Kurt Helin

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder

Report: Thunder may let coach Scott Brooks go, will take time deciding his future

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Oklahoma City likes Scott Brooks. The core Thunder players grew up in the league with him and bonded with him. He’s got good friends and supporters in the organization.

But is he the guy that can lead the Thunder to an NBA title? There are plenty of people around the league who said no — and said it long before this injury-plagued season. They say his offense, his Xs and Os, hold the team back.

With so much on the line next season — Kevin Durant will be a free agent after in the summer of 2016 and it would be much harder for him to walk away wearing a ring — the Thunder are going to closely evaluate whether or not to bring Brooks back, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to spend time evaluating the partnership with coach Scott Brooks before committing to bring him back for the final year on his contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Brooks is well liked within the organization and has forged close relationships with management and players in his seven years as head coach. Several league sources close to Brooks have doubts about his job security.

First off, this isn’t about the Thunder missing the playoffs this season. With the injuries to Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, this team would have been a shell of itself no matter who sat in the big chair. Nobody is winning a title without those guys on this team.

This is all about keeping Durant and winning a title next season.

Which means Durant — and Westbrook — should have a voice in the decision. Management needs to talk to them, not follow what they say, but talk to them. Make your stars feel listened to and appreciated.

The knock on Brooks is his offensive sets are simplistic and common, lack good spacing or weakside movement, and if you blow them up the Thunder just fall back to Durant or Westbrook isolations. It just works because those guys are so good. While his critics concede Brooks was good at player development bringing up this Thunder core, they don’t think he’s the guy who can take them over the top.

Wojnarowski lists Florida coach Billy Donovan as a potential replacement. That seems a questionable call — not that Donovan can’t be a very good NBA coach, a lot of front offices like him. But if you’re ditching your coach because you need a guy to get you a ring, do you go to a college coach with no NBA experience? That’s a massive risk.

If the Thunder do this — and that is still a big if, he may well be back in OKC for an eighth season — GM Sam Presti needs to have a very good replacement lined up already. He can’t just go fishing and hope for something better.

If Brooks is let go, he would have little trouble finding another job. Both Orlando and Denver would be interested, Wojnarowski reports. As other job openings come up, there would be other teams interested.

This is going to be interesting to watch.

Anthony Davis runs it coast-to-coast for slam (VIDEO)

Anthony Davis, Dante Cunningham
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This is why I’m excited to see Anthony Davis in the playoffs.

Not the Pelicans will last long against the Warriors, but Davis is an elite star at age 22 who needs a bigger stage. You can see it in this one play. He grabs the tipped ball against the Spurs and is off to the races,he is  able to bring it up himself and throw it down with authority.

More of that please. Davis had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the upset of the Spurs Wednesday

Davis had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the upset of the Spurs Wednesday that vaulted New Orleans into the playoffs. He will be a handful for Golden STate.

 

Russell Westbrook wins NBA scoring title, says it means “nothing”

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Someday, Russell Westbrook will look back with pride on the 2014-15 season, when he won the NBA scoring crown.

Wednesday was not that day.

Westbrook put up 37 points on the final night of the season — 34 in the first half — to finish with an average of 28.1 points a game, just beating out James Harden for the NBA scoring title.

However, as it has been too often lately for the Thunder, Westbrook’s heroic efforts were not enough. Those efforts were enough for the Thunder to beat the Timberwolves 138-113 on the final day of the season, but with the Pelicans beating the Spurs the Thunder are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

So don’t ask Westbrook about his scoring title, which someone did anyway because it’s their job. Here’s Westbrook’s response, via Royce Young of ESPN.

He’s understandably frustrated.

Still, this is an historic accomplishment. Westbrook and Kevin Durant became the first back-to-back NBA scoring title winners on the same team since Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston of the Philadephia Warriors in 1952 and 1953. It’s been a while.

For Westbrook, his play — a ridiculous run of 11 triple-doubles this year — brought him out of the shadow of Durant in the eyes of casual fans who often asked, “why doesn’t he pass more like a real point guard?” Or, “why won’t he play Robin to Durant’s Batman?”

Because the Thunder have two Batmen. That is clear now.

Westbrook missed 13 games due to a broken hand, plus suffered a nasty facial fracture that required him to wear a mask. None of it slowed him. In a season where Durant was out much of the time battling foot injuries, Westbrook carried the Thunder offense and the team to the brink of the playoffs. Just not one step more.

Someday Westbrook can look back on this season’s effort with pride. But that day is not today.

Here are all the playoff matchups, game dates for the first round

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers
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Finally.

It took until close to midnight on the East Coast on the final day of the season, but we finally have the NBA playoffs matchups set.

The best first round series is in the West, where the Los Angeles Clippers takes on the San Antonio Spurs in a series where both teams have dreams of the conference finals and beyond. That is going to be a war.

Also out West, the Warriors face the Pelicans (Anthony Davis vs. Stephen Curry, two of the game’s great young stars), the Rockets face the Mavericks in a rivalry series, and Portland and Memphis face off in a battle to see which team is less injured.

