Report: Pistons expected to pursue Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo turned down a chance to coach the Atlanta Hawks in 2000. For many college coaches, even successful ones, one shot at an NBA job is the maximum. But Izzo has kept plugging away in East Lansing, reaching four Final Fours since 2000 with a chance for a fifth this season.

It doesn’t hurt to have a couple Spartans owning NBA teams, either.

Michigan State graduate Dan Gilbert pursued, but ultimately didn’t land, Izzo for the Cleveland Cavaliers job in 2010. Now, it’s expected another MSU alum chases Izzo.

Sam Amick of USA Today on Pistons owner Tom Gores:

One name he’s expected to go after is Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

Having already fired Maurice Cheeks and not getting a bump with interim coach John Loyer, the Pistons will need a coach this offseason. Considering they might also need a new general manager, Gores could have a big say in the coaching search.

Would Izzo finally jump? Maybe.

He put a lot of time and energy into recruiting Jabari Parker, who ultimately went to Duke. That left Michigan State’s recent recruiting classes thin relative to college basketball’s other powers. A good coach like Izzo could probably mold these recruits into good players by the time they’re upperclassmen, but would he want to endure that rebuild – and the lean years that could come between – if an NBA job is available?

Izzo, who made more than $3.7 million last season, would definitely require a raise to leave Michigan State. And increasing his salary would likely place him among the NBA’s top half of coaches.

Considering how rarely college coaches translate to the NBA, that does not seem like the best use of Gores’ money.

Izzo instills a strong competitiveness in his players and he knows how to navigate the arc of a season in order to have his team peaking in March, two skills that make him a great college coach. He also possesses a bright basketball mind, which could make him a great NBA coach.

Hiring Izzo would be a big risk for the Pistons, albeit one that could pay off in a big way. Is it worth the cost? Only if Gores wants to pay it.

If I were owner, though, I’d spend that much only to get one of the many proven NBA head coaches – George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins – who are possibly available.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.