Kurt Helin

Chris Paul, Doc Rivers

Chris Paul to play vs. Warriors; J. J. Redick “most likely” will not

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LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul, who had missed the last couple Clippers games with a groin strain, will suit up and play against the Golden State Warriors in a much-anticipated showdown on Thursday night.

After playing down his chances the last couple days, Doc Rivers said pregame that Chris Paul had “looked normal, looked great” in practice Wednesday and went through shootaround on Thursday. He was on the court 90 minutes before tip-off at Staples Center going through his usual warmup routine.

CP3 needs to be on the court (and Austin Rivers needs to be coming off the bench) if the Clippers are going to hand the Warriors their first loss of the season. The Clipper offense settles down and is much smarter with Paul running the show — the Clippers score 14.1 more points per 100 possessions when he plays than when he sits. The Clipper defense is also 1.2 points per 100 better when he plays.

The Warriors are off to a 12-0 start. The fastest start for a defending champs in the ’95 Rockets, who started 15-0. If the Warriors win Thursday, they face a difficult back-to-back against the Bulls on Friday.

While CP3 is suiting up, J.J. Redick is “most likely” out for the Clippers, Rivers said. Rivers is still recovering from back spasms. Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton wasn’t buying it, saying he was prepping as if Redick would play — and Redick was on the court 45 minutes before the game getting up some shots. If Redick does not play it means extended minutes for Jamal Crawford, something that could be a defensive challenge for the Clippers against the NBA’s best backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

The Warriors will be without Shaun Livingston, their backup point guard.

LeBron James praises David Blatt: He’s as good as any coach in league

David Blatt, LeBron James
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are off to an 8-3 start without their All-Star point guard, and they have a top-10 offense and defense.

That’s impressive. While LeBron James himself doesn’t think it’s “send Bruce Willis to blow up the asteroid” worthy, he still expects more.

Here is what LeBron said, as reported by Dave McMenamin at ESPN. And whatever you do, don’t try to lay this at the feet of coach David Blatt.

“I’m not sitting up here saying it’s Armageddon or anything like that,” James said as the Cavs prepared to host the Milwaukee Bucks. “But we need to play better ball. Until we own that, we won’t get better….

“Coach got on us pretty well, rightfully so, which he should have,” James said of David Blatt. “We spent about 45 minutes in the film room, so [Wednesday] was not a day off. It was a day off from the court but not from us preparing and still getting better….

“He does his job as great as any coach can do in this league,” James said. “It’s up to us to go out and produce.”

Any time LeBron throws praise toward David Blatt, it’s news. Sure, if LeBron wants to run a play/choose a defensive set/coach the team then he will get his way. LeBron has the power in this relationship. But watch the Cavaliers at the end of games this season and they are running more Blatt-like sets than LeBron isolations, and there seems to be an understanding between LeBron and his coach.

That’s one of the things that needs to happen if the Cavaliers are going to contend for a title.

Ty Lawson pled guilty to Denver DUI arrest

Kevin McHale, Ty Lawson
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Within six months, Ty Lawson suffered two DUI arrests — one in Denver and one in Los Angeles. The combination sent hm into rehab.

This week Lawson pled guilty to the Denver incident, reports TMZ.

The Rockets point guard was arrested in January after he was pulled over by police in Denver. The cops smelled alcohol and said he had slurred speech … Ty ultimately failed his field sobriety test. Ty pled guilty to driving while ability impaired, as well as failure to drive in a single lane. He faces up to 180 days in jail.

Despite the multiple DUI arrests, I would be surprised if Lawson does any jail time for them, the fact he apologized and went to rehab should keep him a free man. Whether that is fair or not is a very different question. In an overcrowded court system, a guy who looks like he is trying to right the ship gets the benefit of the doubt.

Lawson has struggled in Houston, where he has shot 31.8 percent overall and been part of the problem with the Rockets’ slow start. He is shooting 25.7 percent from three and has not meshed with James Harden at all. New coach J.B. Bickerstaff took Lawson out of the starting lineup on Wednesday, then when Lawson started 1-of-8 shooting benched him for the fourth quarter. He’s going to have to earn his minutes now.

Danny Ainge has already offered Kevin McHale a job in Boston

Kevin McHale
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Kevin McHale is out of work — but not for long.

The Rockets fired McHale on Wednesday, but the sense around the league is he will have another job sooner rather than later. He was a great fit before doing television at NBA TV and other networks and could be back as an analyst as soon as he wants the gig.

But if he intends to stay on the basketball side of operations, Boston’s Danny Ainge has already offered McHale a front office job, Ainge told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“I’ve always tried to get Kevin to come work with me and work with my big guys,” said Celtic president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Herald….