In the East, it’s Atlanta vs. Brooklyn, Cleveland vs. Boston, Chicago vs. Milwaukee in a defensive battle, and Toronto vs. Washington in a series of two teams in about the same place on their development curve.

Here is the full list of game times and broadcasts schedules, as we know them now.

The * means the game is if necessary.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Golden State vs. 8. New Orleans

Game 1 – Sat. at Golden State 3:30PM ABC
Game 2 – April 20 at Golden State 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – April 23 at New Orleans 9:30PM TNT
Game 4 – April 25 at New Orleans 8:00PM ESPN
Game 5 * April 28 at Golden State TBD
Game 6 * May 1 at New Orleans TBD
Game 7 * May 3 at Golden State TBD

2. Houston vs. 7. Dallas

Game 1 – Sat at Houston 9:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – April 21 at Houston 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 – April 24 at Dallas 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – April 26 at Dallas 9:30PM TNT
Game 5 * April 28 at Houston TBD
Game 6 * April 30 at Dallas TBD
Game 7 * May 2 at Houston TBD

3. L.A. Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio

Game 1 – Sun at L.A. Clippers 10:30PM TNT
Game 2 – April 22 at L.A. Clippers 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – April 24 at San Antonio 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – April 26 at San Antonio 3:30PM ABC
Game 5 * April 28 at L.A. Clippers TBD
Game 6 * April 30 at San Antonio TBD
Game 7 * May 2 at L.A. Clippers TBD

4. Portland vs. 5. Memphis

Game 1 – Sun. at Memphis 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 – April 22 at Memphis 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – April 25 at Portland 10:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – April 27 at Portland 10:30PM TNT
Game 5 * April 29 at Memphis TBD
Game 6 * May 1 at Portland TBD
Game 7 * May 3 at Memphis TBD

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Atlanta vs. 8. Brooklyn

Game 1 – Sun at Atlanta 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 – April 22 at Atlanta 7:00PM NBA TV
Game 3 – April 25 at Brooklyn 3:00PM TNT
Game 4 – April 27 at Brooklyn TBD
Game 5 * April 29 at Atlanta TBD
Game 6 * May 1 at Brooklyn TBD
Game 7 * May 3 at Atlanta TBD

2. Cleveland vs. 7. Boston

Game 1 – Sun at Cleveland 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 – April 21 at Cleveland 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 – April 23 at Boston 7:00PM TNT
Game 4 – April 26 at Boston 1:00PM ABC
Game 5 * April 28 at Cleveland TBD
Game 6 * April 30 at Boston TBD
Game 7 * May 2 at Cleveland TBD

3. Chicago vs. 6. Milwaukee

Game 1 – Sat at Chicago 7:00PM ESPN
Game 2 – April 20 at Chicago 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – April 23 at Milwaukee 8:00PM NBA TV
Game 4 – April 25 at Milwaukee 5:30PM TNT
Game 5 * April 27 at Chicago TBD
Game 6 * April 30 at Milwaukee TBD
Game 7 * May 2 at Chicago TBD

4. Toronto vs. 5. Washington

Game 1 – Sat. at Toronto 12:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – April 21 at Toronto 8:00PM NBA TV
Game 3 – April 24 at Washington 8:00PM ESPN2
Game 4 – April 26 at Washington 7:00PM TNT
Game 5 * April 29 at Toronto TBD
Game 6 * May 1 at Washington TBD
Game 7 * May 3 at Toronto TBD

Nets pull away in fourth to beat Magic, put pressure on Pacers for final playoff slot

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Wednesday night was supposed to be easy for Brooklyn: They were the desperate playing for their playoff lives, and Brooklyn was facing an Orlando team that was just waiting to make tee times. Besides, the Magic weren’t very good anyway (the Nets had 12 more wins coming in).

It wasn’t easy.

With just more than 9 minutes left in the game Orlando led 82-81.

But the Nets responded with a 17-4 run at that point and pulled away in the fourth quarter behind a career-high 28 points from rookie Bojan Bogdanovic.

The win puts the pressure on Indiana, which has to beat Memphis to secure the eighth and final playoff seed in the East. If not, Brooklyn will be back in the postseason thanks to this victory.

Former Net now Wizard Paul Pierce questioned the toughness of Brooklyn veterans such as Deron Williams (10 points, 7 assists) and Joe Johnson (16 points on 15 shots), it was the European rookie who was key. Bogdanovic hit 12-of-17 shots, was 4-of-8 from three and was a +19 on the night.

Those veterans made plays, too, and the Nets played some defense when it mattered. Once the Magic took that 82-81 lead in the fourth, they didn’t score another point for 4:43. Meanwhile Johnson hit a running jumper; Williams got to the bucket for a layup, then Johnson hit a couple jumpers, one a three, and the Nets has pulled away.

You can say the Nets should have more than 38 wins with their league-high payroll of more than $88 million ($7 million more than second-place Cleveland), but they will take the playoff ticket if they can get it.