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Mavericks assistant coach Jenny Boucek pregnant

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The Kings hired Jenny Boucek as an assistant on Dave Joerger’s staff last offseason. The Mavericks hired her as an assistant on Rick Carlisle’s staff this offseason.

Between, something happened that is common in nearly all fields but was groundbreaking in NBA coaching: She got pregnant.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

“I knew there was a scenario where this would cost me my dream of coaching in the NBA,” Boucek says. “I had to be OK with that. I had to be comfortable with that.” She feared taking even a year off.

“Once you’re out, it can be hard to get back in,” Boucek says. “Especially as a female. I have to prove myself in the NBA, even if this is my 20th year of coaching. I expect to do that. I want to do that. I don’t want to be given anything.”

After the season, with Boucek most of the way through her pregnancy, the Kings were prepared to bring her back, Joerger and Boucek say. Dallas and a third team expressed interest. Boucek told all three that she was due in midsummer and would not travel during at least the first six months of the baby’s life. All three remained interested.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Boucek says. “It was humbling. It was a little surprising.”

She interviewed with Carlisle and Mark Cuban, the Mavs’ owner, in Dallas on the afternoon of the NBA draft. After the interview, Cuban and Carlisle devised a position for her: assistant to the basketball staff/special projects, a non-traveling coaching position; the Mavs announced her hiring on July 18. (The Mavs and Boucek are open to the possibility that she may begin traveling with the team at some point after those first six months, Carlisle and Boucek say.)

When the Mavs are on the road, Boucek will watch games, scout opponents, and provide feedback to the coaches and the team’s analytics department, Carlisle says. When they are at home, she will do all that, plus attend shootarounds, practices, coaches meetings and games. She will not sit behind the bench at first, but that could change if she begins traveling, Carlisle says.

“This is an important moment for our league,” Carlisle says. “Qualified women are a reality. They are bright. They are ass-kickers. They belong in this league. They should not have to compromise the dream of motherhood for professional success.”

Boucek’s fear this could undermine her career “especially as a female” was well-founded. While both men and women often struggle to balance work and personal life, pregnancy particularly far too often damages a women’s standing at work. Hopefully that will change, but Boucek clearly understands the present reality.

Kudos to the Mavericks for handling this well (progress for them on treatment of women). They wanted Boucek on their coaching staff, and accommodating her needs during pregnancy and after childbirth are a small price to pay. Hiring good people is difficult enough without eliminating pregnant women and new mothers from the pool of potential employees.

Boucek’s specific circumstances are unique in the NBA, but the general idea behind Dallas’ treatment of her is not.

Teams have long-borne these types of costs to hire their desired coaches. Jason Kidd was suspended for what would have been his first two games as the Nets’ head coach due to a DUI committed before they hired him.

The Mavericks can certainly handle Boucek’s time off and travel uncertainty.

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.