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Tilman Fertitta says Mike D’Antoni’s agent did Rockets a favor, but agent says owner inaccurately depicted offer

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Mike D’Antoni ended contract-extension negotiations with Houston.

Now, comes the spin from each side – Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey vs. D’Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie.

Randy McIlvoy of KPRC 2 Houston:

Fertitta:

I’m just going to tell you what I think from an owner’s perspective, OK? I don’t know what lame dunk means, because he’s under contract. I think his agent did me a favor, OK? Because if for some reason we had a horrible year and thought we needed to make a coaching change. We just got through paying off one of the other coaches, I believe. So, I hope we win a championship and Mike comes and puts a gun to my head, OK?. But, but.

Daryl has told me over and over that Mike is the best head coach that he’s ever had, that he’s enjoyed working with. And he has said that to me on numerous occasions.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Fertitta said D’Antoni was offered a base salary of $5 million with an additional $1 million bonus for every round of the playoffs the Rockets won. That base salary would be a raise from his current contract ($4.5 million).

LeGarie, via Feigen:

“I’d like clear up some inaccuracies that were stated about the offer made to Mike,” LeGarie said. “The reported $5 million is really $2.5 million because it comes with contingencies. One, it’s only $5 million if he makes the playoffs and two, if he is coaching the team at the end of the year.

“If they decide to fire Mike in the proverbial change of direction he gets $2.5 million. If there is an injury or a change in the roster construction, of which Mike has no control, he nonetheless would become a victim of it.”

LeGarie also said the $1 million bonus for each round of the playoffs the Rockets reached in that season would begin with the second round.

It’s totally fair for the Rockets to determine how much they value D’Antoni. They’re not obligated to pay him as much as other similar-quality coaches around the league. Maybe those other coaches are overpaid. Houston can make that value judgement for itself.

But two major questions loom over this situation:

1. Is Houston trying to push out D’Antoni?

That’s the rumor, and Fertitta’s apparent mischaracterization of the extension offer could only increase tension. Everyone insists D’Antoni is fine coaching out the last year of his current contract. But this type of negotiating through the media makes the situation even messier.

2. Will the Rockets perform worse next season because D’Antoni lacks a long-term contract?

James Harden and Chris Paul reportedly have a rift about Houston’s offensive system. D’Antoni might lack the authority to adjudicate, as the star players – who are each under contract several more years – might think they can wait out D’Antoni. Or worse, knowing his tenuous standing with management, players could try undermine him.

So, Fertitta can talk about saving money if Houston struggles next season and wants to fire D’Antoni. But the Rockets might be making that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Report: Ben Simmons back injury “isn’t a day-to-day thing”

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.

Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.

Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.

Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

Pacers: Jeremy Lamb suffers torn ACL, torn meniscus, fracture

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Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.

On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.

Pacers release:

During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.

He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.

At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.

Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.

They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.

Michael Jordan braces for return of ‘Crying Jordan’ meme after Kobe Bryant eulogy (video)

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The NBA just held All-Star Weekend in Chicago, where Michael Jordan starred for years with the Bulls. Jordan wasn’t a visible part of the festivities, though. He just prefers to remain out of the spotlight.

Yet, Jordan spoke at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service today. That’s how important Bryant – whom Jordan described as a younger brother – was to Jordan.

Jordan even addressed the elephant in the room – that he was reproducing the “Crying Jordan” meme. Thank goodness for another laugh amid the tears.

Diana Taurasi praises Gianna Bryant, roasts LeBron James in well-timed joke (video)

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Vanessa Bryant’s eulogy of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant was heavy and left few dry eyes.

Diana Taurasi followed with a welcome moment of levity.

Taurasi:

The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously, Gigi inherited. Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turn-away fade-away jumper at 11?

LeBron barely got it today.