Kurt Helin

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Rumor: If Clippers get bounced in first or second round, Doc Rivers could be headed to Orlando

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The Los Angeles Clippers, in the words of J.J. Redick, are playing like s—. They are going to start the playoffs on the road, if they can hold on to the five seed they will get a good Jazz team (which beat Los Angeles last week), then survive that and the Clippers face a Warriors team that has beaten them up consistently for the past few years. If they keep slipping, Oklahoma City could pass Los Angeles, meaning the Clippers get the Rockets in the first round.

If the Clippers get bounced in the first or second round of the playoffs again, that will be six years into the Blake Griffin/Chris Paul era where the Clippers have not advanced past the second round. Griffin, Paul, and Redick are all free agents this summer, does Steve Ballmer want to fork out all that money and keep paying Doc Rivers for a team that remains in the second tier in the West? How do they get better if they don’t bring them back? There will be a lot of soul searching to do for Los Angeles.

All of this has led to speculation around the league about the fate of the Clippers — and the fate of Doc Rivers. Marc Stein of ESPN sums that up.

There has been persistent chatter for weeks over the NBA’s front-office grapevine that the Orlando Magic and Rivers will explore a reunion down the road.

Now, you’re certainly not alone if you’re wondering whether “down the road” in this case should be measured in months or years….

The Magic, meanwhile, appear headed for their own sooner-rather-than-later shake up. League sources say without hesitation that Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan finds himself on the hot seat and is increasingly likely to be dismissed at season’s end, with the Magic on course for a fifth successive losing season under Hennigan’s watch.

The Magic just hired Frank Vogel as coach this year on a five-year deal, and he is not going anywhere in the short term. Or, he shouldn’t be. The Magic should hire a GM/president who can work with Vogel to turn the quality young players the Magic have — Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier (if you’re sold on him, he’s played much better of late) — into a team that can compete. Is Doc Rivers that guy, or is he a coach and GM (the power he has in Los Angeles) that the Magic may want. It should be noted Rivers has a home in Orlando.

The one sure thing in Los Angeles is the Clippers will bring Chris Paul back, that’s considered a lock around the league. Griffin likely returns to, although if someone gets traded it’s him. The question is, in talking to CP3, does he want Rivers or does he want another voice as coach? Is coaching really the answer for the Clippers? They need to stay healthy, but it’s certainly not Rivers’ workload that is the problem there (no team gets as much time off, as many practices canceled as the Clips).

It’s very likely the Clippers are gone in the first two rounds of the playoffs, which after a 14-2 start to the season where it seemed they turned the corner will come as a major disappointment. And it will leave a lot of questions to be answered.

John Wall dishes out career-high 20 assists in win over Bulls (VIDEO)

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Does John Wall deserve some end-of-the-ballot MVP votes? He’s the best player and driving force on a team that will win 50 games (give or take) and finish in the top three in the East. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 assists per game. There are four obvious MVP candidates (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James) but five spots on the ballot, and in a recent media poll Wall came in sixth in the voting.

Wall made his case Friday night dropping 20 assists on the Chicago Bulls, plus playing strong defense in a Wizards win. He was questionable for the game because of a sprained left foot, but played through it and had a monster night.

Check out all his assists.

Jimmy Butler on Bulls’ loss: “I hate this word, soft… but that’s exactly what we were”

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The Chicago Bulls have lost seven of their last eight and are now two games out of the playoffs in the East. It’s hard to see them making up that ground and getting an invite to the dance, particularly with Dwyane Wade being out for the season.

The latest loss came at the hands of the Wizards Friday night, where the Bulls were terrible in the first half, then battled back in the second to make the game interesting before falling 112-107. The fact they had to battle back at all had Jimmy Butler frustrated after the game. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

“I hate this word, `soft.’ I hate it, but that’s exactly what we were,” Butler said of his team’s start. “They beat us to every 50-50 ball, worked our tail in transition, we turned the ball over. Those things that we’ve talked about all year long replayed in that first half.”

