This went unnoticed during Thursday night’s closer-than-expected contest between the Knicks and the Thunder, but you can bet that the league will be reviewing it in the days that follow.
With about 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith takes an aggressive swing with his right elbow to the head of Thabo Sefolosha. Thankfully for everyone involved, he missed. But it was a violent attempt, and the intent was clear.
The two were battling physically on this particular possession, and usually when it escalates to the point where one player is taking a swing at another, it’s because little shots here and there have been delivered throughout the game, likely from both sides.
The league isn’t afraid to step in to correct something that the officials at the time ignored completely, and did so just over a week ago when Metta World Peace received a flagrant two foul three days after landing an elbow to the head of Kenneth Faried.
It’ll be interesting to see if the league comes down on Smith for this. The rule book states that a player, coach or trainer must be ejected for a “Technical foul for an attempted punch or swing with no contact or a thrown elbow toward an opponent above shoulder level with no contact.”
That could mean a retroactive flagrant two, a fine, a suspension, or none of the above. We’ll have to wait and see.
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
ESPN sources say the Warriors, meanwhile, plan to go outside the organization at season's end for a replacement to add to the current staff.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
Luke Walton's contract to coach the Lakers will be for five years and about $25 million.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.