Rick Pitino thinks Brad Stevens is a perfect fit for the Boston Celtics

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Brad Stevens was introduced as the Boston Celtics new coach in early July. The former Butler head coach is making the daring jump, leaving the college ranks for the NBA. In the past, this has not gone well for many great collegiate coaches.

John Calipari lasted three seasons in New Jersey and Rick Pitino, who was successful with the New York Knicks, had a 102-146 record in three-plus seasons with the Boston Celtics. Just a reminder, these are the last two head coaches to win the national championship.

Despite the lack of success from coaches in the past, Pitino believes that Stevens will be able to make the transition as the head coach of Celtics.

“It’s all about your personality,” Pitino said during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“Brad Stevens is a perfect fit, perfect, couldn’t be more of a perfect fit to go from college to the pros. He runs pro offense. He runs a pro defense.”

Pitino left his post at Providence College for the Knicks opening in 1987. But even before he became the head coach at PC, he was an assistant under Hubie Brown in New York.  Serving as an NBA assistant coach was considered a prerequisite to being an NBA head coach in Pitino’s mind. Although, he sees Stevens as an exception to that rule.

“I spent two years with Hubie Brown as an assistant, that prepared me,” Pitino said.

“It’s so foreign. It’s such a foreign game, the pros to college. That is an adjustment that’s difficult to make unless you’ve been there. Brad is one of the few people I think can do it. I think Coach K can do it because of his Olympic experience. But it’s very difficult to do unless you have experience as an assistant.”

Stevens is a great X’s-and-O’s coach. He has also been on the forefront of the advanced statistic movement in the game of basketball, which includes his analytic specialist Drew Cannon. The rise in the in-depth basketball statistics is something that Pitino himself has noticed during the course of the summer.

While speaking with several professional scouts, Pitino was presented with Peyton Siva’s shooting percentages. It was broken down, not by makes or misses, but into segments, indicating what areas on the floor Siva shoots the best from.

“I was a little blown away by that,” Pitino said.

“The Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as seven, eight other teams in the NBA have adopted the version of baseball’s ‘Moneyball.’ They’re doing it, and before you know it 28 of the 30 teams in the league [will use it], and then it will filter down to college.”

Stevens was given a six-year deal by Boston, worth $22 million. So like Pitino, Danny Ainge and Co. have faith in the 36-year-old head coach that guided Butler to back-to-back national title games.

As for Pitino, he’s made the jump to the NBA twice, one good stint, one bad stint, though the college game has suited him just fine. It’s led him to Final Fours at three different schools, a pair of national titles, and oh yeah a spot in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

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As expected, Blake Griffin reportedly opted out of contract with Clippers

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Doc Rivers says he wants Blake Griffin back with the Clippers next season.

The bigger question: Does Blake Griffin want to be back with the Clippers next season?

The decision is in Griffin’s hands as he has done what was expected, opting out of his contract for the coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

A number of teams — Boston, Miami, and others — are expected to take a run at Griffin. (In Boston’s case, he’s a backup plan to Gordon Hayward, but there will be conversations.)

What Chris Paul — also expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer — and Griffin choose to do will help set the market. They are two of the biggest free agent names out there where they could switch teams (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are staying put). If they take their time making a decision, it leaves the Clippers in a bind — they have to wait to hear from these two before starting replacing or rebuilding, but by the time they know other players may have decided — and could bottleneck the free agent process.

The Clippers are going to be one interesting team to watch this summer.

Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suspended two games for DUI

AP Photo
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This is the standard penalty for coaches and players hit with a DUI. I don’t think the penalty is stiff enough in general for a serious issue, but this is the precedent that has been set.

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” the NBA announced. He will miss the first two games of next season.

This will not stop Caldwell-Pope from getting PAID this summer.

A quality wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, he plays a position of need for a lot of teams and he is a restricted free agent. Other teams with cap space — Brooklyn and Sacramento come to mind — could step in and give him a max or near max offer. Then Stan Van Gundy needs to decide if he is going to match. He may not have much of a choice, if he wants to keep Andre Drummond and build an inside-out team around him, he needs Caldwell-Pope, and the Pistons don’t have the cap space to replace him.

One way or another, Caldwell-Pope is in line for a massive pay raise. This suspension will not slow teams, it just takes a little money out of his pocket.

 

Lonzo Ball tops Rookie of the Year early betting odds

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If you are betting right now on next year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, you are a die-hard fan of your team and their new addition. Or, you have a problem and need to seek help. Maybe both.

Either way, the people at the gambling site Bovada have posted the early betting odds for the ROY award for next season.

Lonzo Ball (Lakers) 5/2
Ben Simmons (76ers) 3/1
Markelle Fultz (76ers) 5/1
De”Aaron Fox (Kings) 7/1
Josh Jackson (Suns) 9/1
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 9/1
Jonathan Isaac (Magic) 16/1
Malik Monk (Hornets) 16/1
Dennis Smith (Mavericks) 16/1
John Collins (Hawks) 20/1
Justin Jackson (Trail Blazers) 22/1
Lauri Markkanen (Bulls) 22/1

Yes, Ben Simmons is in the mix.

The two bets I like here, if I were a gambling man, are Jackson in Phoenix and Dennis Smith in Dallas. I doubt Smith wins it, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft Smith will start for them next year, which means he gets opportunities and can rack up assists feeding Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow for a year.

Jackson is going to be unleashed in an up-tempo Suns offense where he will be the defender they need on the wing, play with high energy, and get buckets in transition. Winning ROY is as much about fit and opportunity as talent, and Jackson has landed in a good spot.

Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

image

Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.