Lakers to hire Mike Brown to be coach

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UPDATE #3 9:55 am: By the morning, pretty much everyone with an NBA source has confirmed this. The Lakers are going to make an offer to Mike Brown, maybe for three, maybe for four years. The only potential catch is that it is not really going to be a negotiation, if he doesn’t take the offer the Lakers will move on to Rick Adelman.

UPDATE #2, 1:11 am: Mike Brown has pulled himself out of the running for the Golden State Warriors job because he is about to be hired by the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area. He quotes several league sources as saying that Brown will be named as the Lakers coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo adds that the two sides may have worked out the money issue, with Brown getting a four-year deal at more than $4 million per year.

It appears this will become official later on Wednesday.

UPDATE May 25, 12:23 am: Money is the issue holding everything up, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com, who says that Rick Adelman is still in the running due to money.

As PBT told you on Tuesday, the Lakers are holding firm on salary and will not go above $5 million a season. Brown wants to make more in the Doc Rivers range of $7 million a season, Aldridge reports. If he will not agree to the lower salary, the Lakers will move on.

While the Lakers have spent big on coaching during the Phil Jackson era, prior to that Buss was known for trying not to pay much for coaches. Remember he pulled Pat Riley out of the broadcast booth, in part because he would not have cost as much as some veteran coaches.

May 24, 11:17 pm: Mike Brown, the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach during much of their LeBron James era, may be the coach Lakers owner Jerry Buss was talking about when he said they were close to signing a new coach.

Brown and the Lakers are in serious talks, according to Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo. As in the deal could be reached in the next 24-48 hours serious, the report says. Not finalized but this seems to be the direction things are going.

Brown is edging out current Lakers assistant Brian Shaw and veteran coach Rick Adelman to replace the legendary Phil Jackson.

That scream you just heard was from terrified Lakers fans.

But they shouldn’t be as scared as they are. First off, Brown is a defense-first coach who got his Cavs teams to play well on that end of the floor. That has always been the key for the Lakers with this roster, how well they played defense. And Brown won more than 60 games as a coach.

But that was not the knock on Brown, it was his offense. Which was always very LeBron James focused, with a lot of isolations for him. It looked stagnant. Thing is, what did you expect him to do? Did you see this season what they had around James? For a long time Brown’s starting backcourt was Eric Snow and Larry Hughes, so yes, he gave the ball to James a lot as a point forward. Even when he had Mo Williams and Delonte West are you going to take the ball out of LeBron’s hands? The Cavs often had the best offense in the league with that latter twosome. And those guys are not exactly all that.

The issue at hand is they are going from a system to a playbook. From a system designed to react to what the defense wants to a more rigid system where the players have less freedom to attack what the defense gives them.

Then there is the respect issue — will Kobe Bryant respect a guy who has not been through the wars and have the titles that these Lakers have. That Shaw has. Even Adelman has had great teams that might have had rings had it not been for Kobe and the Lakers.

Buss said he was not going to consult a player on the hiring of a coach (which is not the tradition, the issue is usually discussed with superstars like Kobe). But Brown seems to be the direction they are going.

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.

Report: Bulls execs John Paxson and Gar Forman backing Jim Boylen

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Bulls players have made clear their thoughts on new coach Jim Boylen’s abnormally frequent and lengthy practices, his harsh public critiques, his five-man substitutions:

They don’t like it.

Not every player feels the exact same way, but enough were fed up to refuse to practice yesterday – the day after a back-to-back, a time teams almost never practice. Everyone compromised on a team meeting, though players reportedly also complained to their union.

But Boylen says he isn’t backing down – and it sounds as if his superiors support him.

Boylen, via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My job…is to try to push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” he said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is. That’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for.

“I explained that to them – ‘Hey guys, everybody wants it comfortable, everybody wants it safe. Well, I don’t think you become great in that.’ So it’s going to be a little raw for a while, it’s going to be a little rough for a while. And maybe there’s a point where it gets not as rough but all of a sudden it’s got to be rough again.”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The fact Boylen cited ownership is telling. Phil Jackson praised Boylen to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after Boylen met with the Hall of Fame coach last summer. And according to team and league sources, executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman raved to ownership about Boylen’s message during Sunday’s meeting, which Paxson and Forman attended.

I wonder whether Paxson and Forman actually believe in Boylen or just feel as if they have no choice but to support him. Their last coaching hire, Fred Hoiberg, flopped to the point questions emerged about Forman’s job security. Paxson already declared a plan to keep Boylen for next season. Maybe Paxson and Forman can’t dump Boylen without bringing too much scrutiny upon themselves.

But the status quo isn’t sustainable. Boylen can’t keep belittling his players and running them into the ground without inciting a rebellion. He must ease up at least a little.

A theory that gives the Bulls the benefit of the doubt (that they don’t necessarily deserve): They already know this is a lost season, and playing for a higher draft pick is their best strategy. Boylen’s harsh practices will both help them lose and instill good long-term habits. Plus, his presence ensures players will welcome Chicago’s next coach. Even someone more demanding than Hoiberg would now suddenly be a reprieve.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen: ‘It’s going to be rough for a while’

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For the past few years, as the lead assistant to Fred Hoiberg with the Bulls, Jim Boylen got to be the “bad cop” to Hoiberg’s more mild personality. When Hoiberg was fired and Boylen moved into the big chair, he ramped up that old-school style — he called out the team’s conditioning and had them running suicides and doing pushups in practice (things rarely seen at the NBA level). Boylen was running long, grueling practices — including one the day after the team got back from a four-game road trip. He had film sessions right after games when guys were still emotional. Boylen did hockey substitutions a couple of times, taking out all five starters at once.

When he called for a practice the day after a back-to-back that ended with a 56-point loss to the Celtics, players pushed back. There were team meetings called by the players (and coaches, there’s a lot of people trying to spin this). Boylen said this is how he coached and he learned from Greg Popovich, the players had to trust him, and the players said you’re no Gregg Popovich and that trust is not there yet. It’s earned, not given.

The day after a series of meetings, the tone was a little softer, although Boylen was not about to back down. He said that it was only a couple of players who pushed back against the practice, not all of them, and he is clearly frustrated in this NBC Sports Chicago video.

Boylen also admitted things would not be easy, but he wants the players to trust him, as several Bulls writers Tweeted.

Boylen feels he’s in the right place. Will the players learn to trust him? One day after the meetings, things appeared better.

That’s easy to say at practice, we’ll see what it’s like when adversity hits.