“I told Kevin that today,” said Ainge, who is on the road scouting college games. “We’ve got a spot for him. I know we could figure something out for him in some capacity, but I think he’s just in a wait and see mode.

“He appreciated me reaching out to him, but I think he’s just going to lay low. He’s probably got bigger and better things to do — or more relaxing things to do.

“He’ll have some opportunities in TV, and maybe when the dust settles I can get him out to teach the slippery eel to Kelly [Olynyk] and Sully [Jared Sullinger] and Amir [Johnson],” Ainge added with a laugh, referring to one of his old Celtic teammate’s inside moves.

McHale should work with some of the young centers in Boston and around the league — his footwork as a big man was as good as you will ever see. That said, everyone expects him to slide into a television role, relax for a little while, and then pick his spot if he returns to an NBA team in some capacity.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Turns out Houston players can try

James Harden, Mason Plumlee, Damian Lillard
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The big news in the NBA on Wednesday afternoon was the Rockets’ firing coach Kevin McHale 11 games into the season, hoping to shake up the team and finally get a strong effort. The big question Wednesday night would be would the move pay off? In case you were challenging your friends to fights with Klingon weapons, here are five things to know from a Wednesday night around the NBA:

1) Would you look at that: Rockets players’ can play all out after all. If you just looked at the box score, you’d see James Harden went off for 45 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists the day after his coach was fired and teammates called out his effort. From there you could draw the conclusion, “Harden finally played like his old self.” Not really, his jumper was a mess most of the night, but to his credit he started to attack the rim and made some critical plays down the stretch. In that sense, he was more his old self. More importantly, he was trying. Harden said after the game something needed to change, apparently McHale losing his job qualifies. Harden was giving a legitimate effort — and so was the entire team. They played harder on defense, and they got back in transition, they did not give up.

All that said, the reality is the Rockets were more lucky that good to get an overtime win against Portland — Houston was down 15 in the fourth quarter, and nine points with three minutes left. They needed this miracle from Corey Brewer to even get to OT.

In his first game, J.B. Bickerstaff did some smart things — such as making Ty Lawson come off the bench, then when he was an ice-cold 1-of-8 shooting, keeping Lawson out the entire fourth quarter. Bickerstaff got the win and you should expect to see more of that, even though that’s more about timing than coaching. Bickerstaff was given the keys to the team right now for a reason — the Rockets’ schedule gets soft, in addition to Portland they face Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and plenty of other teams still under .500 the next few weeks. Even if they had kept McHale, the Rockets would have won a bunch of those games. But the Rockets made the change, and it worked for a night. And it lit a fire under Harden (which was part of the goal).

2) Sixers become first franchise ever to start 0-12 in consecutive years. The Indiana Pacers took charge of the contest in the second quarter with a 16-4 run and never looked back, picking up the 112-85 win. Philadelphia had zero answers for Paul George, save for trying to play six guys at a time at one point (which remains against the rules and led to a technical.) Then there were the 31 Sixer turnovers on the night (watch them all here):

Trust the process. This loss dropped the Sixers to 0-12 on the season — Philly is now the only franchise in NBA history to start back-to-back seasons with o-12 records or worse (they were 0-14 last season). Trust the process. There are some fans and some minority owners frustrated with the volume of losing, but the only voices that matter are still on board with the process. The thing is right now they have to trust the process — the Sixers very possibly could have two top-five picks next June (their own plus the Lakers’ pick if it is outside the top three), not to mention a couple of others in the first round come June (depending on where teams finish and the protections on the picks). Right now the Sixers need to remain committed to making their picks high ones. But the frustration with losing — 22 in a row if you go back to last season — is mounting in some quarters.

3) Orlando’s Evan Fournier drains game winner to beat Minnesota. Scott Skiles was hired in Orlando to start winning games — and if that means benching young players Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, and Aaron Gordon for the entire second half, so be it. This isn’t about player development, it’s about wins. And Fournier — who has had an impressive start to the season — gave the Magic a dramatic victory with this shot.

4) Dunking on Rudy Gobert? That’s impressive DeMar DeRozanThis is not fair to Gobert — he had five blocks in this game and was key to Utah getting the win, plus he got the best of DeRozan on most of their encounters in this game. Gobert was the better player. But this still is the highlight everyone will see, and maybe the dunk of the year so far.

5) Russell Westbrook is a beast. I feel like that headline could be a permanent part of the five takeaways every night the Thunder play. Wednesday Westbrook had 43 points on just 25 shots, nine rebounds and eight assists to spark a Thunder victory over a struggling Pelicans squad. Enjoy the highlights, because he is a beast.