Kurt Helin

Mike D'Antoni

Report: Nuggets interview Mike D’Antoni for head coaching position

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Under George Karl a few years back, the Denver Nuggets ran their way to 57 wins (and might have done some serious playoff damage if Danilo Gallinari had stayed healthy). Then management decided to let Karl go and turn to a more traditional, defensive guy in Brian Shaw. However, they never significantly changed the roster to fit the change of plans and coach. The result was a disaster. Denver won 30 games last season.

Now they want to run again.

That means a new coach. And while long-time Denver assistant and interim coach Melvin Hunt remains the frontrunner, the Nuggets reached out and spoke with Mike D’Antoni about the job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Mike D’Antoni met with Denver Nuggets management to discuss the franchise’s head coaching opening, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Denver general manager Tim Connelly conducted a sit-down with D’Antoni in California on Tuesday, league sources said. D’Antoni’s vaunted running game fits into Denver’s determination that it wants to play faster in the future. Melvin Hunt, the interim coach in the wake of Brian Shaw’s firing, remains a strong contender to retain the full-time job, league sources said.

Along with D’Antoni and Hunt, ex-Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone has had conversations with Connelly and could soon emerge with a sit-down interview, league sources said.

While Mike D’Antoni has his detractors — a lot of them living in Los Angeles — the fact of the matter is his offensive system can win and can work. Both Gregg Popovich and Eric Spoelstra borrowed from what he did in Phoenix, and those two guys have the last three NBA titles.

But while those two adapted the system, D’Antoni is wed to winning his way, fitting players into his system. That helped lead to the mess in Los Angeles, where he was handed a roster that was ill fitting for what he wanted to do but was slow to adapt.

Denver has a good point guard in Ty Lawson, they have a quality stretch four in Gallinari, they have some pieces to make D’Antoni’s system work. But are they fully committed to it? If not, better to go another direction. Like the respected Hunt.

I also am a fan of Mike Malone. Another coach who did a good job building a culture (then was fired because the owner wanted a faster team),  a guy who deserves another chance. But Malone is about defense and deliberate play. Hire him and Denver needs to revamp the roster.

What kind of team does Denver management want? Answer that, and then get a coach and players to make it work. Then stick with the plan.

Nets GM: No chance Deron Williams bought out; Lopez, Young re-signings priority

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets- Game Four
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The Brooklyn Nets are not going to just buy Deron Williams out of his contract. Try desperately to trade him? You bet. But not buy him out.

That’s essentially what Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King said on Wednesday.

There have been rumors the Nets would waive Deron Williams, using the stretch provision to essentially buy him out. That will not happen, reports Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game.

And, by the way, no change on the “we want to keep Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young” front, either.

This is all pretty much what was expected from the Nets.

Williams is owed $43 million over the next couple years. If the Nets used the stretch provision on him, they could extend that pain out over five years of the cap — but that’s still nearly $9 million a year for five years. Better to bite the bullet.

The Nets would love to trade Johnson and Williams this summer. I would love to have Eric Ripert as my personal chef. To quote Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.

PBT Extra: Long layoff before Finals will mean rust to start

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four
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The NBA didn’t expect this long a layoff before the NBA Finals started (a Game 7 in the conference finals would have happened Sunday). But once it became clear there would be a break of a week or more, the NBA tried to move up the date. It couldn’t.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss what that break means, both on and off the court.

Expect a rusty first half Thursday night.

Adam Silver explains why the NBA Finals did not start earlier

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
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Eight Days.

The average patient could have had open heart surgery, been released from the hospital and been back home during this break in the NBA Finals. It’s been that long.

What is with that break? The NBA has been locked in for a June 4 start since before the season started, but when it became clear that both conference Finals were going to end quickly pressure mounted on the NBA to act and move the Finals’ start date up. It didn’t.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was on the Rich Eisen radio show and explained why.

