Report: Pistons expected to pursue Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo turned down a chance to coach the Atlanta Hawks in 2000. For many college coaches, even successful ones, one shot at an NBA job is the maximum. But Izzo has kept plugging away in East Lansing, reaching four Final Fours since 2000 with a chance for a fifth this season.

It doesn’t hurt to have a couple Spartans owning NBA teams, either.

Michigan State graduate Dan Gilbert pursued, but ultimately didn’t land, Izzo for the Cleveland Cavaliers job in 2010. Now, it’s expected another MSU alum chases Izzo.

Sam Amick of USA Today on Pistons owner Tom Gores:

One name he’s expected to go after is Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

Having already fired Maurice Cheeks and not getting a bump with interim coach John Loyer, the Pistons will need a coach this offseason. Considering they might also need a new general manager, Gores could have a big say in the coaching search.

Would Izzo finally jump? Maybe.

He put a lot of time and energy into recruiting Jabari Parker, who ultimately went to Duke. That left Michigan State’s recent recruiting classes thin relative to college basketball’s other powers. A good coach like Izzo could probably mold these recruits into good players by the time they’re upperclassmen, but would he want to endure that rebuild – and the lean years that could come between – if an NBA job is available?

Izzo, who made more than $3.7 million last season, would definitely require a raise to leave Michigan State. And increasing his salary would likely place him among the NBA’s top half of coaches.

Considering how rarely college coaches translate to the NBA, that does not seem like the best use of Gores’ money.

Izzo instills a strong competitiveness in his players and he knows how to navigate the arc of a season in order to have his team peaking in March, two skills that make him a great college coach. He also possesses a bright basketball mind, which could make him a great NBA coach.

Hiring Izzo would be a big risk for the Pistons, albeit one that could pay off in a big way. Is it worth the cost? Only if Gores wants to pay it.

If I were owner, though, I’d spend that much only to get one of the many proven NBA head coaches – George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins – who are possibly available.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

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.