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Morning shootaround — April 6


VIDEO: Highlights from Tuesday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Green: Warriors ready for season to end | Parker doesn’t think Spurs will rest stars | Reports: Jackson wants to keep Rambis as coach | Scott irked by Lakers’ play in Kobe’s final games | Cavs getting act together

No. 1: Green says Warriors ready for season to end — Golden State still has a shot at 73 wins, but the road to it just got a lot tougher. After last night’s overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors have nine losses. They’ll have to run the table over their next four games to reach the magic number and to forward Draymond Green, the chase for history is wearing on the team a bit. Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com has more:

Following Golden State’s stunning 124-117 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night, Warriors forward Draymond Green conceded the team had at least gotten distracted by the possibility of winning 73 games and said the Warriors are ready for the regular season to be over.

Asked whether the Warriors had gotten caught up in the hype of possibly setting an NBA record for wins in a season, Green responded, “Honestly? Yes.” Then he corrected, “I wouldn’t necessarily say caught up in the hype.”

Green also said the Warriors are ready for this particular segment of the season to finish.

“It’s human nature to where, all right, kind of ready for the regular season to end,” Green said. “Talking 82 games, we get bored with that after awhile. And that’s no excuse, just, I’m always give it to y’all real, and that’s about as real as I can be. It’s kind of at a point now where you’re ready for the regular season to be over.”

Green continued, “Now, saying that, we got to be a better enough ballclub to continue to try to get better with these games and try and go into the playoffs the right way and not stumble in the playoffs, so, think that’s something we have to focus on. We got to try to finish out this regular season strong.”


VIDEO: Warriors fall to Wolves in OT

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No. 2: Parker doesn’t think Popovich will rest starters — With last night’s victory against the Utah Jazz, the San Antonio Spurs pushed their win total to 65 with five games to play. The Spurs not only have a shot at 70 wins, but also at a perfect 41-0 record at home this season, too. Yet as is the case with the Spurs as a season winds down and they gear up for the playoffs, there’s always the question of whether or not coach Gregg Popovich will rest the teams stars down the stretch of the season. Stalwart point guard Tony Parker, though, doesn’t expect that to be the case in 2015-16, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com:

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker reversed course Monday night regarding his belief that coach Gregg Popovich would rest the team’s frontline contributors during its next two meetings against the first-place Golden State Warriors.

Parker expected Popovich might rest key players in Monday’s 88-86 win over the Utah Jazz, but Popovich utilized the majority of the roster, with five players — Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili and Kyle Anderson — scoring in double figures. That led Parker to expect the entire group would play Thursday night at Golden State.

The teams meet again the following Sunday.

“I think we’ll play,” Parker said. “Utah, I thought he was going to rest everybody. But we played Utah, so I don’t see any reason we’re not playing Golden State.”

In March, Parker expressed pessimism about the chances for a Spurs and Warriors matchup involving all the team’s key players, citing Popovich’s penchant for resting key contributors leading into the postseason.

“I think no one will play [against the Warriors],” Parker said on his French radio show, which was translated by News 4 San Antonio. “To Pop, the most important thing is that the players are rested for the playoffs. As for first place, he does not care. For us, the end of the regular season is a good time to rest. That’s why we play hard throughout the season, trying to win the most games possible, to find ourselves in this situation of luxury. We are sure we will be the second seed and we can all rest before the playoffs.”

“Like I said, before the Utah game, I thought [Popovich] was going to rest everybody,” Parker said. “He said he wanted to play. So if we played Utah, I don’t see any reason now we’re not going to play Golden State. Before, we were going to rest everybody like against Utah and Golden State. But I guess he changed his mind. Everybody’s playing now.”

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No. 3: Reports: Jackson wants to keep Rambis as coach — The New York Knicks are on their way to a third straight appearance in the NBA Draft lottery as their season that began with some slight playoff hopes is just about over. In the course of this disappointing season, they fired their coach, Derek Fisher, who was hand-picked by team president Phil Jackson and replaced him with one of Jackson’s former assistant coaches, Kurt Rambis, as interim coach. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Jackson wants Rambis to get the gig full time for a complicated reason:

Phil Jackson is more vocal at Knicks practices since Kurt Rambis replaced Derek Fisher as head coach in February. For Jackson, it really is the best of both worlds; he can satisfy his coaching appetite without having the losses tarnish his resume.

Several players confirmed that they have noticed Jackson taking a more active role in helping Rambis run the team. Fisher mostly resisted Jackson’s input, especially in front of the team because he felt it undermined his authority.

