Kurt Helin

Shakeup in Brooklyn: Coach Lionel Hollins fired, Billy King out as GM

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It was assumed around the league that this coming offseason there would be a shakeup in Brooklyn, changes to the coaching staff for sure and likely the front office.

That shakeup came early, with the new year.

The Nets announced Sunday that coach Lionel Hollins has been fired, and GM Billy King has been “re-assigned” from his position.

Nets’ assistant coach Tony Brown takes over as interim head coach. The GM chair will be vacant for now, an interesting choice six weeks out from the trade deadline.

“After careful consideration, I’ve concluded that it’s time for a fresh start and a new vision for the direction of the team,” Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a released statement. “By making this decision now, it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records. It’s clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place, we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching. We have learned a great deal during the past six years and our experiences will guide us for the future.”

The Nets are 10-27 this season, well out of the race for the playoffs in the East. Worse yet, the Nets don’t control their own first round draft pick until 2019, meaning their prospects for improvement in future seasons hinge on luring free agents to play with Brook Lopez, who the organization re-signed this summer, and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Blame for this dumpster fire in Brooklyn starts with Prokhorov. He tried to treat the NBA like a European soccer league where a rich guy can just buy a team and wins. When the Nets were set to open the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, he instructed King to do whatever it took — including trading future picks and prospects — to put together an immediate title contender and become the dominant force in New York. Payroll be damned. What the Nets got was a team that paid $100 million in luxury tax — for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and so on — and still only could make the second round of the playoffs. Prokhorov didn’t understand the market; it’s going to take something far more than that over a much longer stretch of time to win over New York from the Knicks, if it can be done at all. The Knicks have been at the heart of the New York sports scene for generations, you can’t sweep that aside with money.

There have been rumors Prokhorov wants to bring in the president of CSKA Moscow for the GM position.

Both King and Hollins deserve blame for some of their decisions, and there was a need for a fresh start, but the problem with the Nets stemmed directly from ownership and the direction it set. It’s just that owners do not fire themselves — in fact, Prokhorov just bought 100 percent control of the Nets and Barclays Center.

It’s his show, and this is what he’s doing with it. And apparently not very well.

Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins put on show Saturday night (VIDEO)

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After off games, Stephen Curry was back in MVP form Saturday night: 38 points on 21 shots, eight threes, and dishing out 11 assists.

On the opposing side, DeMarcus Cousins looked like the best center in the NBA: 33 points and 10 rebounds against one of the better defenses in the league.

The result was an entertaining game — one the Warriors won, 128-116. They are the better, deeper team. But this kind of play has Sacramento just 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West, and they are a threat to climb in with Utah struggling above them. Of course, that could make this game a first round playoff preview — which based on tonight would be pretty fun to watch.

Remembering NBA forward John Johnson

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John Johnson, the former NBA All-Star who was a part of the Seattle Supersonics 1979 title team, has passed away at the age of 68.

Drafted No. 7 out of Iowa, he was an All-Star his first two seasons in the league with the Cavaliers. He was one of the pioneers of the idea of a “point forward” and he had a skill set that would have translated well into today’s game. He scored 11 points a game for the title-winning Sonics team of 1979. He also played for Portland and Houston in his NBA career.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon throws down double-pump reverse slam (VIDEO)

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I love that dunk. It’s a little old-school, a little Dominique Wilkins.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon finished with 10 points, but it wasn’t enough. Washington almost the entire game and ptetty comfortably through most of it, going on to a 105-99 win behind 24 points from John Wall.

Gordon Hayward scores 34 points, Jazz defeat Heat 98-83

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, right, is held by  Miami Heat forward Gerald Green, left as he drives to he basket during an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz defeated the Heat 98-83. (AP Photo/George Frey)
Associated Press
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jazz forward Gordon Hayward had no particular plans to shoulder a heavier load with the team short-handed and dressing only three wing players due to injury Saturday night. It just happened to work out that way.

Hayward scored a season-high 34 points and Utah beat the Miami Heat 98-83 to break a three-game losing streak.

“Once I saw a couple go in, the basket opened up and I was able to get some more,” Hayward said. “I knew I needed to be aggressive throughout the game. I was turning the ball over so much (early), I might as well throw it at the rim. Would’ve been better than giving them the ball. Just an aggressive mindset.”

Hayward came out of the locker room after a passive first half and scored 18 points in the third quarter, including nine in a row to give the Jazz a 68-60 lead. Utah outscored the Heat 27-19 in the period.

The Heat got as close as four in the fourth, but a late 6-0 run pushed the lead back to 88-78.

“It’s a really good win for our team,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve talked about trying to get better throughout whatever challenges we have with injury and fatigue on back-to-backs and playing through adversity.

“I think our players could’ve been down. And we just tried to maintain the strength of character as a group and not let those things affect us. That’s a credit to our players. … I’m not sure I could do what they’re doing right now.”

Trey Burke scored 11 points off the bench and Raul Neto matched a career high with 13 for the Jazz.

Chris Bosh led the Heat with 24 points, and Goran Dragic added 16. Hassan Whiteside had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Dwyane Wade was held to eight points on 3-for-17 shooting.

The Heat shot just 30.4 percent from the field after halftime.

“Hayward really got it going and they read our schemes and what we were doing defensively,” Wade said, “and they did a great job getting the things they needed from our schemes.”

Miami jumped out to a 29-19 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to 11 points from Dragic.

A pair of baskets by Burke spurred a 9-2 Jazz run at the beginning of the second quarter that cut the Heat lead to three, but Miami responded with a 6-0 spurt itself and took a 49-45 lead into halftime.

“They started making some shots. The pick-6s and those turnovers really gave them some life,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They made big shots when they need to. Extra possessions, all that stuff they were able to get and we weren’t able to stop the avalanche in the last 6 minutes.”

TIP-INS

Heat: It was the second of a six-game road trip for the Heat. Their current stretch includes 12 of 14 games on the road. Twelve road games this month is the franchise record for January. … Miami shot 55.6 percent in the first half. … Wade hurt his shoulder in the third quarter, but was able to return to the game. He’ll be evaluated further by the Miami medical staff.

Jazz: Utah shot 51.4 percent from the field in the first half. … Trevor Booker went to the locker room late in the first half. He returned for the second half. … Chris Johnson started his first game of the year and scored a season-high 14 points.