James Harden has triple-double, Rockets top Clippers (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers entered their game against the Houston Rockets without star point guard Chris Paul and by halftime they were down another point guard and coach Doc Rivers.

James Harden had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists and the Rockets rolled to a 140-116 victory Friday night.

Clippers guard Austin Rivers and father/coach Doc Rivers were both ejected in the second quarter as Los Angeles dropped its fifth straight.

“(The Rockets) played great and it’s a shame that how beautiful they played will be marred by this crap,” Doc Rivers said. “Because they played great and we didn’t play well.”

It’s the seventh triple-double this season for Harden and his third straight 30-point game. Montrezl Harrell added a career-high 29 points to help Houston win its third in a row.

Raymond Felton had a season-high 26 points to lead the Clippers.

The Rockets had allowed what was once a 25-point lead to dwindle to six points early in the fourth quarter before scoring the next 13 points to make it 126-104 with just under seven minutes remaining. Harrell made six points to power that run and the Clippers went more than four minutes without scoring.

“They made some big shots and tough shots and got it to six,” Harden said. “We handled our business, made some shots and got some stops when we needed to and finished the game off.”

The Rockets had an 18-point lead later in the quarter when Harden hit Harrell with a bounce pass and he made the layup before crashing to the court to give Harden his 10th assist.

The younger Rivers was tossed after missing a layup and slightly pushing referee J.T. Orr with 6:38 left in the second quarter. He yelled at Orr and waved his arms at him after the ejection and was led off the court by a Clippers employee. When he got to the edge of the court, he tried going back toward the referee and had to be held back by the employee and pulled off the court.

Austin Rivers said the contact with the official was an accident.

“I would never put my hands on a ref. I have never done anything like that in my career and it was frustrating to me because he happened to be right behind me,” Austin Rivers said. “He knows I didn’t touch him like that … he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately it cost me the game … and it was a big deal for our team me going down.”

During a timeout a few seconds later, Doc Rivers walked toward where all three referees were standing and began yelling at them. He was then ejected by crew chief Jason Phillips. The Rockets led 59-35 when the elder Rivers was ejected.

Phillips said that Rivers was ejected for using “extreme profanity” while complaining about his son being ejected. But Doc Rivers said that wasn’t the case and that he called the timeout because they saw an official call a foul on a layup Marreese Speights made on the play before the timeout, but didn’t give them the free throw.

“I said: `No you forgot to give us the free throw,”‘ Doc Rivers said. “I said: `Come on you guys don’t know what you’re doing.’ That was it.”

It was the second time the pair has been tossed in the same game after they were both ejected late in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 18. The coach has been ejected three times this season and it’s the fourth career ejection for his son.

TIP-INS

Clippers: J.J Redick returned after missing two games with a sore left hamstring. He had eight points. … DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Rockets: Beverley returned after missing one game with a bruised thigh. … Houston attempted a season-high 43 free throws. … Harrell has scored at least 10 points in four of the last five games. … The Rockets have scored at least 120 points in three straight games and 13 times this season.

CASSELL HONORED

Los Angeles assistant coach Sam Cassell was honored as part of a season-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Rockets between the first and second quarters. Cassell was drafted by Houston in 1993 and helped the Rockets to consecutive NBA titles in his first two seasons. A highlight video was played on the Jumbotron along with Cassell’s memories of his time with the Rockets. Cassell received a standing ovation when he was shown on live on the screen and welcomed back to Houston. Clippers coach Doc Rivers shook hands with Cassell after that before Beverley ran over and fist-bumped him before play resumed.

PAUL’S HEALTH

Austin Rivers started Friday with Paul out with a sore left hamstring. Paul missed three games with the problem before returning Wednesday night against New Orleans. He played 31 minutes in the loss and Doc Rivers said Paul experienced some fatigue after that game. It’s unclear how long Paul will sit out.

 

Devin Harris’ brother dies in car crash

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Just awful news for Devin Harris.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News

The brother of Mavericks’ guard Devin Harris died Thursday afternoon after an early-morning crash on Central Expressway, officials said.

According to police, at about 1:40 a.m. Thursday morning Bruce Harris, 38, and a 36-year-old male passenger were in their disabled vehicle in the north bound lane of Central Expressway just south of Walnut Hill. A 23-year-old male driver of an Acura sedan and a 23-year-old male passenger were traveling north bound on Central Expressway and struck the back of the disabled vehicle. The impact caused the gas tank of the disabled vehicle to rupture and catch fire. All occupants were transported to Presbyterian Hospital.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban details his two lottery-reform ideas

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NBA lottery reform passed 28-1-1 with the Thunder opposing and Mavericks abstaining.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wasn’t against changing the system. He just had his own ideas of how to do it.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Cuban pitched other members of the league’s board of governors on a system in which the draft is abolished, with teams getting a pool of money to sign rookies based on their records.

