VIDEO: Highlights from Wednesday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
Warriors want to finish with No. 1 overall seed | Prognosis grim for Jazz’s Sloan | Hinkie era ends in Philly | Bryant has no specific plans for final game | Ewing wants Knicks’ gig; ‘Melo wants say on next coach
No. 1: Finishing with No. 1 overall seed remains Warriors’ goal — Tonight’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs (10:30 ET, TNT) gives the Golden State Warriors a shot at reaching 70 wins. It’s also, perhaps, Step 1 in a four-game plan to reach an NBA-record 73 wins. But after yesterday’s practice, both coach Steve Kerr and center Andrew Bogut doubled-down on the notion that finishing the season strong — and with the NBA’s top overall seed — remains the goal. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:
Yep, the Warriors spent Wednesday recalibrating their focus from chasing NBA history to merely completing a historic regular season by clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
“Every day, it’s the same questions,” said Bogut, who was one of the few who stayed after Kerr told the players they could leave the practice facility following a video session. “Every day, it’s the same thing on TV. Every day, it’s the same article. Every day, it’s a new former player who has a comment. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with, but it’s no excuse.
“We’re going for the record, but if we don’t get it, it’s not the end of the world.”
The Warriors’ magic number for the top seed in the West and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is two, meaning they would clinch it with a victory over the Spurs on Thursday.
“We’re still trying to get the No. 1 seed,” Kerr said. “… Let’s do that, and then worry about everything else later. … We’ll just try to win tomorrow and then figure out what’s next.”
They haven’t played consistently well in a month and haven’t played a full game of top-notch defense in at least as long. They lost for the first time at home in 55 regular-season games Friday and dropped another one Tuesday.
“I’m actually surprised this didn’t happen a while back,” Kerr said. “There’s a reason that this record has been standing for 20 years. It’s a hard thing to do. …
“It’s a miracle that we’ve gone this far without sort of hitting a bump in the road. … It’s just surprising for people out there — and maybe even our own guys — because this season has come almost too easily for us.”
The Warriors finish the regular season with a home game against Memphis on Wednesday. In between the games at Oracle Arena, they’ll have their first consecutive days off in almost six weeks following a back-to-back set in Memphis and San Antonio.
That should be enough to recapture the Warriors’ focus.
“Once you lose your focus, that’s when bad defense happens. That’s when turnovers happen. That’s when fouling happens,” forward Draymond Green said. “… I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily caught up in the hype, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where … we’re like, ‘All right, we’re kind of ready for the regular season to end.’
“When you’re talking about 82 games, you get bored of that after a while.”
VIDEO: Andrew Bogut talks after Wednesday’s practice
No. 2: Prognosis gloomy for Sloan — Few coaches are as associated with a franchise as much as Jerry Sloan is with the Utah Jazz. He hasn’t coached the team since 2011, but remains one of the most enduring figures in team history — along with the two fellow Hall of Famers he coached, John Stockton and Karl Malone. Sad news came out yesterday via the The Salt Lake Tribune that Sloan is suffering from both Parkinson’s disease and a form of dementia. Steve Luhm of the The Salt Lake Tribune, who first broke the story, has more on the not-so-bright future Sloan faces:
No. 3: Why Hinkie era came to an end in Philadelphia — For nearly three full seasons, Philadelphia 76ers president and general manager Sam Hinkie has taken the franchise down to the studs in hopes of rebuilding it into a winner. The results have not been pretty as the Sixers have been, if not the worst, one of the worst teams every season he has been on the job. Yesterday, Hinkie abruptly stepped down from his post in Philly. Our David Aldridge has more on why Hinkie left his post and what may lie ahead for the 76ers:
The controversial three-year reign of Philadelphia 76ers president and general manager Sam Hinkie ended Wednesday with Hinkie’s resignation, clearing the way for two-time NBA Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo to assume the team’s GM spot, where he’ll work alongside his father, Jerry, who was given full authority over the team last December by majority owner Josh Harris as chairman of basketball operations.
In the end, according to sources, Hinkie was unwilling to accept a power-sharing arrangement the 76ers wanted to create going forward, with Hinkie still part of the team’s decision-making structure. The idea was to have Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo work together — to “marry them up,” as was said Wednesday — with Bryan Colangelo handling the job of working with agents and other teams that Hinkie struggled with over the last few years.
Agents and teams complained about his manner. Sources inside the 76ers’ organization also indicated problems getting Hinkie to trust others outside a small circle of confidantes and employees he hired.
League sources maintain that Harris had grown weary both of the criticism he (and Hinkie) had received the last couple of years, and by the lackluster on-court product.
