Kurt Helin

Austin Rivers says his father Doc’s mother passing was toughest thing he ever saw him deal with


LOS ANGELES — It was a very unexpected moment in the Doc Rivers’ pregame press conference.

He’d been asked about what he had to do to keep the spirits up of a young team that had just lost its two best players for the remainder of the playoffs and looked destined for quick elimination. The follow up question was who he leaned on to keep his spirits up? The usually loquacious and joking Rivers kind of stammered around an answer for 30 seconds, ending by saying “I don’t know.”

Then as an unrelated next question came, Rivers’ eyes filled up with tears. Rivers apologized, and said that the question about who he leaned on got him thinking about his late mother. “That would have been the person.” Rivers’ mother Bettye passed away almost a year ago, last June.

After the Clippers’ loss, Austin Rivers was asked about Bettye and his father’s relationship by Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“He doesn’t really share his life outside of basketball with me,” Austin said. “He and I don’t know each other like that. We know each other as strictly basketball. A lot of people on the outside don’t understand that because people think we have a relationship like every other father and son. We just don’t. That’s because he’s been gone my whole life, and that’s fine.

“It’s worked out for the both of us. But the one person he could always really be with was his mom. That’s the toughest thing I’ve ever seen him go through; more than the Sterling stuff and even when his dad passed away. His mom was everything to him. I’ve never seen him like that.”

Powerful stuff. And it gives you an insight into the sacrifices of NBA coaches.


Carmelo Anthony says he hasn’t spoken to Phil Jackson, wants a full-blown coaching search

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Phil Jackson reportedly sat down with David Blatt and interviewed him for the New York Knicks coaching job. But that felt like Jackson going through the motions so he could say “see, we had a coaching search.” Jackson has said he wants a coach that he has a relationship with and who is committed to running the triangle offense. Blatt is neither of those things.

All reports are that Jackson is pushing for the hiring of Kurt Rambis, who was the interim coach the second half of last season, and who is Jackson’s good friend.

That frustrates Carmelo Anthony, who was on Sirus XM NBA radio and reiterated that he wants to see a full-blown, wide-ranging coaching search — and that he thought Tom Thibodeau would have taken the job if offered. Anthony was interviewed on that show by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

“I’ve said this and I’ll continue to say it, there needs to be a process,” Anthony said. “As long as there’s a process and you go through the proper channels to figure out exactly what you need to do, I don’t have no problem with that. But if you don’t go through that process and at least look to see what’s out there, then we have a problem with that.”

Two coaches fell off the market in the last week when Washington hired Scott Brooks and Minnesota landed Tom Thibodeau. Jackson wasn’t interested in interviewing either candidate. The News reported that Anthony was privately endorsing Thibodeau, the former Knicks assistant and Coach of the Year in Chicago.

Would Thibodeau have taken the job? Difficult to say. He and Jackson would have been oil and water. Thibodeau got the dual GM and coach chairs in Minnesota, but there are conflicting sources on how much power he was seeking. It seems in places where he trusted ownership/management and felt he could work with them, he’d take less power. How he felt about Jackson is that situation, you can take your own guess.

When asked if he believed in what Jackson was doing, Anthony wondered if he had much of a choice.

“I have to. My fate is in his hands,” Anthony said. “I have to believe in him. If I believe that I’m going to be here, I don’t have anybody else to kind of put my fate in.”

The other option is for him not to be in New York.

Which may ultimately be where this is headed (and may ultimately be what Jackson wants), although Anthony holds a no-trade clause so he can leverage his departure to a team where he feels he can contend for a ring. The Knicks (or, Anthony’s agent) are going to have to find a team willing to take on his max contract with a 15 percent trade kicker — even in a market flooded with cash that will not be easy. Especially when you consider the volume and quality of players that would need to go back to New York to make that deal work under the cap.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the slow decline in Anthony’s game with age, and the fast rise of Kristaps Porzingis‘ game, intersect in a place that brings New York anywhere close to a ring. It may be time for both sides to move on, and this coaching search could be the catalyst to make that happen. Then again, Anthony loves New York, wants to win there, and has the ultimate hammer.

Three Things to Watch in NBA Thursday: Can Boston Garden ghosts help force Game 7?

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Only one game on the docket tonight but it’s from probably the best series of the first round — can the Atlanta Hawks close out the Boston Celtics on the road? Atlanta is up 3-2, and here are three things to watch:

1) How well is Isaiah Thomas moving? Thomas tweaked his ankle during the ugliness that was Game 5 for Boston, and the Celtics need him for Game 6 if they are going to extend this series. He has always said he was going to play, the question is how well he can play — Boston needs near 100 percent Thomas.

He’s the one Celtic who can create his own shots and set up others. In Game 5 the Hawks did a good job trapping and swarming Thomas off every pick-and-roll, taking it out of his hands and daring anyone else to beat them. Nobody did. In Game 6 look for Brad Stevens to do something Terry Stotts started doing for Portland vs. a swarming L.A. Clippers defense on Damian Lillard — isolations. It’s a break from what the Celtics did during the season, but Thomas himself mentioned the idea after the last game. Why bring another defender up into the play? If Thomas’ ankle is healthy enough for him to blow by guys in isolation, the Celtics offense is more likely bounce back.

