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Three Things to Know: Steve Kerr turns time-out coaching over to players for night

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Steve Kerr engages players by letting them run huddles, draw up plays vs. Suns. I first noticed it during a first-quarter timeout: Warriors coach Steve Kerr handed the whiteboard where he draws up plays over to Andre Iguodala, then stayed out of the huddle. The players ran the show, with Iguodala in the coach’s chair.

It continued all night as Draymond Green,, David West, Stephen Curry and others took turns “coaching” the team during breaks in play. Kerr had the night off and front-row seats for the game, although he did not order a beer from the waitress working his section.

The reasoning behind the move was simple — Kerr has said repeatedly over the years this is the players’ team. Not his as coach, not the GM’s, not the owner’s, the team belongs to the players, and he needed them more focused than they had been.

It seemed to work as the engaged Warriors blew out the Suns 129-83. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Omri Casspi (who started for Green due to a sprained finger) added 19 points. The Warriors shot 58.4 percent to the Suns’ 34.7 percent.

Kerr isn’t the first coach to pull this trick — Gregg Popovich did something a couple of weeks ago. It’s a long grind of an NBA season, the Warriors will be focused during the playoffs, but Kerr needs to keep their attention during the season. Little moves like this work.

Was this disrespectful toward the Suns? Maybe. I’m sure some Suns players and their fans thought so. But this is the NBA not U6 AYSO soccer — if you don’t like something, play better and make them pay for it. Otherwise it’s on you.

2) Zach LaVine makes the play — steal and game-winning dunk for Chicago.
Let’s set the stage: It’s a tie game, 101-101, with 15.2 seconds and Orlando about to inbound the ball at midcourt after a timeout, the Magic looking to steal a win or the road.

Jonathan Simmons attempted to inbound the ball with a bounce-pass to Shelvin Mack as the veteran guard broke out toward center court — but the athletic LaVine picked his pocket, raced down the court and threw down the game-winning dunk.

The Bulls have won 2-of-3 after their seven-game losing streak.

3) Jazz beat Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back, win streak reaches 10. Donovan Mitchell is a stud. Like should be leading your Rookie of the Year balloting stud. Like future (and maybe current) cornerstone player in Utah stud.

Like the guy who takes over a game late vs. San Antonio and leads Utah to its 10th straight win stud. Mitchell had 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and sparked the Jazz win.

Everything is coming together for Utah. Rudy Gobert is healthy and the defense is elite again. Jae Crowder, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, had 14 points off the bench and played well. Joe Ingles continued his run of fantastic play and had 20 points. Derrick Favors is playing better next to Gobert — something that has not always happened — and he had 19 points. Utah is getting it done with great teamwork at both ends.

Utah now sits 1.5 games back of New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff slot in the West. Two games separate six-seed Portland and 10-seed Utah — anyone in that group can get in with a strong last 25 games (or so). Utah should feel good — Cleaning the Glass sees them as the ultimate sixth seed, and fivethirtyeight.com says the team now has an 89 percent chance of making the playoffs. Doing that with all the injuries this team has had should earn coach Quin Snyder some Coach of the Year consideration.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

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LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.