John Calipari will coach the Lakers next season, tweets Rex Chapman (Really, Rex Chapman?)

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UPDATE 11:01 pm: Shockingly, it took almost no time for the Lakers to try and shoot this down. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“I spoke to [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak and he said the rumor is untrue,” Lakers spokesman John Black said. “Mike D’Antoni is our coach. There have been no conversations about any specific names for any replacement.”

After the game John Calipari was asked about the rumors and… what did you expect him to say?

Two quick thoughts here:

First, the phrasing of that last sentence by the Lakers’ Black sure makes it sounds like the Lakers are thinking about moving on from D’Antoni after this season. Which is what a lot of the players and pretty much every Lakers’ fan wants. The Lakers may not want to pay two coaches at once, Mitch Kupchak may want to keep D’Antoni around, but someone’s head has to role for the worst season the Lakers have ever had in Los Angeles and D’Antoni is the likely candidate.

Second, just a reminder that how these kinds of things work: It all starts with back channel communications, where someone with ties to Calipari and someone with ties to the Lakers have an unofficial conversation. That may well have happened, initiated by either side. There may even be a level of mutual interest, and if so the talks move up the chain of command. But the real negotiations and decisions — with the real decision makers involved — are not going to come before the Lakers’ season ends, and likely not until after Kentucky players decide who is going into the draft and who is staying for another year. There is a lot of time, a lot details still to work out on both sides (including money), and a lot of things that can derail a deal. Which is to say nothing is anywhere near set in stone.

—Kurt Helin

10:33 pm: Remember when Pete Carroll broke the Phil Jackson-to-New York story?

This isn’t quite as weird a connection, but former Kentucky star Rex Chapman is tweeting John Calipari will leave the Wildcats for the Lakers after tonight’s NCAA championship game (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball):

Even if the Lakers are leaning toward keeping D’Antoni, there’s clear division on that among the team’s players. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill have all reportedly had rifts with the coach. It would make sense they’re looking around.

And it would make sense Calipari wants to move on. The beauty of his one-and-done model is most of his team would be going with him, and I’m sure he’d be temped by an NBA job – especially in Los Angeles.

But Chapman’s tweets do not a credible rumor make.

Chapman has never been afraid to speak his mind, and he’s not a trained reporter with a background in evaluating the reliability of sources. Not that I have a reason to doubt him, but I have absolutely no reason to trust him on this.

Look, Calipari could coach the Lakers next season. I’d be surprised if it’s already agreed upon, though.

I’d be even more surprised if Chapman were the first to know with enough certainty to say so publicly.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.