Dan Feldman

AP

Report: Adam Silver has expressed concern to NBA owners about coaches running front offices

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Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) have been stripped of their team presidencies, though both will remain coaches. That leaves Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Stan Van Gundy (Pistons) and Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves) as the only remaining president-coaches.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver probably doesn’t mind the reduction.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Silver wasn’t necessarily against Rivers’ ascension to the top of the Clippers masthead, but the commissioner has privately expressed concerns to owners and senior franchise officials in several instances, case by case, about the dynamic of the coach-in-charge model, league sources said.

Coaching an NBA team is a full-time job. Running an NBA front office is a full-time job. One person doing both invites trouble, especially when that person – like Rivers, Budenholzer, Van Gundy and Thibodeau* – brings a coach’s mindset and lacks front-office experience. Building a roster requires a more measured approach than coaching.

*Popovich was San Antonio’s general manager before becoming its coach.

There are advantages to one person holding both roles, namely an avoidance of internal conflict. Sometimes, general managers and coaches spar over decisions – the general manager upset that a player he likes isn’t playing enough, the coach upset about the players he has. That’s all avoided with one person in charge setting a direction for the franchise.

The arrangement can obviously work. The Spurs are a model franchise, though part of that is based on Popovich empowering R.C. Buford. Likewise, teams with separate coaches and general managers frequently fail.

The commonality: It seems Silver is not shy about making suggestions when he believes teams could be better run.

Isaiah Thomas ‘very confident’ he’ll get max contract

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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas is so open about his pursuit of a max contract, he has successfully branded his desire for a raise around the image of a Brinks truck.

Stephen Hewett of the Boston Herald:

Thomas was asked how confident he is that he’ll get the max money he’s seeking.

“Very confident,” he said Saturday during his annual basketball clinic at BU, where he hosted more than 400 campers. “I deserve it. I put the work in, and you can put me down against any guard in the NBA. … My numbers are up there with the best players in the world, and my team is winning. So, I mean, you have to reward that.

“At the end of the day I’m not too worried about it. I only talk about it when people bring it up, so everybody’s always like, ‘He’s always talking.’ I’m not talking about it unless somebody brings it up. I’m just going to keep working though. My time is gonna come. I have a lot of faith in God, and I just have to keep working to get better.”

I’m not nearly as confident.

Thomas provided max-level production last season. If healthy, he could do so again this season.

But that doesn’t mean he can be counted on to keep it up over the following few years.

He’ll be 29 when he hits free agency, and undersized point guards – like the 5-foot-9 Thomas – tend to fall off quickly around that age. His next team should pay for what Thomas will do during his next contract, not reward him for what he did prior.

The NBA’s financial landscape is tightening. As the salary cap levels off, teams won’t have the money to throw around like they did in 2016. Just a few teams project to have max cap space and the need for a point guard – Magic, Bulls and Pacers. That list will surely change between now and next summer, but the starting point is a narrow field.

Boston is also in line to pay the luxury tax if Thomas receives the max, which projects to be worth $177 million over five years if he re-signs (or $132 million over four years if he signs elsewhere). So, the Celtics are especially incentivized to keep costs down.

They’re also incentivized to keep a good team rolling. After trading out of the No. 1 pick and the opportunity to draft Markelle Fultz, Boston is left with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier behind Thomas. Either of those backups would represent a big downgrade. The Celtics also aren’t in line to have cap space to sign an outside replacement, even if they lost Thomas.

So, Thomas has some leverage. Enough to extract the full max? Maybe. It’d help if he plays at an elite level again, increases his number of suitors. But even that won’t guarantee a max offer.

Charles Oakley roasts Knicks

Alec Tabak/NY Daily News via AP
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Charles Oakley reached a plea deal that clears his criminal charges with six months of good behavior and requires him to stay out of Madison Square Garden for a year.

Oakley:

Time heals all wounds, but there clearly still hasn’t been enough time on this one.

NBA’s 2nd Africa Game comes to Johannesburg

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra got on the telephone and apologized for having a raspy voice. He’s had a lot to say in Africa.

The Miami Heat coach has been part of a sizable group of NBA players, coaches, and executives in Johannesburg this week for a Basketball Without Borders camp for kids, all building up to Saturday’s second edition of the NBA Africa Game that will benefit charities like UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“The first meeting that we had here, it was overflowing,” Spoelstra said from South Africa this week. “There weren’t enough tables and chairs to fit everybody in here. You’re seeing some of the icons in the league that are in this ballroom, here to help, here to help grow the game, but here to help create more opportunities for kids on this continent. It really is just an honor to be part of this and it’s a humbling experience.”

For the game, Team Africa will be players who were either born there or second-generation – a list that includes Luol Deng, Thabo Sefolosha, Bismack Biyombo, Clint Capela, Gorgui Dieng, Joel Embiid, Serge Ibaka, Luc Mbah a Moute, Salah Mejri, Emmanuel Mudiay, Victor Oladipo and Dennis Schroder.

Team World’s lineup includes Dirk Nowitzki, Kemba Walker, Leandro Barbosa, Jaylen Brown, Wilson Chandler, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, CJ McCollum and Kristaps Porzingis.

“I just think there’s so much potential here on this continent,” Nowitzki said. “You’re getting the best out of it. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

The first NBA Africa Game was in 2015, when Deng played for Miami and was coached by Spoelstra. Deng, a native of South Sudan, came back loaded with stories about his experience and Spoelstra’s interest was more than piqued – so much that he didn’t think twice about flying the 8,000 miles from Miami to Africa for this.

He also said seeing the work that NBA icon Dikembe Mutombo and Toronto executive Masai Ujiri have done in Africa compelled him to be part this time.

“I just want to be able to give and serve,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a great game that we all feel so grateful for. I’ve done a lot of the NBA programs in the Philippines and other places in South Florida, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of BWB in Africa. I’ve always really admired Dikembe and Masai and everybody who’s done so much great work over here. I just wanted to be a part of it and offer my services for the week.”

NBA coaches and players have been working the BWB camp, running games and offering instruction.

“This is, to me, a dream come true as a young African player that grew up here dreaming about the NBA, dreaming about coming to Basketball Without Borders,” said Biyombo, an Orlando Magic player who hails from the Congo. “And when I see all these kids, the look on their face, the excitement on their face, it’s beyond amazing.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association head Michele Roberts are also expected to attend Saturday’s game.

Spoelstra has been involved in many NBA events before in his mother’s homeland, the Philippines. He said he continues seeing global growth in the game and understands the value the programs provide.

“The kids that are here at camp, they’re really so grateful that so many different NBA personnel are over here: players, coaches, front office executives, NBA personnel, over here just to help,” Spoelstra said. “I think the NBA’s done a tremendous job creating programs and academies to give kids from over here opportunities they didn’t have before.”

Ben Simmons finishes alley-oop from 12-year-old with cerebral palsy (video)

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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Why is it important for a point guard to be 6-foot-10 and athletic?

So he can finish plays like the heart-warming one 44 seconds into this video: