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Adam Silver wants to see changes to flailing, Hack-a-Shaq rules; defends Two Minute Reports

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OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to see improvement in the NBA’s officiating.

Just probably not the changes many of you want to see.

Thursday night he defended the NBA’s officiating, the Two Minute Reports, and said he still hopes to push through a change to end Hack-a-Shaq.

“I’d say largely what these Last Two-Minute Reports are showing is that the referees get it right about 90 percent of the time,” Silver said in a press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals tipped off from Oracle. “Now, from a fan standpoint, the other side of the coin is so, in other words, they’re getting it wrong one out of 10 calls? And I accept that.

“So to your ultimate question, how do I feel about the officiating? My feeling is I’d like that to be 100%. I’d love to get zero errors. I don’t think we’re ever going to be there.”

Because it’s never going to be there so long as humans are involved — and fans of opposing teams are always going to see close calls differently — what Silver continues to preach is transparency.

“We’re in the second year of our Last Two-Minute Reports, and I still remain strongly behind them,” Silver said. “Now, I understand the criticism from some of the teams that, ‘What’s the point? Why are you telling the world that this call was decided incorrectly? May have gone in our favor, may not have. Nothing can be done about it after the fact.’

“My view, first of all, in terms of building confidence in the public, they want to see consistency. So they want to understand if we call something a foul, why we called it a foul, and we often give explanations for why we believe something was a foul, whether it was correctly called or incorrectly called. So it’s our hope that you take the Last Two-Minute Reports together with using a certain amount of replay that we’re building to build trust and integrity in the league.”

How much trust the league can build in a social media world is up for debate. Silver, as is his nature, is open to discussing just about anything.

“I had a team come in the other day and say we should look at a fourth official,” Silver said. “And that goes to the core of your question. Maybe the game is so fundamentally different now that we maybe do need to look at a fourth official. So that’s something maybe through our Development League or Summer Leagues that we’ll take a fresh look at.”

That the league is talking about these things now — and putting out the officiating reports — is an improvement over the Soviet-style denial and lack of information that had been the NBA’s modus operandi for many years. More information is a good thing, even if reasonable people can disagree about how a call was seen.

Silver wants to see some officiating and rule changes. That starts with hack-a-Shaq.

“I think you all know it is my hope that we are not far away from some reform,” Silver said. “This is an issue where I’m hoping we can strike some sort of a compromise. I mean, there is no doubt that there are particular teams, particular owners who have spoken out against any change whatsoever. And I also recognize from a competitive standpoint that largely three teams will be the beneficiary of a rule change. There’s three players in particular, and everyone knows who I’m talking about, and whatever team they’re on, if they’re going to play a lot of minutes and they’re poor free throw shooters, the ability to hack them away from the ball creates an advantage for the other team….

“What we’ve seen even since last year is a two and a half times increase off last year of the number of these off-ball fouls, away-from-the-ball fouls, intentional fouls. Looking back just even at the last five years, it’s now up 16 times from five years ago.”

It has become a common strategy, and it is something both fans and the NBA’s broadcasters do not like or want. You know, the broadcasters about to start paying a lot more money for the rights to show NBA games.

“I’ve said it before, for example, when Hack-a-Shaq has done something like more than roughly ten times a game, it adds about 15 minutes to the length of the game,” Silver said. “Not only is that something that is bad for our network partners, but for all of the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it. You know, so there may be a compromise in there where we can cut it down significantly.”

The other officiating change will be a new enforcement on flailing, something that has become a hot topic in the playoffs ever since Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the nether regions in the Western Conference Finals.

“So in terms of the flailing, and we’re seeing a lot more late kicks and, frankly, players flailing their arms as well, it’s clear what they’re doing. They’re trying to sell calls. They’re trying to make contact,” Silver said. “They’re trying to demonstrate that they’re getting fouled on particular plays. It’s not something new in the league, but as we track it, it’s becoming more prevalent….

“It’s not something we want to see. In terms of flagrant fouls and potential suspensions, one of the things we look at is the intent of the players. Obviously it’s very difficult to discern intent. We want to find a way to discourage players from flailing….

“We’ve been talking about it throughout the season. Obviously (there is) a very controversial play that you just mentioned, and it’s on the agenda for the Competition Committee when we meet this summer.”

The competition committee is going to be very busy this summer.

Tyler Herro carries Heat over Celtics in Game 4, within one game of NBA Finals

Tyler Herro after Heat-Celtics Game 4
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If the Celtics targeted Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA Draft, they have more reason than ever to lament their near miss.

Herro scored 37 points to lead the Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. The 21-year-old rookie put Miami up 3-1 and himself in the record book.

The only other player so young to score so much in a playoff game? Magic Johnson, who had 42 points in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals at age 20.

The Heat will look to reach the NBA Finals in Game 5 Friday. Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-1 have won 95% of the time.

Miami’s big concern: Bam Adebayo, who hurt his wrist late in the game. Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) played through the injury but appeared to be feeling it.

He and the Heat just kept grinding through everything, though.

Miami won despite shooting only 10-for-37 on 3-pointers (27%). Forget about make-or-miss league. The Heat willed themselves to victory with aggravating defense, hustle, rebounding… and, yes, big-time shot-making by Herro, who made 9-of-11 2-pointers and 5-of-10 3-pointers

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers – some forced by Miami, some self-inflicted. The Heat’s zone defense continues to make Boston uncomfortable, though Marcus Smart (10 points and 11 assists) found some success penetrating and kicking against it. Jaylen Brown (21 points and nine rebounds) knocked down some of those created looks.

After a scoreless first half, Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in the second half. Stephen Curry scored 33 second-half points after a scoreless first half in Game 6 against the Rockets last year. That’s the only time someone followed a scoreless first half with so many second-half points in the Basketball-Reference postseason database, which dates back to 1997.

But those successes weren’t sustained. Tatum (six), Smart (four) and Brown (four) all had too many turnovers.

This series is even by points scored. But Boston has been just a little too erratic, which is why Miami has the key 3-1 lead.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.