Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets come up empty against Chicago Bulls

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The Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls woke up early, left on their sleeved Christmas pajamas and opened the NBA’s Christmas Day slate.

Jason Kidd probably wishes he never got out of bed.

A game after blasting his team for “kind of getting comfortable with losing,” Kidd oversaw Brooklyn’s 95-78 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, an embarrassing – and nationally televised – display for the most expensive basketball team of all time.

Down nine points with 4:26 left in the third quarter, Kevin Garnett already on the bench, Kidd pulled his other four starters.

“I’m going to go with the same group, go with the reserves right now until we get back into the game,” Kidd told ESPN’s Chris Broussard before the fourth quarter, moments after boos reached their peak volume.

Eventually, Kidd reneged on that pledge, because the Nets never got back into the game. By the time Deron Williams and Mirza Teletovic returned with 8:45 left, Brooklyn trailed by 21 points.

Kidd is shifting blame, placing it on an accomplished group of veterans who don’t deserve the public shaming from a rookie head coach.

Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry – who’ve each won a championship – and Deron Williams comfortable with losing? I don’t think so.

The Nets don’t accept losing. They’re incapable of winning.

Their best player, Brook Lopez, is out for the rest of the season, but that’s just an unfortunate break. There are just as significant structural problems with how Brooklyn was assembled.

Last May, the Nets were upset by Chicago in the first-round of the playoffs. Not even eight months – and 10s of millions of dollars added to their payroll – later, the Nets are even less equipped to run with the Derrick Rose-less Bulls.

Brooklyn is older, less cohesive and more poorly coached.

For all Kidd’s showmanship about sitting his starters, it didn’t work. The Nets, in a 17-point loss, played Chicago even with all five starters in the game. In the nine minutes no starters played, Brooklyn was outscored by nine.

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Even with the prospect of falling to 9-19 with a four-game losing streak, Brooklyn had a chance entering this game, because the Bulls had similarly underwhelmed this season. Despite the Eastern Conference falling further behind its Western counterpart, these teams are no longer close to last year’s versions that fought through a seven-game series in the 4-5 matchup. Instead, they hold the conferences ninth- and 12th-best records.

But disappointment is relative, and with Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls limited theirs.

Both teams started sluggishly until Thibodeau used a two-point guard lineup featuring D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich for the first time all season. With both players capable of pushing the ball and initiating the offense, entry passes suddenly coming from either side of the court, the Nets were lost and surrendered a 12-0 run.

The final results of the Augustin-Hinrich combo, though in just five minutes, were stunning. Offensive rating: 133.3. Defensive rating: 51.2.

It was the type of crafty adjustment Kidd rarely makes, allowing the rigid Thibodeau to run circles around him in even creativity.

Teletovic scored 10 points on five Brooklyn possessions early in the third quarter to briefly give the Nets the lead, but the Bulls overwhelmed Brooklyn without doing anything fancy. Chicago just defended as it always does, and six Bulls scored double digits.

Until the boos rained down during the final seconds – with a few spattering of jeers in between – the Nets fans were mostly quit during the fourth quarter. Only Taj Gibson’s powerful putback dunk really had them buzzing.

Garnett, Pierce, Terry and Williams were similarly quiet. Cameras caught them multiple times sitting on the bench, looking forlorn. In fact, it took a while for any Net to speak up.

When Kidd did, his words ran hallow.

Kidd frequently hangs his head on the sideline. If his team is following his lead, it’s here.

And nowhere else.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.