2012

Report: Coach K To Stick With USA Basketball?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team finished off the competition at the London Olympics in 2012, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was primed to ride off into the sunset with a sparking 62-1 record, two gold medals in Olympic competition (2008 in Beijing) and one in World Championship competition (2010 Istanbul).

Every indication was that the longtime Duke coach had finished the job USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo needed him to and that his replacement would be sought while Coach K moved on in some capacity to assist Colangelo manage the rebuilt program.

But now comes word, via a report from SI.com‘s Pete Thamel, that Coach K is reconsidering his future with the program and could potentially return as coach of the team for the 2014 World Championship in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

It’s an abrupt about-face after months and months of speculation about who might replace Krzyzewski on the sideline with the Men’s Senior National Team and also a stern departure from Coach K’s own words, as recently as February on an ESPN Radio program where he suggested that his successor could be named by this summer.

Things changed dramatically today, per that SI.com report:

On Saturday, Krzyzewski said he and USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo have been talking about his return “quite a bit.”

Colangelo said Saturday he and Krzyzewski have been discussing his return “in installments.”

“I think it’s very close to being resolved,” Colangelo said. “That’s all I can say for sure.”

He added: “Give it another week and it should be resolved.”

Nailing down a head coach is the only outstanding business Colangelo has to tend to right now, because the player pool for the national team is as strong now as it’s since he took over in 2005.

Scores of NBA superstars, All-Stars and role players will be eager to be a part of the teams that represent the U.S. in Madrid and Rio De Janeiro. And that list should include four-time MVP LeBron James as well as All-Stars Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and plenty more.

Were Coach K to return to the program, procuring commitments for future competition wouldn’t appear to be much of an issue, given his history with so many of the players that would be in the mix. The continuity alone would ensure that the U.S. program resembles, at least in structure, many of the international programs they’ll compete against in the coming years.

No ‘D’ In Brooklyn But Nets Get It Done

CHICAGO – Halfcourt basketball is a staple of the NBA playoffs. But with so much talk about Brooklyn’s offense and Chicago’s defense in the Nets-Bulls first-round Eastern Conference series, some might assume the teams actually are using just half a court, like a pickup game at some crowded playground.

The sad truth is, without Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ attack often is as entertaining as watching Dad re-grout the bathroom floor. As for the Nets’ defense, the voters spoke loud and clear: While 21 different players received votes for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award announced Wednesday, none of them play for the Nets.

The numbers suggest that while Brooklyn has improved its performance when the other guys control the ball, that wasn’t exactly a priority when GM Billy King went shopping prior to this season with another $330 million of owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s money.

Statistically, the Nets brought defensive improvement along on their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, just not any dramatic reimagining that way. In 2011-12, their defensive rating of 109.6 ranked 28th and they were 28th in opponents’ field-goal percentage, 29th in foes’ 3-point percentage, 19th in steals and dead last in defensive rebounds and blocked shots.

This season, the Nets got their defensive rating down to 106.2 and their ranking up to 17th. They ranked 23rd in opponents’ field-goal percentage, 21st in 3-point percentage, 19th in steals, 21st in defensive rebounds and 18th in blocks.

No less an authority than Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau sounded sufficiently impressed with what interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and, before him, Avery Johnson did starting in training camp.

“It starts with Brook Lopez,” Thibodeau said of Brooklyn’s All-Star center, known primarily as a dangerous scorer and occasional rebounder. “He’s gotten a lot better at challenging shots and blocking shots. [Forward Reggie] Evans has been an excellent defender. Gerald Wallace, every year you can make a case for him, all-league defense. I think P.J.’s done a great job with them, as did Avery, having a defensive philosophy.

“There’s been tremendous growth, I think, in the last two to three years. They have size, they have versatility. [Keith] Bogans, C.J. [Watson], I had both those guys here and they’re really terrific. [Veteran Jerry] Stackhouse is a little older now but he was a terrific defender for a long time and his team defense is very, very good. [Backup big man Andray] Blatche has very good feet.”

