Chauncey Billups, Maurice Cheeks

Did Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups get Maurice Cheeks fired?


NBA writer/rumormonger Peter Vecsey – currently involved in a public dispute with Kevin Love and Flip Saunders – has a new report about the Pistons. Like everything from Vecsey, it might be true and might not. It’s difficult to discern. But he’s prominent enough – he won the Basketball Hall of Fame’s media award in 2009 – that you must at least acknowledge what he reports.

There’s a Latin phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” which means “after this, therefore because of this.” It acknowledges the fallacy that an event following another event was caused by the first event.

Let’s say Smith and Billups went to Dumars to complain about Cheeks. First of all, I don’t believe it’s uncommon for players to go to their general to complain about the coach. Disagreements arise, and part of the general manager’s job is to resolve those.

Even if Dumars is too quick to side with his players and dismiss the coach, as his frequent firings suggest, that doesn’t mean he did so here. As Adrian Wojnarowski, who has established a much higher degree of reliability, reported:

Eight different coaches have been replaced under Dumars’ run as GM, but league sources told Yahoo Sports he had been an advocate of giving Cheeks more time as coach

So, just because Smith and Billups told Dumars they wanted Cheeks fired – which isn’t unreasonable, considering how Cheeks repeatedly sent his players into games at a disadvantage due to his ineptitude – that doesn’t mean Smith and Billups caused Cheeks’ firing. Every other report indicated this decision was driven by Pistons owner Tom Gores, not Dumars.

Maybe Gores became aware of a Smith-Billups-Dumars meeting and then became motivated to fire Cheeks because of it? That’s the type of nuance Vecsey’s tweet doesn’t cover. It’s not clear where Vecsey’s reporting ends and his speculation begins. Is he reporting facts and then using the word “doom” himself, or did the source say “doom”? The former might be a mistake on Vecsey’s part, and the latter requires great explanation from Vecsey.

And that’s if this source is credible in the first place.

This is a plausible explanation of Cheeks’ firing, but the gaps in the story are wide.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.