Kelvin Sampson, Dwight Howard

Report: Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson near deal to be University of Houston head coach

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Rockets’ assistant coach Kelvin Sampson turned some heads last season when he guided the Rockets to a strong showing while Kevin McHale was away after the death of his daughter. That got his name in the mix when head coaching vacancies came up last summer, but nothing came together for him.

So Sampson apparently is heading back to college.

Sampson likely soon with ink a deal to become the head coach of the University of Houston, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

A deal is expected to be finalized in the near future, sources said. Sampson, 58, would leave his job with the Houston Rockets, where he serves as the top assistant coach, and take over the Cougars program once the agreement is finalized, sources said.

Sampson met with university officials twice in the past several days – including Saturday, sources said.

At least Sampson doesn’t have to move. Because moving sucks.

Sampson has a long but checkered history at the college level and his hiring is going to cause some controversey. He had success at Montana Tech which landed a job as an assistant at Washington State, where he took over a long dormant program and got them to the NCAA Tournament. That landed him a job at Oklahoma where he had a .719 winning percentage over a dozen seasons and took the Sooners to the NCAA Tournament all but one year, reaching the Final Four once.

That landed him the job at Indiana, but he was forced to resign from that job amid a recruiting scandal, which put sanctions on the university (he had recruiting issues at Oklahoma as well).

He has spent the past six seasons as an NBA assistant coach, first with the Bucks and now with the Rockets.

He returns to college taking over a once proud NCAA program — where Hall of Famer Guy Lewis coached Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and others. They have been less impressive lately, having gone 17-16 this past season and they were making a change.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).