Jeff Van Gundy still regrets quitting as Knicks head coach, says Doc Rivers didn’t quit on Celtics

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Jeff Van Gundy does a stellar job for ESPN and ABC as an NBA analyst, but he was once one of the better head coaches in the league over the course of several seasons.

Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks for parts of seven straight seasons, before voluntarily leaving that job to take a year off. He then coached the Houston Rockets for four more years before leaving the profession altogether, but still regrets giving up on that position with the Knicks to this day.

Speaking on Doc Rivers and the situation with him leaving the Celtics to become head coach of the Clippers, Van Gundy defended Rivers, while citing his own experience in how things ended for him in New York as an example of what quitting truly means.

From Al Innazzone of Newsday:

Van Gundy opened up about his “bad decision” Friday during an interview on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN radio. They were discussing Doc Rivers’ decision to leave the Celtics to become the Clippers’ coach. Van Gundy defended Rivers, saying what he did 12 1/2 years ago was worse.

“I quit the Knicks, so I know what quitting is,” he said. “I did it. I quit. And it’s something I regret to this day . . . I was just emotionally spent. I made a bad decision and I quit.

“Doc Rivers didn’t quit. He was allowed to pursue a better opportunity for himself. That’s a significant, significant difference that everybody’s glossing over.”

Rivers was going to be paid $7 million per season for three more years if he stayed in Boston, to coach a team that wasn’t going to even make the playoffs once ownership decided it was time to blow things up. His leaving may seem like he was bailing on the team, but it was really the best decision to make for both sides.

Van Gundy left the Knicks after just 19 games in 2001, and said his situation was much worse than that of Rivers’.

“I had a great job with the Knicks,” Van Gundy said. “I let . . . frustration overwhelm me when I should have taken more time to come to that conclusion or a conclusion. Mine was certainly worse.”

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.

O.G. Anunoby invited to NBA draft, Harry Giles declines

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.

The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.

Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.

Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?

Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?

I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).

Report: Knicks’ asking price for Kristaps Porzingis ‘massive’

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What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.

At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.

Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.

Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.

But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.

There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.

Lonzo Ball recruits LeBron James to Lakers (video)

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Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.

But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.

The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.

Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?

Ball on ESPN:

LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.

Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.

Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.