Doc Rivers talks Olympic tournament, why he likes pros in it

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Starting Sunday when you watch the USA take of France in our first game of the Olympic basketball tournament, the voice doing studio analysis on the NBC family of networks is going to sound familiar. Didn’t he used to do this for a living?

He did. Now, he coaches the Celtics for his paychecks. Doc Rivers will be the studio analyst (and 76ers coach Doug Collins will be doing color in the booth).

Rivers was on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show and talked Olympic hoops. CSNNE.com was listening in and got the quotes on questions like who could really challenge the USA?

“I think it’s Spain, Argentina, or Brazil. I think those teams are very good,” Rivers said. “They have NBA players. Argentina’s a rough team. That’s how they’ve always played, so I think you can’t discount them. And they’ve all played together for so much longer than the U.S. team has.”

Rivers also was asked about professionals playing in the Olympics and the idea being floated of turning the games into a soccer-style under-23 tournament. Rivers thinks we need our pros there.

“I played in the World Championship game back in [1982], “Rivers recalled. “We played in the gold medal game at that time [against USSR]. That afternoon I was in the swimming pool and I noticed the group we were playing had their kids, their families. They were already professionals. The other countries were playing professionals in the Olympics, they just were not called pros. We lost by one, I remember that (95-94), and I just thought the age difference was huge. And either they were going to have an age difference at [age] 22 or 25 that was a cut-off or everyone should be allowed to play. And I thought it was the right thing to do.”

By the way Doc, do you think the Olympics even matter to the players anymore?

“It does now. After they lost a couple of times it does now. I don’t think it will replace an NBA championship. I think honestly that is what you grow up to be. You don’t grow up to win a gold medal, you grow up to win an NBA championship. I do think now guys are growing up, they want a gold medal, and they want an NBA championship.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.