Blazers may just decide to make interim coach, GM permanent

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Portland’s year-long, on-and-off search for a GM has been as tidy and clean as a home on Hoarders.

It’s a mess. And after all that it may end up falling back to the guy who has been doing the job the whole time — Chad Buchanan. The “interim” guy who has rocked the job while Blazers ownership and management looked at what they think are greener pastures over the fence.

And if Buchanan gets to keep his job, so might interim head coach Kaleb Canales.

We told you the Trail Blazers GM search seemed stuck in the mud, with different parts of the Blazer brass favoring different people. Add to that Clippers GM Neil Olshey agreeing to terms to stay with the Clippers, and suddenly Buchanan has jumped back into the conversation reports Chris Haynes at CSNNW.com.

A person close to the situation says Trail Blazers’ owner, Paul Allen, is concerned with (Pacers assistant GM David) Morway’s character and finds that he reminds him of a “Kevin Pritchard 2.0” and (Sixers assistant GM Tony) DiLeo’s lack of experience being in charge “is worrisome.”

Morway is at the bottom of the list, according to multiple sources. That leaves Bower – who happens to be the most experienced candidate out of the finalist and would appear to be the logical choice. However, those that know Allen, have said he prefers that his general managers be/remain in good physical shape and Bower doesn’t fit that criteria….

Multiple league sources have told CSNNW.com they don’t think either of the three candidates will get the job and they say Trail Blazers’ acting general manager, Chad Buchanan, “has become an option again.”

Chad Buchanan has done a great job in his year as the “interim” general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers — they have transitioned past the Brandon Roy/Greg Oden era and are ready to rebuild a team around LaMarcus Aldridge and some good role players, plus two lottery picks this year (No. 6 and 11).

Canales was 8-15 at the end of the season as coach, but he was presiding over an injured roster that had been shaken up radically at the deadline. Now the Blazers are about to rebuild with a younger roster and a couple lottery picks and…

The thinking is, if the Trail Blazers aren’t going to be competing for a championship anytime soon and if they’re going to hold on to their two lottery picks, Canales, 34, is being viewed as “the perfect guy” to take over the young Trail Blazer roster.

Expect some of the big name assistant coaches out there — Brian Shaw, Mike Malone, etc. — to get interviewed as well, but the Blazers apparently like the Oklahoma City model of a young coach with a young team growing together.

Jaylen Brown on future with Celtics: ‘I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct’

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Jaylen Brown may have one more year on his contract after this one — a fully guaranteed $28.5 million — but in today’s NBA, it’s already time to talk about his next contract.

That next deal will not be a simple extension with the Celtics (unless the extension rules change dramatically under the new CBA being negotiated). Under the current rules, Boston can offer an extension starting at around $36 million a season, however, if he goes to free agency his max contract would start at $44 million. It’s an easy call for Brown.

That means Brown would be a free agent. While Boston could offer larger raises and a fifth year other teams cannot, Brown would have the option of going anywhere he wants. Would he want to stay in Boston, playing with Jayson Tatum? Logan Murdoch of The Ringer asked him, and Brown’s answers raised eyebrows.

“I don’t know. As long as I’m needed. It’s not up to me,” he says. “We’ll see how they feel about me over time and I feel about them over time. Hopefully, whatever it is, it makes sense. But I will stay where I’m wanted. I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct…

“I just enjoy the time that you have now,” he says. “If it’s your whole career, it’s your whole career. If it’s not, it’s not. Some of the greatest players of all time haven’t finished with their organization. Michael Jordan retired a Wizard. As much as we like it here and enjoy being here, you see where life takes you. You see how the process goes. All you do is really focus on what’s in front of you right now, to be honest. But I don’t really know or want to answer that question because that type of stuff makes Celtics fans speculate and go crazy. Especially right now, I’ll just say we’ll get there when we get there.”

Some have tried to spin those comments as “Brown is not fully committed to Boston.” To my eyes, it reads more like a message to the Celtics that if they don’t want to pay him the max another team will. Brown is an All-NBA level player on the court and a smart, independent mind off it — one not bound to convention. He wasn’t going to play the “this is the only place I ever want to play” game that placates fans, even when the players don’t mean it. Brown was honest.

If Brad Steven and the Celtics toy around with trying to get Brown for less than the max, he’s got options. For example, the Hawks are watching the Atlanta area native, a source told Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

“One reason the Hawks are trying to unload (John) Collins is to get that cap space and be in position to add someone, another star, with Trae,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “It is not easy to get free agents to Atlanta but Jaylen Brown would be different—they want to be in position, at least, to make a move if he wants to be there. I think there is not question they are watching the situation with him. Closely.”

Most likely, the Celtics will re-sign Brown out in the summer of 2024 and this is all moot. But if the Celtics have a couple of rough playoffs, things could feel different. Whatever happens, Brown is open to it.

Three things to Know: Towns hits game-winning free throws in night of stars returning

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Karl-Anthony Towns returns and hits game-winning free throws

Karl-Anthony Towns could not have been happier.

“This is what movies is made of,” Towns said postgame (via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “You come back, 51 games missing, sellout crowd, Target Center and you get the ball with seven seconds left, no timeouts. You’ve got to make it. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Towns did make it, well the free throws, anyway. The Hawks’ John Collins fouled Towns on his final shot — something upheld by a review — then KAT sank both free throws to give Minnesota the 125-124 win.

