Hawks coach Larry Drew begins quest to save his job tonight

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Larry Drew’s seat got hot fast in Atlanta.

Which is on one way unfair — they gave him the exact same team that had been making the playoffs, getting to the second round and getting crushed and expected him to turn that water into wine. Not happening. But those were the expectations because the Hawks front office paid a lot of money last offseason to keep that roster together, a big extension for Al Horford (smart move) and the biggest contract anyone got last summer to Joe Johnson (not so smart).

The Hawks got worse under Drew. They dropped from 53 to 44 wins. Their defense was basically the same but their offense went from an ugly isolation-heavy series of sets that worked to a more fluid ball movement offense that players never fully bought into or executed and got worse. They went from 111.9 points per 100 possessions (second in NBA) last season to 106.1 this season (20th in NBA).

Add to that dissention in the locker room with Josh Smith reportedly leading the insurrection and you’ve got problems.

Those problems are not all Drew’s making, but he will take the fall if the Hawks don’t do better in the playoffs.

So tonight in Orlando Drew and the Hawks begin the campaign to save Drew’s job. If they can win the series over Orlando — who embarrassingly swept the Hawks out of the playoffs last season — Drew stands a chance of staying on. If not, he could well be gone reports Marc Spears at Yahoo.

Which means Larry Drew’s job rests in the hands of Jason Collins. Scary.

Drew was the top assistant of former coach Mike Woodson and the Hawks were able to hire him on the cheap (he is due just $1.5 million next season). Again, if they wanted change why bring in the top assistant of the guy you just let go? He made changes but the players were not on board. It all echoes the Hawks long-standing problem of overvaluing the talent they have in house, thinking what they have is better than it really is.

And unless Collins is better than I think he is — he was effective during the regular season keeping Howard out of the post but the Magic are going to 1/5 pick and roll him to death this series — the Hawks may make a change. And Hawks fans should hope it’s the first of a few changes that shake up the roster.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.