Nets no longer control their playoff destiny after loss to Bulls

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NEW YORK — Heading into Monday night’s home contest against the Bulls, the Nets sat in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and were fully in control of their playoff destiny with two games remaining in the regular season.

After a disappointing performance in which Brooklyn was shredded 113-86 by a very good Chicago team, that is no longer the case.

“It was a disappointing loss, but the way I look at it, we have one more game left,” Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said afterward. “We have to win it. And the other teams have to win, too.

“Indiana has to win — if we win Wednesday and they don’t win both games, we’re still in. So that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

That’s the optimistic view, one that Hollins and the rest of the Nets are now forced to take. Brooklyn trails Indiana by a game in the loss column, so if the Pacers can manage to win their last two — at home against Washington Tuesday, and then at Memphis on Wednesday — the Nets will miss the postseason.

This was the second game in less than 48 hours where Brooklyn was blown out in the second half. After losing in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon by 23 points, the effort at home against Chicago was just as discouraging. Hollins gave credit to his opponents’ strong defense, however, and essentially said that a loss, no matter how it comes, is simply a loss.

“It doesn’t really matter how you lose,” Hollins said. “It could have been a last-second shot; it still would have been a loss. It’s disappointing to lose like that, but we played two really good defensive teams, two athletic teams, two long teams. When you go in and shoot 20-for-50 in the paint, that means they have something to do with that, as well.”

In the Nets locker room, the players seemed to be taking the loss a bit harder than their head coach.

“I honestly can’t explain it,” said a dejected Joe Johnson, when asked about the way the team has dropped its last two games. “I don’t even know how it’s possible.”

Perhaps more telling of where the Nets are right now was Johnson’s answer to a question about whether or not the team has the mental toughness to be able to rebound from these two consecutive dismal performances.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I can’t answer that.”

Hollins is a veteran, both as a player and as a head coach, so perhaps his words about being shut down by two good defensive teams, as well as the fact that the Pacers need to win out for the Nets to be eliminated can be taken to heart by his players before a home game against the Magic on the final night of the regular season.

But on this night, many of the guys seemed to be coming to the sobering realization that an opportunity may have been lost.

“All we can do is just take care of that one game,” Deron Williams said. “It’s our fault. We put ourselves in this position.”

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

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Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.

Report: Clippers expect Chris Paul to re-sign

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Chris Paul reportedly verbally committed months ago to re-sign with the Clippers. There have been mixed signals about Blake Griffin‘s intention to re-sign.

But they can’t formalize the deals until July, and the Clippers are now one game from another demoralizing first-round exit.

Where do they stand now?

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say. This summer is his first foray into unrestricted free agency. Given his snakebitten tenure with the team and the possibility of another early exit, the prospect of exploring what’s out there will be alluring. One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers has made clear his desire to re-sign Paul and Griffin, and the playoffs won’t change that. This is the right call. It’s so difficult to assemble a team this good, the Clippers shouldn’t throw it away for the sake of change. Just because the Clippers haven’t gotten the breaks in previous seasons doesn’t mean they won’t get the breaks in future seasons.

But Paul and Griffin – and J.J. Redick, who’ll also be an unrestricted free agent – will determine the franchise’s fate. If they want to leave, they’ll leave.

Can the Clippers lure them back? They apparently think they’ll keep Paul, but there’s an uncertain dynamic in L.A. that Arnovitz explores in great depth. I highly recommend reading his full piece.

Nike, Adidas, Under Armour pass on potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball

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NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.

Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.

In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”

Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.

But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.

On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.