Report: Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson serious candidate for Nets job

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When Rockets coach Kevin McHale took time away from the Rockets to be with his family and his ailing daughter (who passed away), Kelvin Sampson did a good job as coach in tough circumstances. The Rockets started to find their identity with him as coach and while they went just 7-6 with him in the big chair they have played better lately and are now 16-12 on the season).

People noticed, including people in the front office of the Nets, who are looking for a coach after firing Avery Johnson.

Sampson has become a serious candidate early on for the Nets job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (as well as the NBC Sports Network).

Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson has emerged as a significant candidate for the Brooklyn Nets’ head-coaching job, league sources told Yahoo! Sports…

Nets general manager Billy King is intrigued with Sampson, among other candidates, and is expected to eventually speak with him, sources said.

Sampson is not the big, sexy name owner Mikhail Prokhorov reportedly wants — that would likely be Phil Jackson. Or maybe Stan Van Gundy or Nate McMillan. A number of them will get calls as well.

But coaches who can pick and choose jobs may look at that Nets roster and be hesitant (the Nets are pretty locked into the Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez combo for years to come). But Sampson might be different, can connect with players and likely would do well in the role.

All reports are that the Nets are not going to rush this process, rather they will take their time in making a choice. But Sampson’s name seems to be in that mix.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.