Kurt Helin

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For Pistons, playoff berth an important step forward

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DETROIT (AP) After six seasons of virtual irrelevance, the Detroit Pistons are heading back to the playoffs.

And they certainly had to earn their spot.

“It’s a little more satisfying because it’s in a year where the East was a lot better,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “The last few years, it would have taken 37 or 38 wins to get in. We had to get to 43 with two games to go still to get in.”

The Pistons clinched their first playoff berth since 2009 with a 112-99 win over Washington on Friday night. Now a dozen years removed from its most recent NBA title, Detroit is hoping this accomplishment will mark the end of a dreary stretch in which the organization changed coaches constantly and struggled to draw fans to the Palace.

Van Gundy was hired two offseasons ago as coach and team president. After going 32-50 last season, Detroit improved significantly, and the team will be rewarded with a chance to play under the playoff spotlight.

“It’s huge for our organization,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve said all along that we’ve got four starters in there who have never been, and this is huge for them.”

The Pistons can be especially encouraged because of their young roster. Star center Andre Drummond is 22, and point guard Reggie Jackson turns 26 this month. This season, Detroit traded for 23-year-old Tobias Harris, whose presence down the stretch seemed to open up scoring opportunities for other players.

Other contributors include 23-year-old Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 26-year-old Marcus Morris and 19-year-old rookie Stanley Johnson.

Jackson has at least some postseason experience, having played for Oklahoma City before being traded to the Pistons in 2015. This playoff chase felt different, though.

“I was the backup before, we were always clinching at around 60 games (with Oklahoma City) and we always knew that we would be there,” Jackson said. “Right now we’re a young team, we’re growing together, we have a nice mixture of players who are very young and some older veterans who have been here. We’re just trying to figure this thing out.”

The key stretch for Detroit was a nine-game homestand that began in mid-March. The Pistons went 6-3, then went on the road and beat Chicago. The Bulls and Wizards eventually fell short in the race for a playoff spot.

The Pistons will surely be underdogs no matter whom they face in the first round. Detroit will be seeded either seventh or eighth in the Eastern Conference and go against either Cleveland or Toronto.

The Pistons are still a flawed team. They rely heavily on their rebounding and haven’t always defended well enough for Van Gundy’s liking. And then there’s the issue of Drummond’s 36 percent foul shooting, which has caused Van Gundy to take him out in the fourth quarter at times.

But all of those concerns can wait. The Pistons can feel good about what they’ve already accomplished, knowing they’ve earned a chance to experience postseason basketball at the Palace – with fans who have waited a while for the playoffs to return to the Detroit area.

“I’ve been around the game for a long time and picked a lot of people’s brains,” Harris said. “The biggest thing is just to play as hard as you can every single night, and we have to be ready. The level of intensity picks up another notch going into playoff basketball, probably two or three notches, so we really need to be on our game.”

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Fred Hoiberg says he may need to change coaching style, but says it in odd way

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If the Bulls lose one more game — say, Saturday night against the Cavaliers — they are out of the playoffs. One more Indiana win also means the Bulls are out. All of which means in practice the Bulls playoff dreams are dead.

With that, there will be a lot of changes coming to Chicago this summer. Certainly to the roster, where Pau Gasol is likely gone, Joakim Noah may be gone (although management wants to keep him), and Derrick Rose will be shopped.

And Fred Hoiberg could be changing his coaching style, although he phrased that in a very odd way meeting with the media before the game against the Cavaliers.

What exactly does he mean by “most of that?” Well, it’s a little more clear in the full quote.

Hoiberg may have been around the NBA as a player and executive, and he may have coached a long time in college, but there is still a learning curve with being an NBA head coach. Steve Kerr is the exception, not the rule. Hoiberg should be better at his job next season compared to this one.

We’ll just see what players management gets him to work with.

Warriors’ center Andrew Bogut to sit vs. Grizzlies for rest

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Golden State coach Steve Kerr says he is holding center Andrew Bogut out of Saturday night’s game with Memphis for some rest before playing at San Antonio on Sunday night as the Warriors chase the NBA single-season wins record.

Kerr said after the morning shootaround he just didn’t want Bogut to play both games with everyone else available. The 31-year-old has started 64 of 68 games this season, averaging 20.7 minutes.

The coach says any player who is banged up should tell him, and Kerr also wants to limit minutes played against Memphis.

Kerr says the Warriors will try to win the game but not at the expense of wearing people out.

The Warriors (70-9) have three games left to pass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

Report: Heat to round out playoff roster with D-League’s Briante Weber

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We know the Heat are close to signing Dorell Wright to add some wing depth and three-point shooting for the playoffs. We also know Miami had one more roster spot they were looking to fill before the playoffs started, just to have some practice depth.

Enter Briante Weber. The guard who spent his season at Sioux Falls will be with Miami, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Miami Heat plan to sign guard Briante Weber to a three-year contract, league sources told The Vertical. The deal is partially guaranteed after this season.

Weber, 23, helped lead the Heat’s NBA Development League affiliate, Sioux Falls, to a 40-10 record in the regular season and a first-round postseason sweep over Westchester. For the D-League season, Weber averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Webber had a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies, the roster there was so depleted he even started four games, but they did not keep him beyond that deal. Webber shot 34.2 percent for Memphis and missed every three he took.

The Heat will take a longer view, having him work with the team through the playoffs then join their Summer League squad to see if he can develop his game and earn a roster spot for next season.

Report: Daryl Morey’s performance in Houston to go “under the microscope” after season

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There is no bigger disappointment in the NBA this season than the Houston Rockets.

Last season the team won 56 games and made the conference finals. This season’s version is 38-41 and is going to need some help from the Utah Jazz just to make the playoffs. Houston fired its head coach, the team’s defense got more than five points per 100 possessions worse (and is bottom 10 in the NBA), the Rockets have blown a lot of leads, and the team just appeared disinterested far too many nights.

A season like this calls for a top-to-bottom evaluation — and that is going to include the job of respected GM Daryl Morey, reports Marc Stein and Calvin Watkins at ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that the Rockets believe every aspect of the organization — coaching staff, front office and, of course, their roster — must be subject to a thorough review in the wake of Houston’s slide to a 38-41 outfit that’s at serious risk to miss the playoffs after damaging losses this week to Dallas and Phoenix….

Sources say Morey, whose contract runs through the 2017-18 season, ‎also faces some uncertainty in the wake of the Rockets’ struggles. Morey’s ever-bold approach to roster assembly won deserved kudos for bringing Harden (October 2012) and Howard (July 2013) to Houston in quick succession, but team chemistry has been a rising concern this season given the well-chronicled deterioration in the Harden/Howard relationship and the failed offseason gamble on guard Ty Lawson.

Morey’s teams have looked good on paper but not lived up to high expectations on the court — having Howard and Harden as the team leaders has led to what felt like Team Skittles. There was not the kind of focus and accountability seen in San Antonio, Golden State, or other top flight organizations.

There are going to be significant changes to the Rockets this summer. Howard is likely gone, and the roster will get an overhaul. The sense around the league is that Bickerstaff did a solid job but will be let go as well because the Rockets want to go big game hunting in the coaching market.

Expect Morey to get the chance to prove he can assemble a team one more time — starting with hiring a coach he can work with. However, if the next incarnation of the Rockets have chemistry issues and flame out, then change could be coming to the GM office.