Five Coaches who may replace Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City

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Scott Brooks has been fired as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Rule No. 1 for an NBA GM is “keep your talent” — firing Brooks was all about keeping Kevin Durant in OKC. Durant is a free agent in 2016. (Then Russell Westbrook becomes a free agent the following summer.) It is imperative the Thunder win next season to make it much harder for Durant to leave.

Thunder GM Sam Presti gambled making this move without consulting Durant, but Durant backs it. Now the pressure is on Presti — he wants a more modern offense, not the conventional and predictable one Brooks ran. He wants a coach who can elevate the team. Like Phil Jackson taking over for Doug Collins in Toronto. Like Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson in Golden State.

So who will be the next coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder? Who will be trusted to upgrade their offense to take better advantage of all that talent? Here are the top five names out there.

1) Billy Donovan. The early buzz around the league is if the Florida coach wants the gig he can have it. He has a relationship with OKC’s Presti. You can add to that rumors floating around Donovan will jump to the NBA for the “right” opportunity — even Donovan’s former Gator star Bradley Beal said he thinks he is destined for the NBA. There are not many opportunities that are more “right” than OKC. Front offices around the NBA like Donovan. He is believed to have the Xs and Os chops to make the jump, plus he is a strong motivator.

I’m not sure this makes a ton of sense. My question for OKC: Are you sure a first-year coach out of the college ranks is your guy who can elevate this team to the highest levels of the NBA? That is a massive gamble. On the other side, if you’re Donovan you have to ask Durant his intentions — if you make the jump to Oklahoma City and Durant leaves in a year (which likely is followed by Westbrook leaving the year after) you’ve left a quality, secure college gig for a tough rebuild in the NBA. Will he take that risk?

2) Kevin Ollie. The UConn coach is another college guy a number of NBA teams have had their eye on, a high IQ guy who comes with 13 years of NBA background as a player. Why he becomes interesting to the Thunder is Ollie’s final NBA season was in Oklahoma City with Durant and KD has gushed about how much he learned from and looked up to Ollie. This is a hiring that would get the Kevin Durant seal of approval, and reportedly Ollie is interested. For me, the two questions that apply to Donovan apply to Ollie: Is OKC sure a young college coach is the guy to take an NBA team from good to great? And does Ollie really want to give up one of the best gigs in college hoops for this risk if Durant might well bolt?

3) Tom Thibodeau. He is currently still a little busy, what with coaching the Chicago Bulls and all (who likely advance to the second round of the playoffs). That said, rumors continue to swirl around the NBA out of Chicago that after this season the friction between Thibodeau and Gar Forman will finally be enough for the Bulls to send Thibs packing. If so, the Thunder have to consider him — this is a guy who has proven he can elevate a team. The Thunder defense will get better instantly. Tell him he has to hire an offensive guru as an assistant if you must, but you’re not going to find a better, harder-working coach. And one that has a relationship with Durant and Westbrook through USA Basketball. That said, he costs bank to hire. Would the Thunder be willing to give up a future first rounder to get him out of Chicago?

4) Alvin Gentry. Last season he was Doc Rivers’ lead assistant in charge of the offense, and the Clippers had the best offense in the NBA. This season he’s Steve Kerr’s lead assistant and the guy behind the innovative offense in Golden State offense Presti covets. If you want a modern offense, he’s your guy. He didn’t elevate teams he was coached before (the 2010 Suns got to the conference Finals but lost to Lakers), but is he ready now? The Thunder would have to be patient until the Warriors’ playoff run is over (that’s likely at least a month away, maybe six weeks). Maybe make him bring in a defensive guru as an assistant, but while some would say this is a retread hire it might be the perfect fit.

5) Mark Jackson. His name will come up, as it does for virtually every vacancy. His players in Golden State loved him, ran through walls for him, and they won. He built the foundation that the Warriors grew off of this season. That said, two problems here. First, he’s not the guy who did the elevating with the Warriors. If you thought Brooks ran conventional, predictable sets you should go watch film of Jackson’s Warriors. Second, he created an “us vs. the world” mentality in the locker room where the world included team management. There was a lot of friction. Not sure the Thunder invite that into their house.

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.