Orlando Magic let go of coach Stan Van Gundy, GM Otis Smith

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And the “we will do anything to keep Dwight Howard happy” parade continues.

The Orlando Magic have announced that they are parting ways with coach Stan Van Gundy as well as GM Otis Smith. Follow that link if you want to read the generic “he was great for us” quotes from the owner that just fired him.

In five years with the Magic Van Gundy had a 259-135 (.657) record and took the team to the NBA finals. He is the most successful coach in Magic history.

The move is not really a surprise, we know from last season that center Howard had asked for a change — Van Gundy himself said he was told that by management, while Howard has denied it nobody believed him. In the NBA, the power struggle between the truly elite player and the coach always goes to the player — they are harder to come by and you have to do everything to keep them. Which is what the Magic are trying to do, show Howard they are willing to go a new direction and retool for him.

Is this move enough to keep Howard so he doesn’t leave them after this season? I doubt it. He’ll want to see people come in who he thinks can build a winner in Orlando… like Van Gundy did. But lets not belabor that point.

The question is, what coach can the Magic get that is better? Phil Jackson is not walking through that door.

But maybe his former lead assistant Brian Shaw is. Shaw is currently a big part of Frank Vogel’s staff in Indiana and is reportedly one of the key guys Howard said he wanted the Magic go bring in. Don’t be shocked if bigger names like Nate McMillan also end up in the mix pretty quickly.

As for Van Gundy, he will land on his feet as he is now maybe the hottest free agent coach out there that doesn’t have 11 rings (maybe Mike D’Antoni would quibble). To be fair, like Howard lot of players are not fond of Van Gundy, who is seen as old-school and negative. But he wins and his teams defend. A whole lot of teams could use that.

Whoever the new GM turns out to be will have a difficult task ahead. You have to improve this team which is already over the salary cap and tax threshold, severely limiting your options, and point guard Jameer Nelson is testing the free agent market. The Magic are not flush with great trade pieces — nobody wants Hedo Turkoglu and you can’t get that much for solid players like J.J. Redick. There is no simple quick fix here, in an effort to put the team over the hump after their finals run Smith backed the team into a difficult financial corner.

But Howard got what he wanted. And we have more turmoil in Orlando.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.