Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: DeMar DeRozan went Harden on Harden

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking about the physical toll being an NBA player puts on one’s body

1) DeMar DeRozan out Hardened James Harden. What James Harden does better than anyone is relentlessly attack. He’s going to get to the line, he’s going to hit a couple ridiculous shots, he’s going to put the pressure on your defense. He did all that against the Toronto Raptors Monday on his way to 31 points — but DeMar DeRozan did them better. He got to the free throw line 17 times; he hit a couple ridiculous turn-around jumpers, and in the end he put up 42 points. More importantly, his struggling Toronto Raptors picked up an important win. (Memphis would like to thank him as well, as they move back to the two seed.

2) Kyle Korver is a T-2000 terminator sent from the future to shoot threes and destroy the NBA. How else do you explain his 11 points in 65 seconds?

3) Avery Bradley helped Boston stay right in the playoff mix. Boston picked up a key win in their drive to make the playoffs Monday dropping 116 points on Charlotte — Boston had an offensive rating of 129.5 (points per 100 possessions). The key was Boston had fantastic ball movement for the night, and that plays right into Avery Bradley’s game — he moves better off the ball and finds space better than he sometimes gets credit for. He was finding that space at the top of the key area and on wing threes. With the win, Boston moved back into the eight seed in the east past Brooklyn for a night in a battle that will go on right up until the final night of the season.

4) Jordan Clarkson hits game winner to the frustration of Lakers’ fans. This is Adam Silver’s nightmare: The Lakers and Sixers faced off Monday night, and large swaths of both fan bases were rooting for their favorite team to lose. It’s all about the lottery balls; the Sixers had the third-worst record in the NBA while the Lakers were fourth. If Philly had won just one game would have separated the two, but instead Jordan Clarkson hit the game winner in OT, and the Lakers picked up the road win. With that, LA has a three-game lead over Philly and is going to finish with the fourth worst record. (If, after the lottery, the Lakers have top 5 pick they get to keep it, if not it goes to Philly, all stemming from the Steve Nash trade. The Lakers have about an 80 percent chance of keeping that pick as fourth worst.) Both of these franchises should just be glad right now the NBA doesn’t have relegation like European soccer.

5) The Knicks apparently need a big with a “big butt.” Maybe the most discussed thing in the NBA online universe Monday was what former Phil Jackson confidante (and long time talking head) Charley Rosen told the New York Post about the Knicks and the triangle offense.

“They need a center with a big butt to hold space,’’ Rosen told The Post. “They didn’t have anybody like that. It takes away a major portion of what you can do with the triangle because then it really becomes just a perimeter offense.’’

 

He suggests Greg Monroe would be a better fit than drafting someone like Karl Towns out of Kentucky.

Two thoughts:

First, Rosen isn’t wrong in that the Knicks need a presence inside. Although I would suggest what the Knicks need more than anything is talent upgrades pretty much anywhere they can get one, getting a presence inside is part of that.

Second, it brings up another question discussed around New York (and parts of the NBA): Can Phil Jackson’s version of the triangle still work and still win in the NBA? That triangle looked great when the ball could just be thrown into Shaq in the post, but will that still work in a zone-defense/overload world where before Shaq gets the ball on the block the double team is already there? NBA defenses have changed and if you haven’t adapted — as the Spurs, Hawks, Warriors and other teams have done — you’ll struggle. Will that slow down the Knicks’ recovery?

Hard to tell until they get more talent on the roster.

Frank Vogel not worried Jason Kidd will undermine him as coach

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What else was he going to say?

In a “welcome to the Lakers” press conference that was hijacked by the sideshow of Magic Johnson torching the organization — is there better prep for what a Laker coach deals with than that? — Frank Vogel was relentlessly optimistic. He had nothing but praise for the organization, the people, the players, heck he probably would have said he loved the Game of Thrones ending.

And when asked about having Jason Kidd pushed on him as an assistant coach — one of the reasons Tyronn Lue walked away from the table, he didn’t want a guy who could replace him and had lobbied for the Lakers job before in the seat next to him — Vogel said he was not worried about that, either. Via Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I have been around this business a long time. I really don’t give that a second thought. You can say that about every coach in the league about their assistant coaches. It happens from time to time. I believe if you treat people with the right respect and do the job at the highest level, build an environment of positivity and collaboration, you can’t worry about that stuff.

“You can’t worry about looking over your shoulder. You got to worry about getting good damn coaches, and that is how I feel about this hire.”

Vogel also said he sat down with Kidd and they are on the same page in terms of coaching philosophy.

“I had a great, lengthy interview process with Jason where we talked about every topic you can imagine, and came away thinking he’s going to be an incredible asset to our program.”

Again, what else was he going to say?

Kidd has a history of angling for the Lakers job, even when it was filled, and Vogel knows it. But Vogel accepted the terms of a three-year contract (lining up with LeBron James‘ deal) and Kidd as his assistant, things that a coach with options would not have taken. Lue didn’t. Vogel has to make the best of the situation, and whatever he may think privately, he has to be optimistic and positive in public. Especially on his first day.

