Kurt Helin

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29:  Head Coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns looks on during an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on November 29, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Report: Suns’ coach Jeff Hornacek’s job in jeopardy after slide


UPDATE 4:31 ET: When the owner and GM are talking to players to see what the problems are, that rarely bodes well for the coach. Welcome to Jeff Hornacek’s world. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Ryan McDonough held individual meetings with Suns players on Sunday, trying to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the team’s spiral, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

We will see where this leads over the next 48 hours. But a coaching change is not going to change the fortunes of this banged-up, mismatched roster in the short term.

3:04 ET: Phoenix Suns’ owner Robert Sarver doesn’t believe in tanking, in being bad to get good, he expects a rebuild on the fly and the Suns to be a playoff team. Which the Suns haven’t been for five seasons, tying a franchise-record drought (dating back to the 1970s when this was a young franchise).

Now with the Suns have lost four in a row, have players throwing towels at their coach, won just 3-of-10, and are sliding out of playoff contention. With all that coach Jeff Hornacek finds himself on the hot seat, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Phoenix Suns’ 5-15 nosedive, which included a home loss Saturday night to the Philadelphia 76ers, has put the job of coach Jeff Hornacek under immediate threat, league sources told ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns have been forced to contemplate a coaching change far sooner than they hoped to because of a slide that has dropped them to 12-20 and 11th in the Western Conference, with fears growing within the organization that the team is no longer responding to Hornacek.

Players throwing towels at their coach is a sign of a lost locker room, although said player is not exactly the easiest guy to deal with around the league. Rumors about Hornacek’s stability had been circulating since the Suns chose not to pick up his option for the 2016-17 season this summer, making him a lame duck coach in his final guaranteed year.

Any coach who takes over for Hornacek right now will struggle to turn anything around this season. The key reason is the Suns likely will be without leading scorer Eric Bledsoe for an extended period after he suffered a non-contact knee injury Saturday (there is no official report yet of how long he will be out, but reports are it will be a while). Combine that with the fact Tyson Chandler isn’t the player they thought they were getting, Markeiff Morris isn’t playing as well as expected, and the trade rumors swirling around this team. That said, in a down bottom of the Western Conference the Suns remain just a couple games out of the playoffs.

Hornacek surprised everyone by winning 48 games his first season in Phoenix, doing it with a team most expected to be near the bottom of the league (that season 48 wins was not enough to make the playoffs in the West). However, that season may have set expectations too high that this team was farther along the rebuilding path than it was, and the past two seasons have shown that. Since the strong season, the Suns have switched the guard combo to Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, made a big move for Chandler on the back end of his career, and seen other free agent moves not pan out. Rather than a slow rebuild, this has been a push to playoffs not worrying about the ceiling.

Cavaliers, coach Blatt struggle to find rhythm with Irving, Shumpert back

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 8: David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** David Blatt; LeBron James
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That the Cavaliers lost on the road to Golden State on Christmas Day shouldn’t be a surprise — the Warriors are the defending NBA champs and 28-1 this season for a reason.

That the Cavaliers got crushed by a Trail Blazers team without Damian Lillard the following night should cause a double take (Kyrie Irving rested for the Cavs because of a back-to-back).

That said, it shouldn’t be a shock the Cavaliers are struggling to find a rhythm after getting their starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert back — inseting them into the lineup was inevitably going to lead to some bumps in the road. For example, it’s fair to wonder how Kevin Love will fare with Irving having the ball in his hands more.

But what frustrates the players — specifically LeBron James — is the unsettled rotations. Players like consistency and with Irving and Shumpert back, Blatt is still tinkering around with the rotations. Mo Williams got just five minutes against Golden State, Anderson Varejao never even saw the court.

LeBron talked about all of that after the loss to the Blazers — and threw the ball in coach David Blatt’s court — as reported by Joe Varden at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Offensively we’re just in a funk right now,” James said. “We just got to find our rhythm….

“For the first eight weeks we had built chemistry, we knew who was playing, we knew who wasn’t playing,” James said. “We had rotations, coach had rotations down, so we got to get back to that. We have no rhythm. Guys are, we have some guys who don’t know if they’re going to play, or if they are going to play, and it’s hurting our rhythm a little bit.”

Again, struggles when inserting two new starters into the rotation are to be expected for a little while. That includes the coaching staff finding rotations that work and they are comfortable with — there is going to be experimentation with the bench lineups.

And uncertainty around the rotations is not why the Cavaliers got crushed by the Blazers. It was a bad game, those happen.

That said, Blatt should settle on something, let this team find it’s “rhythm” again, then tweak those rotations as needed. There isn’t any time pressure — it’s still December people, the regular season has nearly four months left — but LeBron continues to have a sense of urgency this season. He wants to bring a title to “the Land” and Golden State is still Everest in his way, he saw it again firsthand this week. LeBron wants his team to be building good habits right now, not fumbling around trying to tinker with rotations. He’s not wrong about that.


Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Rockets: “We’ve disrespected the game”

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 110-108. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Associated Press

On Christmas Day, in front of a huge audience, the Rockets played their best game of the year and beat the Spurs. They defended with energy and as a team. On offense, they shared the ball and moved off the ball. They looked like the contender many thought they would be before the season started.

On Saturday they were the troubled Rockets again, leaning on isolation sets and not caring about defense, and they fell to the Pelicans 110-108.

After the game Saturday, Rockets’ coach J.B. Bickerstaff let his team have it when speaking to the media (hat tip Clutch Fans). You can see his the frustration and anger in his eyes above, but if you prefer your coach’s rants written out keep reading:

“We have to solve the core of our issue. There’s a reason why this team is so up-and-down. There’s a reason why when things are really good, things are good, when things are bad, things are bad. So to a man, starting with me, we have to solve the issue.

“Our issue is doing things right because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s going to get me a bucket, not because it’s going to get me a shot, not because I get the glory. That’s not what this is about. And that’s what our problem is right now.

We play San Antonio last night, we play a wonderful game, we play a beautiful game on both sides of the ball. We come out here tonight, things aren’t easy, things don’t go our way and we turn into the ugly Rockets again. That’s frustrating for me, frustrating for all of us I’m sure, but it’s not treating the game the right way. Over and over again, we’ve disrespected the game. Our priorities need to be clear. And I need to do a better job of playing the people whose priorities are clear.”

The Rockets do play selfishly much of the times, although the bigger issue has been and active disinterest in defense much of the season. When focused on it — as against the Spurs, but too often only the second half of the fourth quarter when trying to come from double-digits down — the Rockets can be a good defensive team. But they have not built good habits, and that defensive energy is sporadic at best.

This game against the Pelicans was a trap game for Houston — if they gave a 48-minute effort against the Spurs, the smart money was they wouldn’t follow it up with another one. They didn’t. That’s why they are a .500 team.

And the coach preaching to them about it will not be enough to change it, just ask Kevin McHale. It’s going to take the team leaders holding everyone accountable — starting with themselves. We’re looking at you, James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Stephen Curry trying to take Mark Jackson’s comments as compliment

Stephen Curry, Mark Jackson

During the Christmas Day broadcast of the Warriors win over the Cavaliers, ABC color commentator — and former Warriors’ coach — Mark Jackson said something about Stephen Curry that caused some controversy:

“To a degree, he’s hurting the game. And what I mean by that is I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is run to the three-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on your other aspects of the game. People don’t think that he’s just a knock-down shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.

Curry had a measured response after the game — unlike Andrew Bogut, who has no love lost for Jackson — but Curry’s response on Saturday tried to take Jackson’s comment as a compliment, as reported by the Contra Costa Times.

“After I heard all of what he was talking about, I understand where he’s coming from – that being for the youth of today and how they watch us play or watch me in particular, and they want to go out and try to do the same thing,” Curry said Saturday. “It’s all about practice and routine and repetition that can help you get to that point, so you can’t skip that part of the process.

“I wish he would have phrased it just a little bit differently. I think I’m trying to inspire people to see the game differently in a positive way…I get what he was saying. There was a compliment in there. Knowing him personally, I think that’s what he meant.”

Jackson’s phrasing was unfortunate.

It’s also a little bit historically naive. Starting in the driveway playing pickup with our family, every kid tries to emulate the great players of their era. We all wanted to be Magic or Jordan or Kobe or Iverson or whomever — and now for a lot of young players that is Curry. As it should be. Along those same lines, young players at the high school level or younger have made bad decisions trying to emulate Magic Johnson’s passes or Kobe’s midrange shot selection, or what have you, forever. Well, some players do. The ones that go on and advance up the ladder — maybe even eventually to play in the NBA — figure out that they need to be themselves, not someone else, and they do round out their games. That’s not on Curry, that’s on their coaches and ultimately the players themselves.

Utah’s Alec Burks throws down monster dunk; later leaves with injury

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In the video above things look promising for Alec Burks and the Jazz. DeAndre Jordan — who has posterized many a player over the years — saw what was coming and did not try to stop it. He more got out of the way.

Utah’s Alec Burks slashed down the lane, skied, and threw down a huge jam — one of those where he doesn’t get to the rim; rather he literally throws it down from distance. It was massive.

But when Burks was airborne attacking the rim right before half he was fouled by Paul Pierce and Burks hit the ground hard.

After the game Jazz players told Larson the problem was Burks’ ankle and the way it landed on that fall. He could be out a while, but the Jazz have not made an official announcement pending further evaluation.

The Jazz were already without Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, no Burks proved to be too much. Even without Blake Griffin (who will be sidelined for a couple of weeks at least), the Clippers got a 109-104 win over the Jazz in Utah.