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.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.