Dan Feldman

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Report: Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg a candidate to coach Ohio State

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The Bulls said they wouldn’t fire Fred Hoiberg.

But maybe he’ll take matters into his own hands.

Ohio State parted ways with Thad Matta, creating an appealing vacancy for an accomplished college coach like Hoiberg, who previously coached Iowa State. Apparently, the fit is a little more than circumstantial.

Gary Parrish of CBS:

There are multiple reports.

Columbus would be a soft landing for Hoiberg, who has looked in over his head in two seasons with the Bulls.

Hoiberg has seemingly failed to engender much confidence from his players, and Jimmy Butler has repeatedly publicly critiqued the coach. Whether his own players or opponents, Hoiberg has just stumbled into too many odd and unnecessary complications. Or his players bypass his leadership altogether, like when Butler and Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo publicly sparred over the team’s direction.

We still haven’t seen Hoiberg’s offense fully unleashed in the NBA – a product of Chicago’s uneven roster – and he might want to see this through. But after all the headaches, he might prefer to return to college, where he’d have greater control over his players

Hoiberg’s job security appears low. The chance he could be fired next season and the appeal of coaching the Buckeyes might push him into a preemptive move.

NBA playoffs in unprecedented competitive drought

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Avery Bradley‘s shot bounced high off the rim, teetered around the cylinder then fell. Celtics 111, Cavaliers 108 – the biggest playoff upset in NBA history, fittingly capped by a thrilling game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

That was 17 days ago.

The Warriors and Cavs emphatically closing out the conference finals, a prolonged break before the NBA Finals and a Golden State-dominant start to the Finals has produced an unprecedented competitive drought. There have been a record 16 days within a postseason without a single-digit game.

Cleveland and Golden State could end the drought in Game 3 tonight, but this span stands alone:

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Dirk Nowitzki: Mavericks haven’t told me whether they’ll exercise $25 million team option

dirk nowitzki
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mavericks’ $25 million team option on Dirk Nowitzki is more than six times bigger than the second-largest team option for next season (Pacers’ $4 million option on Lavoy Allen). It’s rare, if not unprecedented, a team controls so much money in the form of an option.

What will Dallas do?

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

https://twitter.com/EarlKSneed/status/872138661026025473

Nowitzki:

There’s an obviously an opt out – or a team opt out. They haven’t told me if that’s what we’re going to do, if that’s the route we’re going to take. I think Mark is vacationing somewhere with the family as of now. I’m sure when he gets back, we’re going to sit down and see what’s best. As of right now, I don’t see anything changing.

Nowitzki said he plans to return next season, and it’s hard to see him playing for another team after spending his first 19 seasons with Dallas. The production of Nowitzki, who turns 39 this month, is no longer worth anything near $25 million. But this contract was more large honorarium than competitively bargained.

The question isn’t whether Nowitzki returns to the Mavericks. It’s at what price.

If they decline Nowitzki’s option and convince him to take a large discount (to something like the $4,328,000 room exception), they can pursue big free agents like reported target Jrue Holiday. If they strike out, they could always re-sign Nowitzki to a big one-year deal as a retirement gift.

Or they could just guarantee Nowitzki a $25 million sendoff by exercising his option. That’d delay major talent upgrades beyond the No. 9 pick another year, but Dallas probably isn’t winning much next year anyway.

Here’s guessing Nowitzki and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban amicably options (pun intended) rather than just the team unilaterally making a decision.

Supporting cast holding back Cavaliers

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Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed nearly the bare minimum amount of trust in J.R. Smith in the second half of Game 2. Lue also said Smith would still start Game 3.

Cleveland just appears short on options – and the problem runs far deeper than Smith.

LeBron James has been brilliant. Kevin Love is giving everything he has. Kyrie Irving has had moments despite overall underwhelming play.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast has just come up empty in the NBA Finals, which the Warriors lead, 2-0.

Beyond its Big Three, Cleveland’s other players are shooting 29.9% from the field, including 21.4% on 3-pointers. Deron Williams (0-for-9 overall, 0-for-4 on 3-pointers), Smith (1-for-6, 1-for-4), Kyle Korver (2-for-7, 1-for-7), Iman Shumpert (3-for-12, 1-for-5) and Channing Frye (1-for-5, 0-for-1) have been particularly inept. (Whew, that’s a long list.)

Tristan Thompson is getting kept off the glass. He has eight rebounds in the series – half as many as Stephen Curry. (Credit Zaza Pachulia, whose sudden villainy overshadows a quietly impressive game, for boxing out so well.)

The Cavs’ role players haven’t collectively been up to snuff defensively. It’s not just that they haven’t blocked a single shot, they’re routinely getting beat. Admittedly, defense isn’t the calling card for many of them. But it’s still a glaring flaw – especially when their shots aren’t falling.

Maybe they’ll play better at home. Game 3 is in Cleveland tonight, and Game 4 will be there Friday.

But they’ve set a low baseline.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast – players other than LeBron, Love and Irving – has combined for a cumulative Game Score (a rough measure of a players’ contributions) of just 35.6.

For perspective, Kevin Durant (67.3), Stephen Curry (52.2) and LeBron are each beating that individually. Love (35.2) comes close.

Of the 68 teams to play in the Finals since 1984, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go, the 2017 Cavs’ supporting cast (defined as all players beyond the team’s top three in Game Score) has the 11th-worst cumulative Game Score through two games.

Here’s every time a team’s supporting cast produced a cumulative Game Score below 40 in the first two games of a Finals. The team’s opponent is noted, as are its three leaders in Game Score.

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Report: Pacers rebuffing Paul George trade talks

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Paul George will almost certainly enter unrestricted free agency in 2018 after missing All-NBA this year left him ineligible for a designated-veteran-player extension.

What do the Pacers do now?

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Indiana is in a pickle.

Another team’s max offer for George next year projects to be about $132 million over four years ($33 million annually). If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team next season, the Pacers’ max offer projects to be about $177 million over five years ($35 million annually). If he makes an All-NBA team next season, their max offer projects to be about $207 million over five years ($41 million annually).

Is Indiana’s advantage if he misses All-NBA enough? What about if he makes All-NBA? Even if the Pacers knew the answers to those questions, All-NBA won’t be determined until after the season – past the February trade deadline, the last opportunity to deal George.

So, they could trade him now. But his mutual flirtation with the Lakers lowers his trade value. Teams – including the Lakers – won’t surrender much if George is just going to sign in Los Angeles next year, anyway.

Maybe the Pacers should take whatever they can get for him. Maybe they should let him play out his contract, hoping he makes All-NBA next season, and dare him to take less money to leave.

The first step is gauging trade offers – but they’re apparently not doing that yet.

This could be strategy, implying reluctance to deal to extract better offers. Or they might just be intent on keeping him despite the risk of him walking in a year.

Perhaps, they’re still evaluating. After all, there’s little difference between a trade now and one on draft night.

But sooner or later, the Paul George situation is going to come to a head. Indiana can’t delay that forever.