Lakers to hire Mike Brown to be coach

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UPDATE #3 9:55 am: By the morning, pretty much everyone with an NBA source has confirmed this. The Lakers are going to make an offer to Mike Brown, maybe for three, maybe for four years. The only potential catch is that it is not really going to be a negotiation, if he doesn’t take the offer the Lakers will move on to Rick Adelman.

UPDATE #2, 1:11 am: Mike Brown has pulled himself out of the running for the Golden State Warriors job because he is about to be hired by the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area. He quotes several league sources as saying that Brown will be named as the Lakers coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo adds that the two sides may have worked out the money issue, with Brown getting a four-year deal at more than $4 million per year.

It appears this will become official later on Wednesday.

UPDATE May 25, 12:23 am: Money is the issue holding everything up, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com, who says that Rick Adelman is still in the running due to money.

As PBT told you on Tuesday, the Lakers are holding firm on salary and will not go above $5 million a season. Brown wants to make more in the Doc Rivers range of $7 million a season, Aldridge reports. If he will not agree to the lower salary, the Lakers will move on.

While the Lakers have spent big on coaching during the Phil Jackson era, prior to that Buss was known for trying not to pay much for coaches. Remember he pulled Pat Riley out of the broadcast booth, in part because he would not have cost as much as some veteran coaches.

May 24, 11:17 pm: Mike Brown, the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach during much of their LeBron James era, may be the coach Lakers owner Jerry Buss was talking about when he said they were close to signing a new coach.

Brown and the Lakers are in serious talks, according to Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo. As in the deal could be reached in the next 24-48 hours serious, the report says. Not finalized but this seems to be the direction things are going.

Brown is edging out current Lakers assistant Brian Shaw and veteran coach Rick Adelman to replace the legendary Phil Jackson.

That scream you just heard was from terrified Lakers fans.

But they shouldn’t be as scared as they are. First off, Brown is a defense-first coach who got his Cavs teams to play well on that end of the floor. That has always been the key for the Lakers with this roster, how well they played defense. And Brown won more than 60 games as a coach.

But that was not the knock on Brown, it was his offense. Which was always very LeBron James focused, with a lot of isolations for him. It looked stagnant. Thing is, what did you expect him to do? Did you see this season what they had around James? For a long time Brown’s starting backcourt was Eric Snow and Larry Hughes, so yes, he gave the ball to James a lot as a point forward. Even when he had Mo Williams and Delonte West are you going to take the ball out of LeBron’s hands? The Cavs often had the best offense in the league with that latter twosome. And those guys are not exactly all that.

The issue at hand is they are going from a system to a playbook. From a system designed to react to what the defense wants to a more rigid system where the players have less freedom to attack what the defense gives them.

Then there is the respect issue — will Kobe Bryant respect a guy who has not been through the wars and have the titles that these Lakers have. That Shaw has. Even Adelman has had great teams that might have had rings had it not been for Kobe and the Lakers.

Buss said he was not going to consult a player on the hiring of a coach (which is not the tradition, the issue is usually discussed with superstars like Kobe). But Brown seems to be the direction they are going.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.