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Morning shootaround — April 22


VIDEO: Highlights from Thursday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry didn’t decide to miss Game 3 alone | Rockets’ front office gets vocal on social media | Why Wizards are hiring Brooks | Kings interview Mitchell

No. 1: Warriors decided collectively to rest Curry for Game 3 — Reigning Kia MVP Stephen Curry has been itching to get back in the Golden State Warriors’ lineup ever since he tweaked his right ankle in Game 1 of the team’s first-round series. He hadn’t done so leading up to last night’s Game 3 in Houston and while he likely hoped to play then, he ultimately sat out on Thursday, too. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the decision to sit Curry was not made in a vacuum but rather in consultation with several Warriors officials:

Stephen Curry did not play Thursday night in Game 3, but only after prolonged conversation and contemplation among Warriors officials.

This time, Curry made his case to play. His much-scrutinized right ankle felt better than it did Monday night, when he cut short his pregame warm-up routine and essentially decided on his own he would not play in Game 2.

This time, Curry wanted to give it a shot. He went through Thursday morning’s shootaround, and afterward he spent several minutes talking to team trainers and team doctor Bill Maloney on the court at Toyota Center.

Head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers joined a subsequent discussion, and a consensus emerged to give Curry at least two more days to recover.

Kerr said the ankle improved from Wednesday to Thursday. The decision was made by Kerr, Myers, Maloney and the training staff, with input from Curry.

“We made a collaborative decision,” Myers said. “Everyone had a voice, including Steph. The fact he hasn’t done much live work in practice, it’s hard to know what he can do in game situations.”

The decision means Curry will have seven full days between games. He injured the ankle Saturday in Game 1; now he hopes to return Sunday for Game 4.

Asked about his outlook for Curry on Sunday, Myers said, “I’m hopeful. Hopefully, he’ll have an opportunity to do a little more (the next two days) than he’s done.”

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No. 2:  Rockets’ front office take shots at refs, Barkley — After two mostly disappointing performances to start their first-round series with the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets got off the mat and took Game 3 last night in dramatic fashion. After the win, two members of the Rockets’ front office — GM Daryl Morey and team CEO Tad Brown — took to various forms of social media to voice complaints about officiating and to blast analysis from NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley. ESPN.com’s Calvin Watkins has more:

The Rockets’ front office, while happy the team beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 on Thursday night, had some strong comments on social media about the officiating and criticism from former Rockets player and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted two tweets questioning the officials after Houston’s 97-96 victory over Golden State cut the Warriors’ lead in the first-round series to 2-1.

Morey responded to a video of Warriors center Andrew Bogut tangled in an armbar with Rockets center Dwight Howard in the second quarter. The play led to Howard, obviously frustrated, throwing the ball at Bogut and drawing a technical foul.

Morey also responded to a video from Sports Illustrated showing Golden State’s Draymond Green taking Houston’s Michael Beasley to the ground just before the final buzzer. No foul was called.

Rockets CEO Tad Brown responded to Houston Chronicle writer David Barron posting Barkley’s comments that he doesn’t have confidence in Houston’s ability to hold on to a lead.

“Ain’t nothing worse than fake hustle,” Barkley said on the TNT telecast. “I guarantee you the Rockets are going to lose this game.”

Houston has taken heavy criticism locally and nationally this season for its underachieving play and for losing the first two games of this series.

TNT hit the Rockets hard on Thursday despite their 17-point lead, which they eventually lost late in the fourth quarter before hanging on to win.

“No, no, it’s their job to talk,” guard Patrick Beverley said when asked whether the comments upset the team. “You can’t be mad at them.”

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No. 3: Wizards’ hiring of Brooks about more than Durant — Yes, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant is a free agent this summer. Yes, he’s from the Washington, D.C.-area and his hometown Wizards are hoping to make a push for him. How realistic is that he’ll be a Wizard next season? Who knows. Yesterday, the Wizards may have made a small step in luring him by reportedly agreeing to a five-year, $35 million deal with Durant’s former coach, Scott Brooks. But the Wizards’ hiring of Brooks is about more than him being a potential KD bait, writes Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post:

He deserves to be looked at as more than Durant free agency bait, but that’s how he will be viewed until Decision 2016. It’s a corny thought to believe Durant will be swayed by the hiring of a coach whose job he didn’t try to save this time a year ago.

