Spencer Hawes worked out with Shawn Kemp this summer

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Stop laughing. This is not a joke.

There was a time when everybody was a Shawn Kemp fan. Back in the days of his high-top fade he was as ferocious a dunker as the league has ever seen and force in the paint, a guy with the skills to grab the rebound and go coast-to-coast. Watch the highlights. You turned on the Sonics to watch Kemp (and Gary Payton).

Spencer Hawes was one of those who grew up in Seattle a Kemp fan. While we can be guilty of the weight and children jokes that accompanied the demise of his career, Kemp has turned his life around — he is down to his playing weight, he is a respected restaurant owner and sports talk radio host now.

And he worked out with Hawes this summer. Pushed him, really, according to CSNPhilly.com.

“He’s got a lot of upside to his game,” Kemp said. “I’ve been barking at him for a while. I thought it was time to step up and show he could play a little better.”

Hawes said it was more of a mutual decision to get together.

“When I came into the league I had higher expectations than what I produced – especially last year, statistically, individually,” he said, adding that the summer afforded him the opportunity to “really reflect on it and say ‘OK, this year, something’s going to change, and I’ve got to start making myself head in the right direction.’ ”

Kemp’s focus was to get Hawes — all 7’1” of him — off the perimeter and closer to the basket. The result is Hawes is in the post a little more (19.4 percent of his possessions this year compared to 18 percent last year, according to Synergy Sports) but what is gone are the spot up looks from the outside. Last season 19.2 percent of his shots came on spot up jumpers (and he shot 40 percent on them), this season it is down to 17 percent of his shots and he is shooting 56 percent on them. He’s getting more looks on cuts, moving toward the basket (23.7 percent of his chances this year.

The bottom line — Hawes is shooting 62.7 percent this year, up from 46.5 percent last year. He’s scoring five more points per game while using less of the offense.

Kemp probably shouldn’t get all the credit for that, there have been a number of changes with the Sixers offense. But we’re giving the lion’s share to Kemp anyway. He deserves something other than a joke.

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.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.