NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Parker should be OK for Game 1 of Finals — The San Antonio Spurs are three days away from their first ever back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals and their hopes of winning the series may rest heavily on Tony Parker‘s gimpy left ankle. Parker missed the second half of the Spurs’ win against the Thunder in Game 6 of the West finals with the injury and his status for The Finals was unclear. But Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Parker should be OK for Game 1:
Despite a sprained ankle, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker is hopeful to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Parker “should be ready” to play in Game 1, two sources with direct knowledge told Yahoo Sports.
Parker will work to rehabilitate the sprain over the next several days of preparation for the Finals rematch with the Miami Heat.
Parker had been bothered by the ankle since Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and tried to play on it in Game 6 before missing the second half of the clinching victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
No. 2: Thunder stand firm behind Brooks — Oklahoma City’s loss in the West finals may have many wondering if coach Scott Brooks is the right man to lead the Thunder to The Finals (even though he did exactly that in 2012). As OKC’s players cleaned out their lockers and held exit interviews with the media yesterday, both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook voiced their support of Brooks, writes our own Jeff Caplan:
Thunder coach Scott Brooks‘ job security always seems to be a topic fluttering in the breeze. He’s overseen three Western Conference finals appearances in the last four seasons, yet his critics continue to howl. Saturday’s Game 6 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs ended a second season of falling short of a return to the Finals.
However, it didn’t stop the franchise’s superstar, the league’s MVP from endorsing his coach.
“That’s our guy,” Durant said of Brooks during Sunday’s exit interviews, “and I’m riding with him.”
It would seem owner Clay Bennett and general manager Sam Presti would, too, but then Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Vinny Del Negro and Mark Jackson – fired 50-win club members — are still tidying up their resumes.
That’s typically not the case for a coach who has won better than 70 percent of his games in each of the last three seasons. Brooks has two years left on his contract at what is believed to be between $8 million and $9 million. The Thunder are not a franchise that takes a cavalier approach to paying one man not to work while paying another to fill his position.
Yet, Mike Brown is out in Cleveland with $16 million owed to him.
Is it possible the Thunder believe Brooks has taken this team as far as he can?
“It’s something that I don’t even consider. I do my job every day,” Brooks said. “I’ve had a lot of valuable lessons in my life from my mother and she’s always told me this: You do your job every day and you live with the results. ‘They say,’ you can’t worry about what ‘they say’; you never ever meet those people. I have many stories that I can tell you about my mom and that’s one of them — don’t worry about ‘them.’ Those are the people that told me I wasn’t going to make it as a 4-11 freshman in high school. My dream was to be an NBA player. If I would have listened to ‘they’ I would never have been able to make it.”
Presti won’t listen to ‘they.’ He’ll make up his own mind, if there’s even a decision to make. He spent Sunday conducting exit interviews with players and he will soon talk with Brooks, who Presti hired as an assistant onto P.J. Carlesimo‘s staff in Seattle and then promoted when he fired Carlesimo after a 1-12 start in Oklahoma City.
Soon after, Brooks elevated No. 4 pick Russell Westbrook to starting point guard. If Brooks and Westbrook have anything in common, it’s that criticism never strays far.
“Ever since I’ve been here and Scotty became the head coach, he’s done a great job of having confidence in me personally,” Westbrook said. “There’s times where things have gone south and he’s the only one that always, always, regardless of what happened, always had my back; regardless of people saying I was doing this, I was doing that, I was being selfish, being that, he always was the first person to step up and have my back and support me regardless of what’s going on. He does a great job of always staying positive and trusting in our guys and trusting in each and every person we have and in the organization.”
No. 3: Celts’ track record appealing to Love? — The lull between the end of the conference finals and the start of The Finals allows for some names not in the title series to get into the headlines. Such was the case yesterday with Kevin Love, who had the NBA Twitter world abuzz with his visit to Boston that was deemed by some as an unofficial recruiting visit for the All-Star forward disappointed with how his Minnesota Timberwolvs are shaping up. Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe has a full recap of Love’s trip (visiting a local bar, attending a Boston Red Sox game and more were all part of the day), but A. Sherrod Blakely CSNNNE.com has perhaps the more revealing quote from an unnamed ex-teammate of Love’s:
It doesn’t matter how much Timberwolves GM Flip Saunders says he plans to keep Love, we all know that’s just part of negotiating.
“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders told the Associated Press on Sunday after a workout of draft prospects. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”
But Love just happening to be vacationing in a city that’s potentially interested in trading for him? And it’s not a typical summer destination for players like Miami or Orlando or Los Angeles?
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone other than Saunders who believes Love’s trip to Boston and the Celtics’ interest in him to be coincidental.
While that may be speculative, one thing we do know for sure is that Love made the decision to spend some time in Boston, and the 25-year-old all-star will leave with a better idea of what the city has to offer.
