Hey Warriors management, who will you get that’s better? Seven names to watch.

35 Comments

Who are you going to get that’s better?

Mark Jackson being let go as the head coach of the Golden State Warrior had been rumored for months, and as Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com noted this was more mutual than people thought. Still, Jackson’s team won 51 games, made a strong playoff showing without their best defensive player, and are a team not far from contending. Golden State just had its best back-to-back seasons in decades. The players love him.

So who you going to get that’s better, Joe Lacob? As Jackson himself noted, the pressure is on the Warriors owner and front office now to find a replacement that is an upgrade.

MORE FROM CSN BAY AREA: Lacob explains rationale for firing Jackson

Here are the names that have been floating around the league as candidates and have been mentioned in reports:

1) Steve Kerr. He is the first name mentioned by everyone, owner Lacob and his son Kirk (working in the front office) have ties to Kerr, plus others in the front office are high on him. It’s why they moved fast on Jackson — Kerr was about to start talks with the Knicks (but hasn’t yet) and reportedly will listen to the Warriors, but they had to get their hat in the ring. There is one big question here: Do they want to replace one coach plucked out of the broadcast booth with no experience on the bench with another? This is going to be an upgrade? Maybe Kerr is easier to work with off the court (Jackson was described as “disruptive” to me), but is Kerr going to be a better coach? That’s a big gamble. This job has a very different pressure than the New York one, but with an ownership group that thinks the team is a contender there is real pressure.

2) Stan Van Gundy. This would be a potential upgrade — Jackson is not near the strategist Van Gundy is (Jackson let the assistants do a lot of the game planning, setting the defensive system, etc). Van Gundy has coached a team all the way to the Finals before and he seems to be itching to get back into it. Of course, if you just let go of Jackson because he is hard to work with and you bring in the outspoken Van Gundy, then you pressure him from the outside… go ask Orlando management how that goes. Still, he may be the betting favorite to get the gig.

3) Fred Hoiberg. He is on a lot of NBA teams’ radar. He worked in the Minnesota front office, is a former NBA player who has shown at Iowa State he knows how to coach the game. If he wants to come out of college to the NBA a number of teams (including Minnesota) would like to talk to him. So far he hasn’t shown any inclination to head to the pros, but the option is there.

4) Kevin Ollie. Another college coach on everybody’s list, he just won a national title at UConn. He is wisely parlaying that into new contract negotiations with UConn, and he is expected to stay, but apparently he will listen to the Lakers’ overtures. He may do so with the Warriors as well. Still smart money says he stays put.

5) Alvin Gentry. The former NBA head coach and current Clippers assistant next to Doc Rivers is a name put out there by the well connected Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. He has 12 years experience as a head coach, the last five of those with the Suns where the team went back to an up-tempo style. He’s well liked around the league. That said, does a guy with a career .475 winning percentage that has made the playoffs twice (once getting to the conference finals) have the star power to replace Jackson? Not really.

6) Tom Thibodeau. Another name Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News put out there from his sources. Even with the reports of friction between Thibodeau and the Bulls GM Gar Forman, it’s highly unlikely the Warriors would even get permission to speak with him, let alone having the Bulls let him walk. But like the Lakers, the Warriors may ask if they can approach him about the deal.

7) George Karl. He’s not on any rumor list, but he’s an available name coach who plays an up-tempo, free-flowing offensive style that would mesh well with the current Golden State roster. Just a name to keep in the back of your mind, particularly if the top few on this list do not pan out. The Warriors need to make a splash with this hire.

Kevin Love in concussion protocol, listed as out for Game 7

Getty Images
2 Comments

As if winning a Game 7 on the road against a younger, more athletic team that has not lost on its home court all playoffs was not difficult enough, things just got harder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Love has a concussion and is not expected to play in Game 7 on Sunday.

While it is technically possible for Love to clear out of the concussion protocol in 24 hours, it is highly unlikely. He would have to pass a rigorous physical test and have no concussion-related symptoms, something cleared by both the team doctor and a league-approved neurologist. This is something that tends to take days if not weeks to get over.

Love was injured just five minutes into Game 6. Love had set up position in the midpost and was setting a screen for George Hill, who was curling out to the arc. Jayson Tatum was trailing Hill and he banged heads with Love. It wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and did not return to the game.

LeBron James is going to have to carry even more load in Game 7, and now more pressure falls on George Hill (the bellwether for this Cavs team), J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and others to step up without Love there to space the floor and get buckets.

Report: Raptors interview Spurs’ assistants Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka for coaching job

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not officially a coaching search until some Spurs’ assistants are interviewed.

So it looks like the Toronto Raptors’ search is underway.

Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri fired Dwane Casey right after Casey’s peers voted him Coach of the Year for leading the Raptors to 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the East. That said, after several frustrating years of running into the brick wall that is LeBron James in the East, maybe the Raptors did need a new voice and some changes to try to take the next step (especially with Boston and Philadelphia coming on fast in the East hierarchy).

But if you’re going to fire a 59-win Coach of the Year kind of guy, you better have an impressive replacement in hand or at least a clear plan.

Ujiri reportedly wanted Mike Budenholzer, but the former Hawks’ head coach took the job in Milwaukee after meeting with Toronto.

