As you should have expected, Mark Jackson denies he wants out of Golden State

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And now come the denials….

In a report about Mark Jackson demoting assistant coach Brian Scalabrine (apparently for arguing with another assistant coach who has deeper, longer ties with Jackson) Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that last summer Jackson had kicked the tires on other coaching jobs in Brooklyn and with the Los Angeles Clippers. Neither of those went very far, but it was used as evidence of the dysfunction and distrust within the Warriors organization, as was the fact former coach Mike Malone and Jackson didn’t speak for weeks at a time.

Of course, on Wednesday Jackson denied wanting out. Our man Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com has the report.

“Not true,” (Jackson) said after practice…

“I’m not going to comment on everything,” Jackson said. “First of all, Mike Malone commented and said that his part was a lie. So there you have that. Second of all, it’s poor reporting by Wojnarowski if you decided and knew this to hold on to it until (Tuesday). That’s blockbuster stuff.

“So, not true. None of it was true. I’m not going to go any further. This is my job and I’m thrilled to death to be the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.”

First off, what do you expect him to say? Whether this is true or not it is the only thing both Jackson and Malone can say publicly.

Next, remember that there are layers to how these things work. For example, Jackson himself very well may not have had any contact with Brooklyn or Los Angeles but his agent could have tested the waters, or there are other back channel ways to express interest in something without a formal conversation. Same with Mark Malone — coaches can have quick, work-related conversations while having a very frosty personal relationship, just as you can at your office with the loudmouth three cubicles down.

The reports of tension in Golden State’s organization heard all around the league, something that starts with a very hands-on ownership group in the basketball side (that’s not always a good thing) and continues down all the way to the locker room. What that means for Jackson and his future in Golden State is up for debate — and what they do in the playoffs will be big factor. An ugly first round exit and a tough second round exit will feel very different when evaluating how or if this team progressed this year.

If you believe that Jackson is a stand up guy, then this is “not true.” Flat out. But I believe things tend to be more nuanced than that.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

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The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

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Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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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 valuable.

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