Celtics GM Ainge thinks Rivers will return

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There hasn’t been nearly as much speculation about where Celtics head coach Doc Rivers will be next season as there has been about where Phil Jackson will end up. However, there is a sentiment among many NBA fans and executives that Doc Rivers will resign as head coach after this season. 
There are plenty of reasons for Rivers to stop coaching after the finals are over; his team’s core is only getting older, he’s already won a ring, he’s likely got a nice TV job waiting for him if he wants it, and his son Austin is a top basketball prospect in his own right.
But according to David Lefort of ESPN Boston, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge thinks Rivers will stick around next season. Ainge made his feelings clear in a radio interview with WEEI Boston, simply saying that he “thinks Doc will come back.”
If Rivers does decide to leave his coaching gig, Ainge said the Celtics would take a look at highly regarded assistant Tom Thibodeau, but seemed less than committed to the idea of promoting Thibodeau to the top spot:
“[If Rivers leaves] then we’ll put the search out and put Tom at the head of the class,” Ainge said. “[He is] somebody that we would consider and interview but we would also look at all the viable candidates and take our time if [Rivers walked away]. But I don’t anticipate that happening.”

Thibodeau has been in high demand; the Bulls, Nets, and Hornets are all reportedly looking at Thibodeau to fill their vacant head coaching spots. When asked about Thibodeau’s head coaching prospects in other cities, Ainge was supportive:

“It’s an opportunity he’s been looking forward to for a long time and we hope he gets the job of his choice,” Ainge said. “I think Tom is being selective. He’s a candidate in the three cities that he’s interviewed — New Jersey, Chicago and New Orleans — and I think he feels like he has the luxury to explore all three of those.”

Whatever the chances are of Doc returning, Ainge may want to get a bit more assertive in his efforts to keep Thibodeau — if Doc does leave and Thibodeau’s best offers are from other franchises, there’s a good chance the Celtics will both of their top coaches this summer. 

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.