Orlando's Stan Van Gundy shouts during an NBA playoff basketball game in Indianapolis

Hey Warriors management, who will you get that’s better? Seven names to watch.


Who are you going to get that’s better?

Mark Jackson being let go as the head coach of the Golden State Warrior had been rumored for months, and as Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com noted this was more mutual than people thought. Still, Jackson’s team won 51 games, made a strong playoff showing without their best defensive player, and are a team not far from contending. Golden State just had its best back-to-back seasons in decades. The players love him.

So who you going to get that’s better, Joe Lacob? As Jackson himself noted, the pressure is on the Warriors owner and front office now to find a replacement that is an upgrade.

MORE FROM CSN BAY AREA: Lacob explains rationale for firing Jackson

Here are the names that have been floating around the league as candidates and have been mentioned in reports:

1) Steve Kerr. He is the first name mentioned by everyone, owner Lacob and his son Kirk (working in the front office) have ties to Kerr, plus others in the front office are high on him. It’s why they moved fast on Jackson — Kerr was about to start talks with the Knicks (but hasn’t yet) and reportedly will listen to the Warriors, but they had to get their hat in the ring. There is one big question here: Do they want to replace one coach plucked out of the broadcast booth with no experience on the bench with another? This is going to be an upgrade? Maybe Kerr is easier to work with off the court (Jackson was described as “disruptive” to me), but is Kerr going to be a better coach? That’s a big gamble. This job has a very different pressure than the New York one, but with an ownership group that thinks the team is a contender there is real pressure.

2) Stan Van Gundy. This would be a potential upgrade — Jackson is not near the strategist Van Gundy is (Jackson let the assistants do a lot of the game planning, setting the defensive system, etc). Van Gundy has coached a team all the way to the Finals before and he seems to be itching to get back into it. Of course, if you just let go of Jackson because he is hard to work with and you bring in the outspoken Van Gundy, then you pressure him from the outside… go ask Orlando management how that goes. Still, he may be the betting favorite to get the gig.

3) Fred Hoiberg. He is on a lot of NBA teams’ radar. He worked in the Minnesota front office, is a former NBA player who has shown at Iowa State he knows how to coach the game. If he wants to come out of college to the NBA a number of teams (including Minnesota) would like to talk to him. So far he hasn’t shown any inclination to head to the pros, but the option is there.

4) Kevin Ollie. Another college coach on everybody’s list, he just won a national title at UConn. He is wisely parlaying that into new contract negotiations with UConn, and he is expected to stay, but apparently he will listen to the Lakers’ overtures. He may do so with the Warriors as well. Still smart money says he stays put.

5) Alvin Gentry. The former NBA head coach and current Clippers assistant next to Doc Rivers is a name put out there by the well connected Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. He has 12 years experience as a head coach, the last five of those with the Suns where the team went back to an up-tempo style. He’s well liked around the league. That said, does a guy with a career .475 winning percentage that has made the playoffs twice (once getting to the conference finals) have the star power to replace Jackson? Not really.

6) Tom Thibodeau. Another name Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News put out there from his sources. Even with the reports of friction between Thibodeau and the Bulls GM Gar Forman, it’s highly unlikely the Warriors would even get permission to speak with him, let alone having the Bulls let him walk. But like the Lakers, the Warriors may ask if they can approach him about the deal.

7) George Karl. He’s not on any rumor list, but he’s an available name coach who plays an up-tempo, free-flowing offensive style that would mesh well with the current Golden State roster. Just a name to keep in the back of your mind, particularly if the top few on this list do not pan out. The Warriors need to make a splash with this hire.

It’s time: Russell Westbrook looks to fill void after Durant’s exit

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4), head coach Billy Donovan, guard Russell Westbrook (0) and center Steven Adams pose for a photo during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — There were few indications before August that Russell Westbrook would be so willing to be the hero downtrodden Thunder fans needed.

For years, the sometimes combustible Westbrook toiled in Kevin Durant‘s shadow. He often was viewed as the talented, selfish player who was as likely to get in Durant’s way as he was to make a winning play. His flashy style seemed at odds with small-market Oklahoma City so when Durant, who seemingly was a better fit in OKC, left for rival Golden State, fear that Westbrook would bolt for a larger market increased.

He didn’t. He chose to re-sign with the Thunder and now that he has answered the call, it’s time to deliver.

“We know a few things about Russell at this point,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “He’s going to bring his lunch pail every day. He’s going to compete. He’s going to inspire. He’s going to show great conviction and courage to his teammates, to the city, to the organization. And from there, we have to figure out how that comes together.”

That trek begins Wednesday in Philadelphia when Oklahoma City officially tips off the post-Durant era in its season opener against the 76ers.

