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Heat enjoy Udonis Haslem denying Hawks fans free food (video)

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Hawks fans have been rooting for their team to lose for months, hoping for better lottery position. It’s a miserable position.

They finally got a great chance to cheer against the opponent last night.

Though Atlanta trailed the Heat by 30 in the final minute, Udonis Haslem – who hadn’t attempted a free throw all season – missed the first of two free throws. A second miss would give ticketed Atlanta fans free food.

But Haslem nailed the free throw and shrugged off the dismayed crowd as the Miami bench went wild.

Report: Jason Kidd wore down Bucks with blaming, sudden turns on players, demanding style

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The Bucks fired Jason Kidd in January.

Why?

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Team officials cringed as Kidd repeatedly blamed the Bucks’ youth for their struggles—an assertion he repeated in mid-January, just days before his dismissal.

“It was constantly, ‘Hey, it was the players’ fault—they’re not doing this, they’re not doing that, they’re too young,'” a Bucks source says.

Sources both inside and outside the organization say Kidd had a tendency to fall in and out of love with players—e.g., demanding a trade for Michael Carter-Williams one day, burying him the next.

Team officials had also grown concerned that Kidd’s demanding, old-school style had worn thin. Players were tuning Kidd out—or already had last season, according to one source with close ties to the team.

Kidd was “putting in massive hours,” a Bucks source says, “and he expected the players” to do the same. “Jason was driving the team a bit hard. And that would have been fine if there was really good results.”

“When people are saying that I’m old-school, it’s not that I’m old-school,” he says. “It’s what it takes to win. And I think we’ve lost a little of that with the younger generation of ‘everybody gets a trophy.'”

The “hard-ass” charges seem to befuddle Kidd—”Because I don’t smile enough during the game? Or do I not smile enough during practice?”—and he insists, “It’s just competition.”

“Maybe I didn’t explain it fully—young is for everyone,” he says. “The owners are young. And they’re going to make mistakes. … So they win 41, as a new owner, what happens?”

(Answer: They expect a steady, continued rise.)

“Doesn’t work that way,” Kidd says. “The master plan got erased once we won 41 games. Because the expectations were, ‘This is what we can do every year.’ But no one’s ever been in this situation but one person, and that’s the head coach. And the head coach is saying, ‘We still have a ways to go.’ But no one is listening.”

This is part of an excellent feature on Kidd, which includes more details about his time in Milwaukee and Brooklyn. I suggest reading it in full. The Nets details color things we only had rough outlines on.

As a player, Kidd was known as a coach-killer. It appears some of those same tendencies did him in as a coach.

Kidd handled his business as much as he could individually. But he didn’t put in enough effort to understand where everyone else was coming from or how he came across.

Working relentlessly is exhausting, physically and mentally. Some people are more internally driven to do it. Others need external motivation – which, on a basketball team, a coach can deliver. Kidd is probably more self-motivated and hardened than most. But it’s no sin of his players if they needed more encouragement. Just criticizing them doesn’t work. That’s a far more effective tactic when used only occasionally in a relationship with a strong foundation. Hard to build that stronger foundation when rarely smiling or oscillating on players or railing against an entire generation with the lame “participation trophies” argument.

Kidd makes a good point about the organization being young. Though roster is only somewhat young, general manager Jon Horst is in his first year, and Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are among the NBA’s newest owners.

But Kidd always sounded self-serving when discussing the team’s youth. It sounded like an excuse for why he should keep his job even the results weren’t good enough. Maybe he didn’t explain his point well enough. Maybe he’s reworking it so it sounds better now.

Either way, the result is the same: Kidd is out of a job. Whether he deserves another is a great lens through which to read Beck’s article.

Celtics: Kyrie Irving out 4-5 months

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Update: Celtics release:

This Saturday, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will undergo a procedure to remove two screws implanted in his left patella after the patellar fracture he suffered during the NBA Finals in 2015. Following a mid-March procedure to remove a tension wire that had been implanted at the same time as the screws, pathology indicated the presence of a bacterial infection at the site of the hardware. To ensure that no infection remains in the knee, the screws will be removed. The fracture in Irving’s patella has completely healed, and his knee remains structurally sound. He is expected to make a full recovery in 4-5 months.

