Did Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups get Maurice Cheeks fired?

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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.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.