Author: Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans

Breaking down Western Conference playoff scenarios: Spurs, Pelicans both need a win

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Only one night is left in the NBA season and yet not one playoff matchup is set in the West. Which is insane. From our preseason previews on we at PBT (and NBA media everywhere) talked about how stacked and tight the West was, but this is uncomfortably close, like Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Here is where things stand going into a key final night of games.

No. 1 seed: The Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot, not just in the West but in the entire NBA. They will have home court as long as they last in the playoffs.

No. 2-6 seeds: This remains the cluster… there are still eight different scenarios that can play out here depending on what the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Rockets do Wednesday.

Let’s break this out by team.

San Antonio controls its own destiny. With a win over the Pelicans Wednesday night they win the Southwest Division and are the two seed (meaning they face Dallas in the first round). However, lose and they could fall as far as the six seed depending on what everyone else does, it gets really complex. Gregg Popovich is not a fan of uncertainty; he’s not resting guys he will go for the win.

The Los Angeles Clippers are likely the three seed; they can fall no lower than that after beating the Suns on Monday. They can be the two seed but only if both the Spurs and Rockets lose on Wednesday (not a likely outcome).

Portland is the four seed and will still be the road team in the first round.

Houston could climb as high as the two seed, they just need to beat Utah on Wednesday and hope the Spurs lose to the Pelicans (in that scenario the Rockets are the Southwest Division winners and get the two seed with it). They cannot be the three seed (after the Clippers win Tuesday), so if the Spurs win the Rockets likely are the five seed. In one scenario, if the Spurs and Rockets lose but the Grizzlies win on Wednesday, the Rockets can fall all the way to sixth.

Memphis can now only be the five or six seed in the West. If the Spurs and Rockets win it doesn’t matter what the Grizzlies do, they are the sixth seed. The Grizzlies can climb to the five seed if they beat Indiana Wednesday while Houston loses to the Jazz. If the Rockets and Grizzlies win but the Spurs lose then Memphis climbs to the five seed also.

No. 7 seed: The Dallas Mavericks are locked in here.

No. 8 seed: The Pelicans control their own destiny. New Orleans and Oklahoma City are tied for the eight seed, and the Pelicans own the tie breaker. If New Orleans wins Wednesday, they go to the playoffs. However, the Pelicans are going to face a motivated Spurs team that has won 11 in a row and needs to make it a dozen to get the two seed. If the Pelicans lose all the Thunder need to do is beat the banged-up Timberwolves — losers of 11 in a row — to secure the eight seed. It feels like things have lined up for Oklahoma City.

Three Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: We finally know one playoff series, Boston vs. Cleveland

Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking it would be good for you to cuss more

1) We have our first playoff matchup: Boston vs. Cleveland. It took Evan Turner scoring 14 points and making plays. It took DeMar DeRozan resting. It took 18 Toronto turnovers. It took Jae Crowder hitting a leaning, contested, ridiculous foot-on-the-line two from the corner.

But finally with the Boston win we have our first playoff series set — Boston vs. Cleveland. No, it’s not going to last long. However, you have to be impressed with what Brad Stevens has done in getting the Celtics here. Their defense has improved of late, first off. More than that, they share the ball, they cut hard and move off the ball, they play selfless basketball that is fun to watch. The Celtics did not get here on pure talent — a number of teams they beat out to make the playoffs have more raw talent — but rather on how well they used what they have. They run a beautiful, modern offense. Good on them for getting here.

2) Clippers will be two or three seed in West. In their final game of the season, it was vintage Clippers — Chris Paul had 22 points and six assists and the Clippers built a 30 point lead over a Suns team that has packed it in. Then the Clips put in their bench and that lead shrunk and shrunk until Doc Rivers was forced to send a couple starters back in to secure the win at the end. Doesn’t matter now, it’s a win. With the victory, the Clippers secured at least (and most likely) the three seed. Los Angeles can get the two seed if the Spurs and Rockets lose on Wednesday. There’s a 50 percent chance the Clippers will face the Grizzlies in the first round (four of the eight possible scenarios that can play out in the middle of the West end that way), which would be a fun and physical series. I’m good with that.

3) Indiana still controls its own destiny, beat the Grizzlies Wednesday and they are in. There are two fascinating games Wednesday night in the NBA, and one is Indiana vs. Memphis — both teams need a win. That game becomes interesting thanks to one that was hard to watch: Indiana’s double-OT win over Washington, 99-95. The winning Pacers shot 38.7 percent and had an offensive rating of 87.2 points per 100 possessions. (Just for comparison, the worst offense in the NBA this season by far was the Sixers at 92.9 points per 100. This game was ugly.) Indiana got five points out of George Hill in the second overtime, and 24 on the night, plus a 25-point night from C.J. Miles to secure the win.

