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.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

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.