Author: Brett Pollakoff

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two

Scott Foster to referee Game 6 of NBA Finals; road team has won his last 11 games


When previewing Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the biggest question for the Cavaliers is whether or not LeBron James will get any help on the offensive end of the floor in terms of production from his teammates.

If recent statistics are to be believed, he certainly won’t be getting any from the officials.

Tonight’s crew of referees will consist of Scott Foster, Marc Davis and Zach Zarba. And when Foster’s been in the house during these playoffs, it’s meant that the home team was in for an unfavorable result.

Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News:

And yes, road teams are 11-1 in Foster-called games during these playoffs, including CLE over GSW in Game 2 at Oracle.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

Bad news: Scott Foster crew chief tonight. Road team has won his last 11 games. #Cavs have benefited many times during streak; not tonight

It is worth noting that the Cavaliers won Game 2 at Oracle arena the last time Foster’s crew was on the floor — and the league said that four calls were missed in overtime when releasing its Last Two Minute report the very next day.

You can take a deeper dive into the statistics on Foster in the playoffs if you wish, but it’s probably a waste of time. Despite the Game 2 gaffes, this is merely a coincidental trend (albeit a fairly strong one), and I don’t believe that the officials intentionally do anything to favor one team or the other.

But as Game 6 unfolds, it’s something which, for fans of both teams, will remain interesting to watch.

Report: Doc Rivers backed out of deal to trade for Lance Stephenson last season

Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets

The Clippers agreed to a trade with the Hornets that will have Lance Stephenson in place on the roster to start the 2015-16 season.

But they could have had him much sooner than that.

L.A. reportedly had a similar deal in place with Charlotte last season, but Doc Rivers ultimately decided to stand pat.

From Arash Markazi of

Does Doc Rivers the Clippers’ president of basketball operations believe that Doc Rivers the Clippers’ coach can handle Lance Stephenson?

That is presumably one of the many questions Rivers was forced to ask himself as he sat in his office on Monday mulling a trade that was on his table and essentially up to him to accept or veto. The Charlotte Hornets had already agreed to ship Stephenson to Los Angeles in exchange for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes. It was up to Rivers, both the president and coach, to decide if it was worth it.

Charlotte tried to pull off a similar trade with the Clippers last season, sources say, before Rivers backed out.

It’s easy to understand why the Clippers would hold off on making a move like this in the middle of the season.

Stephenson can be a tough fit from a personality standpoint, and reportedly clashed with his teammates in Charlotte. It’s one of the reasons the Hornets looked to move him midway through his first season with the team, after they signed him to a three-year deal as a free agent the previous summer.

L.A. viewed itself as a championship-caliber squad, and it wasn’t going to make a risky move that could potentially derail its season. Now, however, it’s become clear that the Clippers need to upgrade their roster, so making the move in advance of next year’s campaign makes a lot more sense.

If it ends up not working out, it’s still a good deal for Los Angeles from a salary cap perspective. Hawes fell out of the rotation entirely, and would have been on the books for another three seasons. Stephenson’s deal, however, is only guaranteed for next year, with the team holding the option for the season after that.

Report: ‘Legitimate chance’ Joel Embiid could once again miss the entire season

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers

In each of the last two NBA Drafts, the Sixers selected what they hoped would be cornerstone big men in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.

While both are loaded with talent, the moves were viewed as being at least slightly risky, considering that both players were injured at the time and would need to miss the entirety of their first NBA seasons.

Things worked out according to plan with Noel, who showed all kinds of promise while appearing in 75 games last season. But for Embiid, a recent setback with his foot injury could put things on hold for much longer than the team anticipated.

From Keith Pompey of

76ers center Joel Embiid may not be available to play at the start of the NBA season after the latest setback in the healing of his right foot, an NBA source said Sunday. There’s also a legitimate chance that the 7-footer could miss the entire season.

Another source, an Eastern Conference executive, said Sunday that the 76ers’ rebuilding plan is doomed if Embiid is unable to remain healthy or play at a high level.

“He was their guy,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They were hoping he was a franchise player. If he’s not a franchise player, their whole plan is gone. . . . If Embiid can’t play or if he can’t reach a superstar level, their plan is really in trouble.”

The part about the rebuilding plan being “doomed” if Embiid ends up being a bust isn’t exactly true, because more losing in Philadelphia would mean more lottery picks, and a chance to replace him with rookie talent in the future.

But there’s no question the process would be delayed, and it’s worth wondering just how much patience ownership will have if the rebuilding drags on season after miserable season.

Al Jefferson declines to opt out, will return to Hornets next season


Al Jefferson could have become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but decided to take his $13.5 million player option to remain with the Hornets for an additional season.

Jefferson said it was highly unlikely that he’d opt out to explore the market, and with the deadline to do so just a day away, his agent made it official.

From Marc Stein of

Facing a Monday deadline to invoke the final remaining season on his contract or opt for free agency, Charlotte Hornets big man Al Jefferson is staying right where he is, according to his agent.

Jeff Schwartz, Jefferson’s longtime agent, told he will formally notify the Hornets that his 30-year-old client will delay his next foray in free agency for one more year.

There are a couple of reasons that this makes a lot of sense.

First off, Jefferson completed what for him would be considered a down season; his averages of 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds were the lowest they’d been in eight years. And, Jefferson missed 17 games due to injury, including the last seven of the season after “hearing a pop” in his calf/knee area which, even if he had returned, would have kept him at less than 100 percent.

The combination of being injured to end the season along with a slowed level of production doesn’t bode well for a player looking for a huge payday in free agency. Add in the fact that the salary cap is going to spike the following summer, and it’s clear that Jefferson made the easy choice.

Norris Cole let Stephen Curry handle one of his Miami Heat championship rings (PHOTO)

curry ring

Norris Cole has two championship rings, thanks to being fortunate enough to play alongside Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in his first two NBA seasons as a member of the Miami Heat.

Cole, now with the Pelicans, is at the Finals and is handling some media responsibilities for the league. And in a meeting with Stephen Curry on Facebook, Cole handed over one of those rings in order for Curry to give it a hands-on inspection.

This is obviously harmless in the grand scheme of things. But considering that LeBron James is battling Curry in these Finals, it’s worth wondering how he’d feel about a former teammate showing off his jewelry like this, which undoubtedly will provide LeBron’s primary opponent with an unnecessary source of additional motivation.