Cavaliers dream big, will settle in finding a replacement coach

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Thumbnail image for pjackson.jpgMike Brown is out. The Cavs have a decision to make. And they can’t afford to screw it up.

Look at the best coaches being interviewed around the league for the current job openings: Avery Johnson, maybe Celtics defensive guru Tom Thibodeau is in there.

That is not good enough for the Cavaliers. They need a name. A star. They need someone that LeBron James would stay in town to play for. And you can bet they have a list — no team fires a coach without having replacements in mind. Despite how it looks with the Bulls handling of their search, even they had a list.

So who is on the Cavs list?

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the dream starts with Phil Jackson. The theory goes that Jackson is being asked to take a pay cut by the Lakers, he might feel spurned and start looking around. And if someone else wants to pay him, maybe he’ll leave. He certainly would be the ideal coach to teach LeBron about what it takes to win, to get over the hump in the playoffs.

But it’s not going to happen. Well, 99 percent (although one percent is enough to fuel dreams). While Jackson has not decided, those close to him do not think he’s leaving a championship contending team and the city where his girlfriend Jeanie Buss lives. Jackson is comfortable, and his next step is far more likely to be to his ranch in Montana.

Then there is Mike Krzyzewksi — every member of Team USA wants him as his pro coach. He is a name. And he also isn’t leaving Duke, either. Not even up for debate.

The more likely names are Jeff Van Gundy and Byron Scott. Those are two experienced coaches who have won as NBA coaches — not titles, but they have been on the doorstep. They have experience with some of the biggest and best players in the game. And they would be hungry for the chance to coach LeBron. Any smart coach realizes how key he is to winning.

Then there is John Calipari, the Kentucky coach with ties to LeBron (through Williams Wesley and CAA). Who knows if he can succeed as an NBA coach the second time around, but if he can keep LeBron in a Cavaliers uniform that will be paramount.

After that, the Cavaliers would need another big name or they would be settling. If Lawrence Frank or Dwane Casey or Thibodeau or Johnson becomes the top candidate, well then a lot of people have turned the Cavaliers down. And it would feel more and more like LeBron will as well.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.