Report: Thunder may let coach Scott Brooks go, will take time deciding his future

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Oklahoma City likes Scott Brooks. The core Thunder players grew up in the league with him and bonded with him. He’s got good friends and supporters in the organization.

But is he the guy that can lead the Thunder to an NBA title? There are plenty of people around the league who said no — and said it long before this injury-plagued season. They say his offense, his Xs and Os, hold the team back.

With so much on the line next season — Kevin Durant will be a free agent after in the summer of 2016 and it would be much harder for him to walk away wearing a ring — the Thunder are going to closely evaluate whether or not to bring Brooks back, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to spend time evaluating the partnership with coach Scott Brooks before committing to bring him back for the final year on his contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Brooks is well liked within the organization and has forged close relationships with management and players in his seven years as head coach. Several league sources close to Brooks have doubts about his job security.

First off, this isn’t about the Thunder missing the playoffs this season. With the injuries to Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, this team would have been a shell of itself no matter who sat in the big chair. Nobody is winning a title without those guys on this team.

This is all about keeping Durant and winning a title next season.

Which means Durant — and Westbrook — should have a voice in the decision. Management needs to talk to them, not follow what they say, but talk to them. Make your stars feel listened to and appreciated.

The knock on Brooks is his offensive sets are simplistic and common, lack good spacing or weakside movement, and if you blow them up the Thunder just fall back to Durant or Westbrook isolations. It just works because those guys are so good. While his critics concede Brooks was good at player development bringing up this Thunder core, they don’t think he’s the guy who can take them over the top.

Wojnarowski lists Florida coach Billy Donovan as a potential replacement. That seems a questionable call — not that Donovan can’t be a very good NBA coach, a lot of front offices like him. But if you’re ditching your coach because you need a guy to get you a ring, do you go to a college coach with no NBA experience? That’s a massive risk.

If the Thunder do this — and that is still a big if, he may well be back in OKC for an eighth season — GM Sam Presti needs to have a very good replacement lined up already. He can’t just go fishing and hope for something better.

If Brooks is let go, he would have little trouble finding another job. Both Orlando and Denver would be interested, Wojnarowski reports. As other job openings come up, there would be other teams interested.

This is going to be interesting to watch.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.