Nets notes: Kidd takes some credit, Lopez downplays injury, and Pierce off the bench

3 Comments

NEW YORK — A few leftover items from Thursday night’s big win for the Nets, the team’s third straight.

When Jason Kidd parted ways with assistant coach Lawrence Frank a little more than a week ago, it was viewed in one of two ways.

Either it was a desperate attempt to shift the blame for the team’s disastrous start elsewhere, or it was a power move intended to gain full control of the team from the coaching position after management surrounded Kidd, in his first year as head man on the sideline, with multiple talented assistants.

It seems more like the latter now that the Nets are riding a three-game winning streak, and the new things Kidd began immediately putting in following Frank’s departure are beginning to pay some dividends.

“We have a new system,” Kevin Garnett said following the 30-point loss to the Knicks last week. “We’re changing things on the fly. Jason has been putting in a lot of new stuff since [assistant coach Lawrence Frank] has left.”

When the questions came about the specifics behind Brooklyn’s blowout win over Los Angeles, Kidd subtly hinted that his system — along with getting players like Deron Williams back healthy — might have had more than a little to do with that.

“I would say the defensive side of the ball,” Kidd said, when asked what the difference has been these last three games. “The guys are executing the game plan. … The guys in that locker room, we’ve asked them to do some different things defensively. They’ve done it, and I think the trust factor on the defensive end has now led to the ball movement on the offensive end, and guys getting shots.”

Kidd mentioned the execution of the game plan twice more during his postgame remarks, and after perhaps dealing with some unfair pressure early on as his team was decimated by injuries, it seemed like a fine time for the coach to take some credit for putting a system in place that his healthy team is finally able to “execute.”

**********

Just as the Nets are beginning to roll, they may have yet another injury setback.

Brook Lopez left the game in the third quarter after crumbling in the post against Blake Griffin. He came out of the game briefly before returning to try to give it another shot, but the team trainer shut him down for the night a short time later.

In the locker room afterward, Lopez was in good spirits and didn’t have any tape, ice or brace on the injured ankle. He would have remained in the game if it was up to him, but even so, his status is up in the air for the team’s next game in Detroit on Friday.

“It’s doing well,” Lopez said. “I just twisted it a little, sprained it a little. I think I got hit by someone; I don’t really know what happened in the heat of the moment, but it’ll be alright.”

The last time Lopez suffered an ankle injury back on Nov. 15 in Phoenix, he similarly stayed in the game and played on it — but then he missed the team’s next seven. When asked if this situation might be similar, Lopez didn’t seem to think it was nearly as bad.

“I’ll know more probably later tonight or tomorrow morning, but it seems better,” he said. “Initially, last time I twisted it, it felt much more severe.”

It would be a mild surprise if Lopez played Friday on the second night of a back-to-back, with the team likely taking the cautious route after dealing with so many early-season injuries. But then again, they may want to keep things rolling as long as possible.

**********

Paul Pierce came off the bench for the second straight game, and while he had said after his first stint with the reserves on Tuesday that he was fine with that role, he seemed less convincing when answering that same question Thursday night.

“You know, I’m playing my part in this,” Pierce said. “That’s what it is. I’m trying to lead the second team, develop some chemistry with that unit. So, as long as things keep going where we’re winning games, I mean, like I said, I’m sacrificing or whatever for the good of the team.”

Pierce still will see some time with the starters in late-game situations, and he isn’t going to say anything that will upset the delicate balance the Nets have achieved on this current winning streak. But it’s clear he would prefer to be in the starting lineup.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

AP
1 Comment

There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

AP Photo/Eric Gay
Leave a comment

The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

AP
1 Comment

But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

AP
Leave a comment

The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.