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Thursday night NBA grades: Joe Johnson apparently loves London

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking Ronald McDonald may have an anger management issues (no, not that one)

source:  Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets. He remains one of the best (sometimes overlooked) shooters in the game. In the first half the Nets largely ran the offense through their “power forward” Paul Pierce and Johnson kept getting open for catch-and-shoot threes (he was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first half) on his way to 26 points before the break. The Hawks adjusted to Johnson in the second half and doubled him, and Johnson made the right play being patient and getting the ball to the open man (Alan Anderson had 10 in the third largely thanks to those plays). By the fourth quarter Johnson was comfortably on the bench wondering if he had time to get to a fish and chip shop before the flight home. Brooklyn cruised to a win in London and Johnson was a key reason.

source:  Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. He looked like an All-Star in this one (and he is on my ballot, too). Stephenson led the Pacers when they stopped settling for jumpers and attacked the rim starting in the second quarter, but he was also a playmaker setting up teammates. When the Knicks started to focus more on him is when Paul George was able to step up and get his 25. Stephenson had 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and spent time guarding Carmelo Anthony, too.

source:  Houston Rockets in first half. This team is unstoppable. This team looks like a contender. This team has a guy you have to respect in the paint and that opens up looks at the arc, and this team goes 12-of-20 from three. This team puts up 73 points in a half, plays with pace and confidence and is generally impressive.

source:   Houston Rockets in second half. This team can’t shoot from the outside and goes 0-of-9 from three. This team looks like one that when challenged doesn’t now how to adjust and get scoring if its threes aren’t falling. This team’s stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard didn’t step up with plays when their side was struggling. This team looks nothing like a future contender.

The question is which is the real Rockets team? Or is it the more likely answer of none-of-the-above, rather still a work in progress with a ways to go?

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.

Luke Walton says he won’t run the triangle as Lakers coach

at American Airlines Center on December 30, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.

But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.

Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:

Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.