Jerry Sloan shoves official, may face suspension

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Ah, late March. When winter gives its last gasp, the flowers begin to bloom, baseball season starts to ramp up, and the Jazz start coming apart at the seams.

The Jazz, after going on an absurd run throughout the first two months of the year, have returned to their home planet. After a thrilling, come-from-behind win against Phoenix on March 4th, the Jazz were riding high, nigh unstoppable. Now they’ve lost three of their last five, road losses to playoff teams. Understandable losses, but still games they need to be winning as April approaches. And what’s more, they’re coming unhinged a bit.

I submit for evidence exhibit A: Jerry Sloan shoving an official with his forearm with .02 seconds left and the Jazz down three possessions.

With .02 seconds left in the Jazz loss to the Suns last night, Ronnie Price went for a garbage time breakaway dunk (“The Shannon Brown Special”). Grant Hill fouled Price hard, and the Jazz took exception. Because, you know, Grant Hill has a reputation for being that kind of player.

The Salt Lake City Tribune’s Ross Siler has the details of what happened next. After the officials failed to call a flagrant foul on Price, they went to the replay to see how much time was left. Sloan, outraged, backed down a security guard… yes, the 67 year old coach backed down a security guard trying to talk at the officials. Then after the officials came out of the replay session, Sloan got into it with official Michael Smith. The result was Sloan shoving Smith his forearm, and, as you’d expect, getting sent to the showers.

Siler points out this is the third time since 93 the Jazz legendary coach has made physical contact with an official. I’m pretty sure you can expect Sloan to miss a few games for his impulse reaction.

Tough old bastard, that Sloan.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that the reason for Sloan’s outburst was Amar’e Stoudemire walking from the bench across court towards the Jazz bench after the play. Stoudemire said later he thought the game was over, according to Siler. Of course, Stoudemire does kind of have a history of walking on the floor off the bench at bad times. 

Jeanie Buss: Phil Jackson fired by Knicks because ‘people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back’

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When he hired Phil Jackson as team president, Knicks owner James Dolan infamously said he was ceding control “willingly and gratefully.”

But New York kept Steve Mills, who had been running the front office, on staff as general manager. Mills also replaced Jackson as president after Jackson got fired.

That served as a lesson for Jeanie Buss, Lakers owner and Jackson’s former fiancée.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades.

“He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued.

Buss doesn’t name Mills or anyone. But it’s hard not to jump to man who was both Jackson’s predecessor and successor. After regaining control, Mills said he tried to steer Jackson in other directions (which, hopefully).

This reflects poorly on Dolan, whose poor leadership has cast a shadow over the organization for years. There is a toxic culture within the Knicks, from the top down.

But it’s not as if Jackson were simply a victim of that culture. With the notable exception of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson failed miserably in roster-building. He contributed to the malaise with a comedy of incompetence.

Maybe Mills stabbed Jackson in the back. But Jackson was his own problem, anyway.

Report: Knicks, Lakers, Clippers will pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

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The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.

Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.

But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.

It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.

The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.

The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.

The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.

Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.

It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.

Report: Jimmy Butler trade talks ‘mostly dormant’

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Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau reportedly raised his asking price for Jimmy Butler after the star’s explosive return to practice.

Unsurprisingly, potential trade partners – who already weren’t offering enough to satisfy Minnesota – didn’t rush to meet Thibodeau’s new demands. Not even close, apparently.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Butler reached an agreement: Minnesota would continue to try to trade Butler, and Butler would be a good teammate and play hard.

But how long will this détente last if the Timberwolves aren’t making progress on a trade?

Watch Kelly Olynyk’s game-winning putback with 0.2 seconds left for Miami

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All game long Miami owned the glass — the Heat grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.9 percent of their missed shots on Thursday night. That led to 16 more shot attempts and nine more free throws by the Heat than the Wizards on the night.

And it led to this, the game-winning putback from Kelly Olynyk with 0.2 seconds left.

 

Wizards fans need to admit it — they missed Dwight Howard inside (he is out with a butt injury, yes seriously). Without his presence (he’s still a quality rebounder), the Heat just outworked the Wizards on the glass and that ended up being the difference.