Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One

Report: Phil Jackson “intrigued” by idea of Nets job’


Thursday there came a direct statement from Phil Jackson’s agent that the legendary 11-time champion coach was not interested in the Brooklyn Nets coaching job in he wake of Avery Johnson’s firing.

But an agent’s job is to negotiate, so you take that with a grain of salt. You can’t really negotiate without leverage and you don’t have much leverage if you really want the job.

Now comes the report that the Nets job does hold some interest for Jackson, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

Phil Jackson, the 11-time champion coach, would be interested in exploring the possibility of coaching the Brooklyn franchise “for sure,” a person with knowledge of his thinking told CBSSports.com Thursday night….

Jackson, 67, is one of several candidates in play for the Nets, sources say, but given owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s affinity for big names and the added benefit that would come from hiring an ex-Knick, an eventual conversation between Jackson and the Nets would seem to be a formality. Coaching in New York is “a situation that would intrigue him,” the person familiar with Jackson’s thinking said. “He has a lot of history with that place.”

I have no doubt that Prokhorov and the Nets will call and talk to Jackson. I have no doubt he will offer a ridiculously large check to Jackson. And certainly Jackson has an affinity with New York, although it stems from his time as a player with that other franchise in town.

But I seriously doubt this happens.

For one, Jackson isn’t going to want just a large check — he’s going to want power. As in Billy King would be a puppet GM power. As in this is fully and totally his show power.

Second, and most importantly, Jackson is going to look at the roster as it is and realize this is regularly going to be a three to seven seed in the East. This team simply is not as good as the Nets hyped — and the owner seems to believe that hype. The Nets are not a bad team, but they are not contenders.

And reshaping this roster would be hard because of the contracts — the Nets have more than $70 million committed on the books for the three seasons AFTER this one. Joe Johnson’s massive contract, Brook Lopez’s max deal, even the Kris Humphries deal are not contracts that can be easily traded, and not for real quality in return.

Jackson is going to look at that roster, remember how much he was tired of the travel, long hours and grind of being an NBA coach, and he’s going to say no and walk away. He may flirt with the Nets, but I doubt it goes any farther than that.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.