Hinkie came to Philadelphia in 2013 from Philadelphia with a mandate to take what had been a playoff team the previous two years down to the foundations in order to try and build a championship organization. Hinkie hired Brett Brown off the Spurs’ bench as head coach, giving him a four-year deal (at Brown’s insistence). The 76ers pushed the envelope in all areas of player development, monitoring their players’ sleep patterns, exertions and seemingly anything else that could be measured or timed.
He always gambled on superstar potential at any opportunity. He drafted Joel Embiid out of Kansas with the third pick of the 2014 Draft after one year in college, even though Embiid was coming off of a foot injury that has kept him from playing a single minute in two NBA seasons. Hinkie traded for the Draft rights to forward Dario Saric, considered by many to be the top prospect in Europe. But Saric has stayed overseas the last two years, though he is expected to come to the 76ers next season.…
Hinkie came to honor a three-word phrase — “trust the process” — which came to symbolize his controversial methods in Philly. He had lots of supporters in town, though it appeared more were frustrated and ultimately disillusioned by the plan. The 76ers’ attendance has cratered the last three years; currently, according to ESPN.com, Philadelphia is 28th in the league in average home attendance (roughly 14,800 per game) after finishing 30th and 29th, respectively, the previous two seasons.
But Hinkie’s maneuverings have produced a haul of future Draft picks, beginning this June, that could — one way or the other — reshape the franchise.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein — who first broke the news of Hinkie’s resignation — has more about it, including portions from a 13-page letter Hinkie wrote to the team’s ownership group:
Hinkie addressed the Sixers’ ownership group Wednesday in a letter, which was obtained by ESPN.com.
“Given all the changes to our organization, I no longer have the confidence that I can make good decisions on behalf of investors in the Sixers — you,” he wrote. “So I should step down. And I have.”
His farewell letter to the Sixers’ ownership group spanned 13 pages.
In one passage, Hinkie wrote: “What I hope to accomplish here is to give you insight into what has transpired behind the scenes in ways you might not have otherwise heard about. Many of you attended our most recent board meeting in New York, where many of these topics were addressed. But for all twelve of you, I hope that this provides a deeper look into what you have at your organization.
“Accordingly, you should anticipate some mild cheerleading [of others] sprinkled with a healthy dose of self-flagellation about things I’ve done wrong. There has been much criticism of our approach. There will be more. A competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortably zag. We often chose not to defend ourselves against much of the criticism, largely in an effort to stay true to the ideal of having the longest view in the room.”
In the letter, Hinkie quoted no less than 13 well-known contrarians from all walks of life, including billionaire investor Warren Buffett and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
VIDEO: David Aldridge explains why Sam Hinkie resigned
No. 4: Bryant has no specific plans for his final game — These Los Angeles Lakers are officially the worst team in franchise history by record alone, as last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers gave the Lakers their 62nd defeat. No team in the franchise’s storied history has lost that many games in one season, so it’s understandable a competitor like Kobe Bryant is more upset about that than he is dreaming about his final game, which comes against the Jazz at Staples Center on April 13. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News has more:
The moment has already played out in Byron Scott’s mind, and who could blame him?
The Lakers’ coach has witnessed unwatchable games all season as his players labored through another season that will end without a playoff appearance for the third consecutive year. Scott also has embraced the farewell tour for Kobe Bryant, who bonded with Scott during his rookie season with the Lakers 20 years ago.
So Scott outlined in exact detail how he hopes Bryant’s last game plays out against Utah at Staples Center on April 13.
“The score is tied the last couple seconds of the game and it’s a patented fallaway,” Scott said before the Lakers hosted the Clippers on Wednesday in a designated home game at Staples Center. “Back you down, hit you a couple of times, turn around and hit you baseline and knocks it down for the game-winner. I would love for that to be the ending of the story.”
It would become fitting for Bryant, who has won five NBA championships and climbed to third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Yet, Bryant hardly sounded as nostalgic for one simple reason.
“Win a championship and that ain’t happening,” Bryant said. “The dream’s done.”
So, Bryant expressed indifference on how the game plays out. He simply wants to enjoy the atmosphere, play against a competitive team, and of course, win the game.
“That is the greatest form of competition. That’s best thing you can have,” Bryant said. “A very physical one, competitive one, that’s what basketball should be. In terms of the game, I don’t know man. I’m really not going to think about it that much.”
No. 5: Ewing wants crack at Knicks’ job; Anthony wants vote in hiring proces — As a player for the New York Knicks, Patrick Ewing crafted a legacy with the team where the high point may have been him leading the team to the 1994 Finals. It has been more than 16 years since Ewing last donned a Knicks uniform and his No. 33 was retired by the team and hangs in the Madison Square Garden rafters. Now an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets, Ewing openly pined for a chance to interview for the Knicks’ coaching vacancy this summer, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
In between the hugs and embraces that will forever come at the Garden, Patrick Ewing wondered why, despite over a decade as a successful assistant, he hasn’t been offered a head position.