Yeah, Thibs, but are they any good when it comes to that five-guys-on-a-string stuff?

“They’ve got shot-blocking at the rim, they’ve got Wallace who can guard, they’ve got Johnson, who’s big,” Thibodeau said.

Like he was going to say anything different, right?

As for the DPOY award and Chicago placing three players – Joakim Noah (4), Luol Deng (15) and Jimmy Butler (T18) – among the 21 vote-getters, Thibodeau said he was proud of his players. But he also spoke of the multiple, sometimes contradictory factors that influence the balloting.

“I don’t know the metrics that are going into it,” said Thibodeau, whose work in Boston and Chicago since 2007 have led to greater defensive appreciation throughout the league. “I think it’s very difficult to measure the impact of a defensive guy. It’s not like a pitcher against a hitter in baseball and you can say, ‘This is what he’s doing.’ It’s five-man offense, five-man defense and a lot of variables that go into it: there’s rotations, there’s switches. Often a guy gets credit and maybe he wasn’t the person responsible.”

That, the Bulls coach said, is “why you could make a case for several guys who are on the same team.”

Or none on a middle-of-the-pack defensive team such as Brooklyn.

Kevin Johnson’s Looming Challenge

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – There is no indication around the league that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has started to rally support among the NBA power brokers who could become his last line of defense to keep the Kings in Northern California, a backing that would be critical as part of a potential showdown vote.

He has obviously been in contact with the league office, including commissioner David Stern. But sources confirm Johnson has yet to reach out to many, if any, members of the Board of Governors who would decide whether to approve a sale if a deal is closed with the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group that would move the team to Seattle.

If the Maloof family does sell to Hansen-Ballmer, as is a possibility, Johnson will be down to his final hope: The Board of Governors, one representative from each team, either an owner or high-ranking executive as proxy, refusing to approve.

Such an outcome would be very rare, and maybe even unprecedented, for the reasons Johnson would be pressing. The former All-Star point guard would be telling the BOGs to vote for Sacramento by voting against Seattle. He would, in essence, be urging owners to deny the bid of a group that by every indication has the financial resources and wants to CPR new life into a floundering franchise by moving it to a city with major corporate backing and a tradition of supporting sports.

That would require Johnson to build a coalition of very sympathetic and strong members of the Board of Governors.

Proposed ownership changes around the league that fell apart in the past were usually because the bank account wasn’t as impressive as the prospective buyer(s) had indicated. It is reasonable to think in this case that Stern would not have allowed the Seattle bid to get this far without being confident that at least the biggest names, Hansen and Ballmer, could pass the requisite financial and personal background checks. Plus, the city for the proposed relocation has everything a major-league market should have, including a new arena in the works.

If it comes down to the BOG, Johnson would be asking owners to ignore all that to believe Sacramento can match the past of 10 years ago, when the California capital was an example of what the NBA wanted in excitement and fan support. He would be asking them to turn down a city most everyone would want back in the NBA on the speculation of what might happen in a city that at the moment cannot say who will own the team, where it will play and where the money will come from if Johnson does get a group to make a credible bid for the Kings.

If the Seattle deal falls through and the Maloofs end up selling to owners who want to keep the team in Sacramento, Johnson’s BOG problem goes away. If not, though, KJ needs to have done some serious lobbying with the owners.

On the bright side for the passionate Sacramento faithful, Johnson has a very good start. His work the last few years on the task has won a lot of praise around the league from powerful people who mostly knew him only as a point guard for the Suns.

Johnson had the support of Stern from the beginning. It was Stern who believed enough in a first-term mayor with no previous political experience to dissuade the Maloofs from seeking to relocate long enough to allow Johnson to put a plan into action. Stern’s confidence was rewarded last February, when the team, the city and the NBA reached agreement on a downtown arena, only to have the Maloofs later back out after privately and publicly supporting the deal.