Butler wasn’t done, via Nick Friedell at ESPN:

“What’s crazy is we’ve done that all year long,” Butler said. “I figured that we’d get tired of it, but I don’t know, I guess we like playing that way. I don’t know the answer to it. I really don’t. I can’t tell you [what it is]. It’s like a broken record. Y’all are going to ask me the same questions, I’m going to give you the same [answers]. We’ve done it all year long. Not getting back in transition, turning the ball over, not rebounding. All of that stuff. Eventually you would think that it would change, but what, we’re 70, I don’t know, 60-something games in, and it’s still there.”

The Bulls have a flawed roster that lacks shooting, and the team’s leaders appear not to respect the coach. Their effort has been inconsistent all season. Not the recipe for putting together a late run to the playoffs.

Butler should be frustrated, but he also needs to take some of the responsibility for what this Chicago season has become. He’s not blameless.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season in Chicago. The GarPax front office still has the backing of ownership, so it appears to be staying put, but with that will Wade return? Is coach Fred Hoiberg brought back? Are the Bulls going to show some kind of a plan to build around Butler, or trade him? What is the vision in Chicago? Bulls fans should hope they get answers this summer, but they shouldn’t bet the mortgage money on that happening.

 

Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, Greg Monroe all ejected after brouhaha following foul

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The Milwaukee Bucks visit to Staples Center got surprisingly chippy for a game where one of the teams is actively working to hold on to its top three pick (which is the kind way of saying “tanking”).

It came to a head late in the third quarter. After a steal, the Lakers were on a 4-on-1 break when Malcolm Brogdon went for the hard foul on Nick Young to prevent the bucket. Young did not appreciate it and shoved Brogdon — then Greg Monroe comes flying in as the third man in to protect Brogdon and goes after Young. Then D'Angelo Russell comes in hard at Monroe, and there is some pushing that never moves beyond this.

In the end, Young got a technical, his second of the night so he was ejected. Monroe and Russell each got double technicals for jumping in, and they were ejected. They will also get healthy fines from the league for this.

The Bucks held on to get the 107-103 win, helping them feel a little more secure in the chase for a playoff spot in the East. And the Lakers got the loss, making them feel a little more secure in keeping their top-three protected pick.

Big fourth quarter lifts Raptors past Pistons 87-75

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds and the Toronto Raptors used a fourth-quarter surge to beat the Detroit Pistons 87-75 on Friday night.

Toronto outscored Detroit 27-9 in the final period to take control of a game that appeared to be slipping away. The Pistons missed their final 10 shots of the game.

DeMar DeRozan added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Toronto, which won for the second time in five games.

Reggie Jackson had 20 points for Detroit, which lost its third in a row. Andre Drummond had 22 points, but only had eight before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, posting matching 34.1 shooting percentages. Corey Joseph hit a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the half to give Toronto a 40-38 lead.

Jackson led the Pistons with 11 points, while Drummond had 15 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll had 10 points for the Raptors.

Toronto jumped out to a 53-46 lead early in the third, but the Pistons rallied to go ahead 59-58 on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s 3-pointer. Jon Leuer‘s tip in at the buzzer gave Detroit a 66-60 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Pistons moved the lead to 72-63 in the opening minutes of the fourth, but Toronto went on a 22-2 run to take an 85-74 lead with 1:38 to play.

TIP INS

Raptors: Came in with a 6-9 record in the second game of a back-to-back. They are 33-20 in all other games.

Pistons: Drummond scored his 5,000th career point on a lob from Ish Smith in the third quarter. It was also the 34th time he had 20 rebounds in a game, including seven this season.

OH, CANADIANS

As has become customary for Raptors games at the Palace, the crowd was cheering louder for Toronto than Detroit. Heavy snow in Auburn Hills kept fans of both teams at home, but Raptors jerseys dominated the small crowd.