<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Montreal skyline at dusk and St Lawrence River

Officials from Montreal meet with Adam Silver, just to lay some groundwork

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There is not going to be an NBA team in Montreal in a couple years. The NBA is not expanding anytime soon — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that repeatedly — and there are no teams on the verge of moving (if the new arena effort in Milwaukee falls through, then a door cracks open).

Still, officials from Montreal wanted to lay some groundwork.

They met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to do just that, reports Le Journal de Montreal (with a hat tip for the link and translation to NBA Reddit).

The meeting took place last January at the NBA offices in New York. It was the former minister and senator Michael Fortier, a lawyer and banker, and Kevin Gilmore, executive vice president of the Montréal Canadiens and right-hand-man of Geoff Molson who found themselves in Mr. Silver’s office….

“I was a pretty good basketball player and I’m still a big fan. I started by helping with NBA exhibition games played in front of sellout crowds at the Bell Center. First one year, then a second. I noted that the clientele was different from the one that we saw at Canadiens matches. I told myself that Montréal, with its appeal, deserved more than two exhibition games,” explained Michael Fortier, yesterday before he left for Scotland….

“We are aware that this is only a first signal sent by the people of Montreal. But we also have to understand that you have to start somewhere. Mayor Denis Coderre is up to date with these first steps and he is encouraging us. The Montréal metropolitan area is a market of more than three million residents. I am convinced that Montréal can support a hockey team, a baseball team, and a basketball team without upsetting existing franchises,” added Mr. Fortier.

Again, there is nothing coming soon. And if a franchise does go up for sale and can be moved, expect the group out of Seattle that was close to bringing the Kings to the Pacific Northwest to be at the front of the line.

But there may be no more rabid fanbase in the NBA than in Toronto, and basketball is a growing sport in Canada — the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft were Canadians. The idea that another major market north of the border could support an NBA team is a very reasonable one. And I like the idea of hearing the Canadian national anthem sung in French before an NBA game.

Montreal’s leaders were just laying some groundwork. It’s how you start a long process.

Three keys to Game 7 between Clippers, Rockets

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Five
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At the start of the week, if you had tried to tell everyone that the only second round playoff matchup to go seven would be the Clippers and Rockets, you would have been laughed off the Internet. The Clippers were up 3-1 and seemingly in control, while both Eastern Conference series seemed destined to drag out longer.

But the Rockets showed up and played desperate in Game 5 while the Clippers coasted. Then came an unforgettable and virtually unexplainable Game 6 — the Clippers were up 19 points with 2:30 left in the third quarter, then started to play a prevent defense and that lead went away. What the Rockets did late in that game is not sustainable — Blake Griffin was missing shots at the rim while Josh Smith was hitting step-back threes — but it doesn’t have to be, it just had to work for a short stretch.

That is true of Game 7 as well — neither team needs something that will work for over the long haul; they just need it to go right for one day. One game.

Here are three keys to watch in Game 7 Sunday.

1) Can the Clippers mentally bounce back from Game 6? This Clipper team has shown itself to be mentally tough — did you see Game 7 against the Spurs? Still, you have to ask this first question. The Clippers were on the verge of advancing to the franchise’s first-ever conference finals when they, to use the words of Blake Griffin, took their foot off the gas. Then when the game started to get close, they got tight. This team was understandably crushed after Game 6, and some teams don’t bounce back from that — I just don’t think this Clippers team is one of them. The extra day off between games helps, too. Expect to see the Clippers that put up a 19 point lead, not the version that gave it away.

2) Can DeAndre Jordan stay out of foul trouble? In this series, when DeAndre Jordan is on the court the Clippers allow 96.7 points per 100 possessions. When he is on the bench, the Clippers give up 118.2 points per 100 possessions. If you want to talk about what really got the Clippers in trouble in Game 5 in Houston, it was Jordan’s foul trouble allowing him to play only 1:50 of the second quarter (when the Rockets stretched out a lead). The Rockets have started to get James Harden back to playing his bowling ball style in recent games, playing downhill and rolling into the lane picking up points and drawing fouls. If Doc Rivers has to limit Jordan’s minutes, that’s bad news for Los Angeles. Although, one would hope in a Game 7 the referees would let the teams play a little.

3) Whose role players step up? For the Clippers, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will be just fine and put up numbers. The question is who is going to help them out as a third scorer. J.J. Redick has averaged 17 a game in this series but has gone missing for stretches, Jamal Crawford has been even more invisible. The Clippers need one of them — or Austin Rivers, or Jordan, or Matt Barnes or anybody — to be the third scorer. The Clippers have been the better team in the majority of this series, they just need to play like it Sunday. For 48 minutes.

