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Report: Clippers nearing agreement with Celtics on a deal that would allow them to hire Doc Rivers

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The on-again, off-again talks between the Clippers and the Celtics to free Doc Rivers from his contract in Boston so he can coach in Los Angeles are back, and this time the teams appear to be closer than ever on making it happen.

Whether or not the league will allow it is another question entirely, and then there’s the fact that any deal for Rivers would strongly jeopardize the Clippers’ ability to then go out and try to get Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce.

First, the latest news.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

The Los Angeles Clippers are nearing an agreement to send a future first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for the rights to hire coach Doc Rivers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Talks started again on Sunday when the Clippers offered the Celtics a first-round pick to free Rivers from his contract with Boston, sources said.

Rivers and the Clippers are working on the language of a five-year, $35 million contract, and no agreement will be in place until those details are finalized, sources said.

A first-round draft pick may seem like too high a price for a tenured head coach, even one as proven as Rivers. But remember, Chris Paul has yet to declare his intentions in free agency, and even though it’s highly likely he returns to the Clippers thanks to all of the money he would need to pass up to play elsewhere, the franchise’s bumbling over this whole process wasn’t the best way to go about securing his return.

Now, the fun part.

Even if the teams finally do reach an agreement, there’s no guarantee the league will sign off on it. While no players are involved this time around, David Stern has already said that teams can’t trade a head coach’s contract, and if a deal to acquire Garnett should be attempted to follow this one, it’s far from a sure thing that it would be allowed by the commissioner’s office, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reminds us.

In the NBA’s view, nothing has changed regarding a Doc Rivers compensation deal. It’s not allowed to be attached to players, period.

League office will take a skeptical view of any Rivers transaction, sources say. Will be hard to sell as separate from player discussions.

If the Clippers have to choose between Rivers and aging players like Garnett and/or Pierce, taking the coach is right decision. But for now, we’re once again left waiting to see if this deal eventually gets completed with the NBA’s blessing.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.