Vogel may have been the Lakers third or fourth option as a coach, but they backed into a good one — if they give him the talent to win and don’t undercut him. Vogel has coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, where he always lost to LeBron (there are a lot of coaches in the East who had that problem). He’s a strong defensive coach. Vogel has a lot of fans in the coaching ranks, and a lot of those people think the Lakers have set Vogel up to fail. We’ll see, that’s more about the Lakers’ offseason.

But at the start, Vogel is saying all the right things. Even if that was the only thing to say.

John Beilein ready to undertake “renaissance” with Cavaliers

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — John Beilein has coached at every level in college but says the Cleveland Cavaliers are his dream job.

The 66-year-old Beilein, who turned Michigan into a perennial power during a 12-year run, was introduced Tuesday by the Cavaliers. Even before taking the podium, Beilein got to work with one of his new players, peeling off his suit jacket to rebound shots for forward Larry Nance Jr.

Beilein doesn’t view Cleveland’s situation as a rebuild but rather a renaissance. At one point during his remarks, Beilein pointed to the 2016 NBA championship banner and others hanging along one wall at the Cavs’ facility and said, “it’s been done before, it can be done again.”

Beilein drew a large laugh when he was reminded he has never been fired by saying, “That’s right.”

Beilein knows he has work to do with the Cavaliers, who went 19-63 last season.

 

Coach Terry Stotts signs multi-year extension to stay with Portland

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The buzz around the league had been that Terry Stotts was unhappy he had not gotten a contract extension last summer for GM Neil Olshey and the Portland Trail Blazers. Stotts still had two seasons on his contract at that time, but after this season — with a run to the conference finals that just ended — he was about to head into a lame duck year. Chris Haynes reported at Yahoo Sports that if Stotts didn’t get an extension this summer he might not be back.

The extension is done, Olshey announced on Tuesday.

This is well deserved.

The Trail Blazers won 53 games this season and for the second year in a row were the No. 3 seed in the West. This season they advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since Rasheed Wallace and Scottie Pippen were leading the team back in 2000. This year’s Blazers found a third option in Jusuf Nurkic (who was injured for the playoffs and the team made the run without him).

Stotts tied all that together with smart play designs that fit the personnel.

“It’s a disappointing loss, but for me it was an outstanding season,” Stotts said after his team was eliminated Monday. “The guys in the locker room are special. It’s been a special season. Always tough to lose the last game of the year, but I couldn’t be more proud of the group that we’ve had.”

It’s a season they can build upon, locking up the coach was part of that.

Steve Kerr: “[Kevon] Looney has become one of our foundational pieces”

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Last summer, any team could have snapped up Kevon Looney and had him for just a little over the minimum. The Warriors had not picked up his fourth-year option. Part of that was financial, but he hadn’t blown the doors off anybody — he was averaging just 4 points a game for the Warriors — but he was healthy and had become part of the Warriors rotation. The Warriors saw the potential, but nobody else stepped up. Looney returned to the Warriors on a $1.6 million, one year contract.

He’s going to make a lot more this July as an unrestricted free agent after a strong season — establishing himself before DeMarcus Cousins got healthy — and stronger playoffs. The Warriors’ goal is to keep him.

“Looney has become one of our foundational pieces. He does this every single night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after his team eliminated Portland from the playoffs, a game where Looney had 12 points and 14 rebounds off the bench. “I think one thing that we’ve seen in almost every series, is as the game goes on and players get tired, Loon gets more and more rebounds. He just has a knack for the ball. Really long arms. Great feel for the game. And so his rebounding, I think he had 14 tonight, a bunch of offensive boards [four]. Really a big key for us.”

Looney was taken aback by those comments, talking to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

“To be called a foundational piece, I never would’ve believed that,” Looney said, when relayed the Kerr comment. “Even when I was playing pretty good last season, I never would’ve taken it that far.”

The question becomes, can the Warriors afford to keep him?

Golden State undoubtedly wants to, team president Bob Myers called him a priority, but then admitted the Warriors have a lot of priorities this summer. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will get max offers (Thompson will sign his, Durant is another story), plus there is DeMarcus Cousins, the possibility Shaun Livingston retires, and more. The Warriors are going to be a tax paying team, but how much tax will they pay to keep Looney as their starting center?

Unlike last summer, Looney’s phone will ring with offers from other teams, an athletic big man who is active on the glass is in demand. However, with the way the game is shifting, demand for centers also is down, which could favor Golden State because the market for Looney may not be crazy.

Looney, who has never made more than $1.6 million, is going to take the most money, as he should — this is his kick at the can. This is his chance to set himself and his family up for life.

Looney could be one of those guys on the board for a while this summer as he and others wait for the first big dominoes to fall, then the other big-name centers to be snapped up — Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan, Cousins, etc. But Looney is going to have options. The Warriors will be one of them, but another team may try to come in over the top.

It’s hard to predict what happens to Looney this summer. All we know is he has won the Warriors over.