Turns out, he’ll miss the entire postseason.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is devastating to Boston, which falls from a legitimate Eastern Conference challenger to a team susceptible to losing in the first round. The Celtics will still probably finish with the No. 2 seed, but without Irving, they’re not necessarily better than the Heat, Bucks or Wizards – potential first-round foes.

Irving joins Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis as Boston players listed as done for the season. Like with Hayward, rumors could still emerge about Irving returning if the Celtics advance far enough. Today’s leak could be about Boston trying to preemptively shut down speculation and questions about Irving’s availability. But winning a series or two obviously becomes far more difficult without those stars.

This also opens the door to questions about Irving’s long-term health. His knee is a reoccurring issue, and he and the team must manage it. This might cause the Celtics to retain Marcus Smart in restricted free agency and/or extend Terry Rozier‘s contract this offseason.

For now, Rozier must continue to step up at point guard. Smart will help if he gets healthy. So will Shane Larkin once he does, too.

Boston isn’t finished. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach who gets everyone to understand and embrace their roles. Al Horford is a star. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are emerging.

No matter what happens in the playoffs, this was a positive year for the Celtics – acquiring Irving and Hayward, seeing Tatum, Brown and Rozier develop. The Cavaliers still have LeBron James, and the Raptors have extended their window through a “culture reset.” Boston can afford to take the long view.

With the available talent diminishing, the Celtics now look more like a lower seed than their 53-25 record would suggest. They play hard and cohesively, but goes only so far in the playoffs. They acquired Irving to put them over the top in those situations – but that must wait.

Report: Probable lottery pick Collin Sexton declaring for NBA draft

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Collin Sexton had Dwyane Wade jumping out of his seat while still a high schooler.

After a stellar freshman season at Alabama, Sexton will try to elicit similar reactions from NBA teams picking high in the draft.

Tony Tsoukalas of BamaInsider.com:

Collin Sexton’s time at Alabama appears to be coming to an end. The freshman point guard will announce his decision to forgo the rest of his college career and enter the NBA Draft during a Friday news conference, sources have told BamaInsider.com.

Sexton will very likely be a lottery pick. How high might depend on how the draft order shakes out. He’s a somewhat polarizing prospect – within the top range, at least.

Above all, Sexton is a ferocious attacker with the ball in his hands. From when he gets it in the backcourt until he gets to the basket, he’s pressuring the defense. He can get out of control, but he changes speed and direction well. He can also finish above the rim once he gets there.

For a player of that style, Sexton shoots well enough from outside, though it’d help if he improved there (and he appears capable of doing so). He definitely must continue to develop as a passer to take advantage of the attention his drives draw.

At 6-foot-2 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Sexton has the lateral quickness to defend well. He didn’t assert himself enough on that end at Alabama, but that can be chalked up to his huge offensive load – made even more challenging by a lack of floor spacing around him.

Sexton should look even better in an NBA system. There are concerns about habits developed at Alabama – focus on offense over defense, shot selection – but he can get past those.

Report: Hornets close to hiring Mitch Kupchak as president, general manager

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The Hornets reportedly offered their general-manager job to Mitch Kupchak.

Unsurprisingly, the man whose last major moves were signing Luol Deng (four years, $72 million), Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million) hasn’t found a better offer elsewhere.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kupchak is apparently getting a loftier title than he had with the Lakers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Charlotte Hornets have made significant progress in contract talks with Mitch Kupchak to become president of basketball operations and general manager, and a formal agreement is expected to be reached soon, league sources told ESPN.

Kupchak will keep assistant general manager Buzz Peterson in a front-office role, and Kupchak ultimately will add his own personnel changes to the team’s management and scouting structure, league sources said.

All along, Kupchak was expected to keep Peterson. Hornets owner Michael Jordan, Kupchak and Peterson all played at North Carolina. This is yet another indicator Jordan overvalued the Tar Heel connection when choosing Kupchak.

Maybe Kupchak is up for the daunting task in Charlotte. He built multiple Lakers title teams. But if he hadn’t gone to North Carolina, would Jordan have hired him? Will Kupchak’s college choice make him any better in this role than if he played at, say, Kansas?

It won’t matter now. The Hornets are full steam ahead with Kupchak.