2) Can Atlanta knock down its jump shots? The Xs and Os of this series are more complex, but in a lot of ways it comes down to this: Boston is daring Atlanta players not named Kyle Korver to shoot jumpers and beat them. In their Game 5 blowout win, the Hawks shot nearly 50 percent and had 13 three pointers total from seven different players. When those shots fall, when there is offensive balance like that, they are going to win. Can they do that on the road under pressure?

3) Can these Celtics summon the Garden magic? Closeout games are hard. Closeout games on the road are harder. But there is something about the Garden — the crowds, the ghosts, whatever it is this will be a tough one for the Hawks to win. That said, they have the right tools — including the Mike Scott/Paul Millsap lineups up front that have been very successful this series. Expect Scott to be the first big off the bench, subbing out Al Horford, again in this game. But can Boston get a huge game from Marcus Smart and Evan Turner, can Amir Johnson own the paint for a night, can Jae Crowder get back to doing his thing.

Historically, a series where the home team wins the first five games (as has happened in this series) sees the road team win Game 6 57 percent of the time. Boston needs everything in its bag of tricks to force a Game 7.

Fiancée Iggy Azalea saves Nick Young from ‘Born Reble’ back tattoo. Sort of.


Just a friendly reminder people: Tattoo artists are not copy editors.

Nick Young — still with the Lakers, for now — almost learned that the hard way, but his fiancée Iggy Azalea stepped in. She tweeted this out Wednesday:

But is this fixing it?

Young and Azalea were made for each other. That much is clear.

Damian Lillard gets hot in fourth, Trail Blazers pull away for win, 3-2 series lead vs. Clippers


LOS ANGELES — For three quarters, the shorthanded Clippers did one of the things they had to do to have a chance in the final games of this series: Stop Damian Lillard. The Clippers trapped him, aggressively challenged him, never let him get comfortable, even switched DeAndre Jordan out on to him at points. It worked, Lillard was 1-of-10 shooting for six points.

Then on the first possession of the fourth quarter, Lillard crossed-over Pablo Prigioni in transition, created space and hit a three. Less than two minutes later, the exhausted Clippers — mentally and physically — forgot to get on Lillard in transition and he drained another good look bucket. Suddenly he was feeling it.

“We know he can hit tough shots and once he gets an open look and he gets to see that ball gown in, his eyes kind of light up, and we know he’s going to finish the game off,” C.J. McCollum said.

Lillard did finish it off with 16 fourth quarter points sparking a 37-point quarter, turning a tied game after three into a 108-98 Portland win.

The Trail Blazers now have a 3-2 series lead heading back to Portland Friday night, where they can close it out against the Clippers. Win that game and they will get the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the second round on Sunday.

Without Chris Paul (fractured hand) and Blake Griffin (quad injury), Doc Rivers went experimental all night. He started Austin Rivers, Paul Pierce (who struggled all game), and Jamal Crawford in effort to find some offense. But it was his defense that got the job done in the first half.

The Clippers defensive philosophy didn’t change, they kept trapping Lillard and McCollum and daring anyone else to beat them. Maurice Harkless tried (17 first half points) but the defense worked as Lillard was 0-of-5 shooting in the first half and McCollum was 3-of-9. The Clippers held the Trail Blazers to 35.9 percent shooting in the first 24 minutes, and Los Angeles led 50-45 thanks to 10 points each from J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan. The third quarter saw each team make a nice run (McCollum had 10 in the quarter), but it was tied 71-71 with 12 minutes to go.

The fourth quarter was like a different game for Los Angeles. And Portland.

“Fatigue had a lot to do with it,” said Austin Rivers. “A lot of our guys were tired. We fought hard. We just made some simple mental mistakes and with Blake and Chris out, we cannot really afford to make mistakes. We do not have to be perfect, but we have to have perfect intentions.”

Doc Rivers emphasized it was more mental fatigue than physical — his team was hyped up to win and played well, but these are guys in new roles with larger minutes and it caught up with them.

Once Lillard got going, everything seemed to go the Blazers way — including threes banking in. Also, the Blazers in the second half made an adjustment, going with more isolation sets for Lillard and McCollum so the Clippers could not trap him, as well as running other actions to get their guards going.

“A lot of times it ended in (Allen Crabbe) having the ball and me coming off a flair, C.J. coming off a pin-down, or visa versa,” Lillard said postgame. “There was a guy on the weak side so they couldn’t have a guy over-helping, and we executed really well down the stretch.”

After the game, the Clippers said all the right things about cleaning up their execution and getting a win on the road in Portland Friday night to extend the series. But this game didn’t have that feel at all — at home where more shots are likely to fall for the Blazers, it’s hard to imagine the Clippers getting the win.

But the play of neither of these teams Wednesday night is going to put any fear in the hearts of Golden State, with or without Curry. Neither team was impressive, save for Portland for a stretch in the fourth quarter.