Phil Jackson thinks the Celtics will win the East

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Legendary coach Phil Jackson has never been shy about using the media to take not-so-sly shots at rival teams, players, and coaches, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to stop any time soon. In an interview with ESPN 710’s Max Kellerman earlier today, Jackson said that he thinks the Boston Celtics will win the Eastern Conference, and also expressed doubts about the Miami Heat’s ability to function as a team:

“I personally don’t think [The Heat] can get by Boston,” Jackson said. “I think Boston is too good a team. I think a team is still going to win.

“But there’s a chance that [the Heat] … can maybe round themselves into a team by that time and [win].

“Boston is older and they have to go through the rest of the schedule without having some kind of breakdown of players. [Ray] Allen and [Kendrick] Perkins, etc., they are just really a good team.
“But there’s nothing like the great athletic skill and dynamism that [James and Wade] have and [Chris] Bosh is a terrific player in his own right. There’s no doubt about their individual skills.”

This isn’t the first time Jackson has fired a public shot at the Heat. The last time the Heat had a tough stretch of games, Jackson publicly wondered about the job security of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Over the first half of their season, the Heat have run (no pun intended) hot and cold. After starting the season 9-8, the Heat lost one game from November 27th to January 9th, and are currently on a four-game losing streak after suffering injuries to LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Heat have also been without Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller for much of the year.

Boston’s depth has helped them be more consistent than the Heat. Despite injuries to defensive specialist Kendrick Perkins and tough combo guard Delonte West, the Celtics have gone 31-9 in the first 40 games of the season and currently hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Heat for the best record in the East.

Jackson’s comments will almost certainly give the Heat (as well as the Magic, who can’t be happy about being omitted from Phil’s two-team race for the Eastern Conferenc) some bulletin-board material. That may end up adding some fuel to a possible Lakers-Heat (or Lakers-Magic) finals, but there’s a whole lot of basketball to be played before we should even start thinking about those matchups.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.