Towns finished with 22 points and showed a little rust shooting 8-of-18 (but hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc), which is to be expected after being out since Nov. 28 with a calf strain. The Timberwolves got a needed win in the tight West playoff chase, and did it without Anthony Edwards (still out with a sprained ankle).

The Hawks got hosed on what would have been their chance on game-winning free throws.

There were 3.6 seconds left on the clock after Towns’ free throws and the Hawks called time out to set up an inbounds play. That ended up being a Collins 3-pointer that did not hit the rim, but Atlanta’s Saddiq Bey was in position for the offensive board and appeared to be fouled by Taurean Prince. After the game, referee crew chief Ben Taylor told a pool reporter his crew missed the call.

“On postgame review we see it. It appears that Prince moves back into Bey’s space, and we should have assessed a foul on the play.”

Trey Young finished with 29 points and eight assists to lead Atlanta. The Hawks remain the No.8 seed in the East, one game up on Raptors (they are now three back in the loss column from the No.7 seed Heat, who will be next to impossible to catch).

2) Ja Morant comes off bench in return from suspension, scores 17

Ja Morant was welcomed back with a standing ovation and a roar from the Grizzlies faithful Wednesday night.

“Obviously, I’m thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “It definitely helped me a lot. Definitely made me feel a little better. Eased everything that’s been going on. Felt good to be back. Super excited and glad we were able to get the win.”

Morant had missed nine games (eight due to a league suspension) following an incident where he flashed a gun in a club and broadcast it on social media. Morant took time away and got counseling in Florida on how to better manage the stress in his life.

He didn’t play hoop or workout much during that time, so he came off the bench and had a minutes limit in his return while he plays himself back into shape. Time away or not, the explosive hops are still there.

Morant finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting in a 130-125 Grizzlies win over the Rockets. Jaren Jackson Jr. continued his hot play with 37 to lead Memphis.

The win put the Grizzlies two full games up on the Kings for the No.2 seed in the West.

3) Luka Dončić scores 30 in return, it’s not enough to beat Warriors

Luka Dončić returned after missing five games with a left thigh strain and it didn’t look like he missed a day — 30 points,17 rebounds, and a couple of ridiculously good assists.

It just wasn’t enough, not with Kyrie Irving out (foot soreness).

In a defense-free game — the losing Mavericks had a 127.6 offensive rating— Stephen Curry and the Warriors had a couple more buckets and picked up the 127-125 win. Curry finished with 20 points, while Jonathan Kuminga led the Warriors with 22.

That’s not what anyone is talking about out of this game. Instead, it’s the bizarre inbounds play that gave the Warriors two easy points.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Golden State’s Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and the rebound caromed out of bounds. The baseline referee points it would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. That confused the Mavericks, who thought he signaled their ball. After the timeout came the inbounds play.

The Mavericks thought it was their ball (although why nobody came down to take the ball out is confusing), and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and said he would file a protest over the game.

Referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the call postgame.

Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.

The Mavericks’ loss drops them a game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the 9/10 seeds in the West play-in. The Warriors remain the No.6 seed.

Mavericks to protest loss to Warriors after bizarre inbounds play

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It was the easiest — and strangest — bucket of Kevon Looney‘s career.

It started late in the third quarter when the Warriors’ Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and in a scramble for the rebound the ball fumbled out of bounds. The baseline official points that it went off the Mavericks and would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. Looney goes over to complain that it should be Warriors ball, then walks away satisfied that it is.

Then came the inbounds play.

The Mavericks were confused, they thought it was their ball, and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and later said he would file a protest over the game — an eventual Warriors two-point win (127-125):

After the game, referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the situation this way to a pool reporter.

Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.

Two thoughts here. First, the video of the incident backs up the referee’s account. Still, clearly, there was a communication breakdown about what was happening (especially if it was announced in the arena as Mavericks’ ball, as Cuban said).

Second, why were all the Mavericks at the other end of the court — if it was their ball they still had to inbound it on the baseline. Cuban says two Mavs players were headed down to inbound the ball, although that is not clearly evident on the video. (This is not case of the ball being advanced to mid-court. The ball can only be advanced after a timeout in the final two minutes of the game and overtime.) It’s difficult to understand what they were doing.

It is odd the referee did not check with the Mavs or clarify the situation when the players were about to concede two points for no reason. The communication from the referee crew was poor.

Cuban can protest, but he’s going to lose this one. And this loss stings, it drops the Mavericks (playing without Kyrie Irving due to foot soreness) one game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the final two play-in spots in the West, 1.5 games back of the Warriors who remain the No. 6 seed. The game was Luka Doncic’s return to the court after missing five games and he finished with 30 points and 17 assists.

Zion Williamson cleared for on-court work, hamstring re-evaluated in two weeks

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The New Orleans Pelicans expected Zion Williamson to return from his strained hamstring before the season ends. 

The latest news out of the Big Easy doesn’t make that sound likely. While he has been cleared for some on-court activity, Zion will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the team announced.

A two-week timeline has him re-evaluated on April 5. The last day of the NBA regular season is April 9.

If the goal is to have him back for the playoffs, the Pelicans need to make it first — at 35-37 they sat 12th in the West heading into Wednesday night’s action, but that was just half a game out of the play-in and 1.5 games out of tying Golden State for the No. 6 seed (although leapfrogging all those teams to get to the top six is highly improbable). Zion returning would make the Pelicans a lower-seed team to fear in the playoffs, they outscore opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court this season.

The problem is he has only been on the court for 29 games. We don’t know when we will see him again.