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.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.