Nevertheless, Durant is surely a factor in the Wizards choosing Brooks, no matter how far down the list of reasons it was. And with all current indications suggesting that Durant is unlikely to prefer a homecoming, it sets up the real intrigue behind the selection of Brooks.

Who is Brooks without Durant?

The Wizards made a safe hire; it’s hard to imagine Brooks being a disaster unless something crazy happens to the roster. He’s a good coach. He contributed to building Oklahoma City’s enviable culture of collegiality, hard work and professionalism. His floor is on an elevated platform.

Still, there’s the question of whether this will go down as a great hire. For all Brooks did to earn the respect of the Thunder, for all the admirable work he and his staff did with young teams, Brooks still struggled to get through to Westbrook, who is stubborn and dominates the ball. Despite all the winning Brooks did with the Thunder, there was always a sense that Oklahoma City could function a little better, and there were constant murmurs about whether that team needed a more established voice.

Could any of those issues become problems in Washington? Well, Wall and Westbrook are much different point guards, even though both rely on their athleticism and attack the basket. John Wall is more open to change and new ideas. Perhaps, if there’s less resistance, Brooks can show more creativity than he did in Oklahoma City. The Thunder often turned into Team Isolation, with Russell Westbrook and Durant playing a two-man game, with the basketball staying on one side of the floor instead of moving fluidly and with too many bad shots taken for a team that should’ve displayed better balance and unselfishness.

Brooks has had a year off to reinvent himself after his first head coaching job. He has spent his time studying, visiting teams throughout the NBA and even going overseas to continue his basketball education. Brooks comes to Washington with a reputation for having a solid defensive system and a more traditional approach both on offense and in how he determines his lineup rotations.

Coaches do evolve, however. When Rick Carlisle was in Detroit and Indiana, he was considered a defensive coach. In Dallas, he has introduced what he calls the “flow offense.” It’s a clever, beautiful and efficient style of play. And the man still knows defense.

He’s a 50-year-old who didn’t really fail in Oklahoma City. He still might be coaching the Thunder if Durant hadn’t gotten hurt last year. And he’ll have his chance to pitch a reunion with Durant this summer.

But Brooks is more than Durant’s NBA guardian, isn’t he? There has to be more to him.

How much more? The Wizards have $35 million riding on the answer.

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No. 4: Kings begin coaching search, interview Mitchell — The Sacramento Kings have a vacancy on their bench after firing George Karl shortly after 2015-16 came to a close. Sam Mitchell is out of a job after the Minnesota Timberwolves let him go in favor of a new coach, Tom Thibodeau, who was hired on Wednesday. Mitchell became the first person to interview for the Kings’ vacancy as the team shifts gears and begins its exhaustive coaching search, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings began their search to replace George Karl on Wednesday by interviewing Sam Mitchell, the former Toronto Raptors coach who served as interim head coach in Minnesota last season after the death of Flip Saunders.

Mitchell, 52, is the first meeting in what is expected to be a prolonged process to replace Karl, who went 33-49 this season.

It’s quite the contrast from past hirings under Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive, who will hire his fourth head coach since taking control of the franchise in 2013.

The Kings’ past three head coaches were hired without the benefit of an exhaustive search. With general manager Vlade Divac now running the show, the Kings are taking their time.

The Kings have reached out to several candidates, according to league sources. After Mitchell, the Kings intend to meet with former head coaches Vinny Del Negro, likely next week, and Jeff Hornacek.

Also on the Kings’ radar are Los Angeles Clippers assistant Mike Woodson, Golden State assistant Luke Walton, former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson and former Houston head coach Kevin McHale.

Mitchell was the NBA Coach of the Year in the 2006-07 season with Toronto and was 156-189 in five seasons with the Raptors from 2004 to ’09. He was 29-53 this season with Minnesota.

For many candidates, the level of interest the Kings have in them is not expected to be reciprocated. Coaches may be wary of Sacramento, as only one Kings coach since the 2007 season – Paul Westphal, 2009 to ’11 – lasted more than two full seasons before being fired.

Jones also added these key points via Twitter about the coaching search:

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jared Dudley wants to return to the Washington Wizards, but also wants a 3-year deal … Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a little chat with Stanley Johnson about his LeBron James trash talk … According to a report, Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum (left foot strain) could miss the rest of the first round … The Boston Celtics’ Avery Bradley is out and Kelly Olynyk is questionable for Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks … Great read on the legend of Dwyane “Pearl” Washington … How the Los Angeles Lakers blew their chance to make Tom Thibodeau their coach … Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce says he’ll weigh retirement after the season … 

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