The leading candidate for the job is still considered to be Nick Nurse, the Raptors’ assistant who was in charge of their changed and improved offense last season. The Raptors also interviewed two other internal candidates, assistant coach Rex Kalamian and G-League coach Jerry Stackhouse.

Casey, by the way, is the target of the Detroit Pistons.

Despite injury scare, LeBron James will be ready to go in Game 7

Getty Images
6 Comments

It was the kind of injury that has felled many players — think of Rudy Gobert this season. Twice. A player falls into the side of another player’s leg, putting a strain on the ligaments.

That’s what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Cleveland Friday night, Larry Nance Jr. falls back and LeBron James‘ knee bent in a way it should not.

“After the game, I didn’t know who got me,” LeBron said. “But after the game, Larry asked me if I was I OK, so I’m guessing he was the culprit of it. I just felt someone fall into my leg and my leg kind of went in. I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”

James scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with a couple of dagger threes to secure the win after that scare, but he didn’t seem to have the same lift after that and was seen favoring his leg walking out of the building.

Of course, LeBron will be good to go for Game 7 in Boston Sunday. If Friday night was any indication, he’s not going to be slowed by it at all.

“As soon as I leave here, I’ll start to prepare (for Game 7),” LeBron said from the podium postgame. “I’m going to get in the car and head back to Akron. As soon as I get home, I’ll start my treatment. I’ll do the same all day tomorrow from before we leave to go to Boston, and then once we get into Boston I’ll do that as well. Try to get as much sleep as I can with tonight and with tomorrow and even on Sunday before the game. That’s the best recovery that you can possibly get, is when you’re sleeping. It’ll be around-the-clock treatment, and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s going to happen is a dramatic Game 7 in the Garden, and we know that for Cleveland to have any chance LeBron has to be superhuman. Again.

Warriors facing elimination but undaunted entering Game 6

9 Comments

HOUSTON (AP) — If the Golden State Warriors are worried as they head into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on the brink of elimination, they aren’t showing it.

“We have a chance to tie the series at home. That’s a pretty good position to be in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to win two basketball games and we’ve done that an awful lot, so we’re very confident.”

The defending champions trail Houston 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after consecutive wins by the Rockets, capped by Thursday night’s 98-94 victory. Now the series shifts to Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors have lost just one time in their last 17 playoff games.

Stephen Curry said the Warriors are encouraged despite falling behind in the series because they believe both games could have gone their way and that a few simple corrections will get them back on track.

“We have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves at home, get a big win, keep ourselves alive, and then roll the dice into Game 7,” Curry said. “Not all is lost.”

Houston’s big win in Game 5 was tempered by a hamstring injury to star Chris Paul which will keep him out of Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for a team which is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.

The Rockets believe they can absorb this loss and don’t seem daunted by the setback, noting that they found ways to win in the regular season in many games where Paul sat out with injuries.

“I don’t have a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “They see the challenge … whether CP’s there or not, it’s a heck of a challenge, and they’re up to it. They’re looking forward to it.”

James Harden, who has struggled offensively in the last two games and went 0 for 11 on 3s in Game 5, rolled his eyes when asked if Paul’s injury puts more pressure on him.

“Pressure for what? It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals,” he said. “There is pressure on everybody.”

While that may be true, the onus is on Harden to step up and deliver an MVP-caliber performance if the Rockets hope to close out this series. Harden has had plenty of playoff disappointments in the last few years and embraces the chance to get Houston back into the finals.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never had and probably won’t ever have,” he said. “It’s our job to go out there and have fun with it and do the same thing we’ve been doing. We want to take advantage of it.”

While the Rockets will be down a starter, the Warriors could get one back if Andre Iguodala can return on Saturday. The Warriors have missed the defensive presence of Iguodala who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee.

Iguodala is listed on the injury report as questionable for Game 6 and Kerr said he didn’t have an update on his condition on Friday. But he did address what it would mean to Golden State if he’s healthy enough to go on Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kerr said. “He’s one of our keys, and we’ve missed him the last two games. But we can’t count on it. Injuries happen, and you’ve just got to play with whoever’s out there. So we’re hoping he’s back, and we’ll see what happens.”

Iguodala’s absence has been magnified in this series that has morphed into a defensive slugfest instead of the high-scoring shootout that most expected when it began. The Rockets take great pride in the fact that they’ve limited Golden State to less than 100 points in the last two games and think continuing to play great defense is the only way they’ll advance.

“It’s something we talked about building up all year,” Houston’s P.J. Tucker said. “To see our defense now be as good as it is, we still think it could be a lot better. We watched film, and honestly … we didn’t play great defense last night. Everybody will talk about how good a defense we played, but we really don’t feel like that. So just keep working and trying to get better.”

Kerr said the experience of his team, which is trying to reach the finals for the fourth straight year, will be valuable as the Warriors try and climb out of this hole and force Game 7. He referenced the conference finals in 2016 when they fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 before winning the next three to take the series.

“We’ve been here before,” Kerr said. “We’ve faced elimination on the road before – this team has – a few years ago. We faced series deficits before. We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time, too.”