Most head coaches would agree with Fisher, including a much younger Phil Jackson whose feuds with former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause were legendary. But as an executive, the 70-year-old Jackson fired his first-ever coaching hire less than two years into the job because Fisher wanted to run the team his way. Rambis, meanwhile, is Jackson’s preferred choice to keep the job because Rambis is more than willing to do things Jackson’s way.

Despite more accomplished coaching candidates available and despite Carmelo Anthony endorsing a comprehensive coaching search, Jackson is committed to his former aide and long-time friend. The Knicks have even started a smear campaign in the media against the top candidate available, former Knicks assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, who owns a .647 career winning percentage.

Only the Knicks could be foolish and arrogant enough to invite comparisons between Thibodeau and Rambis, who has a .284 career winning percentage including an 8-16 record with the Knicks. There was even innuendo of Thibodeau fighting with the Bulls’ front office as if that were exclusive to just him. Vinny Del Negro and Scott Skiles also had well publicized issues with Chicago’s front office. And perhaps Jackson has a temporary case of amnesia but he was usually at odds with Bulls and Lakers management as well.

It’s not about results or relationships. It’s about Jackson being able to have more control over the team and the style they play with his guy in charge. And that’s Rambis.

Rambis and Jackson also need the blessing of Dolan, the Chairman of Madison Square Garden. Dolan reportedly isn’t entirely opposed to Rambis but he’s not quite ready to sign off on hiring him either.

If Dolan rejects Jackson’s recommendation, there could be chaos and crisis at the home office.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ian Bagley have more on the Knicks’ desire to keep Rambis:

Sources told ESPN.com that Rambis, who has served as the Knicks’ interim coach since Derek Fisher was fired Feb. 8, is the preferred choice of team president ‎Phil Jackson, who sources say is pushing for a new multiyear deal for Rambis despite New York’s 8-16 record since the coaching change.

Sources say Jackson, who took his post with the Knicks in March 2014, has had a much more frequent presence at Knicks practices at home since Rambis took over.

With Jackson, 70, insisting that he can no longer handle the day-to-day rigors of coaching, sources say he sees Rambis as the coach best suited to not only run the triangle offense he favors but also manage the team using Jackson’s long-held principles.

Jackson, of course, had similar hopes for Fisher, one of his longtime on-the-court leaders with the Lakers. But New York made the abrupt decision to fire Fisher just a season and a half into his five-year, $25 million deal to coach the Knicks, with Fisher sporting a record of 40-96.

It remains to be seen how Anthony would respond to Rambis being elevated to full-time coach. Last month, Anthony said he hoped Jackson, in addition to considering Rambis, would open up the position and consider external candidates, with established names such as Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson all available ‎and possessing Knicks ties.

Phil Jackson last publicly addressed the Knicks’ coaching situation in March during the team’s West Coast road trip and said then that Rambis is “perfectly capable” of coaching the club on a full-time basis.

“Kurt and I have a relationship that goes back to 2001,” Jackson said. “He knows the ins and outs, what pleases me and [what] probably I want to have changed. … We have a relationship that’s much more tight [than Jackson’s relationship with Fisher].”

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No. 4: Scott irked by Lakers’ play in Kobe’s final games — Just five games remain in the Los Angeles Lakers season and, more importantly, in the farewell tour of their longtime superstar Kobe Bryant. Yet the Lakers haven’t exactly played well during these final Bryant games, including last night’s 103-81 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. That defeat tied a franchise record for the Lakers for losses in a season (61), which was set by last season’s squad. With more games to go, it is likely the Lakers will surpass that mark, which also doesn’t exactly delight coach Byron Scott. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes has more from Lakerland:

Lakers coach Byron Scott expressed frustration with the way his team is playing considering these are the final games for Kobe Bryant, who has five games left and is retiring this summer after a 20-season NBA career.

“It bothers me that his last five, six, seven, eight games are going to be with the way we’re playing as a team,” Scott said. “That bothers me, because you’re talking about a champion. That bothers me, because he is a champion. And I hate to see him go out this way. Unfortunately this is the way it’s going to be.

“It bothers the hell out of me that somebody who’s given 20 years to this league and has played through broken fingers, come back from the Achilles, come back from the shoulder surgery, and he still goes out there and gives it everything he has, that bothers me.”

Bryant finished with six points on 2-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes.

Even the Clippers’ Chris Paul, who played with Bryant on Team USA at the Olympics, said it’s difficult to watch Bryant’s career close like this.

“He’s a competitor and he wants to win every night,” Paul said, “so to see him end like this is sort of tough.”

