Associated Press

Tanking stories from Woj: Owner ‘berated’ coach for late-season win

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The NBA wants to do away with the perception of teams tanking and all the talk that goes with it. They see it as a public relations black eye and bad for the sport that the Chicago Bulls might sit Robin Lopez for a late-season game to increase their chances of losing, therefore helping their draft lottery odds, so the league warned the Bulls. Marc Gasol got the same treatment in Memphis. There were others as well.

What the league office really can’t stand is hard-core fans openly rooting for their team to lose. That attitude was all over social media with the Bulls, Suns, and just about every other team in the top nine in the lottery.

It wasn’t just the fans — owners were saying the same thing, too. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had front office insider Bobby Marks on his podcast and told this story (at around the 30-minute mark, hat tip NBA Reddit).

“I never heard more talk from front office executives frustration with coaches who were winning games they didn’t want them to win.

And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating, really berating his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road, going ‘what are you doing?’ And think about that, that should not be going on.”

Woj is right should not. While the front office can decide to focus on the future, telling the coach to the youngsters and essentially tank, it is all kinds of wrong to have the coach or players take the court and try not to win. There’s a line there. Limit the coach’s resources (go ahead and sit Lopez or Gasol, so what?) but don’t ask the coach or players not to try to win once they get between the lines.

That said, the league is not going to stop tanking.

Starting next season, the lottery odds will change and flatten out, the teams with the worst couple of records in the league will be less likely to get the No. 1 pick. However, that will only change the inflection point of when a team considers it wise to tank vs. make a run at the eighth seed.

The reason is the game. In basketball in general, and in the NBA in particular, talent wins out. If a franchise wants to win a lot of games and consistently make the playoffs, it needs All-Star level talent on the roster. If said franchise wants to contend for a title, it needs a Top-10 level, franchise cornerstone player to build around (and 10 may overestimate how many of those players there actually are). Occasionally a player of that caliber switches teams — most recently Kevin Durant — but by and large the only way to get one of the league’s elite players is to draft them. If a GM of a weak team thinks that Deandre Ayton is a franchise changer in this draft, then he should target getting a good shot at that pick. Through the draft is the only way the vast majority of NBA franchises can land that level of superstar.

Changing the lottery odds next year makes it less likely another team goes full, deep Sam Hinkie/Philadelphia “process.” Starting with the 2019 draft, it’s not an advantage to completely bottom out (the three teams with the worst records have a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery, the fourth worst team has 12.5 percent, etc.). Although, after the pressure the Sixers got from the league (which the NBA denies but everyone knows happened), other owners, and the fact that Hinkie lost his job, no other GM was going to follow that model the same way again anyway. Even if the process worked.

Tanking, however, is going nowhere as long as an elite player can change a franchise’s fortunes and the draft is the best way to get one.

Jonas Jerebko? Yes, Jonas Jerebko with game-winner for Warriors

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Jonas Jerebko was a quality under-the-radar pickup for Golden State last summer, a solid veteran power forward who can space the floor and hit threes.

Obviously, the Warriors got him to be their go-to player in the clutch.

Or, at least, that’s what happened in Utah on Friday night.

Jerebko inbounded the ball then rolled to the rim. Rudy Gobert put a body on him, but as Kevin Durant went up for his game-winner attempt, Gobert took a step toward him and that gave Jerebko the space to get inside Gobert. From there it was just a tip in.

This was a wildly entertaining game, where Kevin Durant dropped 38, Stephen Curry had 31, and for Utah Joe Ingles put on a show on his way to 27. Check out the finish of this game, it was amazingly fun basketball with a lot of emotion for the second game of the season.

Kawhi Leonard hears MVP chants, plays like it with 31 points, leads Raptors past Celtics 113-101

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TORONTO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Serge Ibaka added 21 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Boston Celtics 113-101 on Friday night in an early matchup between Eastern Conference contenders.

By the end of the game, Raptors fans were chanting “M-V-P” for Leonard.

Kyle Lowry scored 15 points, Danny Green had 14, and Fred VanVleet 11 to help the Raptors win for the 10th time in 11 home meetings with the Celtics.

Kyrie Irving scored 21 points for Boston, and Al Horford had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jayson Tatum scored 16 points, and Jaylen Brown had 13.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward scored 14 points in 24 minutes, connecting on six of 13 field goal attempts.

Leonard made 10 of 25 attempts, including 2 of 5 from 3-point range, and went 9 for 9 at the free throw line.

Brown made a 3-pointer to give the Celtics an 87-86 lead with 9:03 remaining. VanVleet answered with a reverse layup, the first basket in a 6-0 spurt that gave Toronto the led for good.

Green and Lowry each made 3-pointers around an offensive foul by Tatum with just over two minutes remaining, giving the Raptors a 107-99 edge. Green went 4 for 7 from long range, while Lowry made 3 of 5.

 

 

Watch Caris LeVert’s game-winning layup lifting Nets over Knicks 107-105

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NEW YORK (AP) —  Caris LeVert‘s driving layup with a second left gave him a career-high 28 points and the Brooklyn Nets their first victory of the season, 107-105 over the New York Knicks on Friday night.

LeVert surpassed the 27 points he scored Wednesday night in Detroit, when the Nets fell just short. He made sure they pulled this one out, driving right into the lane and putting up the tiebreaking shot over Tim Hardaway Jr.

D'Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen each added 15 points for the Nets. They improved to 6-1 in home openers since moving to Brooklyn in 2012.

Hardaway and Enes Kanter each scored 29 points for the Knicks, who were trying for just their third 2-0 start in 20 years. Kanter tied it on a three-point play with 15.9 seconds remaining but all they could manage for a final shot after LeVert’s basket was a long 3-pointer by Hardaway that wasn’t close.

The Nets were still without starting forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who just became a father, and DeMarre Carroll, who had right ankle surgery. But they did get back Allen Crabbe, their normal starting guard who came off the bench after missing the opener while recovering sprained left ankle.

They started fast, shooting 70 percent in the first quarter, and were in control until early in the second half. Then, Kanter and Frank Ntilikina had a couple of baskets apiece in an 11-0 run that wiped out a 10-point deficit and gave the Knicks a 66-65 lead on Hardaway’s 3-pointer.

New York was ahead 76-74 after three quarters and neither team led by more than six in a back-and-forth final 12 minutes.

WNBA veteran Chasity Melvin joins Hornets’ G-League team coaching staff

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chasity Melvin has been hired by the Charlotte Hornets’ G League team, the Greensboro Swarm, as an assistant coach.

She becomes the first female coach in Hornets and Swarm history.

The former North Carolina State standout was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 WNBA draft. She played 12 seasons in the WNBA and was an All-Star in 2001.

Melvin was part of the NBA Assistant Coaches Program, which prepares current and former NBA, WNBA and G League players for coaching careers. Former program participants include James Posey (Cavaliers), Jerry Stackhouse (Grizzlies) and Vin Baker (Bucks).

Her hire comes one day after Kristy Toliver became the first active WNBA player to become an NBA assistant when she joined the Washington Wizards.

Other female assistants in the NBA include Becky Hammon with the Spurs and Dallas’ Jenny Boucek.