Pelicans need Anderson to step up


VIDEO: Ryan Anderson talks after Wednesday’s practice

NEW ORLEANS — The Pelicans are counting on their young star Anthony Davis to build on his scant two games of playoff experience to get them back into their first-round series against the Warriors.

The Pelicans are counting on getting an emotional lift from a sellout home crowd at the Smoothie King Center — the first playoff game in New Orleans in four years — to help close the gap in a 2-0 series that has been closer than expected.

The No. 8 seed in the Western Conference will have to count on a much bigger impact from Ryan Anderson to have any real hope of knocking off the No. 1 overall seed of the playoffs.

In the first two games of the series, the Pelicans have not received the boost off the bench that can make a difference from Anderson’s perimeter scoring ability. He’s shot just 2-for-11 for a total of seven points so far in the series, which continues the struggles since returning from a sprained MCL in his right knee that forced Anderson to miss 18 games late in the season.

“I feel like I am and I can be a big scoring threat,” Anderson told the media following Wednesday’s practice. “It has been tough for me to find a rhythm coming back from the knee injury, but that’s no excuse.

Though they’ve been largely unsuccessful in slowing down the whirlwind talent of Davis, the Warriors have attacked Anderson with defensive pressure to prevent him from getting good open looks at the basket. Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes have taken turns getting Anderson out of his comfort zone.

“Obviously I think they are doing a good job of trying to take me out,” Anderson said. “They are putting a smaller guy on me and not leaving me, so It creates an opportunity for me to spread the court and create for my teammates. The few shots I do get, I would like to make them and that’s what I’m working on.”

Coach Monty Williams believes the key to getting his sharpshooting big man untracked is to get Anderson out in transition to get him shots and scoring chances before the Warriors have a chance to set up their defense.

“I feel like if we can take advantage of the stops we’re getting and rebound, we can find him in transition,” Williams said.

Morning shootaround — April 23


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Griffin, Clippers regret late-game flubs | Pelicans’ Davis turns to Cole | Defense lifts Hawks to 2-0 series lead | Pierce helping Wizards’ youngsters

No. 1: Clippers know they left a win on the table — All the Los Angeles Clippers had to do in the final seconds Wednesday night to claim a 2-0 series lead against the San Antonio Spurs was not turn the ball over. Yet, they did exactly that — and it was Los Angeles’ hero of the night, Blake Griffin, who committed the costly error. Griffin’s turnover wasn’t the only flub that cost L.A. a key playoff win, but it’s one that he will remember for a long time. The Los Angeles TimesBen Bolch has more:

Blake Griffin leaned back as he sat on the court, covered his face with his hands and looked toward the rafters.

It was a moment of exasperation the Clippers star is not likely to forget any time soon.

Griffin lost the ball following a pair of between-the-leg dribbles with his team holding a two-point lead late in regulation Wednesday night, one of a handful of missed opportunities during a momentum-shifting 111-107 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series at Staples Center.

Griffin finished with a triple-double but would surely give away all the dunks and points for a chance to do over the play with 11.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter that helped the Spurs deadlock the series at one game apiece.

Game 3 will be Friday in San Antonio.

“That game’s pretty much 100% on me,” said Griffin, who finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in addition to five turnovers. “I got the ball up two, I needed to take care of it and get a good shot or get fouled and I turned it over. That’s what’s on my mind.”

Griffin certainly wasn’t the only Clippers culprit. DeAndre Jordan made six of 17 free throws and Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford combined to make two of 13 three-pointers, but Griffin’s play will be the one that probably will haunt the Clippers most.

“We’ve got to finish,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who missed a 19-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds left in regulation that could have put his team ahead. “We’ve been talking about it all season long. We had an opportunity to win a game, go up 2-0 and we didn’t take full advantage of it.”

The Clippers appeared as if they might have secured the victory when Matt Barnes then stole a pass from the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli, but Griffin lost the handle on the ball while dribbling and Paul was forced to foul Patty Mills on a fastbreak, his free throws forcing the overtime.

“It was a switch and we had been running that play all game,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “We got [Griffin] to the elbow and they made a good play. The guy [Boris Diaw] popped it loose and they went down and made two free throws, so give them credit.”

“It’s tough, but we have to get past it,” Paul said. “We can’t go back there and play it over again. It’s 1-1 and we know we have to go win a game there.”


VIDEO: Wild sequence marks end of regulation in Game 2 of Clippers-Spurs

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Durant reacts to firing of Scott Brooks

NBA.com Staff Reports


VIDEO: Aldridge on firing of Scott Brooks

Kevin Durant took to Instagram to share his thoughts on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s firing of coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday:

Thank you Scotty!

A photo posted by Kevin Durant (@easymoneysniper) on

Brooks spent seven seasons as coach of the Thunder to post a record of 338-207, including three trips to the Western Conference Finals and one to the NBA Finals in 2012.

Brooks Firing Shakes Pelicans’ Williams

NEW ORLEANS — The news of Scott Brooks’ firing in Oklahoma City hit Monty Williams hard and maybe with very good reason.

The Pelicans coach had to at least wonder that if things turned out differently on the final night of the regular season, it might have been him getting shown the door.

Williams’ team beat the defending champion Spurs in Game 82 to clinch the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs by virtue of a tie-breaker over Brooks’ Thunder.

So when word came down Wednesday that Brooks had been let go by OKC, Williams was visibly shaken, according to John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“I just heard, it’s really tough,” Williams said. “Scott is a really good coach. Anytime one of your colleagues goes down like that, you feel bad for he and his family. Just a tough situation, that’s all I want to say right now.”

The Pelicans and Thunder finished the season with matching records of 45-37, but New Orleans earned the playoff berth by virtue of a 3-1 win in the head-to-head season series that included a February road win at OKC in February when Anthony Davis hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

There rumors circulating throughout the final days of the season that Williams was under make-or-break pressure from team management to reach the playoffs in order to keep his job.

In five seasons coach the Pelicans, Williams is 173-221 (.439). He has one more season remaining on his current contract.

There is still no definitive word on the playing status of Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday for Game 3 against the Warriors on Thursday night. Holiday, who is coming back from a stress fracture in his lower right leg suffered in January, did not play in Game 2 at Oakland, but got in extra work following the team practice on Wednesday.

Guard Tyreke Evans, who suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in Game 1 of the series, gutted out a 16-points, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort in the Game 2 loss, has said he’ll continue playing through the pain.

Back injury continues to sideline Lee


VIDEO: The Warriors likely will be without David Lee for Game 3

The declining role of David Lee in the Warriors rotation has turned into a complete non-presence in the playoffs as Lee battles a strained lower back that kept him out the first two games against the Pelicans and is also expected to keep him out when the series resumes Thursday in New Orleans.

There is no timetable for Lee’s return, only word from coach Steve Kerr on Monday that “his back is getting better and he’s making improvement.” Draymond Green, who succeeded Lee as the starting power forward this season, has played 42 minutes both times as Golden State built a 2-0 lead, although that is more a function of how invaluable Green has become, especially on defense, than a depth-chart problem.

“I ask Draymond if he’s tired, and if he says no, I leave him in,” Kerr said. “If he says yes, I leave him in. It’s a very scientific approach.”

The absence of a rotation big man is a development, though, anytime Anthony Davis plays for the other team, a sign the Warriors would want to keep reinforcements ready. And if Golden State turns the 2-0 lead into a series victory, the next opponent will be either the Grizzlies (with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol up front) or the Trail Blazers (with LaMarcus Aldridge). Lee could become important at some point, even if the All-Star as recently as 2013 had been getting occasional DNP-CDs the final five weeks of the regular season and hadn’t logged more than 20 minutes since April 2.

In all, Lee averaged 18.4 minutes, a drop from the 33.2 minutes of 2013-14 and a third consecutive season of decline. The 18.4 is the second-lowest of his career, after the 16.9 as a rookie in 2005-06.

Also on the Golden State-New Orleans front as the series shifts to Louisiana:

*Even with the Pelicans searching for offense after 42.2 and 37.8 percent from the field the first two games, resulting in 99 and 87 points, Ryan Anderson played just nine minutes Monday in Oakland while missing four of five attempts to drop to 18.2 for the series. It was another sign of Green’s defensive prowess and of how many among the Warriors’ versatile lineup — Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala — can render stretch fours done.

“Ryan hasn’t shot the ball well this series, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play the next game,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “He’s got to be ready to go out there and do what he does.”

*The Warriors have a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since the first round in 1989 against the Jazz.

*Tyreke Evans went from being a game-time decision Monday because of a bruised knee to playing 41 minutes, a big effort that helped the Pelicans again threaten the Warriors in the fourth quarter. Evans missed nine of 13 shots, but had 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists without a turnover.

“And I thought his defense was pretty good, too,” Williams said. “Harrison tried to drive on him early and Tyreke blocked his shot. We were much better with our switches (Monday) and a lot of it was due to him being on the floor, because he’s so doggone strong that you just can’t run through Tyreke. He’s about 230.”

 

Bulls’ Mirotic likely out for Game 3


CHICAGO – Still hobbled by a left knee and quadriceps injury suffered Monday against Milwaukee, Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic has been ruled out of Game 3 when his team faces the Bucks again Thursday in their Eastern Conference their first-round series.

Mirotic did some light shooting and was limping better after the Bulls’ practice Wednesday – an encouraging sign in general but not enough to count him in for the next game. The Bulls sounded ready to proceed without the 6-foot-10 reserve from Montenegro, who picked up votes for both the NBA’s top rookie and Sixth Man awards.

“He adds a lot of versatility to our frontcourt,” Pau Gasol said. “The floor is gonna be more open when he’s out there because of his shooting ability. I’m sure we’re gonna miss some of his stuff. But at the same time, Taj [Gibson] is going to get a little more minutes. He needs to get going. We’re going to work with what we have, like we have been doing all season long.”

Mirotic, 24, averaged 6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and about 18 minutes in Games 1 and 2, a dip from his regular-season numbers and definitely from the 17.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg he averaged after March 1. He suffered a strained quadriceps and a knee bruise during a tussle with Milwaukee center Zaza Pachulia late in a more physical Game 2, with Pachulia falling back onto Mirotic’s left leg.

Mirotic was one of two Bulls player to appear in all 82 regular-season games (Aaron Brooks was the other). He tied with Brooks for the team high in 3-point field goal attempts, while also ranking third in rebounds.

“It will be an adjustment,” forward Mike Dunleavy said. “He’s a unique player, so can’t really duplicate exactly what he does, but we’ve got guys that can fill in and hopefully hold down the fort.”

Said coach Tom Thibodeau, who has shrugged off injuries as bad or worse than Mirotic’s over the past several seasons: “We’re prepared both ways. That’s the way we have to go into every game. He could play in the next one. It could be two games. I don’t know how many games. He said he feels a lot better today than he did yesterday, which is a good sign.”

Key questions crop up for Thunder in wake of Brooks’ firing


VIDEO: Scott Brooks talks about his philosophy as an NBA coach

Scott Brooks is done in Oklahoma City and his dismissal had nothing to do with the injured superstars who ruined the Thunder chances of making the playoffs. Brooks is done because OKC management soured quickly on him the last few seasons and looked for their first chance to dump him.

Is there any other explanation? Brooks had a contentious contract negotiation with GM Sam Presti three summers ago and that alone spoke volumes on what OKC thought of Brooks. After he was named Coach of the Year in 2010 and coached the Thunder to The Finals in 2012, Brooks had to grovel for cash and, in a sense, respectability from his own bosses.

OKC hasn’t reached The Finals since then and missed the playoffs altogether in 2015. Although, this was mainly due to injury circumstances that went far beyond Brooks and his perceived inability to cook up a lethal offensive system, which was his biggest flaw. (Although stats-wise, he had some pretty great offenses in OKC).

Russell Westbrook hurt his knee in the first round in the 2013 playoffs. Serge Ibaka’s calf strain spoiled last year’s playoff chances. And then, Westbrook, Ibaka and Kevin Durant all missed significant time this season, even though OKC nearly managed to squeeze into the playoffs anyway.

It also needs to be mentioned that OKC’s unwillingness to deal with luxury-tax penalties forced Presti to trade away James Harden two years ago for 50 cents on the dollar.

Brooks was in an awkward situation, to say the least. While management was obviously not sold on him, Brooks enjoyed solid relationships with OKC’s stars and usually in that scenario, the coach wins out. Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka all vouched for him in the last few months, when rumblings about Brooks’ job (which were heard every summer) flared suddenly. Unless the three players were merely putting forth a friendly face, OKC’s decision on Brooks went counter to the wishes of the players whose opinion matter, including Durant’s.

And speaking of KD, it’s hard to imagine Presti firing Brooks without consulting him. Durant is one of the NBA’s five best players and, most notably, a free agent in 2016. Nothing happens in OKC unless Durant gets a whiff of it first. Did Durant sign off on Brooks’ dismissal? Did he essentially tell Presti to “do what you have to do” and look the other way? Or did he fight Presti? We may never know the truth.

Given the understandable fear of Durant fleeing town, OKC will do nothing to annoy or discourage him, which makes the Brooks firing a curious one. Brooks allowed Durant and Westbrook free reign as players and kept an open-door policy in terms of suggestions, not that he had much choice. Will the next coach draw the line when it comes to that level of freedom, or fall in line with Brooks?

Durant respects and is friendly with Kevin Ollie, his former teammate who won an NCAA title a year ago at Connecticut. Ollie would be an obvious replacement for Brooks but just yesterday announced he was staying at UConn. But, people change their minds all the time — especially when big money and big career decisions are involved.

Had he been blessed with a team with better health, or had Harden stuck around, Brooks would likely still be coach and might have an NBA title by now. Basketball is a cruel game, however. Those who thought Brooks was merely an average coach who was overmatched against the Gregg Popovichs and Rick Carlisles of the NBA world are nodding in approval today. Those who factor the untimely injuries that torpedoed OKC at the wrong time the last few years are scratching their heads.

What are Durant and Westbrook doing?

Update (7:35 p.m. ET):

Thank you Scotty!

A photo posted by Kevin Durant (@easymoneysniper) on

Thunder fire coach Scott Brooks


VIDEO: Thunder fire Scott Brooks

NBA.com staff reports

After seven seasons on the job, a trip to The Finals in 2012 and 338 wins, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fired coach Scott Brooks.

The news was first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and it was later confirmed by the team in a press release.

The team issued the following statement, saying a search for a new coach will begin immediately:

“This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels. Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member,” said Sam Presti, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager. “As we all know, this past year we had unique and challenging circumstances and as I have conveyed, not many people could have accomplished what Scott and this team were able to. Therefore, it is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain. We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program. We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.”

Brooks was named head coach of the Thunder on April 15, 2009 after serving as interim head coach during the 2008-09 campaign. Over the course of the last seven seasons, Brooks accumulated a 338-207 (.620) record with the Thunder and was named the 2009-10 NBA Coach of the Year. An NBA veteran of over 24 years as a head coach, assistant and player, Brooks helped guide the Thunder to three appearances in the Western Conference Finals (2011, 2012, 2014), and a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals.

“We have a deep appreciation for all that Scott has contributed to the Thunder organization over the last seven years,” said Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder Chairman. “He helped us build the foundation of this team and led us to much success. While a very hard decision, I support the need to transition to a new coach that will allow us to continue the growth and progress that will help us reach all of our goals. We wish Scott and his family only the best as he moves forward.”

The Thunder will initiate the search for a new head coach immediately.

Former Thunder point guard and current Connecticut Huskies coach Kevin Ollie had been rumored as a possible name on OKC’s wish list, but Ollie told the Associated Press he had no plans of leaving UConn:

UConn basketball coach Kevin Ollie says he has no plans to leave his job.

The 42-year-old Ollie, who spent 13 years as an NBA journeyman before returning to his alma mater, has been linked to several NBA job openings since leading the Huskies to the 2014 NCAA championship.

This week, several media outlets reported that Ollie is a leading candidate to replace Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City.

Ollie issued a statement Wednesday morning saying he is proud and honored to be UConn’s coach, is excited about next season and and, “I have no plans to pursue other opportunities.”

Ollie signed a $15 million, five-year contract with UConn last May.

Wojnarowski reports that Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan is expected to be the favorite to assume Brooks’ post.

Pau Gasol wins PBWA’s Magic Johnson award for 2014-15


CHICAGO — Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls was named the 2014-15 recipient of the Magic Johnson Award, presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the NBA player who best combines excellence on the court with cooperation in dealing with the media and the fans.

Gasol, 34, was the top choice in a field that included Golden State’s Stephen Curry, San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Portland’s Damian Lillard. He is the second Chicago Bulls player so honored, following Jalen Rose in 2002-03.

“I just try to be helpful, help people do their jobs. I understand my position, and this is a part of our job,” Gasol said after Chicago’s practice Wednesday. “It’s easy to be friendly. It’s easy to be kind. I think also it rubs off on people. You should try to balance all the negative out there with some positives.”

The 14-year veteran — who often does double-duty, standing in for interviews in both English and Spanish — averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, was named an Eastern Conference starter in the 2015 All-Star Game and led the NBA with 54 double-doubles, becoming the oldest player to do that since Patrick Ewing in 1996-97.

The PBWA created the Magic Johnson Award in 2001 and named it in honor for former Lakers star Earvin (Magic) Johnson, considered by the association’s members as an ideal model for the award. Approximately 175 PBWA members cover the NBA on a regular basis for newspapers, online outlets and magazines.

Morning shootaround — April 22


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rondo benched in Game 2 | Howard, Smith dominate Mavs | Batum sorry for anti-Spanish comment | Lowry suffers shin injury vs. Wizards

No. 1: Rondo benched as Mavs fall into 0-2 hole — As he did in Game 1, point guard Rajon Rondo started Game 2 last night against the Houston Rockets, but only logged 9 minutes, 55 seconds. That’s a low number for an otherwise healthy starter, and even lower when you consider all but 34 seconds of that stint came in the first half. Rondo was clearly disinterested in last night’s game as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle pulled him early in the first quarter for J.J. Barea and played Rondo a few more minutes in the second quarter. All of last night’s events, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, seem to point to Rondo and Carlisle parting ways permanently this summer:

Rajon Rondo looped around the media horde surrounding his stall late Tuesday night in the Toyota Center visitors’ locker room and darted into the trainer’s room.