Bryant, 37, said he and Metta World Peace often talk about the intensity they have as compared to other players. Bryant said he doesn’t know why others, including his teammates, don’t have that same intensity just yet.

“We try to sit there and try to figure out, ‘When did we start doing that?’ At what age we started doing that,” Bryant said. “We try to figure out what that trigger was for us. Metta, as far as he could remember, he was that way. As far as I can remember, I was that way. Watching Metta play in high school, he was that way.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to comprehend or understand where that comes from. But at the same time, we’ve seen players not have that at the beginning and then develop that. It’s just a matter of them developing it at this point.”

How do those players develop that?

“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “You’ve kind of got to go through failures and go through, I think, situations where you feel like you’re at rock bottom and the only thing to do is to fight back. That’s what I think.”

Scott has expressed frustration with his young players all season.

“In this league, if you’re going to be soft and passive, you’re normally going to get knocked out or beat,” Scott said. “And that’s what’s happening to us right now, you have to be the initiator, you have to be the aggressor. And maybe some of the makeup of our guys is just not that, I don’t know.

“But if not, they’re going to have to change, if they want to survive in this league, because that’s how it’s got to be. You’ve got to come out and be aggressive from the start. You can’t wait to see how the other team is going to play and then decide, OK, they’re going to be aggressive and physical, we better be aggressive and physical. It’s too late.”

Given how poorly the Lakers’ season has unfolded, Scott said it’s natural for the players to lose their focus.

“When you’re having a tough season, it’s human nature to just say, man, let’s just get this over with,” he said. “But the bottom line is you have to be a professional, you’ve got to come out and play hard every single night. If it’s the last game of the season or five games left in the season, because you’re still getting paid.

“If the paycheck was determined on how hard you played, maybe that’s a different story. But the bottom line is you’re still getting paid to go out there and play and play the best you can or play as hard as you can for as long as you can. And right now, that’s what we have to start getting back to.”

 
VIDEO: Clippers drub Lakers

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No. 5: Cavs may be shifting into ‘playoff mode’, too — Just a few weeks ago, all the buzz in NBA circles was about who LeBron James was or wasn’t following on social media. He responded to those concerns by saying he was shifting into ‘playoff mode’ and wanted his Cleveland Cavaliers to follow suit. After some fits and starts, they seem to be doing just that, writes Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal after last night’s blowout win in Milwaukee:

Hitting their stride, the Cavs continued the excellent ball movement they’ve displayed of late. Save for a rash of first-half traveling calls, they put on a clinic against the young Bucks.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue called it the team’s most complete game, both offensively and defensively, of the season.

Kevin Love contributed 17 points and nine rebounds, LeBron James 17 points, five rebounds and nine assists and Kyrie Irving 15 points and six assists. All rested in the fourth quarter.

Irving, who missed Sunday’s home victory over Charlotte, returned to the starting lineup after spraining his right ankle in Friday’s overtime victory at Atlanta. Irving ran his career total to 6,344 points and passed World B. Free to move into 10th place on the Cavs’ all-time scoring list.

But the night was all about J.R. Smith.

By halftime, Smith had hit 7-of-9 from deep. His lone misses came on two of his first three shots — an 18-foot stepback jumper on his first try and a 3-pointer on his second hoist from beyond the arc.

His pursuit of Person’s mark illustrated his teammates’ crisp passing. James assisted on Smith’s first two 3s, Irving on the record-breaker with 6:33 remaining in the first quarter, and Love on the next from long range.

Overall, the Cavs recorded 30 assists on 41 baskets.

“Right now, we understand how great it is to feel when the ball is moving and the energy behind the ball,” James said at the shootaround.

“Guys are getting looks, everyone feels in great rhythm and it’s helping our team success for sure.”

Lue’s focus is honing his team for the playoffs and his plan seems to be working.

With the final road trip of the season also including Wednesday’s game at Indiana and Saturday’s at Chicago, the Cavs recorded their fourth consecutive victory and fifth in the last six games.

“They’re coming together very well,” Lue said before the game. “I like our defensive approach, our approach in certain halves of certain quarters. I think we’re getting it.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Miami Heat haven’t let up on their tough-love approach to talented center Hassan Whiteside … Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo really wants to work out with LeBron James this summer … The Utah Jazz are still hoping Alec Burks can return to the lineup later this week … Chicago Bulls foward Taj Gibson is really sick of all the critics of coach Fred Hoiberg … Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie says he lost 20 pounds earlier this season due to stress … Philadelphia 76ers big man Nerlens Noel was back in action last night … 

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