Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 4

Report: Frank Vogel to return as Pacers head coach

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Frank Vogel led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals in consecutive seasons and to the second round the year before, and was eventually ousted at the hands of the Miami Heat each time.

“It’s bitterly disappointing to fall short of our goals, and it’s bitterly disappointing to lose to this team three years in a row,” Vogel said following Friday night’s Game 6 loss. “But we’re competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era, and you have to tip your hats to them for the way they played this whole series. And you just have to go into the offseason with the mindset that we’re going to reload, and we have a core, a system, a culture that’s going to give us a chance every year.”

All of that, along with the incredible job he did this season under difficult circumstances, is why the Pacers would be foolish to do anything but bring back Vogel next year.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Frank Vogel will return to coach the Indiana Pacers next season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Indiana management has never considered replacing him, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Vogel’s job status had become fodder for debate because of an unsteady late-season slide that extended into the playoffs, but Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard have remained strong believers in him, sources said.

Most of the stories surrounding Vogel’s possible removal as coach, league sources told Yahoo Sports, had been coming from unemployed coaches trying to angle themselves into contention to replace him.

That last part is especially of interest, considering the so-called “whispers” that former Warriors coach Mark Jackson would be linked to the job in Indiana based on his prior relationship with Bird, if the position were to become available.

No matter what the rumors were, retaining Vogel is the wise decision. He overcame a midseason trade that was part of the reason for the team’s second half nose dive, and managed to steer a team with a disappearing Roy Hibbert, an inconsistent Paul George and an out of control Lance Stephenson to within two games of the NBA Finals.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.