VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 1
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Cavs held players-only meeting after Blatt ouster — To date, the players-only meeting has been employed in two NBA cites — Sacramento and Washington — and was done in Cleveland, too, just last week. That’s the word from ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe, who report the meeting was an airing of grievances/accountability session took place shortly after coach David Blatt was fired and that it has been one of the big reasons behind the Cavs’ play of late:
Following a meeting called by general manager David Griffin to inform the team that coach David Blatt had been fired, Cavs players held an extended and spirited players-only meeting, sources told ESPN.com. It turned into an airing of grievances, including stars LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but eventually led to an agreement that has been a basis for the Cavs’ recent strong play.
“It was like ripping off a scab,” one team source said. “And it was exactly what needed to happen. I think it was what [Griffin] was hoping for.”
Said another source: “It was very healthy for the team. It probably needed to happen weeks ago.”
A central issue in the discussion, sources said, was the need for accountability within the team. One of the issues that was keeping the team from enjoying some of the successes of the season was the different set of rules for some players compared to others.
In what could turn out to be a key moment in their tenures together, James, Irving and Love came to an understanding that they needed to police each other on certain matters and use their influence within the team to set a standard for accountability, sources said. That was frequently a missing component over the past season and a half, sometimes creating friction.
Sources told ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin that James, Irving and Love led the conversation, owning up to personal faults and using the open forum to express what they expected out of their teammates.
“It’s the type of conversation that only comes out when it’s time for that conversation, if you know what I mean,” a source said. The discussion got contentious at times, though sources said that it was expected.
Veteran James Jones played a key role in the gathering, both in bringing the players together and encouraging discussion, sources told McMenamin. Jones, whom players call by his nickname, “Champ,” carries significant respect in the locker room.
Griffin asked Jones to organize the meeting. Players were told they were being called together to report to the Cavs’ practice facility on their off day for a team matter. After Griffin addressed the team for 15 minutes and told them Tyronn Lue was being promoted to head coach, the players stayed and discussed matters for around an hour. Lue did not address the team until the following morning at shootaround.
No. 2: Report: Nash not interested in coaching Suns — The Phoenix Suns fired Jeff Hornacek early Monday morning and have since replaced him with one of his assistants, Earl Watson, as interim coach. The issues for the Suns seem to run pretty deep and getting them back to where they were two seasons ago — as a near-playoff team — may take a while. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, former Suns standout and two-time MVP winner Steve Nash will not be coming to coach the team anytime soon:
The Phoenix Suns have strong interest in former star guard Steve Nash for their coaching vacancy, but Nash is not interested in going into full-time coaching at this time, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that Suns owner Robert Sarver, even before firing Jeff Hornacek early Monday morning after the team’s overnight arrival in Phoenix following a four-game road trip, has had Nash high on his list of potential targets to take over the team.
But Nash, sources say, is not ready to entertain the thought of a head-coaching position or even an assistant coach’s role at this juncture, preferring to focus on fatherhood (he has three young children) and his various off-court interests in addition to a part-time consulting role he took on at the start of the season with theGolden State Warriors.
It remains to be seen whether the Suns will pursue Nash in a front-office capacity instead.
In his first full year of retirement, Nash had to be lobbied hard by some of his closest friends — Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Kerr’s assistant Bruce Fraser and Warriors team president Rick Welts — just to consent to the consulting position with Golden State. The arrangement with Golden State, sources say, calls for Nash to spend a few days per month with the league’s reigning champions.
Nash and Sarver still have a very strong relationship as well, as evidenced by the partnership they struck recently as part of the Sarver-led consortium that completed the purchase of Spanish Segunda Division soccer team RCD Mallorca earlier this month.
ESPN reported in early January that former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, now associate head coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, would also be on the Suns’ list of coaching candidates if Hornacek was indeed ousted.
No. 3: Scott fires back at MacLean, defends Russell’s minutes — Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell has been in and out of the starting lineup for the team all season and, most recently, has settled in as a reserve. Although he is fourth on the team in scoring, Russell opened up to our David Aldridge that he’s getting used to NBA life and his fluctuating role under coach Byron Scott. During last week’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Clippers TV analyst (and ex-UCLA star) Don MacLean opined about why Russell was on a minutes limit. When Scott was told of the remarks, he both laid into MacLean and defended his tactics, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
The voice sounded exasperated and the tone sounded frustrated. Clippers analyst and former UCLA standout Don MacLean spoke of what many Laker fans have echoed in thought, on the airwaves and on Twitter.
“I really wish Byron Scott would just give D’Angelo Russell the keys and say, ‘You know what? Go for it man,’” MacLean said on Friday’s telecast of the Lakers-Clippers game on Prime Ticket.
After training with Russell in pre-draft workouts, MacLean then called Russell “the best passer I’ve ever seen.”
“He’s still playing tentative because he’s looking over his shoulder,” MacLean said. “If Byron Scott would just say, ‘You know what, D’Angelo? I don’t care if you turn it over 15 times tonight, you’re going to play 35 minutes. Go for it, and go for it,’ (Russell) will figure it out.”
The voice sounded annoyed and the tone sounded testy. Scott both defended how he has developed his rookie point guard while also questioning MacLean’s credibility.
“First of all to Don, that’s why you’re not coaching,” Scott said following Monday’s practice. “You don’t let a guy go out there and just almost embarrass himself or kill himself by playing 35 minutes and creating 10, 12, 15 turnovers. The one thing it can do is self-destruct him.”
MacLean became defensive over Scott’s dig on his lack of coaching.
“I’m not coaching because I chose not to coach. We don’t know if I could’ve coached or not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know the game,” MacLean said. “I’m not the first person to wonder out loud why he hasn’t just given the keys to D’Angelo and let him figure it out because you’re going to set records for losing this year.”
Yet, Scott strongly defended how he has molded Russell, who has averaged 11.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 26.9 minutes per game.
“I was taught a long time ago, you just give them a little bit at first, to give it all to them and try to take it back is much harder,” Scott said. “Give them a little bit and then give them a little bit more, give them a little bit more is a lot easier.”
Scott initially had thought of bringing Russell off the bench to open the season despite being the team’s No. 2 overall draft pick. But Scott decided otherwise so Russell could play with Kobe Bryant and Jordan Clarkson against the NBA’s best talent. But Scott reversed course 20 games into the season.
“It was more to let him know, you still haven’t earned this,” Scott said. “You still have to fight for this. Nothing’s given.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One man’s view of the top 100 free agents this summer … New Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue enacted one of Phil Jackson‘s tried-and-true strategies last night … The Orlando Magic may be listening to trade offers for big man Channing Frye … Phoenix Suns interim coach Earl Watson will soon sign with Rich Paul‘s agency … Speaking of the Suns, former Seattle Sonics, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers coach Bob Hill will join Watson’s staff soon … LeBron James‘ sons dominated a tournament in Ohio over the weekend … The makers of NBA2K16 are being sued for having some players tattoos in the game … Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott definitely remembers what it was like losing 26 in a row as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers …