Kim Hughes, the Clippers fired the last honest coach

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Even before it was clear that Wednesday night was his last night as a head coach, Clippers interim Kim Hughes was honest.

I was there his first game, when he jokingly called Chris Kaman emotionally retarded (well, half joking anyway) and after the game admitted that he may not have the ball handlers to run the open offensive style he wanted. TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz penned a brilliant ode to Hughes the other day.

But now Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld has posted large parts of Kim Hughes last press conference as head coach — before the Lakers game last Wednesday — when the brutally honest coach had nothing left to lose or hide.

“With free agency, when you have nine guys who are looking for number one (that’s human nature), their objective is to get a contract for next year first,” said Hughes.  “It’s unfortunate that it’s that way but that’s reality.”

“Do free agents listen to you?  I don’t know about that one,” said Kim.  “I don’t think it’s the interim [tag] as much as the free agency that stops the process of entering their ear drums and going to the synapses in their brain.  I think sometimes it short circuits where they’re free agents because their agents are telling them ‘You’ve got to score points’ – and coach says ‘You’ve got to guard and defend.'”

“They’re thinking ‘Who should I listen to?'”

“I understand that it’s not a good system but it’s our system here in the NBA.”

“It’s our fault as coaches and GM’s.  It’s [Commissioner David] Stern’s fault,” continued Hughes.  “I’ve told them if they want to have a good product, you take the base related income and you kick in say $1.5 million per player for winning the title.  You’ll see guys play balls out.  That’s the way you’ll get guys to play hard because right now there’s no inducement to win the NBA Finals other than for the ring because they’re taking a pay-cut.  But If you have some of these eight, ninth, tenth players playing for $1.5 million?  Their girlfriends and wives will be beating the crap out of them to say you play I don’t care if you’re hurt, you play.  You’re playing for something.  Right now players aren’t playing for enough.  They’re playing for salaries and that doesn’t make it.  Back when it was the way it should be you’re playing to win because when you’ve got $200-300k playoff money – that was big.  Now it’s nothing.  It’s not comparable enough to their salaries.  It doesn’t work.”

The night before Baron Davis had said the next year he wanted to be the leader of the Clippers. Hughes called him out on that.

“To be a leader you’ve got to be the first one to practice and the last one to leave.  You can’t talk it.  You’ve got to walk it.  If you truly are the leader, and right now we really don’t have one, you’ve got to be there every day in practice – compete every day through minor injuries, minor illnesses,” said Hughes.  “It’s not a job description that you pick and choose when you want to be a leader.  You’re either a leader every time or you’re not.  [Baron] may not be the leader next year, I don’t know.”

I’m going to miss Kim Hughes

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.