Tom Thibodeau to the Knicks? Well…

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Tom Thibodeau is represented by Creative Artists Agency. We have to start there.

CAA and the Knicks enjoy an extremely harmonious relationship.

The Knicks actually made Mike Woodson fire his agent and retain CAA, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher/Report. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Once Woodson switches his representation to CAA, the agency will control the team’s best player, the head coach and front-office executives Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien — not to mention marketing and sponsorship partners and musical artists who can fill the Garden for important concert dates that otherwise might have gone to the spectacular new arena nearing completion in Brooklyn for the Nets.

The Knicks’ most-perplexing move of recent of recent memory – and that’s a deep competition – of signing Chris Smith? Yup, CAA was behind that, too. The John Calipari rumors? CAA-based also.

So, the only reason the idea of Thibodeau going to the Bulls is gaining footing is because he’s represented by CAA.

Marc Stein of ESPN lays out the case:

Don’t forget he’s another CAA star client who already has some Knicks history after his stint as an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff. No one I’ve consulted, furthermore, thinks that trying to bring in the famously demanding Thibodeau would dissuade Melo from re-signing with the Knicks, who, remember, can still pay their star forward $30 million more than anyone else to stay in a city he adores.

Thibs has two seasons left on his Bulls deal after this one, true, but there is said to be enough lingering friction between the coach and GM Gar Forman to the point that you can picture it eventually sparking some sort of mutual parting. Throw in the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Derrick Rose’s health, rising fears that Thibs’ beloved Luol Deng is a certainty to relocate in free agency next summer (if not sooner) and the occasional grumble in circulation about some of the Bulls’ players chafing at how hard Thibs pushes them in practice and there’s clearly something there when coaching insiders tip you to keep your eye on Thibs to the Knicks.

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The biggest obvious hurdle is Thibodeau signed a four-year contract extension that kicked in this season. So, how do the sides get past that?

1. Money. Thibodeau is one of the NBA’s best coaches, and if the Knicks want him, they’ll have to pay top dollar. First, they’ll have to offer Thibodeau a high salary. Then, they’ll have to offer the Bulls financial compensation for letting Thibodeau out of his contract early. Offering just draft picks, as the Clippers did to acquire Doc Rivers from Boston, probably won’t work, because the Knicks are already infamously short on picks.

2. The Bulls giving approval. Beck reports the Bulls would likely let Thibodeau out of his contract if he asks – though not before using their leverage to extract compensation from New York, I’m sure. The rift between Thibodeau and the front office is no secret, and if the they rebuild based on Derrick Rose’s health and Luol Deng’s free agency, the Bulls might prefer to do so with a new coach. Plus, Thibodeau’s demanding style must wear on players, and Chicago might just decide his message has become tired there.

3. The Knicks actually wanting Thibodeau. As long as James Dolan is running the Knicks, who knows what they’re doing? They’ll probably just keep Woodson or hire Allan Houston, who has no coaching experience.

But these are not huge obstacles. Though nobody is more likely than the field to coach the Knicks next season, this really could happen.

Thibodeau, via Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago:

“I don’t pay any attention to any of that stuff. To me, the only thing I have to do is concentrate on our team, our next opponent, our improvement and never get away from that,” he continued. “There’s a lot of stuff that gets thrown out there that’s just B.S., so if you pay any attention, it does no good. It takes you away from what’s important, and what’s important right now is our improvement and getting ready for the next game.”

Allow me to read way too much into that statement. Thibodeau never denies his interest in New York. He never says he’s committed to the Bulls forever.

It sounds like he’s wisely leaving the door open, and there’s no good reason to believe he won’t eventually walk through it. At this point, though, there also aren’t enough reasons to assume he will, either.

When a retired Michael Jordan showed up, dominated a Warriors practice

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It was the winter of 1995, major league baseball was on strike and Michael Jordan — at that time still a member of the Chicago White Sox organization — refused to be a scab and cross the picket lines.

“Mike was thinking about coming back (to the NBA), he was getting that itch again, it was a lockout in baseball, and he just wanted to play some basketball,” NBA legend Tim Hardaway told NBC Sports.

The Last Dance documentary covered how Jordan was secretly taking part in Bulls’ practices at that time. What it didn’t cover was the time Jordan flew out to California to see his friend, Rod Higgins (a Warriors assistant coach), and absolutely dominated a Warriors practice.

“It was kind of embarrassing for a guy to take that many months off then to come into our practice and dominate the way he did,” Hardaway said. “But of course, he’s MJ.”

Warriors players tell the story on The Sports Uncovered podcast, which launched today by NBC and takes a unique look at some of the most significant moments in sports. Like Jordan saying, “I’m back.” You can listen to the podcast below or download it at Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your pods.

Jordan was always looking for a test, and the Warriors at the time provided one: Hardaway was one of the game’s great scorers (but was still coming off a torn ACL) and trash talkers, and Golden State had the game’s “it” up-and-coming player in Latrell Sprewell.

Hardaway takes the story from there.

“[Jordan] and [then Warriors assistant coach] Rod Higgins are really good friends, he just came to visit Rod and said, ‘Hey, Rod, you think [Don Nelson] would let me just come to practice and with y’all?’ And Rod asked him and coach was like, ‘s ***, why not, of course.’

