Report: Can coach David Blatt reach Cavaliers? Management isn’t so sure.

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Here is the most disturbing part of the Cavaliers’ blowout, 23-point home loss to Detroit (and that is not an easy choice):

They led by 15 midway through the second quarter, they had this game in hand, then they just took their foot off the gas and thought they could coast in, and this team is not good enough to do that. They are not a strong defensive team at all, especially without Anderson Varejao for the season, they cannot stop bringing top effort. Especially with Kyrie Irving out.

How much of that falls to coach David Blatt? Can he reach this team? Some in the Cavaliers organization are starting to ask that question, reports Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that there is rising concern in team circles about the level of response Blatt is getting on the floor, with Blatt himself acknowledging that the Cavaliers “lost our energy and we lost our competitiveness” in Sunday night’s embarrassing home loss to Detroit….

But the Cavs’ effort level, especially defensively, is eroding noticeably, raising the volume on questions about just how much the locker room is listening to the 55-year-old Boston native, who has enjoyed tremendous success internationally but still began this season as a relative unknown to NBA players….

Whispers about the lack of attention various Cavs players are paying to Blatt during some timeout huddles, as well as their apparent preference to communicate with Cavs assistant and former NBA player Tyronn Lue, have been in circulation for weeks. And James acknowledged recently that he did not formally request permission to assume the bulk of the Cavs’ playmaking duties, which triggered Cleveland’s eight-game winning streak earlier this month.

There are several factors in Blatt’s favor here. First, to be fair the job he was hired for — building up a young Cavaliers team — is not the one he got when LeBron James changed the landscape of the NBA and returned to Cleveland. Blatt likely would be Steve Kerr’s lead assistant had the Cavs been sure that would have happened.

Second, Blatt can coach. The man has won a lot in Europe (including the EuroLeague title with Maccabi Tel-Aviv last season) and coached the Russian national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics. His system offensively, when executed properly, looks a lot like the Spurs did in last year’s finals — ball movement and guys moving off the ball.

Finally, there are serious roster issues with the Cavs that no coach is going to fix. They do not have a defensive presence in the paint, you can go at them with size. That’s been exacerbated by the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao. And there have been other injuries as well (Kyrie Irving was out against Detroit, for example).

All that said, this team is not playing hard for Blatt. They are not following his systems on either end of the floor and he is struggling to get through to them. Kevin Love looks lost at times and isn’t getting the ball where he is most dangerous (and when he does he still has some struggles with being consistent). In Europe the power structure is more like college — the coaches have all the power — but in the NBA that dynamic shifts and the players have the real power. Especially LeBron. Especially in Cleveland.

And if LeBron wants another coach — or doesn’t come to Blatt’s defense in a serious way — there will be a new coach in Cleveland sooner rather than later.

Damon Jones says Lakers are in play for Kawhi Leonard

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I had heard from multiple sources going back to Summer League last year that the Lakers were not an option for Kawhi Leonard. He’s a guy who does not like a lot of drama and chaos around him, he just wants to play basketball, and being with LeBron James on the Lakers is to live in the spotlight with drama your constant companion.

Did the Anthony Davis trade change his thinking? Damon Jones, the former NBA player and assistant coach, said yes it did on ESPN’s Get Up show. He said a source that would know told him the Lakers are now in play.

Two thoughts here:

First, nobody knows what Kawhi Leonard is thinking. We can all play the “read the tea leafs” game — at the Raptors’ championship parade some fans started a “one more year” chant and Leonard’s close advisor Uncle Dennis (as he is commonly known) had one finger up and was chanting along, read what you want into that — but none of us really know which way Leonard leans. The “people close to Leonard” have sent mixed signals from the start, some have different agendas, and they are not Leonard. Stay in Toronto, come to the Clippers or Lakers? We don’t know.

Second, getting Leonard to the Lakers requires a semi-complicated salary cap move. After the Davis trade the Lakers have between $23 million and $27 million in salary cap space (depending on how much of Davis’ trade kicker he is going to take, if any) but that is not enough to sign Leonard to a max contract. And he’s not taking a discount. Los Angeles could create the room by delaying the Davis trade for a month. Follow along: Currently, the Davis trade can’t be executed until July 6. However, if the Lakers draft whoever the Pelicans want with the No. 4 pick, sign him, then wait a month and include that player and his salary in the trade (the CBA says a draft pick cannot be traded for 30 days after he signs his contract) then the Lakers could have $32.5 million in cap space, enough to sign Leonard (or Kemba Walker, or Jimmy Butler, or Kyrie Irving, or any free agent with 7-9 years of service and earning a max deal).

Except, the Pelicans want to get the trade done and, I was told, don’t have to agree to this delay. Would the Lakers have to throw in another second round pick or something to make this work? Maybe.

That all assumes Leonard wants to come to the Lakers. And nobody really knows that for sure.

Whatever happens, the board man gonna get paid.

 

 

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.