NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: It’s like 2012 all over again for Thunder — Just a week ago, San Antonio was on the easy path (it seemed) to a second straight Western Conference championship and trip to The NBA Finals. The Oklahoma City have had other ideas since then, though, as the emotional boost of Serge Ibaka‘s return from injury and the performances of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have knotted the series 2-2. Our Fran Blinebury was on hand last night in OKC and saw a lot of the 2012 Thunder-Spurs West finals series in that game (for those of you who forgot, OKC climbed from an 0-2 hole that year to reach its first Finals):
This is no longer a matter of simply asking Tony Parker to play better. It’s about finding a way for the Spurs to regain their poise and effectiveness against an OKC team that in the last two games has come at them like a rolling bundle of butcher knives.
There have been four games played now and four blowouts. But no matter what the series score sheet says, it doesn’t feel like the Western Conference finals are tied at 2-2.
You could say the Spurs have been put back on their heels, if it didn’t look like they were flat on their backs. It’s looking just like two years ago, when the Thunder spotted San Antonio a 2-0 lead and then roared back for a reverse sweep.
Remember Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio when the Thunder front line of Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha put up just nine combined points? It pushed Thunder coach Scott Brooks to make a lineup change to get Reggie Jackson on the floor with the starters and Jeremy Lamb into the rotation.
Here was Duncan (nine points) Tiago Splitter (3) and Danny Green (3) managing to squeeze out just a few more drops and the solution is hardly to sound the trumpet for more of Cory Joseph, Matt Bonner and the Desperation Cavalry.
With the young arms and legs of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Lamb and Jackson cutting off angles and jumping into passing lanes, the Thunder have smothered San Antonio’s offense.
With their driving, relentless aggressiveness, OKC has also overwhelmed the Spurs’ defense. Of Westbrook’s 40 points and Durant’s 31, a lion’s share came with them going to hoop and making the Spurs look helpless to do anything about it.
Since the 2012 conference finals, the Spurs have an NBA-best road record of 62-33 against 28 other teams. But they’re also 0-9 in OKC since then, too.
“I think we should not think like that,” Parker said. “Each game is different, each series, each year.”
So how come it feels like 2012 and we already know how the election and everything else turned out?
No. 2: Bosh reaffirms free-agent commitment to Heat — Heat All-Star big man Chris Bosh — like his fellow All-Star teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — as an early termination option in his contract this summer. He can exercise that option and sign a potentially more lucrative deal with the Heat this summer. That may not be what happens for Bosh, though, as he told ESPNRadio’s The Dan LeBatard Show that he’s willing to come back to Miami, even at a discounted rate. Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post has more on Bosh’s comments:
Chris Bosh kind of said this a couple months ago, but he reiterated it clearly and flatly today in an interview on ESPN Radio: He will be back next year.
Bosh was asked about his upcoming opportunity to leave in free agency during an appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show this afternoon and said, “Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to go anywhere. I like it here. It’s Miami. Everybody wants to come here. Yeah.”
When asked if he would accept a below-market offer from the Heat, he answered, “If that’s what it takes.”
Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each have an early-termination option in their contract that allows them to be free agents this summer. Wade and James have not indicated their plans.
In March, Bosh went on the show and was asked for a true-or-false answer on whether he will be back and whether James will be back. He said true for both.
No. 3: Clearing up the state of the Wolves — The Minnesota Timberwolves are in their offseason and are in a state of disarray as well. They need a coach, they need to figure out what Kevin Love‘s intentions are with the team long term and need to know what kind of season to expect in 2014-15. Leave it to one of the most connected voices in Minneapolis-St. Paul sports, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, to shed a little clarity on Love, the coaching search and more:
With Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger out of the picture, the Timberwolves on Tuesday continued their search for a successor to Rick Adelman. The Wolves had made more progress with Joerger than any other candidate, but contract negotiations had not begun and no job offer had been made.
As was the plan from the start of the search, there still is no time frame for a hiring. Nor is there any shortage of candidates. The Wolves continue to receive an abundance of calls from would-be coaches and could hire one in five minutes if they felt they had the right person.
Former Wolves guard and Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell remains a prospect. It’s still unclear whether former Wolves coach and current Wolves basketball president Flip Saunders will end up with the coaching job.
Fred Hoiberg, the former Wolves front-office executive and current coach at Iowa State, is not a candidate. Neither is two-time NBA head coach Eric Musselman.
As for the Kevin Love situation, at least as of Tuesday the Wolves expected him to play for them next season rather than trade him. If the all-star power forward isn’t traded, though, he can opt out of his contract after next season. A report elsewhere that Sacramento has made an offer for Love isn’t accurate.
Neither is it accurate that prospective coaches aren’t interested in the Wolves job because of the uncertainty of Love’s status.
The Wolves have regularly fielded inquiries about whether Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio are available, but that hasn’t changed from a year ago. Even with those players, the Wolves have not become a playoff team.
No. 4: Report: Rambis latest name on Lakers’ interview list — So far, the L.A. Lakers have (or will have) interviewed the following folks for their coaching vacancy: Byron Scott, Mike Dunleavy, Lionel Hollins and Alvin Gentry. The newest name on the list is a familiar on to Lakers fans — former L.A. Lakers coach Kurt Rambis. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has more on the team interviewing the man who coached the Lakers during part of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season:
Kurt Rambis was among the pool of initial candidates to interview for the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching position, according to a league source.
Rambis, currently an assistant coach for the Lakers, interviewed with general manager Mitch Kupchak last week. Former Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy also interviewed for the opening last week, as did former Lakers player Byron Scott.
The Lakers are not in any rush to hire a coach. While Kupchak told reporters last week that the team ideally would fill the vacancy prior to the June 26 NBA draft, in which L.A. holds the No. 7 pick, the search very well could drag into July, when free agency begins.
“This is going to be a long process,” one team source said.
Rambis joined Mike D’Antoni‘s coaching staff as an assistant last season after working as an analyst for ESPN and Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers’ cable television network.
Prior to that, he had three previous stints as an assistant coach for the Lakers, spanning 12 seasons in total. He also was the Lakers’ head coach in 1998-99, going 24-13 after Del Harris was fired. Rambis, 56, went 32-132 in two seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Bucks owner Herb Kohl reportedly surprised BMO Harris Bradley Center employees with $500 checks in the mail … Nuggets GM Tim Connelly says Danilo Gallinari will be ready to go for team camp in the fall … The Wizards are closing in on a three-year deal for coach Randy Wittman … Via Grantland.com, some NBA scouts provide deep (if harsh), honest analysis on the top names in the 2014 Draft … Are the Rockets thinking about reacquiring Luis Scola? … Former Knicks legend Bernard King is auctioning off his Hall of Fame ring and trophy
ICYMI of The Night: Take 45 seconds this morning and watch the highlights of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook running wild against the Spurs in Game 4.