Mitch Kupchak

Lakers GM Kupchak says it’s win now and Brown wasn’t doing that

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The Lakers did not go out and get Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to have a team that was going to take a while to maybe come together. Their model wasn’t the 2010 Miami Heat, who started 9-8 but stuck with Erik Spoelstra and didn’t have Pat Riley coming to take his job. The Lakers wanted to be the 2008 Celtics — a 20-2 start on the road to a ring.

The Lakers instead were 1-4 with a lot of questions and rather than wait they acted and fired Mike Brown. In explaining why at a press conference Friday, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said it was about the bottom line — wins and losses.

“You can argue ‘was last season a part of the process?’ ‘Was the preseason part of the process?’ But after five games we just felt we weren’t winning, we weren’t seeing improvement and we made a decision,” Kupchak said. “Maybe it would have changed a month down the road or three months down the road. But with this team we didn’t want to wait three months and then find out it wasn’t going to change.”

Kupchak said he was not aware of any player input on the decision (not sure I believe him there). Was this a panic button move?

“(This decision) wasn’t made out of panic,” Kupchak said. “We were aware of this team’s progress through training camp, through the beginning of the season. Only yesterday did we come to the decision to make a change.”

Among Brown’s flaws is a penchant for making things more complicated than they need to be, and Kupchack hinted at that when asked about interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

“I expect he’ll make things simpler tonight,” Kupchak said.

Kupchak also talked about working to put together a list of coaches they want to speak with, but added they have not yet talked with anyone. While he said he would consider an assistant on another team — hello Brian Shaw — that more likely it would be an experienced coach not currently employed. Like the guys on this list.

But what about Phil Jackson?

“When there’s a coach like Phil Jackson, one of the all time greats, and he’s not coaching you’d be negligent not to be aware,” Kupchack said in what is a pretty neutral statement.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.