Dan Feldman

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Report: Pelicans still evaluating whether to keep Dell Demps, Alvin Gentry

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Dell Demps is the Pelicans’ general manager, and Alvin Gentry coaches New Orleans.

How long will that last?

Scott Kushner for The Advocate:

Gentry, Demps and various league sources have all said it’s a “day-to-day” situation, indicating there’s no pressure from the calendar to choose when the team will make a firm decision about whether to keep the Pelicans’ structure in place or move in a new direction for 2017-18.

New Orleans was reportedly likely to fire Gentry if he didn’t finish the season strong. Will an 8-3 stretch in March save him? Following that with a five-game losing streak until winning the season finale won’t help, even if Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins sat some of the skid.

Similarly, rumors have swirled around Demps for a while. It’s tougher to get a read on what Pelicans owner Tom Benson and senior vice president Mickey Loomis will do about him.

This is a pivotal time for the franchise. Cousins becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Lose him, and – with a first-round pick owed to the Kings – it gets even harder to build around Davis. Davis has professed nothing but love publicly for New Orleans, but a 2020 player option looms.

The Pelicans should ask themselves which general manager and coach would give them the best chance of retaining Cousins. Gentry and Demps being incumbents shouldn’t factor. The clearest path to keeping Cousins starts with winning, so trying to appease him aligns with serving the team’s overall health.

Isaiah Thomas eulogizes sister, Chyna: I wanted to quit, but I’ll keep going for her

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Isaiah Thomas helped the Celtics eliminated the Bulls in Game 6 on Friday Chicago and then, despite reportedly arriving in Boston at 4 a.m. yesterday, led the Celtics to a Game 1 win over the Wizards.

Between, he flew to Washington for the funeral for his sister, Chyna, who died just before the playoffs.

Isaiah at the funeral, via Jenna Hanchard of KING:

When I found out the news, I wanted to give up and quit. And never in my life have I ever thought about quitting.

For most of our lives, Chyna was right by my side.

I realized quitting isn’t an option. That’s an easy way out. I will keep going for my sister, as I know she wouldn’t want me to stop. I love you Chyna, and I miss you so much, and everything I do for the rest of my life will be for you.

Thomas has held it together so well on the court. This video is a powerful reminder what he’s going through – and how incredible it is that he continues to persevere.

Clippers have unprecedented mix of sustained regular-season success, playoff failure

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There have been 58 six-season streaks, many overlapping, of a teams winning more than 60% of its games each year.

Most of the six-season sets have produced multiple championships, and almost three-quarters saw at least one title. Three-quarters of the six-season sets also saw multiple Finals appearances. Nearly four-fifths featured at least three appearances in the conference finals (or, prior to that, the division finals). Fifty-five included multiple conference/division finals, and two more had one.

And then there are the Clippers.

In the last six years, the Clippers have gone 40-26 (61%), 56-26 (68%), 57-25 (70%), 56-26 (68%), 53-29 (65%) and 51-31 (62%). Championships: 0. Finals: 0. Conference finals: 0.

The latest letdown came with a home Game 7 loss to the Jazz yesterday.

Like several other years, the Clippers had a seemingly legitimate excuse. Blake Griffin was injured. Last year, both Griffin and Chris Paull got hurt in a first-round loss to the Trail Blazers. In 2015, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer got hot on 3-pointers as L.A. blew a closeout Game 6 to the Rockets. The Clippers didn’t have a better record than the teams that beat them in 2012 (50-16 Spurs), 2013 (56-26 Grizzlies) and 2014 (59-23 Thunder).

It was also easier to reach a conference/division finals in earlier eras. There were fewer teams and fewer playoff rounds.

But don’t let the Clippers completely off the hook. Why did they so lifelessly blow Games 5 and 7 after going up 3-1 in 2015? They had the same record as Memphis and home-court advantage in 2013. The Clippers never even lost to the team that reached the Finals, and with the Jazz set to face the Warriors, that doesn’t project to change this year.

Perhaps we’re unfairly criticizing the Clippers for winning in the regular season. If they had lost a little more from late October to mid April, they would have avoided this particularly infamy.

However, this is also a team with Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Those stars (even if Jordan didn’t become one until during this run) deserve high expectations.

Fair or not – and I’d say fair – this feels like a team that has significantly underwhelmed.

And the feeling matters. It will hover over the Clippers’ uncertain future, with Paul, Griffin and J.J. Redick hitting unrestricted free agency. They’ll each have plenty to evaluate, but the Clippers’ historically disappointing run is impossible to escape.

Here’s every stretch of a team winning more than 60% of its games each season, with the number of titles, Finals and conference/division finals during each streak:

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Avery Bradley took Jimmy Butler’s comments personally

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The Celtics are already into the second round, beating the Wizards in Game 1 yesterday.

But Avery Bradley left Boston’s first-round victory over the Bulls with some harsh words for Jimmy Butler.

First, some context. Butler after Bradley scored 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting and helped hold Butler to 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting in Game 5, via Joe Giza of WBZ-TV:

Butler:

Isaiah is going to do what Isaiah does, so you’ve got to live with that. But you can’t let Avery Bradley have a game like he did.

Michael Giardi of CSN New England:

Bradley again won the matchup in Game 6, scoring 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and limiting Butler to 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Bradley:

You want to know something? I took it personal. There was a few guys that walked up to me and said, I think Jimmy had said last game, “We can’t let guys like Avery Bradley score 20.” And I usually don’t say anything. I just go out there and play hard. But I feel like every player should respect this game and respect the guys that go out there and prepare every single night. And I feel like I won the battle tonight. Not only that, I play hard every single game. I feel he should respect that, somebody that goes up and gives him respect every single game. So, I’m just going to leave it there. But, like I said, I definitely won two battles in a row.

I don’t think trying to hold someone who averaged 16 points per game in the regular season to few than 24 is some personal insult. But credit Bradley for using it as motivation anyway.

It clearly worked.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.