If Marcin Gortat can get 20 rebounds in a game, you’ll see him shoot three-pointers

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Marcin Gortat has a deal with the Suns’ coaching staff this season: get 20 rebounds in a game, do what you like. As you’ll soon see, this is a very serious and important matter to Gortat — so much so that he believes there might have been a conspiracy to keep him from reaching that number on Sunday.

Gortat has been solid on the boards all season, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, while grabbing 15 or more seven times — including the 17 he got in a 96-88 win over the Kings. The rebounds are more important to Gortat than the scoring at this point, because if he can go even bigger and grab 20 or more in a single game, well … that’s where the fun begins.

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said earlier in the year that if Gortat got 20 or more rebounds in a game, that he could do whatever he wants. To Gortat, that means getting the green light to jack up a three-pointer or two, and he thought he was close enough on Sunday to have a crack at it.

After tallying 15 rebounds through three quarters, however, Gortat rode the pine until the game’s final four minutes. That was due, of course, to the fact that the lineup Phoenix had in at the time was working, but Gortat jokingly accused the coaching staff of foul play afterward, saying that they intentionally sat him so that he wouldn’t get to grab that elusive 20th rebound.

“It was the third game (in a row) where we out-rebounded the other team, and if we’re going to continue doing such a great job on the boards, we’re going to put ourselves in a better position to win the game,” Gortat said.

“About me, 17 rebounds, I think coach kind of sniffed out that I’m getting close to 20 boards, and he didn’t really want me to shoot that three,” he continued. “That’s why he put me on the bench. I’ve got to talk to him. I’ve definitely got to have a meeting with him, today or tomorrow.”

Gentry happened to walk through the locker room after Gortat’s comments, and predictably laughed off the assertion. As for Gortat and whether or not he even has that kind of range, he’s 2-of-8 from downtown in his career, now playing in his sixth season.

No matter what the numbers say, Gortat says he’s feeling it from distance.

“I’ve felt that thing the last five years, since I’ve made it to the league,” he said while laughing.  “I really feel I can do that. I was really close, I guess somebody had to whisper to his ear that ‘Hey, he’s getting close.’ So it was time for me to rest.”

The Suns have lived with Channing Frye going 5-for-30 from the field over the past two games. I think they’d be more than happy to take their chances with Gortat from distance, especially if he’d earned that green light by pulling down those 20 boards.

Kristaps Porzingis after conversation with new coach: “Man im excited!”

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David Fizdale learned a lot of lessons in his first go around as a head coach, spending 101 games with the Memphis Grizzlies. At the top of the list: Build a strong bond with your star player. Or else.

Fizdale is trying to do that, saying he would fly to Latvia this summer to spend time with Kristaps Porzingis. But first came a phone call, and that seemed to go very well.

It’s not just Porzingis. Fizdale was bonding with Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Damyean Dotson on Wednesday night in Boston. A little “this is where we want to be” motivation.

Good on Fizdale for all of this.

The Knicks got the best coach for them on the board in Fizdale, and so far the new front office — general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills — are making smart decisions. Knicks fans should be optimistic. Knicks ownership just needs to be patient (not James Dolan’s strong suit), because with no Porzingis for a large portion if not all of next season the team will struggle. Wins will be hard to come by. Fizdale needs a season to develop players and lay the foundation for what he wants to build, while the new front office needs time to clean up the salary cap mess that is New York right now.

With some patience, the Knicks could have something special in a few years. And Fizdale may have found the right home for his talents because he’s already got players buying in.

Report: Police officers involved in Sterling Brown’s arrest suspended 15, 10 and two days

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Bucks guard Sterling Brown was tased and arrested in January despite not being violent or overly combative while being questioned about a parking violation.

Gina Barton, Mary Spicuzza and Ashley Luthern of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee police officer who first confronted Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown outside a Walgreens in January was suspended for two days, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

Two supervisors who later arrived, escalating the situation, were suspended for 10 and 15 days, sources said. Several other officers were reprimanded.

I don’t know whether these suspensions are the appropriate punishment.

But police too often trampling on the rights of people, especially minorities, is a far greater problem than these three officers and this incident.

No, Tom Izzo is not going to coach the Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic have been looking for their next head coach — after letting go of Frank Vogel right after season ended — while Mike Budenholzer (Bucks), David Fizdale (Knicks), Lloyd Pierce (Hawks), James Borrego (Hornets), and Igor Kokoskov (Suns) all got jobs (plus J.B. Bickerstaff had the interim title taken away in Memphis).

Not much news had leaked out of Orlando through all of that process, outside of interest in University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and an interview this week with former Charlotte coach Steve Clifford.

Then came a report from Michael Scotto of The Athletic that the Magic had interest in Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

It didn’t take long for people close to Izzo to shoot that down.

A few points of clarification here. First, plenty of NBA front office executives have thought Izzo would make a great NBA coach and have reached out with feelers over the years. I have no doubt the Magic were interested, and may well have reached out (directly or through back channels) to gauge interest. That’s what smart organizations do.

At this point in his career, at age 63, it’s hard to imagine Izzo making the leap to the NBA — and if he does it will be for a Godfather offer (in both money and roster). With all due respect to Aaron Gordon, that’s not Orlando. Never say never, but like Mike Krzyzewski and others who could have made the leap to the NBA, at this point Izzo seems a college lifer. He’s in one of the best jobs in the land, a place where he is revered and respected, and he’s not likely to change that up now.

You can’t really blame him. It’s hard to leave a good job — just ask Jay Wright. But with Izzo, NBA teams will still ask occasionally, just to make sure.

Steve Kerr calls NFL’s new national-anthem policy, which is strikingly similar to the NBA’s, ‘idiotic’

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The NFL released a new national-anthem policy that requires players to stand on the field or remain in the locker room (or similar location) during the song.

That didn’t sit well with Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Melissa Rohlin of the Bay Area News Group:

Good thing Kerr doesn’t work in a league that mandates players, coaches and trainers “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem, that suspended a player for sitting during the anthem, that warns players for chewing gum or being in the bathroom during the anthem, that has a team that blocked a black anthem singer who wore a “We matter” jersey.

Oh, wait.

He does.

The NBA, like the NFL, is first and foremost a business seeking profit. When confronted with social issues, from Donald Sterling to “I can’t breathe” shirts, the NBA has always kept an eye on its wallet.

With the threat of anthem protests looming, the NBA proactively met with players to head off any kneeling. That was business strategy, nothing grander.

The result? Players linked arms during the national anthem in the name of same vague unity, co-opting the space and distorting the message of Colin Kaepernick’s more meaningful protest.

Eventually, teams stopped linking arms during the anthem. Nobody really noticed when it fell off.

All the while, no sponsors or fans were aggrieved.

The NFL is just trying to get to the same point with a similar policy.

But the NFL already alienated its players through the heavy-handed implementation of this policy and years of other issues. The NBA has established greater trust from its players, both by finessing them in talks about societal issues and actually standing behind them, like the Bucks did with Sterling Brown.

There are plenty of opportunities to criticize the NFL relative to the NBA. The leagues’ national-anthem policies are not a good one.

And spare me the idea that leaders trying to divide us from on high is What’s Wrong With Our Country. Centuries of racism have already divided us.

Some leaders, like Donald Trump, exploit those divisions. Other leaders talk fancifully of unity without actually reconciling what caused the divisions.

But the actual divisions were already significant.