“Truth be told, we did have that conversation about potentially moving up, and Susie would know this, some years ago we used to have a built in move up. If both Conference Finals series didn’t go longer than five games, we would’ve moved up two days. So, under that scenario, we would have started (Tuesday) rather than Thursday night. So certainly when the East finished, and we saw that there was a chance that the West could finish with five games or fewer, we had that discussion. So…for Disney, ABC/ESP, it is difficult to move on short notice given they have other scheduled programming, but it wasn’t just an ABC issue…As you know, we’re broadcast in over two hundred countries, so then we’re dealing with broadcasters all around the world who have preset broadcast windows. So, then it creates enormous issues for them. On top of that, we have roughly a thousand credentialed media who come to the finals, many of them from outside of the United States who, well of course they don’t know exactly what city they’re going to be in, they fly into New York or L.A. depending where they’re coming from and then fly from there; and then there’s the hotels and other issues.

“So…for Disney, ABC/ESPN, it is difficult to move on short notice given they have other scheduled programming, but it wasn’t just an ABC issue… As you know, we’re broadcast in over two hundred countries, so then we’re dealing with broadcasters all around the world who have preset broadcast windows. So, then it creates enormous issues for them. On top of that, we have roughly a thousand credentialed media who come to the finals, many of them from outside of the United States who, well of course they don’t know exactly what city they’re going to be in, they fly into New York or L.A. depending where they’re coming from and then fly from there; and then there’s the hotels and other issues. So, you know ultimately there was a reason why we locked in the date and we decided to stick by it. 

“And lastly I’ll say especially when there’s no doubt that there’s some players that will be benefitted from the rest, I’m always reluctant mid-course to change a rule and so everyone knew going into these playoffs, all the teams, exactly when the finals would start. They knew if the conference finals series ended earlier, they would have that much rest coming up. So it felt strange, even though we had the conversation with ABC and ESPN and said, “If we wanted to, could we,” we talked to the buildings to see if they were available, but ultimately we decided we had made this decision a few years ago to lock it in, let’s stick with it. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it will lead to better competition, because players on both teams need the rest.”

It will lead to a rusty first quarter/first half.  After all the build up to these Finals, the start may not be pretty.

But it did lead to better health. Klay Thompson will play. Kyrie Irving will not be 100 percent but he should be better.

Still, this break was too long. The NBA has the Finals everyone wanted to see, and they stalled out the momentum. Now they need to get it back.

Rick Barry: “LeBron is the greatest three to ever play the game”

Cavaliers Last Practice at Home Before Heading to the NBA Finals
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Who is the greatest small forward in NBA history?

Larry Bird? Julius Erving? Dominque Wilkins? Scottie Pippen? Elgin Baylor? John Havlicek?

Rick Barry (who could be in that discussion as well) says we are seeing the greatest right now: LeBron James.

Here is what he told Scott Ferrall of CBS Sports Radio (hat tip to Ananth Pandian of Eye on Basketball)

“I think LeBron is the greatest three to ever play the game. And as great as he is, he still has room for improvement. If that was ever to happen and he really refined his game more, they may have to outlaw him, he’s so good. He’s an anomaly, I mean he really is. There’s never been anybody like him with his size, his athleticism, his feel for the game.”

I was on a Boston radio station Tuesday talking NBA Finals when Berry’s comments came up, and for obvious reasons they are partial to Larry Bird. Deservedly so — this is a guy who, along with Magic Johnson, helped change the trajectory of the NBA. LeBron is not the international star he is now without Bird.

But LeBron is the better player.

LeBron is not as good at trash talking, not as good a pure shooter, but in terms of the overall game he is better. If you want to argue that today Bird has a better legacy — three titles in particular — than LeBron, you can make that case. But when LeBron hangs them up that argument will be different.

Part of what makes these finals interesting is LeBron James is in legacy mode.

That’s part of why he is back in Cleveland — bringing the first professional sports title to Cleveland since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration helps that legacy. It’s why he is constantly compared to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant — we need to measure LeBron against the other all-time greats, that’s where he is in his career.

That’s why Bird is in the conversation.

But Rick Barry is right.