Kurt Helin

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One

Reports: Nets have strong interest in Tom Thibodeau as coach, will hire GM first

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Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for getting the most out of players, pushing them hard and getting them to play over their heads.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to need a lot of that in the coming years, considering the state of their rebuilding efforts.

So it makes sense that the Nets have interest in Thibodeau to take over as their coach, but they want to hire a GM first, reports Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo at ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, while in the early stages of a search for both a new lead executive and a new coach in the wake of ousting general manager Billy King and Lionel Hollins, are likely to pursue Thibodeau once they can secure a successor to King….

…there is a growing sense in league circles that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to hire established NBA names with considerable experience in the league. Because of that, the appeal of Thibodeau is obvious. As perhaps the most accomplished coach available, Thibodeau posted a record of 255-139 (.647) during his five seasons in Chicago.

Does Thibodeau switch pizza style loyalties based on who pays him?

It’s easy to understand the appeal of Thibodeau, he had fantastic success with the Bulls. But you can ask John Paxson and Gar Forman in Chicago how much it matters that whoever gets the GM job in Brooklyn is on the same page as the strong-willed Thibodeau. This is a guy who pushes back against analytics or suggestions of resting players, and he has strong opinions on what kinds of players he will want on his roster.

The Nets have a massive rebuilding project ahead — they do not control their own first-round pick until 2019, and no matter what owner Mikhail Prokhorov thinks this is going to take years — so picking the best GM for that rebuild is the most important decision. By far. Then they can worry about the coach.

Cavs’ Timofey Mozgov riding a bear? We can show you that.

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In case you missed one of the best and most unexpected tweets of the season six weeks ago, Dave McMenamin (who covers the Cavaliers for ESPN) tweeted this.

The Cavaliers’ marketing team was on it. Just too bad they had to CGI the bear.

Report: Rockets considering trades, but hard cap meant patience choice

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: James Harden #13 and Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets walk off the court during a first half timeout against the Washington Redskins at Verizon Center on December 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets are hard capped this season. GM Daryl Morey thought he had put together a contender — they had reached the Western Conference Finals last season and added Ty Lawson — so taking the hard cap on (by using part of their mid-level exception to bring them close to the apron) to bring in rookie second rounder Montrezl Harrell seemed a wise move.

Except things did not go smoothly for the Rockets to start the season, and suddenly having that hard cap became a problem. Calvin Watson explained it well at ESPN.

Make no mistake, the desire to trade players remains despite the improved record. The Rockets talked to teams about trades regarding forward Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. Ty Lawson’s reps sought more playing time elsewhere and there was a report Dwight Howard wanted out, something he disputed.

When the Rockets signed second-round pick Montrezl Harrell to a three-year, $3.1 million deal during the summer, it used a portion of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, pushing them to the apron level of a hard salary cap of $88.7 million. Morey is limited in what he can do because he can’t take on a huge salary for this season with the hard cap.

The Rockets have won five in a row, they are playing better on defense, and things flow better with Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup and Ty Lawson off the bench. Still, the Rockets are not the title contenders they expected to be and Morey would love to make moves at the deadline to strengthen this team.

He just tied his own hands and can’t make any big ones.

Wyclef Jean sings plea for you to vote Zaza Pachulia into All-Star game

Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia (27) and guard Raymond Felton (2) talk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Associated Press
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When you’re looking for reasons the Dallas Mavericks are a surprise fifth in the Western Conference this season, you need to mention Zaza Pachulia.

The center they picked up as a Plan B (or maybe “C”) after DeAndre Jordan changed his mind is having his best season ever, with a true shooting percentage of 57 and a PER of 18.9. Impressive numbers, although not quite All-Star status.

Pachulia is eighth in the voting for the Western Conference front court, ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, and within 4,000 votes of Tim Duncan. The people of Georgia (the country, not the state) are speaking.

Now Pachulia will get a boost stateside thanks to rapper Wyclef Jean.

If Justin Bieber can’t bump Chris Paul into being a starter, it’s hard to imagine Jean helping Pachulia make up the 200,000 votes it would take to pass Draymond Green for the final starting spot in the West.

But it’s cool anyway.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

When will Blake Griffin return? Depends if you ask him or Doc Rivers.

Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The last time we saw Blake Griffin on a basketball court, it was Christmas Day against the Lakers. Griffin suffered a partially torn left quad. He’s missed nine games — and the Clippers have won all nine (they have a 10-game winning streak). The Clippers without Griffin run more of a spread pick-and-roll, Cole Aldrich has stepped up with some strong play, and everyone seems happy.

Still, the Clippers are better when Griffin is on the court, so when will he return?

Depends on who you ask.

This was Griffin himself after practice Friday, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

Next Thursday the Clippers head out on that five-game road trip, which includes stops to face the Knicks, Raptors, Pacers, and Hawks. The Clippers could use Griffin in that stretch. But two days ago, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t expect Griffin that soon. From the Los Angeles Daily News:

“He’s running, which is nice and he looked great yesterday just moving around the gym,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before tipoff against the Heat. “But I think this thing is going to take time, if you want me to be honest. And I don’t know what that actually means.

“But I don’t think we should look for him any time soon.”

Players often tend to think they will return to the court more quickly than trainers or coaches will let them. That said, I’m not sure that’s the case here, Griffin has missed a chunk of time, but it sounds as if his recovery is coming along well. Barring any setbacks, I expect we will see him return to the court late next week or the week after — just like Griffin himself predicted.