LeBron James, Derrick Stafford

Report: League is reviewing several controversial calls from Pacers’ Game 4 win over Heat

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As with most closely contested games this deep into the NBA playoffs, there were plenty of calls made by the officials in the Pacers’ Game 4 win over the Heat that could be argued depending on which side of the proverbial fence you happen to be sitting on.

Some others, however, were either objectively incorrect, or allowed to go on without a whistle from the referees.

There seemed to be more of these types of calls than usual in this one, and that may be why the league is reportedly taking a closer look at multiple plays from Game 4 to see exactly what took place.

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

NBA officials are looking at several controversial calls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals as they sift through the fallout from the Pacers’ 99-92 victory on Tuesday night, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The most obvious missed call was a blown 24-second call against the Pacers by crew chief Joe Crawford with 8:26 left in the third quarter. Replays showed that Roy Hibbert’s attempt hit the rim, which should’ve resulted in the shot clock resetting. The Pacers were leading 81-72 at the time, and Miami subsequently went on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 83-83.

The non-call on the 24-second violation was obvious. But there were several others:

– After LeBron James came out essentially in favor of using flopping to gain an advantage, there were two blatant flops in Game 4 that are deserving of punishment. There was a double-flop on the same play where both James and David West exaggerated contact when the two collided. Nothing was called by the officials.

The other egregious acting job was pulled off by Lance Stephenson, who tried to convince a nearby official that Ray Allen had caught him with an elbow to the head. The referees weren’t buying that one, either.

– James fouled out on what was ruled an illegal screen with 56 seconds left. A look at the replay shows that James stuck out his leg to try to slow Stephenson, so this one appears to be legit, as it’s a tripping foul if nothing else. James said afterward that he thought he was “straight-up” on an and-one play that was converted by Paul George, but that was similar to a block/charge call that could have gone either way, and isn’t likely to draw any ire from the league office. But since James fouling out is an extremely rare occurrence, the league may look closely at his postgame comments to determine if a fine is in order for criticizing the officiating, even though nothing he said was all that inflammatory.

– With 26 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade was called for traveling on a play that was questionable at best. A point of emphasis for the officials this year was to watch for players lifting both feet before initiating the dribble, which Wade might have been guilty of on this play. But that’s not when the travel was called; it came after the step-back move that appeared to be perfectly legal.

It isn’t great that the officiating is in the spotlight here, especially as we approach a critical Game 5. But it’s a positive that the league is al least reviewing the questionable calls that took place, and we’ll have to wait and  see if it makes any difference in how things are officiated on Thursday.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.