Rockets, Clippers, Pelicans, Pacers, Thunder: Where do these NBA coaching searches stand?

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There are five open coaching jobs around the NBA.

Those NBA coaching searches are moving fast, with some of the same people — Tyronn Lue, Jeff Van Gundy — interested and interviewing for multiple jobs. It’s been hard to keep track.

Here’s an update on where things stand with all five open coaching jobs. (Note: This is as of the writing and posting of this article, things are changing fast and this information has a shelf life.)

HOUSTON ROCKETS

The big names here are Tyronn Lue and Jeff Van Gundy, both of whom interviewed with the Rockets this week, and both of who also are in the mix for the Clippers job, creating a potential bidding war. Those two have been the names linked to the Rockets’ job since before it officially opened (everyone knew Mike D’Antoni was on his way out for most of the season). If owner Tilman Fertitta is willing to pay top dollar — a question some around the league still wonder about — then one of those two likely gets the job.

Lue has won a ring as a coach handling a superstar in LeBron James, and he has spoken highly of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Van Gundy would be coming back to coach the Rockets after years in the broadcast booth, and he reportedly is itching to get back on the sidelines.

If it’s not one of those two, then long-time Rockets assistant coach John Lucas is a name to watch. Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, Wes Unseld Jr., and David Vanterpool also have been linked to the job.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

When a frustrated Steve Ballmer pulled the trigger on firing Doc Rivers, the buzz was instantly that Tyronn Lue — Rivers’ top assistant — would just move up a chair. This is a championship coach already in the organization and who already has a relationship with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

It hasn’t worked that way, at least not yet. Jeff Van Gundy is in the mix. Mike Brown impressed at his interview and has a real chance to land the job after four years as Steve Kerr’s assistant at Golden State. While some long-shot assistant coaches — Darvin Ham, Wes Unseld Jr. — have been linked to the job, it’s highly unlikely this high-pressure, win-now job will go to a first-time head coach. Sam Cassell has now been interviewed for the head job as well.

One advantage of having Ballmer as the owner compared to other teams targeting top coaches: There’s no question he is willing and can afford to pay top dollar.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Tyronn Lue is in the mix for this job as well, and it’s a tempting one with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as young stars on a team with playoff talent already. Also, Lue has a relationship with David Griffin (the man with the hammer in the Pelicans’ front office) going back to when Lue was a coach and Griffin the GM in Cleveland.

This has been a patient — or slow, if you prefer — search that has not had a lot of rumors flying around the league. The latest one is Stan Van Gundy, the veteran NBA coach who can develop talent and knows how to maximize a roster, he is in the mix now and has interviewed with the Pelicans.

Some name coaches, such as Jason Kidd, Kenny Atkinson, and Jacque Vaughn, have been linked to the job. There has been speculation around the league about the fit of Mike D’Atnoni with this roster, but there have been no reports of an interview yet.

Another question with this job: Will the small-market Pelicans be willing to pay the going rate for a coach of Lue or Kidd or D’Antoni’s stature?

INDIANA PACERS

Pelicans’ assistant Chris Finch appears to be the frontrunner here. Mike D’Antoni has been linked to this job before the bubble and long before Nate McMillan was fired, and there are reports he is still in consideration.

The Pacers have cast a wide net in this search, reportedly talking to more than 20 people about the job. This week that includes Miami assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn. There are conflicting reports about Dave Joerger being in the mix for this job, but he appears to be on the outside looking in at this point.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

This has been the quietest of the head coaching searches. Early on Maurice Cheeks and Kenny Atkinson were names speculated about, but not much has come of that early talk. With Billy Donovan out (and now in Chicago), it appears the Thunder are serious about a rebuild at this point, and that likely means hiring a top assistant coach focused on player development. Darvin Ham, David Vanterpool, and Adrian Griffin are all names that fit that bill.

Thunder GM Sam Presti is taking his time and keeping his cards close to the vest on this one.

Are struggling Mavericks on the clock with Luka Doncic?

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Luka Doncic is in the first year of a five-year, $215.2 million contract. More than that, when asked recently if Mavericks fans should be worried about him wanting out as the team has stumbled at points to start this season, Doncic didn’t sound like a guy looking to bolt:

“I don’t think they’re worried about it right now. I got what, five years left here, so I don’t think they should be worried about it.”

The Mavericks’ front office should be worried about it — teams are always on the clock with a superstar.

The Mavericks let Jalen Brunson get away in the offseason, then brought in Christian Wood (whose defense is an issue and he is coming off the bench). This remains a team a player or two away from contending despite having a potential MVP in Doncic carrying a historic offensive load.

That doesn’t mean Doncic will ask out at the deadline or this summer (he won’t), but if his frustration grows over the next couple of years… who knows. Tim MacMahon of ESPN put it well on the Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip Real GM):

“I think they have a two-year window. This season and next season going into that summer [2024]. I think they have a two-year window where, you know, like Milwaukee did with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], I think in that window they really need to convince Luka that he has a chance to contend year in and year out right here in Dallas. If they can’t get it done in that two-year window, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s going to force a trade or ask for a trade. I’m just saying at that point if he’s not happy, he has all the leverage in the world if he would be looking to leave..

