Blazers coach Stotts calls out Meyers Leonard

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The Suns had no problem with the Blazers on Wednesday, and Portland’s front line defense, or lack thereof, was the main reason why. Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal combined for 39 points on 18-of-23 shooting, and a lot of those buckets came at the expense of Meyers Leonard.

Leonard is a rookie who now has just 11 NBA games under his belt. But that didn’t stop Blazers coach Terry Stotts from calling him out by name for his poor defensive play during his postgame comments.

From Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:

Following the game, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts did something he has never done during his brief tenure as the team’s coach…he called out one of his players.

“He (Meyers Leonard) needs to work on his individual post defense,” Stotts said. Gortat scored on him, Jermaine O’Neal scored on him. He’s trying, but right now, he’s a poor post defender one-on-one.”

Stotts is clearly trying to send a message with those comments. But you won’t hear Leonard disagreeing with his coach’s critique.

“I got to get better at defense,” Leonard admitted. “It’s a learning process. I got to have better anticipation, better everything. So we just as a team, got to get better and definitely for myself.”

There’s no question Leonard was brutal defensively, but some of the blame has to go to the coaching staff here, as well.

When you’re getting destroyed inside as Leonard was, you need to come with a double-team and make your opponent move the ball and start hitting some outside shots. It didn’t help that his relief was Joel Freeland and Victor Claver, neither of whom have any chance of defending legitimate NBA bigs at this stage of their respective careers.

Leonard will continue to struggle defensively until he adds some bulk to his 7’1″, 245-lb. frame, and gets some time with some development coaches to work on his footwork and learn to use some veteran tactics.

In the meantime, calling him out isn’t going to help. But figuring out that the real problem is relying on Leonard to defend legitimate post players all by himself right now, when he’s clearly not up to that task yet, just might.

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.