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Kyle Korver sings praises of new Nets coach Kenny Atkinson

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Brooklyn fans, if you’re looking for an endorsement of your new head coach Kenny Atkinson, look nor further than Kyle Korver, one of the game’s best shooters and a member of the Atlanta Hawks (where Atkinson remains an assistant until they are eliminated from the playoffs).

Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did ask Korver about the Nets new boss and got this response about Korver’s free agency in 2013.

“I didn’t know if I was coming back,” Korver said Monday. “That is something as a free agent, you don’t know what the team is going to be, what the coaching staff was going to look like. But he said he was going to be back (as part of Mike Budenhozer’s staff). And that was a starting place for me. Kenny is going to be here? Things are going to be OK….

“He has been awesome for us here in Atlanta,” Korver said. “I think our player development has been second to none the last four years. I think it has been amazing watching guys develop and grow and Kenny leads that.”

That’s also what the Nets need because they are going to spend the next few years trying to acquire and develop young players through what will be a slow rebuilding process (the Nets don’t control their own first round pick until 2019).

It’s the best sign about the hiring of Atkinson by new GM Sean Marks — they are clearly looking at the long-term and building for stability. Which is the exact opposite of what Billy King was forced to do as GM by owner Mikhail Prokhorov when he purchased the team. (That’s not to excuse some poor moves by King, but he was told to pursue a strategy doomed to failure no matter who was GM.)

Tyronn Lue’s strong debut: Cavs coach shines in first playoff game playing Love at center

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Flanked by a security official, Tyronn Lue walked from Cleveland’s locker room toward his first postgame press conference in the NBA playoffs.

Lue had nothing to fear. He had all the answers in acing his first test.

The Cavaliers withstood a gritty Game 1 performance by the young and brash Detroit Pistons, who shot themselves to a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter before Lue, making his postseason coaching debut, called a timeout and moved Kevin Love to center. Cleveland took off from there and rolled to victory.

“Nice job, coach,” a fan shouted at Lue. “Just 15 more.”

Lue smiled.

With Cleveland’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love reunited in the postseason and leading the charge, the Cavs showed composure down the stretch in a 106-101 win over the No. 8 seed Pistons, who flew back to Michigan afterward to regroup for Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Lue’s “small” lineup produced big-time results.

The Cavs ran their offense – specifically a play called “elbow wedge short” – through Love, giving him the ball in the high post. That forced Pistons All-Star center Andre Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, outside to defend. That opened more space for Cleveland, which reeled off seven quick points to tie the game.

Then, with the teams knotted at 88-all, Love made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and the Cavs were off and running.

“Kevin at the 5 is tough for them to try to defend,” Lue said. “I think we manufactured probably 10 points in a row just running that play alone. … Kevin at the 5 was a big adjustment for us.”

The Cavs spent Monday watching film at their complex in Independence, Ohio, figuring out how to improve on their performance. They committed just one turnover, but will need to do a better job of contesting the Pistons on the perimeter. Detroit made 10 3-pointers in the first half, when Lue chose to pack the paint to keep Drummond from taking control.

But while the defense wasn’t stellar, Love’s 28-point, 13-rebound performance provided both a confidence boost for the three-time All-Star and perhaps a glimpse of how the Cavs will play the rest of the postseason.

One of the knocks on former Cavs coach David Blatt, fired in January despite a 30-13 record, was that he didn’t use Love properly. There were many games when Blatt kept Love on the bench in the fourth quarter. Lue, though, has managed to maximize Love’s skills and given Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy more to consider for the rest of this series.

The matchup between Lue and Van Gundy, considered one of the league’s best basketball strategists, figured to favor Detroit. But Lue, who played for Van Gundy in Orlando and sat on Doc Rivers’ bench as an assistant with Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers, landed the first blow against his former coach.

“There’s some things I regret,” Van Gundy said afterward. “There’s some things I have to do to help them a little bit more.”

The Pistons prepared for the possibility of Cleveland playing a smaller lineup, but didn’t do enough to stop it. They’re likely to see it even more now given the Cavs’ success.

Van Gundy can counter Lue’s move by taking Drummond out, but doing so would sacrifice inside offense, rim protection and rebounding. Another option would be to switch assignments and perhaps put either forward Marcus Morris or rugged rookie Stanley Johnson on Love.