Then he stumped for the job with the most sentimental value before the Knicks’ 111-97 home loss to Charlotte.
“You know, this is a great fit for me. I have my number up there (in the Garden rafters). I still live in the area,” Ewing said. “If I get an opportunity for an interview I’d be happy.”
Ewing, 53, is currently the lead assistant with the Hornets under Steve Clifford, having served in a similar role with four different NBA teams.
The Knicks didn’t call Ewing before hiring first-year head coach Derek Fisher in 2014, and they’re not expected — at least not as long as Phil Jackson is in charge — to give him a look after this season. Four years ago, Ewing declined a chance to become the coach the Knicks’ D-League team — an offer which, at the time, his former teammate Charles Oakley called “embarrassing” and “a kindergarten job” in an interview with the Daily News.
“I’ve been doing this, what, 13 years now? I see people who don’t have the same amount on their resume as I do and still have gotten opportunities,” Ewing said Wednesday.
ESPN.com’s Ian Bagley also reports that superstar forward Carmelo Anthony doesn’t want to be left in the cold when it comes time for the Knicks to decide on their coach:
Carmelo Anthony would like to have some input on the Knicks’ upcoming personnel decisions, including the club’s next head-coaching hire.
“I think you have to,” he said Wednesday night. “I think you have to have some type of input, whether it’s input or dialogue, whatever word that you want to use. I think you have to have that. I think at this point it needs to be some type of connection, some type of communication. Especially if we want to right this ship, there definitely needs to be some type of communication.”
Anthony added that he had yet to speak to team president Phil Jackson or other members of the team’s front office about plans to fill the coaching vacancy.
Sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that Kurt Rambis, who has served as the Knicks’ interim coach since Derek Fisher was fired Feb. 8, is Jackson’s preferred choice. Sources say Jackson is pushing for a new multiyear deal for Rambis despite New York’s 8-17 record since the coaching change.
Anthony, 31, on Wednesday commended Rambis’ work as interim coach.
“I like Kurt,” he said. “I thought he was kind of thrown into a tough situation with the firing of [Fisher] and kind of gathering the troops, getting guys to play and finish the season up. As far as what’s going to happen this summer, this offseason and next year, who’s going to be in that spot, I have no idea. I haven’t had any conversations with anybody about that. I’m pretty sure they’ll address that when the offseason comes.
“I would love to have some type of input when it comes to that. But like I said, nobody has had a conversation about that yet.”
Rambis said Wednesday that he would fully welcome the opportunity to coach the team full time.
“It would be fantastic,” Rambis said before the Knicks’ 111-97 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. “I want to be a head coach in this league. This is a great franchise; it’s a terrific city, fan base. It would be a thrill beyond thrills in order to take this situation from where it was when we all first came here and turn it into a situation where it’s extremely promising and we have a chance to get in the playoffs and do well in the playoffs and get this city and this organization a potential championship. That’s a goal, and that would be a tremendous thrill.”
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.
“We’re on the same page in terms of what’s needed, what’s missing, what we aren’t doing well. We have a clear understanding of that,” Rambis said of his relationship with Jackson. “Now it’s just a matter of being in a situation where we can correct that and get the guys playing the way we would like for them to play and the way we envision them playing.”
Rambis, though, pushed back against the idea that he would be a puppet of sorts as a coach under Jackson. Fisher, Jackson’s first coaching hire, also bristled at the perception of being under Jackson’s thumb.
“I grew up playing basketball a certain way, and it’s very consistent with what Phil believes and thinks,” Rambis said. “So I don’t consider myself a puppet of his. It’s just a mindset of how we think the game should be played.”
Jackson, 70, has insisted 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.
Rambis has run the triangle with the Knicks and says the club is improving but isn’t close to where it needs to be to run the offense well.
VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony talks after Wednesday night’s loss
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kendrick Perkins says his former teammate, Kevin Durant, has ‘a couple of teams he’ll be looking at’ in free agency this summer … The future of coach Byron Scott will be one of the top offseason discussion topics for the Los Angeles Lakers … San Antonio Spurs big man Boris Diaw says he wants to travel in space someday … The Toronto Raptors have a price in mind if and when ads on jerseys become a real thing … Center Brook Lopez remains a key part of the Brooklyn Nets’ latest rebuild efforts … Slowly, steadily and with a standout defense, the Utah Jazz are getting out of the middle of the NBA pack … Speaking of the Jazz, one-time starting point guard Trey Burke is trying to stay professional as his role has disappeared …