NBA refs watch Goodfellas & A Few Good Men scenes, hopefully learn lesson

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ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Imagine if Jack Nicholson’s character kept his cool on the witness stand in “A Few Good Men.”

It wasn’t until he lost it that he admitted ordering the code red, as former NBA referee and current executive Bob Delaney told officials this week.

“I’ve been that guy on the floor,” Delaney said Thursday. “I’ve been the guy that was yelling and screaming, and what does that accomplish? More often than not, you’re out of control.”

From how they act to the ways they officiate, referees were given a number of tips this week during their preseason training camp.

Delaney, who officiated more than 1,500 regular-season games before retiring in 2011, now gives instructions in his second season as the league’s vice president of referee operations. A former New Jersey State Trooper who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after infiltrating the mob during undercover operations in the 1970s, he understands the pressure officials face.

“The maturing of a referee comes when we understand how to interact with the will to win that’s on that floor,” he said. “The will to win on an NBA floor is a tidal wave and it’s not personal affronts. It’s just in the teams’, the fans’, the coaches’, the players’ view, we get in the way of the win. So we’re the ones that make the call, so we get in the way.”

He showed officials three clips this week to make his point: a profane Joe Pesci from “Goodfellas,” Nicholson’s courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men,” and pilot Chesley Sullenberger’s 2009 emergency landing of a US Airways flight on the Hudson River, complete with audio demonstrating how he never lost his poise.

“I mean it was calm, it was collective,” Delaney said. “The point we made to them was, `Who do you want to be when you’re flying this game? You want to be like Joe Pesci, you want to be like Jack Nicholson, or you want to be like Capt. Sullenberger? You want to land these games the same way that Capt. Sullenberger did, in a professional manner.”‘

The session Thursday went beyond a video and included an emotional visit from Cory Remsburg, a soldier who was critically wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan but still undergoes daily therapy in hopes of returning to service.

“The inspiration that he brings into the room and the never-quit attitude and all the things that we talk about in sports, he just lives. It’s right in front of you,” Delaney said. “So that was the whole concept of today.”

But beyond the life skills that Delaney teaches, there are also performance ones referees need for what is a changing NBA.

Gone are the days when the 3-point shot was used sometimes only in a desperate attempt to catch up. Now teams run plays to get 3-pointers as their first option, so officials have to look further out on the floor than before.

So referees talked about shifting their positioning, allowing for better angles to see plays develop in places they rarely had to look in Delaney’s early years.

“We feel that we needed to make some changes for how we position ourselves and who’s responsible for what as we move and rotate,” executive vice president of operations Mike Bantom said. “But even better, I think, was we’ve taken it from what was traditionally written in a manual and put it on a video so that all these guys now have the video mechanics.”

The staff, featuring recently retired refs Bennett Salvatore, Eddie F. Rush and Joe Forte in development and advisory roles, will help officials prepare to make those tough calls. So will arriving early at the arena to get focused, trusting their teammates, and other things Delaney urges.

“When you go into your office, you’re comfortable,” Delaney said. “When they walk into that office – some people call it an arena, it’s our office – we’re comfortable. That’s our normal environment.”

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri

Dwight Howard is talking a lot of trash

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The Lakers put Dwight Howard on final warning BEFORE even signing him.

And for most of the season, Howard kept a low profile.

But he has been breaking out of his shell in the bubble. Related to basketball, too.

Howard has played excellent defense on Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the Western Conference finals. The day after Game 1, Howard told Jamal Murray about it.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

The Nuggets were wrapping up their practice, which took place not far from the Lakers’, with Murray about to begin his media session in the convention center hallway. Howard, as it so happened, walked by right then and the banter restarted.

“Don’t do that, fam,” Murray said to Howard, with both men smiling.

“What?” Howard said.

“Don’t do that, fam,” Murray said again.

“Where’s Joker at?” Howard replied. “Where’s his room?”

As was the case in the series opener, there was no answer.

Then, Howard (and JaVale McGee) pointed out Jokic’s defensive deficiencies against Anthony Davis in Game 2.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Once the Lakers’ bench saw it was Jokic tasked with guarding Davis, it brought the noise with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard screaming, “Thanksgiving, steak dinner, appetizers, filet mignon and potatoes, a glass of champagne!”

Davis, who faced up Jokic and maneuvered his way around the big man for a bucket in the paint. McGee shouted, “Told you it was a feast out there!”

Howard didn’t let up after Davis’ game-winner.


As the Lakers mobbed Davis on the court after his shot, big man Dwight Howard broke off from the group and decided to taunt the Nuggets as they exited the basketball stage. If you somehow haven’t noticed, Howard is leaning hard into this tough-guy approach.

“Go home!” he yelled over and over while laughing, jumping, pumping his fist and getting closer to the Nuggets’ side of the floor with every second. “Go home!”

A small group of Nuggets staffers, including one of Jokic’s biggest supporters in assistant strength and conditioning coach Felipe Eichenberger, did not take kindly to the mocking that had taken place all game long and returned to the court to shout back. The two sides exchanged words, and eventually retreated to their corners that came with conflicting emotions.

This works because Howard is playing well – in his role.

Howard was slow to recognize he’s no longer a superstar. Yet, he still has the energy for being the center of attention. That used to mean doing things like posting up too much,

Now, Howard is focused on defending, screening and sometimes finishing at the rim while playing all-out in limited minutes. It’s what the Lakers need and what Howard can provide at age 34.

If he wants to talk trash along the way, more power to him. It’s a lot of fun.

But there’s also a fine line between the endearing villain and loathed jerk. Outside Denver, Howard appears to be the former. For now.

Report: Pacers interview former Thunder coach Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder vs. Pacers
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The Pacers were reportedly expected to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

But if set on the former Rockets coach, Indiana isn’t acting like it.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Former Thunder coach Billy Donovan interviewed for the Pacers last week, sources said. The Pacers are expected to interview a pool of around 12 candidates, trim the candidates approximately in half, and conduct in-person interviews.

Donovan joins a list of known candidates that’s already way longer than 12:

  • Former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
  • Former Kings and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger
  • Former Pistons and Nuggets star Chauncey Billups
  • Warriors assistant and former Cavaliers and Lakers coach Mike Brown
  • Nets assistant and former Magic coach Jacque Vaughn
  • Spurs assistant Becky Hammon
  • Spurs assistant Will Hardy
  • Heat assistant Dan Craig
  • Heat assistant Chris Quinn
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas
  • Bucks assistant Darvin Ham
  • Bucks assistant Charles Lee
  • Magic assistant Pat Delany
  • Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool
  • 76ers assistant Ime Udoka
  • Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts

Leaving the potentially rebuilding Thunder, Donovan clearly expected to land on his feet. The Pacers are equipped to win now, but maybe only moderately.

Donovan has shown impressive adaptability to his roster. That’d come in handy if Indiana is set on continuing the talented but challenging Domantas SabonisMyles Turner pairing.