Kurt Helin

Billy Donovan

Five Coaches who may replace Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City

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Scott Brooks has been fired as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Rule No. 1 for an NBA GM is “keep your talent” — firing Brooks was all about keeping Kevin Durant in OKC. Durant is a free agent in 2016. (Then Russell Westbrook becomes a free agent the following summer.) It is imperative the Thunder win next season to make it much harder for Durant to leave.

Thunder GM Sam Presti gambled making this move without consulting Durant, but Durant backs it. Now the pressure is on Presti — he wants a more modern offense, not the conventional and predictable one Brooks ran. He wants a coach who can elevate the team. Like Phil Jackson taking over for Doug Collins in Toronto. Like Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson in Golden State.

So who will be the next coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder? Who will be trusted to upgrade their offense to take better advantage of all that talent? Here are the top five names out there.

1) Billy Donovan. The early buzz around the league is if the Florida coach wants the gig he can have it. He has a relationship with OKC’s Presti. You can add to that rumors floating around Donovan will jump to the NBA for the “right” opportunity — even Donovan’s former Gator star Bradley Beal said he thinks he is destined for the NBA. There are not many opportunities that are more “right” than OKC. Front offices around the NBA like Donovan. He is believed to have the Xs and Os chops to make the jump, plus he is a strong motivator.

I’m not sure this makes a ton of sense. My question for OKC: Are you sure a first-year coach out of the college ranks is your guy who can elevate this team to the highest levels of the NBA? That is a massive gamble. On the other side, if you’re Donovan you have to ask Durant his intentions — if you make the jump to Oklahoma City and Durant leaves in a year (which likely is followed by Westbrook leaving the year after) you’ve left a quality, secure college gig for a tough rebuild in the NBA. Will he take that risk?

2) Kevin Ollie. The UConn coach is another college guy a number of NBA teams have had their eye on, a high IQ guy who comes with 13 years of NBA background as a player. Why he becomes interesting to the Thunder is Ollie’s final NBA season was in Oklahoma City with Durant and KD has gushed about how much he learned from and looked up to Ollie. This is a hiring that would get the Kevin Durant seal of approval, and reportedly Ollie is interested. For me, the two questions that apply to Donovan apply to Ollie: Is OKC sure a young college coach is the guy to take an NBA team from good to great? And does Ollie really want to give up one of the best gigs in college hoops for this risk if Durant might well bolt?

3) Tom Thibodeau. He is currently still a little busy, what with coaching the Chicago Bulls and all (who likely advance to the second round of the playoffs). That said, rumors continue to swirl around the NBA out of Chicago that after this season the friction between Thibodeau and Gar Forman will finally be enough for the Bulls to send Thibs packing. If so, the Thunder have to consider him — this is a guy who has proven he can elevate a team. The Thunder defense will get better instantly. Tell him he has to hire an offensive guru as an assistant if you must, but you’re not going to find a better, harder-working coach. And one that has a relationship with Durant and Westbrook through USA Basketball. That said, he costs bank to hire. Would the Thunder be willing to give up a future first rounder to get him out of Chicago?

4) Alvin Gentry. Last season he was Doc Rivers’ lead assistant in charge of the offense, and the Clippers had the best offense in the NBA. This season he’s Steve Kerr’s lead assistant and the guy behind the innovative offense in Golden State offense Presti covets. If you want a modern offense, he’s your guy. He didn’t elevate teams he was coached before (the 2010 Suns got to the conference Finals but lost to Lakers), but is he ready now? The Thunder would have to be patient until the Warriors’ playoff run is over (that’s likely at least a month away, maybe six weeks). Maybe make him bring in a defensive guru as an assistant, but while some would say this is a retread hire it might be the perfect fit.

5) Mark Jackson. His name will come up, as it does for virtually every vacancy. His players in Golden State loved him, ran through walls for him, and they won. He built the foundation that the Warriors grew off of this season. That said, two problems here. First, he’s not the guy who did the elevating with the Warriors. If you thought Brooks ran conventional, predictable sets you should go watch film of Jackson’s Warriors. Second, he created an “us vs. the world” mentality in the locker room where the world included team management. There was a lot of friction. Not sure the Thunder invite that into their house.