And while Boston’s off-the-court life may be appealing, Love is far more concerned with the basketball side of things which is actually a positive for the Celtics.
One of Love’s former teammates told CSNNE.com on Sunday that Boston’s tradition and Danny Ainge‘s track record of building an elite team on the fly, are both qualities that are attractive to Love.
“I know Kevin wants to be somewhere where he can win, not necessarily a championship from Day One, but at least be on a path to doing that soon,” the source told CSNNE.com.
No. 4: Parsons on staying in Houston: ‘Would be nice’ — Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is roundly considered one of the best Draft-day steals of the past few years. Taken with the 37th overall pick in 2011, Parsons has evolved into an everyday starting small forward in the NBA and a key part of Houston’s budding core that includes Dwight Howard, James Harden and Patrick Beverley. He has an option for this upcoming season and is eligible to be re-signed and via an impromptu Twitter Q&A with fans, gave some insight into his desire to stay in Houston. Adam Wexler of CSNHouston.com has more:
Sunday night, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons held an impromptu Q-and-A with his followers on twitter and among the questions he answered was one that simply asked, “do you want to stay in Houston?”
His response? “Would be nice.”
A few minutes later, Parsons was asked, “do u think think you will ever leave the Rockets?” Parsons response was a short and sweet: “ask @dmorey”
Parsons will be entering his fourth season in the NBA with the Rockets since Houston drafted him 37th overall in the 2011 draft. His initial contract was a four-year deal with the Rockets holding an option on the fourth season. If that option is picked up, then Parsons will become an unrestricted free agents following next season in the summer of 2015.
The Rockets could decline that option, however, and along with it make him a qualifying offer and make Parsons a restricted free agent this offseason. The Rockets would also have the option of declining the fourth-year option on Parsons and not making him a qualifying offer, which would then make Parsons an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Morey, one of the most active general managers in pro sports on social media, got in on the twitter back and forth with a light-hearted question of his own, which also illustrated the good relationship he and Parsons have developed.
No. 5: Jackson, Perkins seem likely to stay in OKC — Oklahoma City’s season ended Saturday night with an OT loss to San Antonio in Game 6 of the West finals. Yesterday was locker room clean-out/exit interviews day and while the mood was somber, the team sees a bright future ahead and has hope in that. But there are still questions for the Thunder — namely will it lose solid reserve point guard Reggie Jackson and what will they do with veteran (and oft-maligned) center Kendrick Perkins? Marc Stein of ESPN.com has more on OKC’s roster outlook:
How worried should the Thunder be about getting Reggie Jackson signed for the long term?
Based on the available evidence? Not much. I struggle to imagine a scenario where the Thunder fail to lock up their backcourt speedster one way or another.
They’ll either get him signed to an extension before Halloween, or, if necessary, set aside the needed funds to match any offers he gets in restricted free agency in 2015.
The Thunder always place great value on players they draft and develop, especially when they’re athletic and long and can play multiple positions. They’d surely rather to get the extension done during this forthcoming July 1-Oct. 31 window just to ensure that Jackson isn’t even exposed to the open market — and the threat of a lucrative offer sheet in July 2015 — but they realistically shouldn’t have any issues matching offers for Jackson if it comes to that. Not with Perkins’ contract dropping off the payroll at the same time.
Wait a minute. Isn’t this the summer that the Thunder finally amnesty Perk?
Anyone watching Durant’s time-stopping MVP press conference last month won’t soon forget how it was talking about Perk (yes, Perk) that initially triggered KD’s flood of tears. The 29-year-old is held in the highest esteem within the group, not only as a leader but for his role in helping transform the Thunder from fun band of ridiculously talented kids to serious title challenger.
He mentors Steven Adams. He also happened to have a quietly positive postseason when you focus on the defensive contributions Perkins made against Memphis monsters Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in particular, without which OKC might not have gotten out of the first round.
The reality, furthermore, is that there’s no real salary-cap benefit to cutting Perkins loose now. Wiping next season’s $9.4 million salary off the books won’t get the Thunder under the cap, so there’s nothing to be gained by such a move beyond appeasing Perk-bashers that they’d never listen to anyway.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: John Wall plans to work out with teammate Bradley Beal this summer … Thabo Sefolosha seems unlikely to remain with the Thunder … Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki both lost in the opening round of the French Open, but didn’t miss out on the East finals fun in Miami … ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” digs into some past depositions in Donald Sterling‘s history … Expect the Magic to be be active-but-cautious in the free-agent market this summer … Don Nelson might be smiling somewhere now that the NBA has embraced his small-ball ways … An ankle injury has Tony Parker‘s status for The Finals up in the air
ICYMI of The Night: Three days and counting until The 2014 Finals, so take a little time and relive the exciting East (see above) and West finals series …