For the Rockets, we saw in Game 6 that for a stretch this bench can make plays — their entire comeback was with James Harden riding the pine (and credit Kevin McHale for leaving him there, plenty of coaches would have gone back to him). No doubt Harden will be pivotal in Game 7, but he can’t do it alone. Whether it’s Smith or Corey Brewer or Trevor Ariza, the Rockets need one more game where someone unexpected steps up and puts up numbers. It doesn’t have to be sustainable; it just has to work for one day and Houston can advance at home.

Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell: “I’m the best in the draft”

D'Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
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You have to love the confidence. You have to love the little smirk at the end of this comment.

When asked what made him so sure he was the best player, he responded, “Did you watch?”

Ohio State’s guard D’Angelo Russell may think he’s the best, but he knows he is going to go third, maybe fourth, in the upcoming NBA Draft. Most teams have Karl Anthony-Towns at the top of their boards, with the polished Jahlil Okafor second. And even if those teams drafting in the top two spots after the lottery are loaded already in the frontcourt — think Philadelphia — they will draft one of those two first, and then later trade a big for what they need.

After those two it’s probably Russell, although Emmanuel Mudiay and Justice Winslow lurk.

There are scouts who just love Russell, but the feeling is not unanimous. The question isn’t if he can score, he averaged 19.3 points a game and shot 41 percent from three. However, what really impresses is his court vision and passing. He’s also a big guard at 6’5” and it’s easy to put him in the Russell Westbrook mold of combo guards (although he’s not Westbrook athletic).

What gives some teams pause was expressed by our own draft expert Ed Issacson of Rotoworld and NBA Draft Blog: “I’m not as high on him as a lot of people. A lot of teams have found ways to be successful in pretty much stopping him — in all aspects, whether it be distributing the ball or scoring…. In games against the top 60 we’re talking about a guy who was shooting 36-37 percent, even less from three, was getting his assists but also was turning the ball over a lot more…. On the bright side, in a big spot he wants the ball, very aggressive, always looking to make something happen.”

Report: Billy Donovan targeting Monty Williams as part of Thunder staff

Monty Williams
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Monty Williams is an incredibly well-respected coach — Mike Krzyzewski asked him to be part of the Team USA staff — who did a solid job as coach of the Pelicans. He did get them to the playoffs despite Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson missing large parts of the season.

From the second New Orleans let him go, you could be sure his phone would be ringing from teams looking to offer him a job, most likely as a lead assistant.

Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder are on the top of that list, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Donovan has a targeted interest in several potential candidates, including ex-New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Chicago Bulls assistant Andy Greer and Portland Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, league sources said.

Another possibility could be the return of New York Knicks assistant Brian Keefe, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Keefe left ex-Thunder coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder staff to join Derek Fisher in New York a year ago. Keefe is well-regarded among Thunder management and players. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are among the players partial to Keefe.

Former Cavaliers and Lakers coach Mike Brown turned down a chance to interview for the staff, according to the report. Also, Donovan is keeping current Thunder assistants Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic on staff, and added former Alabama coach Anthony Grant as an assistant.

Donovan still needs a veteran NBA guy at his right hand, just to help him through the adjustments to the NBA game. It’s why David Blatt got Tyronn Lue to be next to him in Cleveland this year, while Steve Kerr pried Alvin Gentry away from the Clippers.

Williams would be a perfect fit, plus he has a relationship with Durant and Westbrook through Team USA. It’s a matter of fit and if the Thunder are willing to pay — Williams will not come cheaply.

Why didn’t Marcin Gortat play much during Game 6? Food poisoning.

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks - Game Five
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Marcin Gortat started the second half for the Wizards in Game 6, played 4:10, then never set foot on the court again. Ultimately, the Wizards were eliminated by the Hawks. Washington could have used Gortat’s rebounding, his defense in the paint, his big picks, but he never got back in the game, coach Randy Whittman calling Kevin Seraphin’s number.

Why?

Food poisoning, reports our friend J. Michael at CSNWashington.com.

“March was sick all night last night, throwing up all day today, IVs last night, IVs all day today, he tried to do what he could do but he didn’t have any energy,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I appreciate him giving me the effort and trying.”

 

Seraphin played fairly well, with 13 playoff points. Nene played in crunch time for the Wizards, he had five points in what had been a challenging series for him. But the Wizards missed what Gortat brings in the biggest game of the season.

Just another tough break in what had been series of tough breaks for the Wizards.