Real Clippers Starting To Take Shape

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Grant Hill finally made his Clippers debut Saturday, entering, strangely, at the start of the fourth quarter of a close game and playing six minutes. That was the encouraging news from the otherwise disappointing development of the 104-101 loss to the Magic in Los Angeles.

Now the Clippers wait on the return of Chauncey Billups. That will potentially be the big news.

Hill is an important boost for the defense, with the ability to guard multiple positions once he builds to full speed after being sidelined since exhibition play by a bruised right knee. He won’t be a huge difference maker by the numbers because the Clips are tracking to a top-five finish in opponent shooting, but the versatility is invaluable and gives a deep team more lineup options.

There is no timetable for Billups rejoining the lineup after battling tendinitis in the left foot. There is, however, Chris Paul in anticipation.

As much as Paul was excited about finally getting small forward Hill in uniform, he is especially anxious for the chance to play alongside Billups in the backcourt again and the accompanying opportunity to play off the ball more. CP3, a threat with the shot as well as the pass, has been imagining the possibilities for weeks.

Bad news for the rest of the league, in other words. Paul is already playing at an MVP level and still sees the chance for a bigger impact than he made the first 37 games.

“It gets the ball out of my hands,” Paul said recently. “Willie (Green, the current starter) is unbelievable, but Willie’s a shooting guard…. When we get out there and it’s me and Chauncey, he can bring the ball up the court. Now I’m on the wing and everybody’s not just looking at me.”

Hill’s first non-exhibition action since April 24 with the Suns resulted in a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd when he checked in, followed by two points (two free throws, three missed field goals) and two rebounds while playing with a cap on minutes. But the 40-year-old who rebuffed several others offers to join the Clippers as a free agent in the summer reported no pain around the right knee.

Kings Take On Dallas… And Seattle



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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings got back to the basketball portion of their ever-spinning world Thursday night. Kind of.

Yes, they played for the first time since news broke that the owners, the Maloof family, were deep in negotiations to sell to a group that would move the team to Seattle. And, yes, 14,011 showed to Sleep Train Arena to watch, a good crowd for a mid-week game against a bad team, and those fans did bring noise in the continued delicate split of supporting the team while sticking their Maloof voodoo dolls full of pins. DeMarcus Cousins even got ejected, this time for a flagrant foul, and just try finding a greater sign of normalcy.

But Seattle was unavoidably everywhere before and after. Maybe during as well, with the hand-made signs brought in by fans urging the Kings to stay or even for the Maloofs to sell to the citizens of Sacramento a la the Packers in Green Bay. It is one of several ideas that has been mentioned the last couple days as a solution.

Definitely during the 117-112 overtime loss to the Mavericks, actually. It was impossible not to notice the irony that two of the five Kings on the court the final seconds were Tacoma native and University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas and Seattle native Aaron Brooks. Thomas was even the reason the night lasted into an extra period, thanks to a 25-foot bank with 9.1 seconds remaining for a 101-101 game.

The before was a candid Keith Smart. The Kings coach was asked 90 minutes prior to tipoff whether the relocation talk could become a distraction, whether the sale is complete and moving is inevitable or talks on the deal at a reported $500 million linger and the future remains an uncertainty. He did not hesitate.

“It’s going to get there,” Smart said matter-of-factly of the distraction. “I’m going to have it from my side — my family, my kids, everything. We all are going to have it. But we have to, at a moment, block out everything and focus on the task at hand. As soon as we get away from the two hours of practice, hour of shootaround, two hours of game time, then we’re going to go back to reality. And reality is going to ask, ‘What are you hearing?’ and all those things there. We have to answer those questions from our friends, family and everyone because everyone will be a little concerned.

“What we’ll preach is, ‘Do what you need to do in that time frame, but as we get ourselves back into the environment where we have to practice, workout, stay on top of what it is that you’re supposed to be doing and we’ll deal with all that as it goes day by day.’ It’s definitely going to be a distraction. Obviously yesterday (when news of the potential sale first broke) was. But we’re pros. We’ve got to figure out a way how to separate the two and then get ready to play.”

The after?

Brooks, sitting alone at his locker, trying to find the right words. The Kings in Sacramento would be nice. Playing point guard in his hometown would be nice.

“It’s a lose-lose,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta lose.”

A difficult spot.

“Yeah,” Brooks said. “Very difficult.”

Sacramento Would Lose More Than Team


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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – And so it has come to this: A fan base that came to dislike the Maloof family in a way few cities have ever disliked the owners of any franchise in any sport now need the Maloofs to be the Maloofs to have any hope of keeping the Kings.

That’s why one organization, two cities and millions of fans waiting to (a) celebrate or (b) officially get stabbed in the heart were anxious Wednesday as Yahoo! Sports reported that the Kings were close to being sold to a group that would move the team to Seattle next season. Because the Kings have been close to leaving once before and on another occasion close to staying, only to have both fall through.

This could still fall through, too. The Maloofs – the three brothers most intimately involved, plus other siblings, plus their mother – were so deep in talks with Anaheim in spring 2011 that they received an extension on the deadline to file for relocation, before ultimately, and, smartly, deciding against becoming the third NBA team, and the only invisible one, in the Los Angeles market. Then, last February, often-contentious negotiations with Sacramento officials gave way to a deal brokered at All-Star weekend for a new downtown arena that would keep the love affair between the city and the team alive, only to have the family walk away from the agreement in principle. One of the brothers showed up at the subsequent City Council meeting to support the vote to approve the deal, a couple of the Maloofs walked to center court with Mayor Kevin Johnson during a timeout at a Kings game and raised hands in triumph, and still the family walked away.

So there remains a fair degree of uncertainty, even with the story from the very credible Adrian Wojnarowski that the Maloofs and the Seattle group are close to a deal, that this really is the end of the NBA in Sacramento.

But if it is?

The bruise will leave a spray of black and blue.

This isn’t just about basketball. It’s not even about the immediacy of the economic impact of a team here vs. no team here, with paychecks for game-night workers and business for hotels and restaurants when teams come to town. This is about everything.

The emotions: The Kings are part of the fabric of the community. That was the case when they were playoff regulars and that remains true as they annually drown in the standings. There is a lot more anger now, but that’s a sign of how much people want their fun back. And most of the anger is for the Maloofs, along with the rising tide of frustration for Geoff Petrie as head of basketball operations.

The economy: The departure of the Kings goes so far beyond losing the NBA. Members of the visitor’s bureau have worried for years about how a potential exit could hit Sacramento in ways that might not be measurable for years. Convention business could suffer as groups take conventions to cities that seem more major league. Service industries will suffer in what is already a time of financial hardships.

The arena: Sacramento still needs one. Sleep Train Arena – the former Arco Arena – has already been losing business, sometimes to smaller facilities in town and sometimes to other locales all together. Johnson has been forceful in saying his hometown must have an entertainment complex whether the Kings are part of it or not. Now, he might have to get the money without being able to promise voters an anchor tenant.

The region: The place that was one the shining example of what the NBA wanted its fan bases to be like is on the verge of having no major-league sports. Oakland is about 75 miles away, San Francisco about 90, but Sacramento itself has a microscopic amount of interest in college sports. It has one of the best minor-league baseball stadiums in the country and a deep baseball tradition, but no real passion for what happens on the field with the Class AAA affiliate of the A’s. That’s what the Kings are/were for.

There will be some local hope that Sacramento could one day get another team, the way the league looked favorably at Charlotte for years of support that was washed away by a distaste for ownership, if an arena is built. And, indeed, Johnson has built major credibility with owners and league executives. But the former All-Star point guard with the Suns has received the message from commissioner David Stern loud and clear: Don’t wait by the phone. While there is no way to know what the world will look like in five years, chances are very, very slim.

If Sacramento wants the NBA, it needs the Seattle deal to fall apart. It needs to work with these owners, get an arena, and hope for a sale later. It needs the Maloofs to be the Maloofs.

