More Kings fallout: Shareef Abdur-Rahim reportedly quit after draft-night argument, Chris Jent out, Chris Mullin in?

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By firing Michael Malone, the Kings opened Pandora’s box.

Is Sacramento crazy enough to fire a coach exceeding expectations, to let its franchise player find out on Twitter, to let the owner dictate in-game strategy based on his experience coaching a youth team?

Yes, yes and yes.

Now, everyone is turning over stones looking for more wonkiness from Vivek Ranadivé and co.

Let’s start with this doozy about Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who worked in the Kings’ front office with general manager Pete D’Alessandro and Advisor to the Owner Chris Mullin.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Abdur-Rahim expressed disagreement with D’Alessandro, Mullin, and Mitch Richmond during the draft process, and left the team shortly after an argument on draft night, per several league sources.

Maybe Abdur-Rahim was in the wrong, but in light of everything that has happened since, he’ll sure get the benefit of the doubt. I mean, just look at this behind-the-scenes video of the Kings’ war room on the night they drafted Nik Stauskas at No. 8:

I don’t know whether that was embellished for the cameras, but if not, that’s a whole lot of Stauskas/Elfrid Payton debate while on the clock. Well-run teams probably aren’t having that discussion at that point, especially with man who writes the checks speaking most.

That said, there might be more than meet’s the eye here. Abdur-Rahim was hired as an assistant general manager before Ranadivé bought the team, and he left as Director, Player Personnel/Reno Bighorns GM. That sounds like a demotion.

Moving onto people still in the organization, Mullin could become the Kings’ next coach if he wants, according to an anonymous general manager. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports adds context:

Owner Vivek Ranadive is giving serious consideration to hiring Chris Mullin to coach the Sacramento Kings, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

In the wake of Michael Malone’s firing on Sunday night, Ranadive has been soliciting counsel on Mullin’s candidacy and has grown increasingly intrigued with the kind of acumen and star power Mullin, an ownership adviser for the Kings, could bring to the franchise, sources said.

Mullin hasn’t come close to committing to the coaching idea, but there’s support in ownership and in the front office for him to give it significant thought, sources said.

It seems Ranadivé – who previously owned a share of the Warriors – is trying too hard to find the next Steve Kerr. Maybe that’s Mullin, but there are a lot of superficial similarities. I’m unconvinced Ranadivé has found additional meaningful reasons to make Mullin coach.

For now, Tyrone Corbin will coach the team. That’s because the Kings struck out on Alvin Gentry as lead assistant before he took a job with the Warriors.

Lowe:

Malone was absolutely threatened by the team’s move over the summer to hire a lead assistant from a pool that included Alvin Gentry, per several sources familiar with the matter. (Three league sources say Gentry was uncomfortable with the possibility that the Kings were setting him up to succeed Malone, and ended up taking an assistant job under Steve Kerr in Golden State. The Kings deny they had any such plans.)

Corbin might have been a comprise hire, a former head coach but not as threatening as Gentry and more highly regarded than Chris Gent. By the way, Gent is out, too.

Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

LeBron James, Dion Waiters’ son engage in a little trash talk

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“Yeah, right.”

That was Dion Waiters Jr.’s response to pretty much everything LeBron James during the Lakers’ practice on Saturday before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

LeBron was getting up some corner threes and told Waiters Jr. he would make 100 straight.

“Yeah, right.”

When LeBron missed one, “I missed that on purpose.” 

“Yeah, right.”

“I missed that on purpose, so you’d think I’m human,” LeBron joked.

Got to love Dion Waiters Jr. — he’s got some of his dad’s spunk.

Families have been allowed in the bubble for teams for a couple of weeks, although LeBron’s sons are not there, with LeBron saying it’s not a great place for kids (he’s right, for anyone over about 7 or 8, there would be little to do).

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game on Saturday night.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.