PBT Extra: Injuries to stars not reason Scott Brooks is out in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three
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Scott Brooks is out as the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There will people wondering how he could get fired after a season where both Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka were injured. It’s not Brooks’ fault the Thunder didn’t make the playoffs.

That’s not why he was fired, and that’s what I discuss in this PBT Extra. This is all about keeping Durant, who is a free agent in 2016. There were many around the league who questioned if the Thunder could win the big games with Brooks’ simplistic offensive sets (which too often devolved into Durant or Westbrook isolations). OKC is looking for an upgrade. Sort of a Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr kind of move.

We’ll see if Billy Donovan (or Kevin Ollie or Fred Hoiberg) can be that guy, or if OKC decides to try the route of a more trusted current NBA assistant. But they are rolling the dice with a big bet on the line.

Chandler Parsons out for rest of playoffs, likely will need knee surgery

Dallas Mavericks Host Season Ticket Holders at Six Flags Over Texas
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Murphy’s Law is hitting the Dallas Mavericks hard.

They are down 0-2 to the Houston Rockets in their first round playoff matchup. Rajon Rondo is now out indefinitely because he is a terrible fit with their team has a back injury and is seeking a second medical opinion on it.

Now this: Chandler Parsons is out for the rest of the playoffs with a right knee injury and is exploring surgical options, the team has announced.

There is no timetable on Parsons or word if he can return by the start of next season.

Parsons was the big free agent the Mavericks poached from the Rockets last summer. Also, he was key for them in this series — he’s the guy who could spend time guarding James Harden and, more importantly, make Harden expend energy on the defensive end. Parsons played 36 minutes in the series opener and had 10 points, but wasn’t the factor Dallas needed him to be.

It feels like the end is coming for Dallas sooner rather than later in this first round series.

Report: Mavericks rule out Rajon Rondo indefinitely with “back injury”

Rajon Rondo
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We may have seen the last of Rajon Rondo in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.

Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle yanked Rondo :36 seconds into the second half of Tuesday’s Game 2 loss to the Rockets, when Rondo picked up two fouls and a technical in just more than half a minute. Dallas was better off without him — he has played 37 minutes against the Rockets in two games and is a -35 on the court.

Now he is done, likely for the playoffs, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Reports have come out saying Rondo was playing through a sore back in the playoffs, then some contact he took during Game 2 aggravated the issue. Let’s say I’m skeptical it’s that bad, but this is the report.

Back injury or no, this is the smart play by Dallas. It says everything you need to know about how bad things have gotten with Rondo and the Mavericks that Dallas is just better when Raymond Felton is on the court instead of Rondo.

This also is almost certainly the end of Rondo in a Dallas uniform.

Dallas traded for Rondo back in December, giving up a quality young defensive big in Brandan Wright, for the chance to improve their perimeter defense. But from the start Rondo was a bad fit in Dallas. He and coach Rick Carlisle clashed over control of the offense. Plus Rondo’s lack of shooting — and his not being surrounded the quality of shooters he had when at his peak in Boston — allowed teams to pack it in and dare Rondo to shoot jumpers. Rondo still hasn’t developed a jumper.

Rondo will be moving on this summer. He’s not getting a max, and it will be interesting to see how many years a team would give him right now.

Rockets’ Jason Terry fined $5,000 for flop against Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game Two
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Congratulations to Houston’s Jason Terry — you’ve picked up the first flopping fine of the postseason.

Terry was fined $5,000 by the league for a flop on Tuesday night in Houston. The first offense in the playoffs gets a fine (there are no warnings, like in the regular season).

Midway through the third quarter Terry was out high guarding Dallas’ J.J. Barea, when Barea went to his right to use a Dirk Nowitzki pick. Terry ran into the pick and fell like he was hit with a taser. The officials were not buying it, no foul was called and one of referees even motioned for Terry to get up and keep on playing.

It was certainly a flop, although I’ve seem more egregious ones not called.

Houston went on to win the game thanks to the exploits of Josh Smith and Dwight Howard. Houston now has a 2-0 series lead, and with that Terry isn’t going to be too worried about this fine.