Report: Cavaliers reach “handshake” deal to hire Mike Brown

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It’s a very different team than last time he was there, but it appears Mike Brown is returning to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers have a deal in place to bring Mike Brown back as coach, replacing Byron Scott, who replaced Mike Brown three years ago (after Brown had led the Cavaliers to back-to-back 60-win seasons with LeBron James, but lost in the playoffs).

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal broke the news.

Mike Brown and the Cavaliers have reached a handshake agreement on a new deal, a league source told the Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday. An official announcement should be made Wednesday.

There are still some issues to work out, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. This is a five-year deal in the $20 million range but with a buyout in the final year, Woj reports. The real issues may revolve around how much say Brown would have players/personnel decisions. But it appears they are not big hurdles to climb as a formal deal is imminent. Also, talks are ongoing about how much the Lakers would still owe Brown of his $4 million salary for next season they were going to have to pay him.

Expect the Cavaliers to insist on an offense-minded assistant coach to run that end of the show.

Brown had started the season as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, trying to install a Princeton-hybrid offense that Kobe Bryant has asked for, but that lasted all of five games before he was fired. In an effort to talk to every Lakers coach of the last decade (except Frank Hamblen) the Cavaliers also reached out to Phil Jackson. But bringing him out of retirement was going to be very costly and he would want a lot of power.

Brown makes more sense. Yes, he’s a retread. But he’s a defense-first coach and that is what he Cavaliers need right now — they can score as long as Kyrie Irving is healthy, but they were 26th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) last season. Improve that end and the team can make a big jump.

Some of you will be asking “what does this do to Cleveland’s chances to land LeBron in 2014?” I would say nothing — I don’t think Cleveland was ever really in the running. I don’t think there is much of a running, period. Despite how much people like to speculate about it, very few people in the know think LeBron is leaving Miami when he opts out, he’s just going to get a new deal with the Heat. I’ve heard multiple people who know LeBron better than I say they think he will return to Cleveland at the end of his career, but not in 2014.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.