Cavaliers dream big, will settle in finding a replacement coach

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Thumbnail image for pjackson.jpgMike Brown is out. The Cavs have a decision to make. And they can’t afford to screw it up.

Look at the best coaches being interviewed around the league for the current job openings: Avery Johnson, maybe Celtics defensive guru Tom Thibodeau is in there.

That is not good enough for the Cavaliers. They need a name. A star. They need someone that LeBron James would stay in town to play for. And you can bet they have a list — no team fires a coach without having replacements in mind. Despite how it looks with the Bulls handling of their search, even they had a list.

So who is on the Cavs list?

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the dream starts with Phil Jackson. The theory goes that Jackson is being asked to take a pay cut by the Lakers, he might feel spurned and start looking around. And if someone else wants to pay him, maybe he’ll leave. He certainly would be the ideal coach to teach LeBron about what it takes to win, to get over the hump in the playoffs.

But it’s not going to happen. Well, 99 percent (although one percent is enough to fuel dreams). While Jackson has not decided, those close to him do not think he’s leaving a championship contending team and the city where his girlfriend Jeanie Buss lives. Jackson is comfortable, and his next step is far more likely to be to his ranch in Montana.

Then there is Mike Krzyzewksi — every member of Team USA wants him as his pro coach. He is a name. And he also isn’t leaving Duke, either. Not even up for debate.

The more likely names are Jeff Van Gundy and Byron Scott. Those are two experienced coaches who have won as NBA coaches — not titles, but they have been on the doorstep. They have experience with some of the biggest and best players in the game. And they would be hungry for the chance to coach LeBron. Any smart coach realizes how key he is to winning.

Then there is John Calipari, the Kentucky coach with ties to LeBron (through Williams Wesley and CAA). Who knows if he can succeed as an NBA coach the second time around, but if he can keep LeBron in a Cavaliers uniform that will be paramount.

After that, the Cavaliers would need another big name or they would be settling. If Lawrence Frank or Dwane Casey or Thibodeau or Johnson becomes the top candidate, well then a lot of people have turned the Cavaliers down. And it would feel more and more like LeBron will as well.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.