Report: League is reviewing several controversial calls from Pacers’ Game 4 win over Heat

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As with most closely contested games this deep into the NBA playoffs, there were plenty of calls made by the officials in the Pacers’ Game 4 win over the Heat that could be argued depending on which side of the proverbial fence you happen to be sitting on.

Some others, however, were either objectively incorrect, or allowed to go on without a whistle from the referees.

There seemed to be more of these types of calls than usual in this one, and that may be why the league is reportedly taking a closer look at multiple plays from Game 4 to see exactly what took place.

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

NBA officials are looking at several controversial calls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals as they sift through the fallout from the Pacers’ 99-92 victory on Tuesday night, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The most obvious missed call was a blown 24-second call against the Pacers by crew chief Joe Crawford with 8:26 left in the third quarter. Replays showed that Roy Hibbert’s attempt hit the rim, which should’ve resulted in the shot clock resetting. The Pacers were leading 81-72 at the time, and Miami subsequently went on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 83-83.

The non-call on the 24-second violation was obvious. But there were several others:

– After LeBron James came out essentially in favor of using flopping to gain an advantage, there were two blatant flops in Game 4 that are deserving of punishment. There was a double-flop on the same play where both James and David West exaggerated contact when the two collided. Nothing was called by the officials.

The other egregious acting job was pulled off by Lance Stephenson, who tried to convince a nearby official that Ray Allen had caught him with an elbow to the head. The referees weren’t buying that one, either.

– James fouled out on what was ruled an illegal screen with 56 seconds left. A look at the replay shows that James stuck out his leg to try to slow Stephenson, so this one appears to be legit, as it’s a tripping foul if nothing else. James said afterward that he thought he was “straight-up” on an and-one play that was converted by Paul George, but that was similar to a block/charge call that could have gone either way, and isn’t likely to draw any ire from the league office. But since James fouling out is an extremely rare occurrence, the league may look closely at his postgame comments to determine if a fine is in order for criticizing the officiating, even though nothing he said was all that inflammatory.

– With 26 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade was called for traveling on a play that was questionable at best. A point of emphasis for the officials this year was to watch for players lifting both feet before initiating the dribble, which Wade might have been guilty of on this play. But that’s not when the travel was called; it came after the step-back move that appeared to be perfectly legal.

It isn’t great that the officiating is in the spotlight here, especially as we approach a critical Game 5. But it’s a positive that the league is al least reviewing the questionable calls that took place, and we’ll have to wait and  see if it makes any difference in how things are officiated on Thursday.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.

Dallas Mavericks near agreement to sign Kemba Walker

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks
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Looking for help spacing the floor and with secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks are turning to Kemba Walker.

Marc Stein was first with the news the sides were close to a deal, but since then multiple reports — plus comments from team owner Mark Cuban — confirmed it is happening.

This will be a veteran minimum contract (all the over-the-cap Mavericks can offer). To create the roster spot, the Mavericks will waive Facundo Campazzo, who was signed a few weeks ago and has barely touched the court for the team.

Walker averaged 11.6 points and 3.5 assists a game playing solidly in stretches for the Knicks last season, but the concern was his staying on the court — he appeared in just 37 games due to ongoing knee problems. Walker spent the offseason working on getting past those, but the Knicks traded him to Detroit for picks, but the Pistons were stacked at the point guard spot (at least before the season and injuries hit Cade Cunningham), so they bought out his $9.2 million for this season.

Walker worked to convince teams he still had plenty in the tank, but it was always going to take a situation where a team reached a certain level of desperation. Enter the Mavericks.