Sacramento Kings Being Sold To Seattle-Based Group

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The Maloof family is finalizing the sale of the Kings to a group that would relocate the team to Seattle next season, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting.

The deal will sell the Kings for approximately $500 million to a group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer. The group is seeking to relocate the franchise to Seattle’s Key Arena for the 2013-14 season.The Seattle group’s plans, with support of the NBA, is to play two seasons in Key Arena before moving into a new Seattle arena, sources said.

No agreement has been signed, but one source with knowledge of the talks described the deal as “first and goal at the 1.”

The purchase to a group led by Hansen, a Seattle native living in the San Francisco area, is not complete. The Maloofs have a history of bailing on major deals at the last minute, as Sacramento officials know from getting their hearts broken in arena negotiations in the Northern California city. But if details from the very reliable Wojnarowski are completed, chances are good the NBA is forever leaving a town that has supported professional basketball like few others.

TNT analyst David Aldridge confirmed that a deal is in the works and that its structure came together just before Christmas, according to league sources.  While the deal has not yet been consummated, the Seattle group is increasingly confident that a deal can be reached.  Word of a possible deal first surfaced in a tweet published by Daina Falk, the daughter of sports agent David Falk. In a tweet that was subsequently deleted, Daina Falk said the sale of the Kings was “a done deal” and that the Kings would be in Seattle next year.

Just yesterday, civic leaders in Virginia Beach, Va., who had hoped of luring the Kings this year, ended that cause.

Seattle has already secured financing for an arena and was only waiting on having a team in place before moving forward with construction. The hope there all along has been for the relocated franchise to be re-named the SuperSonics, wear the familiar green and gold, and play in KeyArena until the new building is completed. That, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn told NBA.com in October, would likely mean two seasons in the old facility.

There are other details to the reported agreement, Wojnarowski reports:

The Maloofs are expected to keep an extremely small percentage of the team, but will have no real input or say in the franchise, sources said.

Once the sale is completed, the Seattle-based group will have until March to file for relocation. NBA commissioner David Stern has been a big proponent of the Hansen-Ballmer group, and league officials will work diligently to help the franchise move to Seattle if the sale is finalized, sources said. The Seattle-based group is determined to not have the franchise spend a final lame-duck season in Sacramento.

The Lakers, The Injuries, The Playoffs…The Math


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HANG TIME WEST – And now comes word the Lakers will be without pretty much anyone tall for at least the next couple games, with Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) scheduled to miss the quick Texas back-to-back and Dwight Howard expected to be sidelined at least the next because of a torn shoulder muscle.

Good, because life had been much too dull around the Lakers this season. Now, they are down to rookie Robert Sacre, the No. 60 pick in the draft, as the probable starting center Tuesday in Houston and, depending on his level of success, or survival, Wednesday in San Antonio. Coach Mike D’Antoni said after practice Monday that 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace might play there as well in a small lineup, which, come to think of it, is about all they have anyway.

These are strange days, indeed, for the Lakers, with desperation not far in the distance.

They’re not there yet, with the Trail Blazers a very-reachable three games ahead for the eighth and final playoff spot, but the view over the falls is becoming clearer. It’s the continued losing, especially when the return of Steve Nash didn’t cure everything as Los Angeles fanatics had hoped while heading to the basement with canned goods and water, plus the new developments of the injuries just as the Lakers head into a difficult stretch of schedule.

Of the next 11 games, two are against the Thunder with one each against the Rockets, Spurs, Cavaliers, Bucks, Heat, Raptors, Bulls, Grizzlies and Jazz. Good luck with that at full strength. The Lakers get the obstacle course with Howard out indefinitely, the only timeline being that he will be re-examined in a week, and needing time to work his way back once he does return to the lineup, in addition to still trying to work his way back from April back surgery.

