Coaches and players almost never stray from the “I don’t care who we face in the playoffs, it’s about us doing our thing” mantra. Which is a load of fertilizer, by the way — they all know the playoffs are about matchups and they want to get the more favorable ones. They just won’t talk about it publically.
But George Karl of the Nuggets did, as transcribed on ESPN Dallas.
“If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players,” Denver coach George Karl told ESPN 103.3’s Galloway and Company, referring to Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell.
“They have two All-Stars who are really in their prime and have never won on the playoff stage. I just think right now our speed might have more effect against Dallas than it will against Oklahoma City.”
The Thunder and Nuggets play for the second time in four games Friday, with Oklahoma City getting a 101-94 win Tuesday. Denver had nobody who could slow Kevin Durant and then the Thunder went on a 16-0 fourth quarter run that the Nuggets could not match. The game gave you the feeling OKC could replicate that win four times in a series.
So you can see why Karl would prefer Dallas. Also, Karl is speaking to a general perception around the league — teams fear Oklahoma City’s potential and high end more than they do Dallas. The Mavs are a veteran team and you know what you are going to get with them. The Thunder are more athletic, they run the floor like gazelles, they have Durant and Russell Westbrook, either of which can just take over a game.
OKC may not live up to that potential this season. But with Kendrick Perkins (and Nazr Mohammed) the Thunder addressed one weakness. They seem to be getting better.
The Nuggets scare teams, too, but the way the Thunder dispatched the Nuggets the other night made it seem like that is a series OKC would win. So Karl wisely wants to take his chances elsewhere.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.