Dan Feldman

New Orleans Pelicans guard Buddy Hield (24) goes to the basket against Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) and forward Paul Millsap (4) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. The Hawks won 99-94. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

NBA: Hawks benefitted from two late incorrect calls in win over Pelicans

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The biggest drama for the Hawks on Thursday came before and after their game against the Pelicans, when Atlanta agreed to trade Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers and then Korver addressed his emotions.

But with correct officiating down the stretch, the actual game – a 99-94 Hawks win – might have generated more intrigue.

Atlanta got away with a shooting foul on one possession and scored two points on another that should’ve first ended in a turnover, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

With 1:26 left, Buddy Hield should’ve drawn a shooting foul on Dennis Schroder, according to the league:

Schroder (ATL) makes contact with Hield’s (NOP) arm that affects his driving shot attempt.

A correct call would’ve sent Hield – a 92% free-throw shooter – to the line for two attempts.

Instead, not only did New Orleans come up empty on the possession, the Hawks pushed the ball the other way as Hield remained down on the floor by the rim. Schroder hit a 3-pointer as the Pelicans’ defense remained scrambled.

Then, Atlanta should have turned the ball over with 20 seconds left when Paul Millsap tried to save a ball headed out of bounds:

Millsap’s (ATL) foot lands out of bounds before he releases the ball.

Millsap’s save went off Hield and out of bounds. So, instead of getting the ball back, New Orleans had to intentionally foul. Millsap made both free throws (though he also got hit for a strange technical foul after the Pelicans’ take foul, which gave New Orleans another point).

The Pelicans came within three points before having to continue intentionally fouling. Each of these missed calls were big swings in such a close game.

Report: C.J. McCollum grew tired of Festus Ezeli lecturing Trail Blazers

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 15:  CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers brings the ball down court against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 15, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
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The Trail Blazers might be the NBA’s most disappointing team. They’re 16-22 and out of playoff position thanks to the NBA’s worst defense, though poor injury outcomes have factored.

Portland signed Festus Ezeli last summer to protect the rim, but he has yet to play – and probably won’t this season. Still, he tried to help in other ways.

It just wasn’t well received by C.J. McCollum.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After suffering a challenging, 115-107 loss to Milwaukee, Ezeli, in street clothes, addressed the team in the locker room with a stern speech centered on playing with urgency, sources told ESPN. Then two games later, after a crushing defeat in Memphis, Ezeli once again started giving a team speech, but he was cut short.

McCollum interrupted Ezeli in midsentence and told him that was enough, sources told ESPN. Portland was in the midst of an emotionally draining December, losing 11 of 13 games. Players were desperately pouring out every ounce of effort trying to change the trajectory of the season, and being lectured by someone who wasn’t even playing wasn’t received favorably.

There are three players who are natural leaders on an NBA team: the best player, the highest-paid player and the starting point guard. It’s difficult, though far from impossible, for other players to hold weight in the locker room.

Someone not playing has almost no chance – which Ezeli should have realized.

His time with the Warriors provided him valuable insight in how to win, but that wasn’t enough. Players don’t want to hear from a teammate not battling with them, especially a newcomer.

Perhaps, Ezeli had valuable words of wisdom to share, but the frustration of losing made that the wrong time and place. Ezeli not realizing that indicates his understanding of the team’s dynamics was lacking, anyway.

Kings’ Arron Afflalo after report of refusing to enter game: ‘I’ve evolved into getting over myself’

Sacramento Kings guard Arron Afflalo, right, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in Denver. The Kings won 120-113. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Kings guard Arron Afflalo reportedly refused to enter a game last month. He denied it, but it wasn’t hard to fit him into a narrative of numerous players wanting out of Sacramento.

Now, his tone sounds sunny.

Afflalo, via Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

“I’ve evolved into getting over myself,” Afflalo said. “We have a great opportunity as a team – playoff position. There will be nights where I can perform at a level I was expected to perform at, and there will be nights where other guys take the lead. I’ve learned that your role is consistent with the team you’re on. It is what it is. I’m just happy that we won.”

