Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Report: Kings interviewed Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson for head coaching job

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Things that would anger the Sacramento Kings fan base include…

Vlade Divac is undertaking a broad search for the next Kings coach, and on Monday that search included sitting down with former NBA coach Vinny Del Negro for an interview, with Mike Woodson up next, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Sacramento Kings interviewed Vinny Del Negro for the franchise’s head-coaching job on Monday, league sources told The Vertical. Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson is expected to meet with Kings officials as soon as Tuesday for an interview, league sources said.

Del Negro is not a name the fan base wants to hear, but he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro has a career winning percentage of .533, his teams have never finished below .500, and the last season he coached he won 56 games with the Clippers. He’s been pretty good at developing young players, including Derrick Rose. That said, there are certainly things he can be criticized for: simplistic offenses, his heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and his treatment of players. Remember Del Negro tore down DeAndre Jordan to the point he was useless late in games; his Clippers’ replacement Doc Rivers, in turn, has built him up and made Jordan a third team All-NBA player. Also, point guard Rose and Chris Paul did better with the next coaches they had because the systems gave them more options (to be fair, he was replaced by two of the best in Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers).

Mike Woodson’s teams in Atlanta may be remembered for their “iso-Joe” offenses centered around Joe Johnson, but his teams also won more games every season and were a playoff threat annually. His teams usually defend well.

Expect a lot of first interviews by the Kings. What will be interesting is who gets second interviews.

Unlike past Kings’ coaching hires, Divac will be the voice making the final call on this one, according to reports. In the past, hands-on owner Vivek Ranadive had a much larger role in the process. The new system of letting the basketball guys make the basketball decisions is a good one.

Watch DeAndre Jordan airball back-to-back free throws

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Ouch.

We haven’t seen as much hack-a-Jordan as I feared this series, but the Portland Trail Blazers have wisely sent the Clipper big man to the foul line every time they can when he gets the ball inside. Monday night that led to this ugly sequence (in a night of ugly sequences for the Clippers).

The series is knotted up 2-2. Don’t be shocked if we start to see more and more Jordan at the free throw line in the coming games.

Report: Lakers to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for head coaching job

Associated Press
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He would be a good hire, albeit on that might be hard to sell to a fan base looking for a bigger name.

The Lakers are expected to sit down soon with Spurs lead assistant coach Ettore Messina, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Lakers have received permission from the San Antonio Spurs to interview their lead assistant coach, Ettore Messina, as a possible replacement for the recently departed Byron Scott. It is unclear how soon the team plans to interview Messina, the widely-respected Italian coach who won four Euroleague titles and was twice the Euroleague coach of the year before spending the 2011-12 NBA season on the Lakers coaching staff headed by Mike Brown.

The Kings also reportedly are interested in Messina. He would have a little time to interview right now as the Spurs are off after sweeping Memphis in the first round (they start the second round against Oklahoma City on Saturday).

Messina knows the game well and how to coach it — one of his EuroLeague titles came from a team led by a young Manu Ginobili, who still sings his praises. Messina’s teams in Europe tended to work inside out (through post ups or penetration) with good passing big men taking advantage of proper spacing to find shooters. His teams also push the tempo, and he likes things like drag screens in the secondary break. If you want to understand him better, read this letter he wrote back in 2007 for Ball in Europe. Also, don’t compare him to recent European coaching import David Blatt, Messina doesn’t quite that same ego.

The Lakers have Luke Walton on top of their coaching short list, but if he decides he doesn’t want the job Messina would be a great hire. Just maybe a tougher sell to a fan base expecting a bigger name.

It’s not just Chris Paul, Clippers’ Blake Griffin 50/50 for Game 5 with quad injury

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Monday night was about as rough a night as Doc Rivers could have imagined — his Clippers lost to the Blazers, tying the series at 2-2, and that wasn’t the worst part of the night. Chris Paul suffered a broken hand that almost certainly means he is done for the season.

But that wasn’t the only significant injury, the Clippers could be without Blake Griffin in Game 5 as well Doc Rivers said.

Remember it was the quad that originally kept Griffin out injured last December — while he was out he punched a team employee and broke his hand, which added months to his time off — and it was that quad that in part delayed his return from that broken hand. It’s not going away.

If the Clippers have to start Austin Rivers and Paul Pierce in the place of Paul and Griffin, Game 5 just became a massive challenge. Even if it’s in Los Angeles.

Russell Westbrook may not be superstar but is Mavericks killer, drops 36 in Thunder’s series clinching win

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Mark Cuban says Russell Westbrook is not a superstar.

Ooookay. We know this for sure — Westbrook is very good at basketball. And he plays even better when angry. Which he appeared to be Monday night.

Westbrook had 36 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists, which when combined with 33 points from the one Cuban-approved Thunder Superstar in Kevin Durant proved to be too much for Dallas.

The Thunder won Game 5 118-104, taking the series 4-1 from the Mavericks.

Oklahoma City will tip off the second round in San Antonio Saturday.

After the game, Mavericks coach Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said that the Thunder’s two superstars were fantastic. Two. He was right. Westbrook spoke with his game; Durant spoke with some words, too.

Dallas own superstar Dirk Nowitzki was fantastic all series — he led Dallas with 24 points on 16 shots. The German future Hall of Famer played to the point exhaustion in the last couple of games. He did all he could, but he did not have the talent around him to match up with OKC. For example, the starting Dallas backcourt of Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews were 8-of-25 shooting in this game.

Hopefully, we get to see Nowitzki for at least another year — he can still flat out play the game.

Oklahoma City pulled away down the stretch as Billy Donovan did the smart thing he didn’t always do during the regular season — he played his impressive starting lineup. It went on a late 11-0 run that put the game away. That group defends well, and when Durant and Westbrook are scoring that lineup becomes more dangerous. Expect to see more of that against the Spurs, although that team defends a whole lot better than OKC.

Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Dion Waiters added 11 points.

The Thunder get a few days off, then the Western Conference playoffs start to bet very serious.