If the problems were about health, that would be one thing. But they are not, of course, leaving the Lakers with a series of issues to sort through when/if they ever get close to 100 percent. They can work on the sorting out during all their free time as the opponent pushes the ball to the rim, since the energy obviously isn’t being spent on transition defense.

The longer the Lakers stay in the haze, the greater the chances of reaching for a trade they wouldn’t ordinarily make. They wanted to see the preferred lineup in action for an extended stretch before making any bold decisions – you know, the one without Sacre or World Peace at center – and now just got another setback in that plan as the volume increases on the ticking clock. They simply may not be able to wait another several weeks, which is what it could be given the uncertainty on the Howard injury calendar.

Just being upright after the 11 games, before the schedule turns more favorable at the end of the month and toward the All-Star break, will be an accomplishment. Here’s looking forward, then.

The win totals of the last five No. 8s in the Western Conference in seasons with an 82-game schedule: 46 (Grizzlies in 2010-11), 50 (Thunder in 2009-10), 48 (Jazz in 2008-09), 50 (Nuggets in 2007-08) and 42 (Warriors in 2006-07). The Jazz had 36 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12, which projects to 45 victories in a full schedule.

The Trail Blazers of 2012-13, at 18-15 as the midpoint of the season approaches, are on pace for 45.

The Lakers, at 15-18 after four losses in the last five games, are on pace for 37, with another update due in late-January. Maybe on Howard’s condition as well.

L..A. has 49 games remaining against 27 opponents with a combined winning percentage of .497 heading into Monday’s games. It needs to go 30-19 (.612) to get to 45 wins, 33-16 (.673) to reach 48 and 35-14 (.714) for what seems like the impossible dream of seeing 50, especially now, with more injury problems and the schedule turning ugly.

Curry, Lee Could Split Warriors Vote

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OAKLAND – The fact literally looms over the Warriors every time they practice at their downtown facility, the way the long rectangular sign attached high on one of the walls lists their All-Stars of the California era.

The recent history – or lack thereof – is impossible to avoid. Players have learned it by osmosis by now. Latrell Sprewell made the 1997 showcase in Cleveland as a reserve and no Warrior has since. It looks down as a constant reminder.

That will almost certainly change in the 2013 game in Houston. Golden State is 22-10, has the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and is playing particularly well as coaches begin to focus on the vote to fill out the roster following the fan selection of starters. The Warriors have two deserving candidates, David Lee and Stephen Curry. At least one should make it.

Should.

Unless Lee and Curry come close enough to splitting the coach’s balloting, Lee in the frontcourt and Curry among the guards, that they cancel each other out and end up hurting the Warriors’ chances of ending the dry spell.

Will it happen? Probably not.

But could it happen? Yes. Agonizingly, frustratingly, disappointingly yes.

“Who knows,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who will be able to lobby colleagues but not vote for his own players. “I can’t figure out these coaches sometimes.”

Lee is averaging 20.2 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 53.8 percent. Curry is at 20.4 points, 6.5 assists and, although 43.6 percent overall, 45.6 percent from behind the arc. Both are leaders in a very good locker-room atmosphere. Both have been huge factors as Golden State made the move from lottery regular to playoff possibility and then kept going, all the way to being part of the lead pack for home-court advantage as the season nears the midpoint.

Western Conference coaches will reward the Warriors for the start, made all the more impressive because it has come mostly without Andrew Bogut and entirely without Brandon Rush. Exactly how they will reward is where it could get interesting. Golden State expecting two representatives in Houston is probably overly ambitious given how many other teams need to be similarly saluted, and so it becomes a numbers game at some point. Curry over Lee, Lee over Curry – this could become a conflict.

“Great problem to have,” Curry said. “That’s all I can say. You can play out all the scenarios and say who deserves what. But the fact that you have two legitimate shots at having a Warriors representative in Houston after 15, 16 years, that’s a big deal.”

External factors are at play as well. If Jeremy Lin of the Rockets moves back ahead of Chris Paul of the Clippers in fan voting and joins Kobe Bryant as the starting guards, Paul takes one of the reserve spots and hurts Curry’s chances. But if Lin does not win the popularity contest and Paul is in the opening lineup, there is more room for Curry.