“The team with the worst record gets the most money and the team with the best record gets the least money,” Cuban said. “It’s like a free agency. It makes it a lot harder to tank because you don’t know if you get the best players if you’re horrible all the time. “Nobody liked that at all, not a single person.”

Cuban’s other idea was to lock the team with the worst record into a draft slot — either third or fourth — to force teams to compete to avoid being at the bottom. That idea never got discussed in the board of directors meeting.

“Now all of the sudden, if it’s close at the end, you’re going to see teams play as hard as they can because if they end up with the worst record, they don’t get the best pick,” Cuban said, explaining the logic of his idea.”You basically eliminate them from getting the best player. Everybody else would just be the way it is now.

“Adam didn’t like that. That never got to the board of directors, but that one was my favorite. I brought up [the other proposal], but after that one got shot down, I didn’t bring up the other one. When I got no response on the one, I just dropped the other because it was obvious that what they had proposed was going to pass.”

Strange tactic to introduce the most radical plan first and then not propose a more moderate solution because the first idea gained no traction. It’s almost as if Cuban just wants to be a contrarian

Neither of Cuban’s plans would completely solve the issue, because both still incentivize losing.

In the first, worse teams would still get more money to spend on rookies. There’s also stronger incentive to tank when an established successful franchise is positioned to do so for a single year. Rookies won’t be scared off by an injury-plagued season that devolved into a horrific record. Armed with money to spend and banked credibility, those teams can swoop far down then vault right up.

It’s also important to remember the NBA isn’t simply 30 teams competing against each other. It’s also a single business competing against other forms of entertainment. It’s bad financially for the league to have markets that feel hopeless, even if they’re poorly managed. Giving bad teams a little extra money to spend on rookies might not be enough for them to land young players who instill hope.

In the second idea, teams would still jockey to be second-worst vs. third-worst, third-worst vs. fourth-worst, etc. – just as they do now. Bad teams would have to be more careful, but there’d still be plenty of late-season games where a team is clearly better off losing – the same games that create a perception problem now.

Are either of these plans better than the current system? Maybe. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes there’s still time to implement reform better than the just-passed measure.

I’m convinced the league will let several years play out under the new system before even considering an alternative – Cuban’s or otherwise.

GM Bob Myers: Steve Kerr can coach Warriors ‘as long as he wants’

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Rick Carlisle coached 13 seasons, including seven in Dallas, when the Mavericks stated he could coach them as long as he wanted.

Steve Kerr needed just three seasons with the Warriors.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Kerr has done an amazing job in Golden State, implementing a pace-setting offense predicated on movement and fine-tuning a quality defense.

It helps to have great players like Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and eventually Kevin Durant. But Kerr has maximized them. He has also played a prominent role in establishing a productive culture throughout the entire organization.

Of course, health is the big catch. Kerr has missed significant time the last two years due to complications from back surgery. He’s looking forward to a long career, but those headaches and pains aren’t far in the rearview mirror.

Kerr clearly knows how to win with this super team, not necessarily as easy of a task as it appears. He has more than earned the right to stay on the bench for the Warriors’ next iteration, whenever that comes.

Hotshot coaches can fade quickly, but Kerr has established an unprecedented amount of goodwill so quickly. Hopefully, he stays healthy enough to take up Myers on his pledge.

Report: NBA not headed toward 1-16 playoff seeding

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would continue look at 1-16 playoff seeding.

Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:

Silver is well-intentioned on this issue, and open-minded, too—as he is on most agenda items that could, in theory, make the league better. But despite his willingness to discuss postseason reformatting, multiple people familiar with league discussions say it’s not anywhere near the top of the agenda.

After its analysis of the issue in ’15, the league concluded that, for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t sensible to change the playoff format. The two key factors, according to league sources, were 1) travel; and 2) a belief among league officials that conference imbalance was a temporary trend that would correct itself, as it typically has in the past.

For playoff qualification to truly be fair, teams would have to play a balanced schedule. As is, teams play teams in their own conference 52 times and teams from the other conference 30 times.

More 10 p.m. starts on the East Coast and 4 p.m. starts on the West Coast would hurt TV ratings.

Plus, as relative conference strength exists now and has existed for several years, 1-16 playoff seeding would make it harder for bigger Eastern Conference markets and easier for smaller Western Conference markets to qualify for the postseason.

Quality of competition matters, and there would be value in the NBA building a playoff field of its 16 best teams. But follow the money. There isn’t nearly enough urgency with this issue to overcome the direct financial setbacks reform would cause.