“He just wanted to see where he was at, where his skills was at — and of course they was still there. The same skills, without much rust, that he left with. He was practicing with us, and I came up and was egging him on, ‘Let’s see what you got, s***, let’s see it.’ He said, ‘Alright, now, I’m still MJ.’ And I was like, ‘You had guys throwing balls at you, you been out two years, I heard you been shooting around but this here, this is the real deal now, you got to come and lace your s*** up.”

“It was him, Rony Seikaly, Chris Mullin, some other point guard, against me, Sprewell, some other guys, and man, we was playing for like two hours, and I wanted to go some more because he was bustin’ our a**. He wouldn’t let Sprewell dribble the ball at all — he kinda knew exactly what Sprewell could do, what he couldn’t do, his weaknesses and his strengths.

“It was like he never missed a beat, man. He was out there shooting fadeaways, dunking, playing defense, getting through screens, denying, jumping through passing lanes. It was a little rust, of course, but once he got going each game he got stronger and stronger, his timing got better, you could just tell. He was kinda tired at the end, but it was something to see.”

Hardaway, always the competitor, didn’t want to stop.

“I was kinda upset because I think his team took it more seriously than our team,” Hardaway said. “But he came in and put on a show in practice…

“He said ‘I can play all night, but you all have a game tomorrow and I don’t want to wear you out.’ I was not playing that much anyway so I wanted to get as much run as I can.”

Find out more about that legendary practice, and Jordan’s return, on The Sports Uncovered podcast.

 

NBA veteran Jason Terry takes job as assistant coach at Arizona

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Jason Terry played four years for the legendary Lute Olsen at Arizona, winning a national championship in 1997 and averaging 21.9 points a game his senior year. The Jet went on from there to play 19 years in the NBA, winning a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2009, and he was part of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks championship team.

Terry had moved into the front office side of the business and was serving as the assistant GM of the Texas Legends, Dallas’ G-League affiliate. Now, however, he is jumping back to his alma mater, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a smart hire by Arizona and head coach Sean Miller. High schoolers going to a major D-1 school all have NBA dreams and having a respected NBA veteran who can say “this is what it takes” on staff is a big plus. Besides, Terry was a smart player who knows the game and had a mentality suited to coaching.

For Terry, he’s back in a place he likes, he’s young (42) and has a world of options ahead of him.

Scott Foster says it’s going to be different officiating without fans in building

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The noise from 18,000 people can cover up a lot of sounds in an NBA arena. So when a back-bench assistant coach yells “bulls****” after a call he doesn’t like, the official never hears it and the game moves on.

Not when NBA games restart in fan-less facilities in Orlando in a couple of months. Without those fans, referees are going to get to hear that coach. And a whole lot more.

It’s going to be weird for referees in Orlando, just like for players, veteran official Scott Foster said recently on NBA TV.

I know I don’t want everything that we normally say to each other going out. But normally we’re all in a professional manner out there. But it is going to be different. There’s going to be some assistant coaches that we haven’t really heard from before sitting in the second row that we’ll be able to hear now, so there’s going to be some adjustment there. And then I think we’re going to need to really talk about and analyze what is OK for the public to hear and how we’re going to go about our business.

But it’s definitely going to be a different thing. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really unique experience for the referees, players, coaches, everybody who’s going to go through this.”

It is going to be unique. Everybody is going to hear everything, and that is going to be very different from most nights when coaches have to go to hand signals because it’s too loud just to call out a play. It’s going to lead to some awkward and tense moments.

Everyone is going to have to adjust to the new reality, and that includes the referees, too.

 

Report: NBA group stage could include 24 teams

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine
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The initial report on the NBA resuming with a group stage presented a 20-team scenario. There’d be four groups with five teams each – one from each tier of the current standings:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

Teams would play each other team in its group, and the top two finishers in each group would advance to an eight-team tournament (effectively the second round of the playoffs, though without conference splits).

But that format could apparently include four more teams.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In brief, per several sources who have seen the league’s proposal: The NBA could take 20 (or 24) teams and divide them into groups

The simplest way to expand to 24 teams would be adding a sixth tier then forming four groups of six. That’d mean adding:

  • Tier 6: Suns, Wizards, Hornets, Bulls

Bleh.

The more games the NBA holds, the more money the league will make. But the more people involved, the more risk of someone contracting and spreading coronavirus. It’s a fine line, and the league has sought a middle ground.

Phoenix, Washington, Charlotte and Chicago strike me as too lousy to include. Those teams are well outside the normal playoff race, and there’s no good reason to believe they would’ve made a late push.

In this environment, they might have shot, though. Coronavirus increases variability. Players have had differing access to resources and differing motivation to train during the hiatus. Once play resumes, positive tests could be scattered randomly. Would anyone view the Suns, Wizards, Hornets or Bulls as deserving of a berth in the eight-team tournament? If one of those four teams qualified, that’d probably just show the setup was flawed.

The fairest way to set the playoffs is with 20 teams, depending on structure. Resuming with just 16 teams wouldn’t be that far behind. The highest financial upside comes with all 30 teams, but that seems infeasible.

Setting the line at 24 teams seems like the worst of most worlds – including four bad teams that wouldn’t generate much interest but would threaten to disrupt everything else.