This may end up with Jackson on the spot, with coaches asking him who is more deserving of the two. He wouldn’t like that and he would never say which Warrior got his nod if it came down to that, but it’s realistic to think he will have some voice in a situation where his team may not get the ideal outcome of both Lee and Curry going.

“I would hope that it’s realistic,” Jackson said of the chances of having two representatives. “And again, if we continue to do what we’re doing. I will say that because there’s some tough games coming up. But to me, as a coach, I would get phone calls from coaches last year asking or making their case for their players. I think it’s important for coaches around this league to not just jot down names because they’re names. I think it’s important. And I’m not saying this because it’s my guys. I took pride in doing it last year and there were none of my guys. Whoever it may be, if there’s a guy that’s deserving of an All-Star opportunity, put his name down and disregard that his name does not sound as hot when you write it down as somebody else’s.”

Jackson is partly wrong – Curry and Lee are hot names, not long-shot underdogs trying to establish themselves in the league. But point taken. It could get that interesting come voting time.

Clippers’ 17-Game Winning Streak Now A Two-Game Losing Streak

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OAKLAND – The Clippers pummeled the Celtics and stormed back against the Jazz. They swept a four-game trip and they won two home day games in about 24 hours in a freak schedule occurrence. They played with the hunger of a lottery team and the composure and heart of a champion. They racked up 17-straight wins.

But that was earlier in the week.  The winning streak (the longest streak in franchise history and the best by any team in a little more than four years) ended Tuesday night at Denver and a reverse streak continued Wednesday with another loss against the Warriors.

Strange how the best run in the Buffalo-San Diego-Los Angeles years could become a partial statement on the Warriors, an opponent not even involved in the nonstop winning from Nov. 28 to Dec. 30. Welcome to it, though. Welcome to the reality.

Seventeen consecutive victories is usually able to provide some separation from the field, yet there was Golden State all of 3 ½ games back in the Pacific Division. And then came Warriors 115, Clippers 94 on Wednesday to slice the margin to 2 ½ games.

That made it official. Los Angeles had a historic string of success and could not give its top challenger within the division — and now, it must be said about Golden State, within the Western Conference — the slip. All that winning, which started when both were 8-6, is now worth 2 ½ games in the standings.

More perspective: The Clippers have had 18 home games and 15 road games compared the Warriors with 15 home games and 17 road games.

This does set up well for Golden State

“What they did has nothing to do with us,” Stephen Curry said after making 11 of his 16 shots en route to a game-high 31 points. “For us, we didn’t need this game to prove that we’re playing good basketball and that we’re a serious team and a force to be reckoned with. This is just another opportunity for us to play well in front of our fans at home. We were coming off a nice little break to re-energize ourselves and we didn’t have any slip-ups after being off for three days. That just shows how locked in and focused we are.”

Indeed, the Warriors found little statement in essentially taking the best hit the Clippers had to deliver and refusing to go away. As coach Mark Jackson said:” Give them credit. They put together a great run. It’s not our concern. Our concern was to take care of business on our end. We’re satisfied with what we’ve been able to accomplish, and we’re going to continue fight and scratch and claw and put victories together. That’s the Clippers’ business. More power to them.

“Credit to my guys because even though the Clippers put together a great run, they separated themselves from a lot of people, and we’re within range.”

That was the closest Jackson came to turning L.A.’s success into Golden State’s success.

“If we continue to do what we’re doing, our goal is not the Clippers,” Jackson said. “They’re a very good basketball team having a very good year. Our goal is to be the best that we can be.”

The Warriors and Clippers play again Saturday night in Los Angeles. Another Golden State win will clinch the season series, a valuable tie-breaker chip if it is needed in April. Another Golden State win could also, depending on what happens before Saturday, be worth the Pacific Division lead.

Welcome to the reality.