A couple of minutes later, Rondo emerged with headphone buds in his ears and ignored the handful of reporters who attempted to ask him questions as he walked toward the arena’s exits, his eyes never shifting from straight ahead.

The whole scene didn’t last much longer than Rondo’s 34-second stint on the floor during the second half of the Dallas Mavericks’ 111-99 loss to the Houston Rockets, who will head up Interstate 45 with what seems like a 2-0 stranglehold on the series.

Actually, judging by his body language, Rondo looked like a dude just waiting for his inevitable divorce from Dallas to happen. Unless the seventh-seeded Mavs pull off a miracle, Rondo won’t have to wait much longer.

Did Rondo really even care about riding pine for most of the night?

“You have to ask him that question,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, not exactly offering a ringing endorsement for the four-time All-Star point guard the Mavs acquired from the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster December trade. “All I know right now is that we need everybody at their competitive best.

“This isn’t about one guy who did or didn’t play. This is about everybody pulling in the same direction for the organization. That’s what it’s about.”

Rondo certainly didn’t come close to his competitive best during the nine minutes, 55 seconds that he wasn’t on the bench during Game 2.

A little more than four minutes into the game, Rondo nonchalantly walked the ball up the floor, getting whistled for an absolutely ridiculous eight-second backcourt violation with the Rockets not even applying pressure. He was pulled for J.J. Barea 40 seconds later — after Rondo wandered aimlessly on defense to let Jason Terry hit a wide-open 3 — and Carlisle didn’t call for Rondo again until 5:30 remained in the second quarter.

At this point, Carlisle really has no motivation to massage Rondo’s ego. They won’t be together much longer before they reach a mutual decision to part ways this summer, when Rondo enters free agency. Carlisle can only care about giving Dallas its best chance to pull off an upset in this series, and the overwhelming evidence from the first two games is that Rondo isn’t part of the solution.

But Carlisle gave Rondo one more chance to prove he deserved minutes with Dallas’ season on the line. Rondo responded by committing two dumb fouls on James Harden and picking up a technical for holding and shoving the Rockets’ MVP candidate after the first whistle, the basketball savant packing all that stupidity into 34 embarrassing seconds of action.

Playoff Rondo? Puh-leeeeese.

Perhaps surprisingly, there were no postgame fireworks between Carlisle and Rondo, multiple sources told ESPNDallas.com. The coach and point guard had infamous expletive-laced exchanges on Feb. 24, the first occurring during a timeout after Rondo walked the ball up the floor and ignored Carlisle’s play call midway through the third quarter, the second coming in the locker room after Rondo watched the rest of the Mavs’ comeback win over the Toronto Raptors from the bench.

In this instance, however, Carlisle simply called the team together in the middle of the locker room and said a few quick words. Rondo and Carlisle didn’t say a word to each other.

There was no outright hostility. Just a lot of awkwardness.

Rondo had a heck of a view from the bench, where he appeared to watch with as little interest as anyone in the rocking arena. He barely moved during the second half, getting on his feet only to offer halfhearted daps to teammates during timeouts.

Rondo’s warm-up shirt read “WE ARE ONE,” the Mavs’ slogan this postseason. His face definitely didn’t convey the same message.

“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation for him,” said Mavs center Tyson Chandler, who has had a trying season as a leader of a chemistry-challenged team. “He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there. Sometimes matchups and all that other stuff, you never know what’s going on.

“But we’ve got to all stay in this thing together. It’s the only way we’re going to have a chance.”

UPDATE: Per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Rondo will be done in Dallas as long as Carlisle is back as coach:

When Rondo realized his run with the Celtics was over this year, he planned to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports. He expected a maximum contract. Once Dallas made the trade, he was open to re-signing with the Mavericks – only there are no max contract offers for Rondo on the market. Not in Dallas, nor Los Angeles. He’s played his way out of that payday – not just this year, but since that terrible ACL injury two years ago.

Everything’s pushing Rondo closer to his inevitable free-agent fleeing to the Lakers this summer. As long as the coach is back, Rondo’s gone, sources told Yahoo Sports. The parting could be mutual.


VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew discusses the Rajon Rondo situation

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