Lionel Hollins sends O.J. Mayo to the bench

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Forming and maintaining a rotation is a delicate process for any head coach, and there are myriad factors that need to be considered, evaluated, and balanced. It’s in no way a simple process, as even the subtlest of shuffles can give an entirely new feel to a team’s offensive or defensive flow.

In theory, that would make a team’s head coach — the person whose job is predicated on being more intimately familiar with team personnel than anyone else — enlightened enough to make such intensive decisions. In practice though, coaches are as likely to flub as anyone else. Though they arrive at their decisions armed with more available data than most (even if they choose to ignore it), they sometimes decide to make rotational adjustments by way of painfully obvious follies. Lionel Hollins is guilty of one such a mistake, as according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Hollins has decided to move standout shooting guard O.J. Mayo to the bench in favor of rookie Xavier Henry:

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins shuffled his lineup for a second straight game. This time, discipline had nothing to do with it. Hollins said his decision Wednesday to take guard O.J. Mayo out of the starting lineup is designed to give the team’s struggling bench scoring punch. Rookie Xavier Henry will start at shooting guard for the foreseeable future, although Hollins insisted the change isn’t permanent. “It’s difficult when you make these kinds of decisions because everybody reads more into it than they should,” Hollins said. “I had a long talk with O.J. He’s fine and he’ll do well.”

Coming off the bench will allow Mayo to be featured more on offense, according to Hollins. Mayo won’t have to compete for shots with Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay or a more aggressive Mike Conley. Still, the move comes as Mayo is averaging a career-low 13.6 points on 39-percent shooting. Mayo acknowledged that the situation makes him unhappy because of his competitive nature. But the third-year guard said he’s prepared to put the team first. “I just want it to be a winning decision,” Mayo said. “I don’t think anybody would be happy. I’m uncomfortable. But I’m a basketball player. I’m a professional. If it’s what’s best for the team, honestly, I’m definitely all for it. The team and winning are the priorities. I can put my feelings aside for what’s best for the team.”

The Grizzlies have the 22nd-ranked offense in the league, and though Mayo has struggled this season, his rough times seem to be more of a temporary slump than a serious regression. Mayo needs to work his way out of these problems, but I’m not sure that assigning him to bench duty is good strategy or management to achieve that end. He’s a crucial part of the core the Grizzlies have assembled and are more or less locked into, which means that the Grizz should probably focus on better understanding how Mayo, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol can work together effectively.

Moving Mayo to the bench doesn’t necessarily preclude that from happening, but it’s certainly a roundabout way of shaping the current Grizz into a more competitive team.

On the bright side, Xavier Henry is an interesting prospect that could use further refinement, and throwing him into the mix as a starter could be something of a trial by fire. Still, is Memphis really in a position where they should risk alienating Mayo, much less bench one of their more talented two-way players? Hollins insisted that “everybody reads more into it than they should,” but Mayo doesn’t sound the part of a good soldier following every order with a salute. Mayo doesn’t seem to be the type for insolence, but the way to restoring his scoring proficiency probably isn’t through trying his patience. A happy scoring guard is a productive scoring guard, after all. Mayo may be neither at present, but Hollins seems to be attempting to solve both problems with one entirely foolish swoop.

Isaiah Thomas loses tooth, calmly hits two 3-pointers vs. Wizards (VIDEO)

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Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas is going to need a dentist after Sunday’s Game 1 against the Washington Wizards. While trying to fight around a screen, Thomas caught a spare elbow and wound up with his dental work all over the floor at TD Garden.

The play came in the first quarter as Thomas was trying to guard Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. coming off a screen. As Porter reached for the ball as the pass came to him on the curl, he wound up whacking Thomas in the front of his grill.

Thomas’ tooth could be seen on slo-mo replay flying across the air.

Warning: sort of gross.

Via Twitter:

Gross! Although it should be said that it seems possible that Thomas’ tooth is actually a bridge, which is to say it was missing already. The Celtics medical staff was able to put the tooth back in during the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Thomas came back up the floor after losing his tooth and hit two 3-pointers, so perhaps it’s good luck?

Why is Robin Lopez holding this dog during his exit interview? (VIDEO)

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What did Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez have to say during his exit interviews? I can’t really tell, it’s all a bunch of white noise. All I see is him holding his giant, shaggy dog named Muppet while speaking to reporters.

I can’t get over it, really. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?

Lopez is the perfect candidate to do this if you think about it, given his propensity to be a little off-kilter.

Via Twitter:

Lopez was mostly talking about taking away positives from a weird Bulls season in which they struggled all year until miraculously making the 8-seed before challenging top-ranked Boston in round 1.

Clippers, Jazz prepare for Game 7 in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES  (AP) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was adamant the sun would not set on Paul Pierce‘s NBA run in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

“I looked over at ‘Truth’ during one of (those) timeouts and I said ‘You’re not ending your career in Utah,’ ” said Paul, referring to Pierce’s popular nickname. “We told him that. We just said we want to keep this thing going for him. Paul was big tonight. Like the 3 he hit over there on the wing, and stuff like that. Just his energy and his voice in those different timeouts I think was huge for us.”

With a crucial 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6, the Clippers will attempt to extend the career of the 39-year-old Pierce, who is retiring at season’s end, and capture the series Sunday in Game 7 at Staples Center.

The winner advances to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven affair beginning Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Paul, whose two late free throws sealed the win against the Jazz, led the charge by scoring 29 points, dishing eight assists and allowing the Clippers to avoid elimination in the opening round for the second straight season. The Portland Trail Blazers bounced them last season in six games, aided by injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.

And as Paul loathes to hear, the point guard has never guided a team past the second round.

“This is what we talked about before (Game 6),” said Paul, who has become the Clippers’ main force offensively with Griffin out of the playoffs again, this time with an injury to his big toe. “Doc (Rivers) said to go out there and give yourself a chance. We knew we couldn’t win both games (Friday), and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

Utah will have another opportunity to end Pierce’s career on Sunday despite missing a chance on its home court. After the Jazz won Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples, All-Star forward Gordon Hayward made it clear he didn’t want to return for a Game 7.

Hayward, though, is humming a different tune now.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were three years ago,” Hayward told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year you’d be in a Game 7 against the Clippers in L.A., I’d have been like, ‘Bring it on.’ ”

The Jazz will be forced to bring their best with center Rudy Gobert hobbling again. Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee in Game 1 that kept him out of the lineup for two games, sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6 and was forced to the bench because of it during critical stretches.

Gobert said the ankle wouldn’t hinder him Sunday.

“I sprained it on somebody’s foot,” said Gobert, who finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocks, according to the Tribune. “I tried to run through it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of sprained ankles before. I will be good.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.