Yi Jianlian signs deal to play in China during lockout

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Yi Jianlian, the second best player to come to the NBA out of China and who played last season for the Washington Wizards, is headed home.

Yi has signed a deal to play in China during the lockout. That in and of itself is not a shock — he’s a star over there and had offers. Yi is an NBA free agent right now but in a twist this deal is supposed to have an NBA opt out so he can return after the lockout — something the Chinese Basketball Association said it was not going to allow. But rules are made to be broken everywhere.

Michael Lee at the Washington Post has the details.

Jarinn Akana, one of Yi’s representatives, confirmed that his client has signed a contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association which will have an NBA out for whenever the labor dispute is settled.

The CBA allowed its teams to sign only free agent NBA players, and Yi is an unrestricted free agent after the Wizards declined to extend his $5.4 million qualifying offer for next season….

Akana explained in a telephone interview that since Yi is a local player, the CBA and the Southern Tigers have both afforded him the privilege of leaving whenever he signs another deal in the NBA.

Yi played for Guangdong before coming to the United States and was a four-time All-Star and led the team to four consecutive titles.

Yi averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds per game for the Wizards when healthy last season but shot just 41.8 percent from the floor. He is one of those guys who is more athletic than he shows and people keep waiting for him to break out, but it just has not happened.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.