Whatever Van Gundy decides, Lue will be ready.

He didn’t show any nerves before, during or after his playoff entrance.

“I’ve been preparing for this moment,” he said before the opener. “I think I’m very well prepared.”

Phil Jackson denies he offered Knicks coaching job to anyone

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It’s that time of the year, when NBA GMs/Presidents like to play The Semantics Game.”

Reports surfaced over the weekend that Phil Jackson had spoken to Luke Walton about the Knicks coaching job, which morphed into speculation (on other sites, not here) that Jackson tentatively offered the job to Walton, and other reports said the Golden State assistant shot that down.

Phil Jackson took to Twitter to put his spin on clarify things Monday:

Semantics.

Did Jackson conduct a formal interview with Walton and formally offer him the job? No. That would be farther down the line. However, a GM’s or President’s first contact with a coach is never that formal. It starts with a call to an agent and some broad discussion of interests; then if the sides are on the same page it will lead to a phone call or quiet lunch/dinner with the coach to discuss things in more detail. Know that not only teams in the midst pf an active coaching search — New York, Minnesota, Washington — but also teams considering a coaching change have taken those steps with potential replacements. It’s just like NBA free agency: There are no formal talks until July 1, but a lot of back-channel groundwork is set in place before that day arrives, including informal talks between people close to the players and interested teams.

You can bet there was some feeling out process between Jackson and Walton at the least, and I suspect they had a casual phone conversation about the job. That may well have included Walton letting Jackson know it’s not likely he takes the gig, but nobody is saying anything definitive yet. It’s a feeling out process.

The buzz around the league is Kurt Rambis remains the front-runner, but how likely it stays that way depends on whom you talk to.

Ray Allen on Stephen Curry: “I think Steph is in a category of his own”

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When you hear the older, “get off my lawn” generation of NBA players saying Stephen Curry is not all that, you’ll notice it’s almost always someone overly concerned about his legacy.

You’ll also notice it’s not one of the game’s great shooters — they all admire Curry.

Add Ray Allen to the mix. The last great sharpshooter who is now retired and golfing a lot in Miami is a Curry fan. SLAM Magazine asked him about Curry and here’s his response (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Based on what he’s done, I think he has to be—he’s on his way to being the best ever. It’s always arguable, based on who’s telling the story. One thing I always tell people is, it’s hard to compare generations. Everybody has something or somebody that makes him feel special about the game, or the way they saw and the way they appreciate the game. I’ve sat back and watched a lot, and listened to a lot of people talk. He’s creating a lane all of his own. People comparing him to me, to Reggie [Miller]. But I think Steph is in a category of his own. Just being able to have great handles the way he has with the ball, to be able to score at will by getting to the basket. Myself, Reggie Miller, Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson—we play a different game. We’re shooters. We come off screens, pindowns—Steph can do that, but he’s creating a different lane. Point guards haven’t been able to do what he’s been able to do, because he’s mixing that 2 guard-ish in there with having the great handles of a point guard.

Shooters respect shooters, and Ray Allen is far from the only one who tips his cap to Curry.

Warriors fans living in the Bay Area, if you are a Comcast subscriber getting Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, you can stream Monday night’s Rockets/Warriors game by following this link.

The only question about Curry is if he can sustain this kind of success, as Ray Allen did over a lengthy NBA career. Shooters can last a long time in the NBA — come the day Curry loses a step and his handle doesn’t create the same space, he will be insanely dangerous off the ball (so long as he accepts that role).

Watch Chris Paul drop 28 on Portland

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Chris Paul was the best player on the court Sunday night in Los Angeles, scoring 28 and dishing out 11 assists to lead the Clippers to a comfortable Game 1 win against Portland. He was masterful.

It leaves Portland with some difficult choices going forward. Damian Lillard cannot cover Paul. The best option is probably Al-Farouq Aminu on Paul, and then Portland can hide Lillard or C.J.McCollum on Luc Mbah a Moute. The problem is the other guard still draws J.J. Redick and will have to chase him off picks all night, an exhausting proposition that tilts in the Clippers’ favor. It will be interesting to see what Terry Stotts comes up with for Game 2 Wednesday.