Westbrook is now the unquestioned leader of the Thunder and player folks behind the scenes knew – the thoughtful, humble, giving man – has more readily come to the surface. He has gone to great lengths to connect with Thunder fans in recent months.

Among other things, he unveiled his new line of True Religion clothing near downtown Oklahoma City and he attended an Oklahoma home football game against Louisiana-Monroe wearing a custom-made Sooners jersey. When he was introduced to the crowd before the Thunder’s preseason home opener, he got the kinds of cheers normally reserved for a return from injury.

Westbrook seems more at ease on the court, too. His preseason play seemed more effortless than electric, with an occasional flourish.

“I want the team to play how they want to play,” Westbrook said. “I mean, it’s not totally up to me how we play. You have to adjust to the team you have and adjust on a night-in, night-out basis on how you want to play. You want to play fast some nights and you want to play slow. I think it depends on the game, on the situation, who is on the floor.”

He is poised to put up astronomical numbers this season as he tries to keep the Thunder among the NBA elite.

Last season Westbrook averaged 23.5 points and career highs of 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He posted 18 triple-doubles, the most for a player since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. The two-time All-Star MVP and former scoring champion could do more damage without Durant, but the Thunder don’t want too much pressure on him.

“I think we have to be able to play in a way that’s not just relying on him to do everything and create every single shot, whether it’s him making the shot or making the play for another guy,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said.

Westbrook already has left an impression on his new backcourt mate Victor Oladipo, who was acquired in the trade that sent defensive enforcer Serge Ibaka to Orlando.

“After working with Russ, I can see the intensity in how serious he was about his craft,” Oladipo said. “But one thing that I realized that after guarding him for three years – I can see why he’s so effective at what he does. I definitely stole that from him, and I’m going to take it and run as fast as I can with it.”

How Oladipo and the rest of the Thunder do in keeping up with Russell will determine how much success the team will have. Oklahoma City is no longer considered the team to beat in championship conversations, and that’s fine with Westbrook. He said the team embraces the underdog role.

“I love it,” he said. “I love it, man. I think it’s a great challenge, not just for myself, but for our whole team. I think just from talking to the guys throughout the summer, they understand that. They want to win. They want to get better.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP .

Memphis’ Chandler Parsons says he’s playing 5-on-5, hopes to be on court soon

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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When the Memphis Grizzlies get their full starting five on the court, that lineup is going to be a handful.

But the Grizzlies enter their opener Wednesday night likely without Tony Allen and certainly without Chandler Parsons.

Parsons is being brought along slowly following his latest knee surgery, but in an update on the team’s Twitter account notes he is now playing 5-on-5 and hopes to be on the court “soon.”

Parsons also says he hasn’t lost a step. We may need to see that before we fully buy in.

Memphis needs him — and Allen — on the court as soon as possible. While their starting five can be a force, there is not a lot of depth on the Grizzlies’ roster. Plus Parsons provides the floor-spacing shooting and second shot creator the Grizzlies desperately need.

Charles Barkley: Klay Thompson is a better player than Kevin Durant


You know the NBA season is back when Charles Barkley is just talking out his… er, saying ridiculous things.

On Inside the NBA before the tip off of San Antonio thrashing Golden State, Barkley said then tried to defend the idea that Klay Thompson is a better all-around player than Kevin Durant. It was vintage Barkley — and it’s what makes the barbershop feel of Inside the NBA must-watch television every week.

The flaw in Barkley’s argument is that he tries to use the “two-way player” argument to try and balance out Durant’s and Thompson’s offensive contributions. Is Thompson a better defender than Durant? Yes. Even though people underestimate Durant’s defense a little, I will stipulate Thompson is a better defender. But does that defense make up for how much more offensive versatility and shot creation Durant brings to the table compared to Thompson? No. Again, Thompson is an excellent offensive player and probably the second best shooter in the game, but he does not create shots or force a defense to adjust the way Durant does. KD’s amazing offense tips the scales more than Thompson’s defense. KD is the better overall player.

And The Jet is way too quick to dismiss Kawhi Leonard as maybe the second best player in the league. But Leonard made his case just after these comments.

Watch Jonathan Simmons posterize JaVale McGee


This was the exclamation point on the Spurs thrashing of the Warriors on opening night.

Jonathan Simmons — who was a beast in the first half and finished the night with 20 points off the bench — was pounding the ball out top, then as the clock wound down blew by rookie Patrick McCaw, got into the lane looking for the two-handed slam. When JaVale McGee slid over to contest Simmons switched to the one-hander and finished over the big man.

That’s the way to start an NBA season.