Mannix: Winter deserves Hall of Fame spot

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Even though Tex Winter’s career record as an NBA head coach is 51-78, he’s one of the true NBA coaching legends to emerge in the past couple of decades. When Winter took over as the coach of Marquette as a 29-year old in 1951, he was the youngest head coach in major college basketball. By the time he finished his stint as an assistant coach with the Lakers in 2004, the 82-year old Winter was one of basketball’s oldest coaches. 

After a wildly successful college coaching career and a two-year stint as head coach of the Rockets, Winter became an assistant coach in Chicago in 1985. After Phil Jackson was promoted to the head coaching spot in 1989, Winter and Jackson became an unstoppable pair for the better part of the next two decades. Winter taught the Triangle (or triple-post) offense that he’d developed when he was coaching in college to Jackson and the rest of the Bulls. 
The results were and are legendary. Six championships in eight seasons with the Bulls, including two separate three-peats. Another three-peat with the Lakers, bringing Winter’s total of NBA championships to nine. (Winter got a ring for his other thumb when the Lakers voted to give him a ring after their 2009 championship.)
Winter was never the center of attention over the course of his NBA coaching career. All he did was construct the offense that won 10 NBA championships and helped make Phil Jackson the most revered NBA head coach since Red Auerbach. Personally, I think that’s enough to get Winter an admission to the NBA Hall of Fame, and so does Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
There is one honor that continues to elude the man credited as the innovator of the triangle offense: A spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
The case against Winter’s election has always been odd, boiling down to the argument that Winter’s greatest impact on the game came not as a player or head coach, but as an assistant, first with the Bulls and later with the Lakers. But even as Hall of Fame voters keep him out, Winter’s peers continue to lobby for him to get in. Michael Jordan singled Winter out during his acceptance speech last year and former Bulls GM Jerry Krause resigned from the Hall of Fame committee because Winter’s name wasn’t on the ballot one year and has sworn never to attend another Hall ceremony until Winter is enshrined…
…At 88, Winter’s coaching career is behind him. His imprint on the game is indelible, but his days on the sideline are probably over. Before the memory of his accomplishments fade, the Hall should rectify one of its most glaring errors.
They should let Tex in.

Tex Winter helped Phil Jackson win 10 championships. He was a big reason that the great Jerry Sloan is still looking for his first championship. Both of those coaches, as well as countless other coaches who had no answer for Winter’s triple-post offense, are or will be Hall of Fame members in time. So are the players who became legends by perfectly running the triangle year after year. If you ask any of those players or coaches, I’m sure they’d put Winter in the Hall in the blink of an eye. It’s time for the Hall voters to recognize that there’s a reason Winter deserves that kind of respect. 

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reportedly tells organization he still wants playoff push

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When the Clippers traded their best player — Tobias Harris — right before the trade deadline, it was a move generally seen as throwing in the towel on this season’s playoffs, but it was applauded around the league because of the haul it brought back to L.A. It set the Clippers up with one max cap slot this summer and a reasonable path to a second one, plus the Clippers landed rookie shooting guard Landry Shamet, Philadelphia’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected) and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick unprotected.

Except then the Clippers not long after traded for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green — boosting the roster’s depth in needed spots. Not a move a team looking to fall out of the playoffs makes.

That’s because owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want them to fall out of the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources say Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has let it be known throughout the organization that he wants to keep making this playoff push. Never mind that such an accomplishment would cost them their first-round pick this season.

The coach and players should never be told to lose games, they need to go all-out every time they are on the court. That goes to the culture of an organization. If a decision is made to focus on the future, then it’s about roster decisions at the GM level. That is what the Clippers did, and there is nothing wrong — or even strange — about the owner telling them to push and try to make the playoffs.

Either way, it works for Los Angeles.

Make the playoffs as the eight seed and the Clippers are likely just the first-round appetizer for the Warriors as they chase a three-peat, but it shows potential free agents the role players on the team have grit and just need a star and leader. Their young stars would gain a little playoff experience. While the Clippers would lose this year’s first-round pick, giving up a late teens pick in what is considered a down draft (especially after No. 1) is not that painful a loss. It’s one less asset to throw in a potential trade (Anthony Davis anyone?), but it’s not devastating.

Miss the playoffs and they get a late-lottery pick and things go as expected.

Make or miss the playoffs, the Clippers are focused on July 1 and landing a couple of free agents, with Kawhi Leonard at the top of the list (and a lot of sources around the league think that’s where they are headed).