A few things have changed:

1. Afflalo is healthy after missing a few games with an elbow injury.

2. Afflalo is getting more minutes after falling out of the rotation.

3. Afflalo is playing well, scoring 19 points on 11 shots and 15 points on eight shots in his last two games.

4. The Kings are winning, claiming four of Afflalo’s last five games and occupying playoff position.

But what happens if Sacramento struggles as its schedule gets tougher? Will Afflalo remain as content in his role?

Doc Rivers: No more technical fouls, and Clippers must follow my lead

Los angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers reacts to a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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The Clippers’ whining and complaining and arguing with referees is so entrenched in their culture, it’s literally a family activity.

Through Wednesday, the Clippers ranked second in the NBA with 24 technical fouls this season. (The Suns led the league with 29.)

Clippers coach Doc Rivers vowed to change that mindset.

Rivers, via Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

“I told them, ‘That doesn’t represent us,’ ” said Rivers, who has six technicals, second-most of the coaches in the league, and three ejections. “I have to be the leader of this team, so my actions have to come first. … We’re reversing this. I’m getting no more, and I’m holding everyone accountable.”

“There are other teams that complain as much as us, and there are times as a coach when I have to do my job,” said Rivers, who was fined $15,000 for verbally abusing a referee and not leaving the court in a timely manner after he was ejected from a Dec. 1 game against Brooklyn.

“I’m not gonna change. I’m gonna be feisty and fight for my team every night. But I also want us to be better. I started well [Wednesday]. No techs.”

I appreciate Rivers pointing the finger at himself first, but it doesn’t bode well that he can’t even declare his intention to stop getting technical fouls without also saying he won’t change and pointing out other teams complain just as much. He just can’t help being petty – and neither can Chris Paul or DeAndre Jordan.

There are pros to this approach. Rivers sets a tone of competitiveness, and his players know he has their back. There’s also a culture of perfectionism the Clippers demand not just from officials, but from themselves.

But the Clippers have long gone too far with their referee interactions. Their complaining becomes distracting, and the technicals cost them valuable points.

Good for Rivers if he gets the team to change, but I’m skeptical.

At least one player says he’s on board, though.

Austin Rivers, via DiGiovanna:

“For the rest of the year, I’m not getting any more [technicals],” Austin Rivers said. “I’ve never been a guy to get a lot of technicals. I guess it’s just emotion. We’re competitive. We just have to channel it in a better way.”

LeBron James: ‘We gotta get a point guard. It’s my last time saying it’

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action against the New York Knicks on October 25, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers are trading for Kyle Korver, who will help them with his 3-point shooting (no matter how weirdly you want to describe it).

But LeBron James isn’t satisfied.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We still got a couple more things we need to do,” James said Friday, when asked if Cleveland’s pending trade with Atlanta for Korver was a “championship move.”

“We gotta get a point guard,” James said. “It’s my last time saying it. We need a point guard.”

The Cavaliers have a hole behind Kyrie Irving, a key reason LeBron is playing 37.1 minutes per game – his most since his return to Cleveland – despite Tyronn Lue stating a plan to rest LeBron more. LeBron often runs the point with the second unit and probably wouldn’t mind easing his load. At this point, he sounds irritated it hasn’t happened yet.

The only other point guards on the roster were Kay Felder and Mo Williams. Felder is a 5-foot-9 second-round rookie who mostly hasn’t looked ready for the NBA, though his scoring has been fine as a rotation member the last few games. His distributing is nearly invisible, though, as he focuses on just one element of his game at a time. Williams – reportedly included in the Korver deal – stuck around just to get paid, not actually play.

The Korver trade will reportedly open a roster spot, so the Cavs could simply sign a point guard once it’s completed. Perhaps, they eventually deal for a better backup point guard. But just getting a viable option to take minutes from LeBron for now would be a good start.