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.

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.