Report: Steve Kerr would rather coach West Coast team than Knicks

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The Steve Kerr-to-the-Knicks story has really gotten out ahead of itself.

Not only does Phil Jackson reportedly want to hire Kerr as New York’s head coach, Kerr reportedly wants the position.

Yet, each side continue to express interest in the other through the media. Why not just make the hire?

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Kerr is eying several potential openings around the league, according to sources, and he would prefer to stay on (or near) the West Coast. Kerr lives in San Diego, and he has a daughter attending college at Cal, in Berkeley. Contrary to a New York Post report, Kerr has not asked TNT for schedule flexibility in order to take the Knicks job, according to two sources with Turner Sports. (Disclosure: Turner also owns Bleacher Report.)

I count three West Coast jobs with potential openings: Lakers, Warriors and Trail Blazers. Plus, Utah – which, unlike those three, actually has a vacancy – is actually closed to San Diego than Portland.

It would shock nobody if the Lakers fire Mike D’Antoni, but after years of not re-hiring Jackson, why would they go for a Jackson disciple? If the Lakers wanted to move on from the Jackson era, that’s at least understandable. But turning to someone like Kerr rather than just hiring Jackson in the first place is not.

The Warriors should not fire Mark Jackson, even though, in nearly every way besides on-court performance, his Warriors look dysfunctional. Rifts with assistant coaches, strange and needless disputes with players, defensive bursts with the media. But on-court performance matters a great deal, and Jackson just led Golden State to its best record in 22 years and has its best overall coaching record since Bill Sharman (1966-68).

Similarly, despite leaving the question open, the Trail Blazers probably won’t dump Terry Stotts. I’m not as high on Stotts’ coaching ability as others, but he just helped Portland end a two-season playoff drought by going 54-28 in a tough conference. He definitely deserves the benefit of the doubt – and a contract extension.

That leaves Utah, which could be a good fit. As I wrote yesterday, the Jazz could look for a promising coach who lacks experience and needs a season to grow on the job. That’s Kerr, who has never coached. If Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey wants a defensive-minded and analytical coach, Kerr could certainly fit.

But that’s only one opening, and maybe the Jazz don’t have interest in Kerr.

That brings us back to the Knicks, whom Beck reports are also interested in Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and and Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie. Beck:

Hoiberg never played for Jackson, but did play in the triangle offense for the Bulls, under Tim Floyd. Hoiberg has made a name for himself at Iowa State and Jackson “thinks highly of him,” according to one source. Jackson also likes Ollie, who guided Connecticut to the 2014 national championship.

“He’s going to talk to a lot of people,” a league source said of Jackson.

If I were hiring an NBA coach, I’d like those two, too. They’ve done fantastic jobs in college, coaching with styles that would seemingly translate well to the NBA. That both had lengthy NBA careers at least relaxes my usual concerns about college coaches moving up to the NBA.

But, really, this seems like more posturing. I still predict Kerr will become the Knicks’ next coach. There’s too much smoke here to project anyone else taking the job.

If I had to guess, the Knicks and Kerr are just trying to create the illusion of uncertainty. One, it gives the appearance the Knicks are being thorough in their search. Two, it protects Kerr from criticism for being hastily hired or getting the job due to his relationship with Jackson rather than his coaching acumen.

Eventually, the Knicks and/or Kerr must commit to wanting to join forces. Then, we’ll know how the other side truly feels.

Clippers, Jazz prepare for Game 7 in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES  (AP) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was adamant the sun would not set on Paul Pierce‘s NBA run in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

“I looked over at ‘Truth’ during one of (those) timeouts and I said ‘You’re not ending your career in Utah,’ ” said Paul, referring to Pierce’s popular nickname. “We told him that. We just said we want to keep this thing going for him. Paul was big tonight. Like the 3 he hit over there on the wing, and stuff like that. Just his energy and his voice in those different timeouts I think was huge for us.”

With a crucial 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6, the Clippers will attempt to extend the career of the 39-year-old Pierce, who is retiring at season’s end, and capture the series Sunday in Game 7 at Staples Center.

The winner advances to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven affair beginning Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Paul, whose two late free throws sealed the win against the Jazz, led the charge by scoring 29 points, dishing eight assists and allowing the Clippers to avoid elimination in the opening round for the second straight season. The Portland Trail Blazers bounced them last season in six games, aided by injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.

And as Paul loathes to hear, the point guard has never guided a team past the second round.

“This is what we talked about before (Game 6),” said Paul, who has become the Clippers’ main force offensively with Griffin out of the playoffs again, this time with an injury to his big toe. “Doc (Rivers) said to go out there and give yourself a chance. We knew we couldn’t win both games (Friday), and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

Utah will have another opportunity to end Pierce’s career on Sunday despite missing a chance on its home court. After the Jazz won Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples, All-Star forward Gordon Hayward made it clear he didn’t want to return for a Game 7.

Hayward, though, is humming a different tune now.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were three years ago,” Hayward told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year you’d be in a Game 7 against the Clippers in L.A., I’d have been like, ‘Bring it on.’ ”

The Jazz will be forced to bring their best with center Rudy Gobert hobbling again. Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee in Game 1 that kept him out of the lineup for two games, sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6 and was forced to the bench because of it during critical stretches.

Gobert said the ankle wouldn’t hinder him Sunday.

“I sprained it on somebody’s foot,” said Gobert, who finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocks, according to the Tribune. “I tried to run through it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of sprained ankles before. I will be good.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.