Could Pat Riley really step in for Erik Spoelstra? Phil Jackson thinks so.

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Stan Van Gundy had the Miami Heat and their big stars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal off to a decent but behind expectations start of 11-10 when Pat Riley canned him and stepped in to take over as coach. They won a ring.

This season’s Miami Heat are off to a decent but behind expectations 8-6 start and…

Could history repeat itself?

Phil Jackson thinks maybe, as he told ESPN Radio in Chicago (transcribed by ESPNLosAngeles)

“The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Mickey Arrison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again.”

Last night, the Indiana Pacers looked like the better coached team. They had much better off-the-ball movement in the half court and tried hard to push the pace when they could. As a team, their defensive help rotations and effort was just better.

Is that Spoelstra’s fault? Is it a lack of leadership on the team? Is it just a matter of the team having not come together and they need more time? Is it that maybe the lack of depth is really coming back to haunt them?

Does any of that even really matter? In practice, the answer is not is it Spoelstra’s fault so much as is it perceived Riley could do the job better?

By all accounts, Riley does not want to come down to the bench and do that grind again. You can be sure that the players — especially guys like Wade that have been through Riley’s legendarily brutal practices — don’t want him down on the bench again. On one hand, this can be Phil Jackson doing what he does best — stirring the pot. Mind games with a potential opponent.

But Riley has set the Heat’s timetable as now, same with James. And right now, Jackson said the Celtics remain the best in the East.

“The Celtics have a defense you have to plan for. Their defense is overwhelmingly a factor in the ballgame,” Jackson said. “They’re going to smother. They’re going to really contest. They’re going to body guys. There’s going to be double-teaming underneath the free-throw line. There are a lot of things that go on there that you have to start planning for.

“Right now, Miami hasn’t kind of shown — the defense has improved recently — they haven’t really shown this is something you really have to plan for. You have to plan how to defend these great individuals that they have. And that’s going to be part of the planning. Boston still gives you a multiple effect as a basketball team.”

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.