fellow owners can officially vote to oust him as owner, the chatter about who might own the team next continues strong. The latest talk, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, is that former NBA All-Star Yao Ming and Grant Hill are both interested in buying the team:
Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Grant Hill and Yao Ming are working separately to line up investors to lodge bids for the Clippers when the team is ultimately made available.
Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a sale of the Clippers, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Friday.
Hill is just completing his first year in retirement after a 19-season career that ended with the Clippers after seven All-Star berths. Sources say Hill has made it known within league circles that he is in the process of putting a consortium together.
Sources say that Yao, meanwhile, also plans to pursue the Clippers hard with a group of Chinese investors. The former Houston Rockets All-Star center owns the Shanghai Sharks in his native country and has maintained close ties to the NBA through the league’s various initiatives in Asia.
Yao was seriously interested in purchasing the Bucks, sources say, but dropped out of the bidding when outgoing Milwaukee owner Herb Kohl made keeping the team in that city mandatory for any new owner.
The number of bidders for the Clippers is expected to stray well into double digits, assuming the league can force the sale of the team, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to believe.
No. 2: Scott says he’s ‘perfect’ to fill Lakers’ vacancy — Many names have been bandied about in the Lakers’ search for a new coach, but according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin, two are confirmed candidates: Mike Dunleavy and Byron Scott. Scott, a former star with the Lakers and a veteran on the team when Kobe Bryant was a rookie, thinks he can best fill what Bryant and L.A. need now:
“I don’t feel I’m a very arrogant guy, but I feel like I am the perfect guy for this job,” Scott told the “Max & Marcellus” show on ESPNLA 710 Radio on Thursday. “I got a great relationship with Kobe. I know the team, know the roster. I watched them all season long and I just think it would be a great fit.”
Scott said making sure he and Bryant were on the same page would be his priority.
“Obviously, if I get the job, the first conversation I have is with Kobe,” said Scott, who spent last season as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers’ television partner. “We have to talk about the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. We have to also talk about which type of direction we’ll be taking and also talk about the type of game that he’s going to be playing because he’s going to have to change his game a little bit, and I think he knows that.
“We got to sit down and talk about the minutes and things like that. We just got to come to an agreement. But he knows me. I’m an old-school type guy. I’m an old-school type guy and I want him to understand that and I think he does understand that. We communicate during the summer by text, and every now and then I’ll run into him somewhere and we’ll talk a little bit more about basketball. But I think the biggest thing is, No. 1, I respect the hell out of Kobe and I think he respects me. That’s the first hurdle we got to get past, and then other things, we’ll be able to solve all those little issues.”
Scott promised to bring a defensive focus back to the Lakers after they ranked 29th in the league in opponents’ points per game (109.2) and 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions.
“That’s what I was taught when I came to the Lakers, that defense wins championships,” said Scott, who was coached by Pat Riley in L.A. “I think Kobe knows that. I think Pau [Gasol] knows that, because they won championships with that formula. And I think that’s the first thing we got to get better at, the defensive part of basketball. Then we got to get better at the rebounding. So, it’s something that we would do on a day-to-day basis. You got to work on that every day, and it has to be a team’s identity and a staple.”
While Scott conceded that next season should be a “bit of a rebuilding year” for L.A., he does not believe the Lakers will take long to rebound.
“Obviously there are a lot of holes to fill, but unlike a lot of people who think this is a three-, four-year process, I really don’t think so,” Scott said. “Again, this is one of the best organizations in basketball. Mitch has done a fantastic job, and I think Jim really has a good idea of where they want to go and what direction they want to head in. So I don’t think it’s going to take three or four years. I think it might take a couple of years at the most to get right back where they need to be.”
