Kings pick up Paul Westphal's option

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One of the most important things in nurturing a group of young players is consistency. They need to know the coaching staff’s expectations and have a chance to grow within them, and coaching changes hinder the ability of players to evolve as a benefit of actual coaching. That’s why the Kings made the right move in picking up the 2011 option for Paul Westphal, who has done fine work with a limited roster this year and in particular with a lot of young, exciting talent.

Still, as Ailene Voisin notes in the Sacramento Bee, the timing is a bit odd. Westphal was already under contract for all of next season, and the option the Kings have exercised will simply keep him around for the 2011-2012 campaign, which is a lifetime away. Far more surprising unravelings have taken place over the course of a single season, and the outlook on this move could seem dramatically different a year from now. Voisin’s thesis is far more logical: there may be a time when extending Westphal is the right thing to do, but that time is not now, more than a full year in advance of when that option will take effect.

That said, it’s easy to forget how good the Kings looked early in the season, when they appeared to be a dark horse contender for a playoff spot (and Westphal a dark horse contender for Coach of the Year honors). That dream tapered off when Sacramento’s defense plummeted to miserable levels, and ultimately the disparity in talent and seasoning between the Kings and their opponents was too much to overcome. The roster is full of interesting players, but they just weren’t ready yet.

Then again, as far as consistency goes, Westphal might not even be the best example. His expectations of non-Tyreke Kings have been a bit ambiguous at times, and to top it off he’s been known to flip lineups and rotations on a whim. There was also a pretty weird incident involving Spencer Hawes, which started with Hawes publicly stating that he didn’t understand his role and ended with a chest bump.

So he’s not the model of consistency, but the players should have a better understanding of Westphal in his second and third years in Sacramento. Guys like Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Donte Greene, and Jon Brockman could definitely benefit from that kind of team stability, even if the message from Westphal himself is the expect the unexpected.

The move is ultimately overshadowed by the curious timing of Geoff Petrie and the Maloof brothers though, and regardless of how successful Westphal’s stint with the Kings turns out to be, the timing involved makes this a pretty strange (if not irresponsible) move.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.