If Indiana beats Memphis, they are in as the eight seed. If the Nets lose to the Magic the Pacers are in. However, if the Pacers lose and the Nets win, the playoffs will swing through Brooklyn (for just two games, but they will go there).

Paul Pierce: Nets’ veterans had poor attitudes, Deron Williams couldn’t handle that stage

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
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The Brooklyn Nets were opening up Barclays Center and owner Mikhail Prokhorov opened up his checkbook and told GM Billy King to go buy him a winner. Prokhorov wanted a team that could open that building.

But the 44-38 Nets never lived up to that hype. They weren’t bad, but they were bounced in the second round by the Miami Heat. This season the Nets need help just to make the playoffs.

What went wrong? The players there weren’t committed, wouldn’t make the effort needed to win, according to Paul Pierce.

Pierce had clearly reached the “I don’t give a s— what people think” stage of his career (there’s an open seat next to Kobe Bryant) and was brutally honest about what he saw in Brooklyn last season in an interview with great Jackie MacMullan for ESPN.com.

“It was just the guys’ attitudes there. It wasn’t like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn’t want to play and didn’t want to practice. I was looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.

“If me and Kevin weren’t there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.”

He said the problem started at the point guard spot with Deron Williams:

“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.

“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”

Pierce said Joe Johnson mostly just wanted to be left alone; he wasn’t a leader either.

What Pierce said on the record is what a lot of people around Brooklyn said off of it the last couple years. The Truth was speaking the truth. The Nets didn’t want to re-sign Pierce, who instead signed in Washington.

To be fair, Pierce and KG were not exactly their vintage selves in Brooklyn either.

You could see what Pierce said about Brooklyn’s effort and passion play out this year as well. The Nets battled injuries but struck fear in nobody really. It took a motivated Brook Lopez — right before he could be a free agent and get paid. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

Pierce has plenty to say about other players as well — John Wall and Bradley Beal, Rajon Rondo, and others. This is a must-read piece that the league will be talking about for days.

 

Report: Lakers will shop around Nick Young this summer

Nick Young
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Anyone looking for a potential sixth-man gunner who will come in firing, one the fan base will love (the coach… maybe not so much)? What if said player was on a very affordable contract?

Enter Nick Young.

The Lakers’ had him this season and he was entertaining for the fans as he shot 36.6 percent and clashed with Byron Scott (remember the reaction from Scott and Kobe Bryant after Young and others celebrated a win over Boston?). That said, he did hit his threes and had a true shooting percentage of 52 percent, very close to the league average. He’ll do better next season after he romances the rims. In the right system, Young would have some value, and he is owed just $16.3 million over the next three seasons (the last one is a player option).

The Lakers will test the trade market for him, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. It may just not be that easy.

If the Lakers have their wish, this will mark the end of the so-called Swaggy P era. With Young averaging 13.4 points on a career-low 36 percent shooting and having occasional clashes with Scott, the Lakers will entertain trade offers for him, according to a team official familiar with the front office’s thinking. Still, complications could emerge in trading Young, who still remains under contract for three more years at $16.33 million. Young’s poor play could sour his value as well as the Lakers’ reluctance to attach any draft picks just to expend him.

Young is coming off a fractured knee cap, which doesn’t help his trade value. And he’s not the guy you want in every locker room, the Lakers became tired of his behavior and comments. He’s a character, which can come off as being a clown.

For the record, Young is confident he will return to LA.

Yet, Young still maintained he feels “confident” that he will return next season still wearing a Lakers uniform.

“I’m confident in everything,” Young said. “Whatever happens, happens. It’s meant to happen.”

We’ll see if that confidence attracts another team that could put him in a better situation.

 

Rod Thorn, the long time NBA executive who drafted Michael Jordan, to retire

Lavoy Allen And Nikola Vucevic Draft Press Conference
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Rod Thorn is a guy well known and well respected around the NBA. Other executives trusted him. That’s why he returned as the NBA’s president of basketball operations as the league transitioned from David Stern to Adam Silver in the commissioner’s chair. He was there to provide a little stability.

Now Thorn is about to retire, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Thorn, 73, returned to the league office in August 2013 to oversee the league’s daily operations under commissioner Adam Silver, an appointment that had been planned to be a two-year bridge to a longer-term successor, sources said. Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, is a strong candidate to be promoted to take Thorn’s job, sources said.

Thorn had three stops as a general manager – with the Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. He was the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2001-02 for orchestrating the Nets’ dramatic turnaround that led to an NBA Finals run. Thorn might best remembered for drafting Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.

After his run with the Bulls, Thorn came on to be the NBA’s president of basketball operations under Stern for 14 years. He then jumped back into the NBA’s front office ranks.

People forget Thorn was a player before all that — he’s was the No. 2 pick back in the 1963 NBA draft, and he played eight NBA seasons.

He was given the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame this year.