Kevin Ollie

Seven names to watch as Lakers begin search for new coach

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Mike D’Antoni is gone in Los Angeles — Lakers fans want to make Thursday a national holiday of celebration. Even though much of it was not his fault, D’Antoni had become the whipping boy of Lakers fans, the guy whose head had to roll (and he certainly made his share of mistakes and had his share of problems on the job). As proof Lakers fans are ecstatic check out this “classy” tweet from Magic Johnson.

Ding Dong the witch is dead….

Now what?

Don’t expect the Lakers to move quickly here, and expect them to cast a wide net and talk to a lot of people. Early buzz is they are focused on the draft (where they will have a Top 9 pick) so there is almost no chance a coach is hired before the NBA Draft lottery May 20. They could hold out longer, even past the June draft or later (in theory the Lakers could try to sell a big-time free agent with the idea he would have input on a coach, but they aren’t even giving Kobe Bryant that input).

When the Lakers do hire a coach, who will they choose? It’s impossible to say (other than “not Phil Jackson,” plus along those lines Stan Van Gundy told Eytan Shander of NBC Sports Radio “I don’t anticipate them contacting me.”). So here are seven names to watch.

1. Byron Scott. For their last two coaches management went outside the “Laker family” and went with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. Both of those failed miserably. Scott is a former Laker who twice coached the Nets to the NBA Finals (with Jason Kidd). More importantly, he is a Buss family favorite. He’s a guy that can burn out players and he’s had less success in recent stops, but he comes with one other big perk — a great relationship with Kyrie Irving (he coached him in Cleveland).

2. Lionel Hollins. If you want the anti-D’Antoni this is your guy — he is old school, hard knocks and likes to play slow. He’s also good at building a culture and developing players, as we saw in Memphis. All that said, his old school ways seem an uncomfortable fit with the Lakers organization. Plus, Jim Buss wants to win while being entertaining, and Hollins wants a grinding team.

3. John Calipari. No, it’s not happening, he’s even said as much , but you can bet World Wide Wes will throw it out there. If one job could lure Calipari out of Kentucky and to the NBA it would be this one — and he’s a guy with great player contacts all over the league, a guy players love to play for.

4. Kevin Ollie. If the Lakers are going to go the college route — I doubt they are, but let’s play the hypothetical game — the guy who just led UConn to a national title is the man they chase. A lot of NBA GMs have him on their radar. He’s a well respected NBA veteran who has shown some coaching chops. Here are two reasons to take this seriously: First, he’s a Los Angeles guy, he played his high school ball at Crenshaw high; Second, Kevin Durant speaks very highly of him and how as a veteran Ollie taught KD, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to be professionals. If you’re trying to lure Durant out of Oklahoma City in 2016 when he is a free agent, having Ollie as your coach would help.

5. Steve Kerr. He has no coaching experience but he’s got a championship pedigree and is a former GM. In LA you need a coach who can deal with the crush of media, keep the fans happy and still coach. Kerr has the potential to be that guy… I still don’t love the fit, but I could see why you have an interview. Kerr also wants to stay on the West Coast — he played his high school ball at Pacific Palisades and he currently lives in San Diego — so the Lakers may be more tempting than the Knicks.

6. Jeff Van Gundy. By law his name has to come up in every major coaching search. It will come up here, but I’m not sure he leaves the booth for the sidelines again, especially not for the rebuilding project that is the Lakers right now. The bigger problem is if he does return he’s not just going to want to coach — he will want player/personnel say. The Lakers have Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss for that, the power structure is set. Not sure there is a real fit here.

7. George Karl. He likes to play up-tempo, entertaining basketball, he’s good with the media and he would build a culture with the young players the Lakers have/will bring in. The one problem here is the same as Van Gundy — he would demand a lot of say over the roster. The Lakers aren’t going to surrender it.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!