Report: Kobe Bryant wishes the Lakers could hire Tom Thibodeau

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Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn’t consult Kobe Bryant on Mike D’Antoni, sending a clear message about Kobe’s status in the Lakers organization.

But you have to think Kobe’s reported lack of interest in playing for D’Antoni had something to do with with the coach wanting his 2015-16 team option picked up and resigning when it wasn’t. Handling a disgruntled star is never easy, and it’s much harder as a lame duck.

Kobe knows how to play this game. The Lakers won’t consult him? Fine. He’ll be heard other ways.

And here comes a report from a writer who has repeatedly broken Kobe stories and often features exclusive Kobe quotes in his articles.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bryant will wish for Tom Thibodeau to free himself from Chicago. He loves Jeff Van Gundy, and shares management’s affinity for Euro legend Ettore Messina, who spent a season on Mike Brown’s staff.

Bryant has long admired Byron Scott, but there’s a different ex-Lakers guard who could go much further to regenerate the franchise’s culture and hold the insight into getting the most out of Bryant’s final two seasons: Derek Fisher.

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If Bryant longs for Thibodeau – whose reported rift with Bulls management has his name popping up for openings even though he’s under contract – the most-similar clearly available coach is Lionel Hollins. The former Grizzlies coach would foster an environment that rewards toughness and defense, two traits that also define Thibodeau’s system.

But Wojnarowski’s article centers on Fisher, and while Kobe is not quoted, I don’t think the Fisher focus is coincidence. Of the coaches who would satisfy Kobe, Fisher might be the most attainable. (Scott also seems likely to take the job if offered, but it’s unclear whether Kobe’s admiration extends to wanting to play for someone whose Cleveland teams struggled so much.)

Of course, Fisher must first finish his playoff run as the Thunder’s backup point guard. At 39, Fisher is still playing.

I forget, where are we on players moving directly to coaching? Did Jason Kidd prove it can’t work, or has he proven it can? Maybe we shouldn’t make a rule on a single example, especially one with mixed results.

Fisher is bright. There’s a reason he’s lasted 18 years in the NBA despite never scoring better than 13.3 points per game (something only Rick Mahorn and Tree Rollins have also done), and many believe he has the disposition to coach.

But it was hard for Kidd to go from playing against Brooklyn’s current players to coaching them. I think it would be even harder for Fisher to go from playing with Kobe to coaching him. The relationship just changes too much – even if Kobe and Fisher go into it with the best of intentions

There’s a bigger issue, though: Why hire a coach to get the most out of Kobe? He’s 35 and missed 76 games this season with two devastating injuries. If the Lakers want to get the most out of him, hire a good doctor.

It’s more important the Lakers hire a coach who can develop their 2014 lottery pick and attract a big-name free agent in 2015. If that’s the same person who relates best to Kobe, great. But the Lakers shouldn’t elevate Kobe’s agenda over bigger priorities.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.