No. 3: Cuban hopes Spurs win title — The Mavericks put up quite a fight against the Spurs in the first round, pushing top-seeded San Antonio to a Game 7. Dallas owner Mark Cuban, therefore, got a really good look at these Spurs and is actually pulling for the Mavs’ longtime rival — for a reason that might not surprise you. Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com has more:
The San Antonio Spurs winning two more series would make the Mavs feel even better about the way their season ended, pushing the top overall seed to seven games in the first round. More importantly to Cuban, earning a fifth championship ring might cause longtime nemesis Tim Duncan to decide to ride off into the sunset.
“I want San Antonio to win,” Cuban said on 105.3 The Fan’s “Ben and Skin Show” on Friday. “I want Tim Duncan to hit a game-winning shot to win Game 7, then go to the Finals, do the exact same thing, hit a game-winning shot in Game 7, run down the tunnel, never to be seen from again.
“I want him to retire on the spot. I hope he gets that last ring and it’s all the incentive he needs to retire.”
No. 4: Gibson readying to be Bulls’ starter? — As a rookie in 2009-10, Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson started 70 of the 82 regular season games he appeared in. The summer after that season, the Bulls signed ex-Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer to a lucrative deal and made him the new starter. Since then, Boozer’s results haven’t lived up to his deal and, over the last few seasons, coach Tom Thibodeau has inserted the defense-first Gibson into games in the fourth quarter in place of Boozer. The Bulls are still able to use the amnesty provision on Boozer’s deal and according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, it looks like Boozer is headed out of town and Gibson has the starting gig next season:
General manager Gar Forman has remained poker-faced about Carlos Boozer’s future as a Bull, but several sources indicated that reserve power forward Taj Gibson was told by the coaching staff to start preparing this offseason to be a starter in 2014-15.
And Gibson has.
With about a week left of rehabbing his left ankle, which he injured in the Game 5 playoff loss to the Wizards last month, Gibson confirmed that he has been told “to get my body and mind right to be a starter.’’
“I mean, this will be exciting,’’ Gibson said in a phone interview. “This is what I’ve always thought about. When I started [six games] for Boozer when he was hurt during the season, I just know how excited I was, how good it felt to come to the arena.’’
The 2013-14 season long has been perceived as Boozer’s last with the Bulls.
They simply could invoke the amnesty clause on Boozer, still paying him $16.8 million next season, but not having it count against the cap. Or they could use him as a key trading piece in a splashy deal because of his expiring contract.
Considering the growing asking price in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, the Bulls likely will choose the amnesty option.
Gibson didn’t know how the Boozer situation would be resolved and instead focused on his rehab and his future.
“The ankle is good,’’ Gibson said. “It was just a bad sprain, and they said I could start moving forward [to basketball activity] by next week.
‘‘Still rehabbing, but my focus now is on getting better.’’
Shortly after this story came out, however, the son of Chicago Bears legendary running back Walter Payton, Jarrett, tweeted that Gibson said he has not been promised the starting gig …
No. 5: Sixers’ Noel says he’s been ready to play for months — As we reported in this space yesterday, Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, will finally make his NBA debut in Summer League. Noel missed all of last season recovering from a torn ACL as Philadelphia took it easy in getting him back on the mend. Could he have been in the lineup sooner than this summer? Noel says he could have, according to a story by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
“I’ve been 100 percent for months now,” Noel told the Globe. “I feel great and continue to get stronger in all parts of my body, just continuing my growth really. I will be playing in summer games and summer league.”
Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his lone season with Kentucky and is considered an impact defensive player. He said he has been working on his perimeter jumper to improve his offensive prowess.
“It’s beyond words [to play], it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I feel I’m definitely ready and focused. The whole offseason, I’ve focused on being stronger and working on my skill points, working on my shot, which I have progressed a lot with, working on my technique. Every part of my game I feel I’ve definitely improved on.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Ex-Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro among the names on the Cavs’ coaching list … Might Greg Oden play in Game 3 tonight? … Grizzlies defensive ace Tony Allen takes some shots at Thunder big man Steven Adams …