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Report: Magic fire Frank Vogel

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The Knicks were quick out of the gate to fire Jeff Hornacek.

The Magic aren’t wasting much time, either.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Hornacek and Vogel were by far the two coaches most widely expected to be fired this offseason. They won’t be the last, but any other coaching changes will carry a higher degree of surprise.

There are plenty of parallels between Hornacek and Vogel, who went 29-53 and 25-57 in Orlando. Both had more success in prior jobs (Vogel far more with the Pacers). Both worked this season for executives who didn’t hire them. Both had lacking rosters. Neither did nearly enough with their teams to stave off firings.

Like last offseason, Magic president Jeff Weltman is still limited in his ability to shape the roster. The only way to open significant cap space is losing Orlando’s best player, Aaron Gordon, in restricted free agency.

But changing coaches will allow Weltman to move toward building his team. He deserves space to do that.

Vogel might land on his feet. He’s still respected from his time in Indiana, and everyone understands how deficient and ill-fitting the Magic’s roster was.

Report: Knicks fire Jeff Hornacek

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Jeff Hornacek wanted an answer about his future as Knicks coach.

He got it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Hornacek went 31-51 and 28-53 in two seasons with New York. The Knicks’ struggles were far bigger than him, but he didn’t do nearly enough to save his job amid a regime change.

The since-deposed Phil Jackson hired Hornacek. Jackson’s successor as president (and, in such Knicks fashion, predecessor), Steve Mills, held no allegiance to Hornacek.

Neither did multiple players by the end. Hornacek reportedly clashed with Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Kyle O'Quinn. Hornacek tried to be a good company man, but that – especially his acceptance of Jackson’s triangle offense – hurt his credibility in the locker room.

Knicks owner James Dolan, for all his faults, is often willing to spend. That could help lure a big-time replacement. But expectations are always oversized in New York, and with Porzingis injured, the next coach could face an uphill climb. That could turn off candidates with other options.

The Knicks need far more than a coaching change. To some degree, Hornacek is a scapegoat.

But Mills also deserves a chance to put his imprint on the team, and he can’t fire the owner. So, this is a logical step.

Suns’ Devin Booker: ‘This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs’

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PHOENIX (AP) — Maybe, just maybe, the worst is behind the Phoenix Suns.

Their 50th anniversary season was awful, even worse than the two that came before.

For the eighth season in a row, the Suns won’t make the playoffs. The win totals the past three seasons: 23, 24 and – this year 21. That 21-61 mark is the worst since Phoenix went 16-66 in its inaugural 1968-69 season.

The season devolved in the final months, with injuries depleting the already exceedingly young roster, leaving a contingent of G League transfers to fill out the lineup in the final days. The Suns lost a franchise-record 15 straight in one stretch.

Now, everyone involved is insisting, enough is enough.

“I’m done with not making the playoffs,” rising star Devin Booker said as the players cleaned out their lockers and conducted exit interviews Wednesday. “I’m serious. This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs. If that’s putting pressure on myself, I’m going to take this summer and work that hard so that it doesn’t happen again.”

His goal is “turning the franchise around and getting it back how it used to be.”

“You watch the highlights of Barkley, Nash and them and how alive the arena was,” Booker said. “So one of my goals is to get it back that way.”

Booker, T.J. Warren and rookie Josh Jackson form the core of the young talent the Suns have accumulated. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss could be part of it, too, although their development has been uneven.

But Phoenix needs experienced players, and not just old guys to cheer on from the sidelines.

“The voice in the locker room or the voice when they’re teaching carries a lot more weight when the person is contributing,” interim coach Jay Triano said, “not just there as a teacher. … They need those guys on the court to follow.”

General manager Ryan McDonough agrees the time is come to ratchet up investment. To begin with, Phoenix has the most ping pong balls in the May 15 lottery and a chance at the No. 1 overall pick. At worst, the Suns will draft No. 4. They will have one, and maybe two, more first-round picks.

“We’ll be one of five or six teams with more than $10 million in cap space,” McDonough said, “and I think we have the ability to create significantly more if we want it.”

So the assets are there if they can be translated into needed players, and not teenagers, except that early first-round pick.

Three years of concentrating on acquiring this young talent is long enough, McDonough said.

“If you go beyond that I think the losing starts to set in and the guys start to become accustomed to that and the bar is lower,” he said. “Next year we’re going to try to raise the bar. We’re going to try to raise our standards. We won’t be as young. We won’t have nearly as many young players as we had last year.”

A couple of things to consider after the Suns’ miserable season.

COACH SEARCH: McDonough said the search will begin immediately for a head coach with a list of five to 10 candidates in mind.

Triano would like the job. He took over after Earl Watson was fired just three games into the season.

McDonough said he would like to have a coach in place before the draft combine and lottery in mid-May.

BOOKER’S CONTRACT: The Suns would like to have Booker sign a maximum contract extension in the offseason and he’s open to the idea.

Triano knows that Booker is tired of losing and believes things will get better for his budding star with more experienced talent around him.

“He looks around the locker room and sees what it is and he knows that it’s time,” Triano said. “I think the growth that he’s gone through individually as a leader and the capability he’s been able to show as a scorer has set the tone to make this an attractive place and to have him be the focal part of that. People around the league want to play with Devin Booker.”

KNIGHT IN WAITING: One of the biggest needs for the Suns is at point guard, and they’ve had one watching from the sidelines all season.

Brandon Knight, left over from the old days of three point guards with Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, missed the entire season with a torn ACL. Once stuck at the end of the bench with no playing time when he was able to go, he’s being talked about as the starter alongside Booker next year.

“As a competitor, as a winner, I just love to play the game,” Knight said. “I had the game taken away from me by the injuries and due to other things. … I’m just trying to help the Suns in any way I can.”

 

Markelle Fultz becomes youngest player with triple-double, gets mobbed by 76ers (video)

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It’s been a trying season for No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz.

But the 76ers rookie ended it on a high note.

The 19-year-old Fultz (13 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) broke the NBA record for youngest player with a triple-double. That helped Philadelphia beat the Bucks, 130-95, and secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference – which means avoiding the Cavaliers and Raptors until the conference finals.

Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball set the triple-double-by-age record earlier this season.

NBA first-round playoff matchups set

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Timberwolves beat the Nuggets in the night’s biggest game.

In other contests of consequence (at least potentially entering the night): Pelicans beat Spurs, Thunder beat Grizzlies, 76ers beat Bucks, Heat beat Raptors, Wizards lost to Magic, Cavaliers lost to Knicks.

Though the Trail Blazers and Jazz are still playing, their first-round opponents are set. The outcome will determine only which of Portland-New Orleans and Utah-Oklahoma City is the 3-6 series and which is the 4-5.

The 2018 NBA postseason field:

Eastern Conference

1. Raptors vs. 8. Wizards

2. Celtics vs. 7. Bucks

3. 76ers vs. 6. Heat

4. Cavaliers vs. 5. Pacers

Western Conference

1. Rockets vs. 8. Timberwolves

2. Warriors vs. 7. Spurs

Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans

Jazz vs. Thunder