Kim Hughes is still the Clippers coach. Sort of. It's complicated.

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Khughes_BDavis.jpgBack on April 15, the Clippers fired interim coach Kim Hughes. It was not a surprise, the team did not play well under Hughes (8-25), although most of that was well beyond his control. There wasn’t much uninjured talent left on the roster, and what there was had started to mail in the season. Hughes tried, but he could not change that.

So he turned in his keys and computer and left the Clippers compound for good.

Or so he thought
. Ramona Shelburn at ESPNLosAngles has some details.

The following Tuesday — four days after he was “relieved of his duties as interim head coach,” he met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling who informed him that he still had a job with the Clippers until his contract is up on June 30.

Hughes has been reporting for work to the Clippers training facility in Playa Vista every day since. Like the Clippers other assistant coaches, he is reviewing game tape from this season, working out players and helping to evaluate potential free agents.

“Well, basically Mr. Sterling called me on Tuesday and told me there was a misunderstanding,” Hughes explained. “I came back in on Wednesday and have been here ever since…. We had a long talk, a very good talk, and he said he didn’t want me leaving the Clippers family and I told him I never wanted to leave.”

There are a couple things at work here. They are going to seem cynical — which sucks because Hughes the coach grew on me after attending a few games and hearing his post-game press conferences, and I was not alone — but it’s hard for me not to be in this case.

One, Donald Sterling hates — HATES! — to pay people for not working. Clippers coaches from Bill Fitch through recently-fired Mike Dunleavy have had to sue to get the remaining money on their guaranteed contracts. Sterling’s view is a black-and-white “you don’t work, you don’t get paid.”

Secondly, rumors around the team say the Clippers are hoping to either find a coach that will lure free agents or allow a top free agent to pick a coach if he comes to Los Angeles. This is a deliberate search. That’s why you hear the Clippers have interest in Larry Brown. But, free agency doesn’t start until July 1, and in the interim there is a draft and workouts and a host of prep work. The Clippers need someone to do that, and Hughes would be a good choice.

But the second a better candidate comes along, he will be out of this role. He may stay on with the franchise in some role, but he will not coach again. Unless the Clippers can’t find someone they like better. Then who knows? It’s hard to predict what the Clippers will do next.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.