Former Sixers General Manager Billy King near deal to take over reins of Nets

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Thumbnail image for nets-logo.gifUPDATE: 11:03 am: It’s official, King has taken the New Jersey job, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com.

King spent almost a decade as the head man in Philly, but you have to wonder if new Nets owner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov will want his own man calling the shots in a few years.

For right now, you can bet Avery Johnson will be calling a lot of the shots.

8:55 am: Billy King — the man who drafted the young core of the current Philadelphia 76ers with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young — is about to take over as head of the Nets.

He is very near getting the job as general manager taking over for Rod Thorn in New Jersey, according to Chris Manix of Sports Illustrated. There had been talk that King would take over Thorn’s other job as team president of basketball operations and have Bobby Marks as the general manager. Either way, just like Thorn, King will call the shots.

King was far from loved as the general manager in Philadelphia during the Allen Iverson era there, although is it really possible to be loved as a general manager on Philadelphia under any circumstances?

He did help put together a team around Iverson and hire Larry Brown, which got them to the finals one time. He also threw rookie coach Randy Ayers to the lions of Iverson, Derrick Coleman and Glenn Robinson. Phil Jackson would have had a hard time keeping those three in line, a rookie coach was doomed.

For the most part the Sixers were never really able to fully capitalize on Iverson, they were always good but not quite good enough. Then they held on to him about a season too long as his skills started to decline (although the fan base still loved him, so there were ticket sales to consider) and eventually had to dump him in Denver.

It was tough to find the right guy in New Jersey because the power structure was upside down. Thorn hired Avery Johnson as the coach then announced he would resign. Now the Nets had to find a GM that both ownership and a new coach could agree upon. New Orleans’s Jeff Bower was not that guy as Johnson didn’t want him.

Johnson is good with King. Which might mean Johnson thinks he can influence King. In Philly Larry Brown called a lot of the shots that King executed. Either way, the job appears to be King’s to lose at this point.

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.