“I don’t think Luka will look for reasons to leave. I think he’d be perfectly happy spending his entire career in Dallas. But if he doesn’t have to look for reasons and they’re slamming him in the face, then that’s a problem. He’s also a guy who is a ruthless competitor, which means he loves winning. He’s used to winning. He won championships with Real Madrid. He won a EuroBasket championship with the Slovenian national team. He also detests losing. Like can’t handle it.”

The Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals last season, knocking off the 64-win Suns in the process — this team is not that far away. Not with Doncic handling the ball. But it feels like a team that has taken a step back from those lofty levels this season. There are many more questions than answers, and it’s impossible to guess how Doncic will feel after this season’s playoffs, let alone the ones ending in the summer of 2024.

But the Mavericks stumbles this season have to put the Dallas front office on notice — this team is not good enough. And if we know it, you can be sure Doncic knows it.

Curry thinking retirement? ‘I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon’

2022 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards Presented by Chase
Kimberly White/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated
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Stephen Curry is playing at an MVP level this season: 30 points a game, hitting 43.2% from 3 with a 66.4 true shooting percentage, plus pitching in seven assists and 6.6 rebounds a game. He remains one of the best-conditioned athletes in the sport.

In the face of that, even though he is 34, asking him a retirement question seemed an odd choice, yet a reporter at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award ceremony — Curry won the award, if you didn’t know — asked Curry about it seems he’s not interested.

Curry should not be thinking of retirement, but there is a sense around these Warriors that this era, this run is coming to an end in the next few years. Curry may be defying father time, but Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (especially post injuries) are not. There is a decline in their games (and this season, the role players have not stepped up around them the same way). With that comes a certain pressure to take advantage of the opportunities, there aren’t going to be as many.

Which is why the Warriors are a team to watch at the trade deadline (and will they sell low on James Wiseman to a team that still sees the potential in him?).

As for Curry, he will still be around and producing for a few more years. Nobody is ready to think about his retirement. Including Curry himself.

Block or charge: Alperen Sengun dunks on Zach Collins

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To borrow the catchphrase of the great Rex Chapman:

Block or charge?

The Rockets’ Alperen Sengun caught a body and threw one down on the Spurs’ Zach Collins but was called for the offensive foul.

NBA Twitter went nuts.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas challenged the call, but it was upheld (from my perspective, the replay officials are always looking to back the in-game officials if they at all can).

By the time Collins slid over and jumped, Sengun was already in the air — if anything that was a block. What the officials called was Sengun using his off-arm to create space.

I hate the call — that’s a dunk and an and-one. Not because it’s a great dunk — although it is that, too — but because Collins literally jumped into the path of an already airborne Sengun, Collins created all the contact. It’s on him. Under the spirit of the rules, Sengun’s off-arm is moot at that point — Collins illegally jumped in Sengun’s way and caused the collision.

Terrible call by the officials.

It was a good night for the Spurs, overall. San Antonio played its best defense in a while and Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs 11-game losing streak.

Three things to know: Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

This game felt like a 2019 playoff time capsule, with Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray trading blows in a dramatic game.

Lillard landed more of them, he finished with 40 points — and his final three were vintage Dame Time.

But Murray had the final word.

The final minutes of this game were insane.

It was a needed win for a Denver team that some nights look like they can compete with the best in the league, then turn around 48 hours later and mail in a loss to a tanking team. Nikola Jokic scored 33 against Portland (with 10 boards and nine assists) — he is again putting up numbers that will have him in the MVP conversation (even if it’s a longshot he wins it). However, the Nuggets’ bottom-five defense makes them inconsistent night to night.

Portland revamped their roster to get younger and more athletic around Lillard this past offseason, but one of the results of that is the inconsistency of youth. The Blazers don’t bring the same level of execution every night. If they don’t learn that lesson, they may be different in makeup but the results will be the same as many Portland teams of the last decade — an early playoff exit.

2) Brittney Griner is home on U.S.soil

After spending 10 months in Russian jails — including being convicted and sent to a penal colony — on trumped-up drug charges that made her a political pawn in a massive geo-political battle, Brittney Griner is finally home on U.S. soil, her plane landed in Texas overnight.

The Biden administration worked out a prisoner exchange with Russia that brings Griner home to be with her wife, family and friends — that is something to be celebrated.

Of course, there was some pushback online/in the media from people who care only about trying to score political points for their selfish ends. Fortunately, we had the family of Paul Whelan — a Michigan corporate security executive who has been behind bars in Russia since December 2018 on trumped-up espionage charges — who praised the president for bringing Griner home and making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

An American citizen is home. She happens to be a WNBA star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but those things are not what matters most, and are secondary to her family who are just happy to hug her and tell her they love her again. We all hope that day comes soon for American political prisoners held around the globe (including Whelan), but we should celebrate the big victory of Griner being back on U.S. soil.

3) Spurs snap 11-game losing streak behind 32 from Johnson

Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game losing streak.

“This has been the first game in a while where we were clicking defensively,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the game. “You can tell when we get stops, get out and run and be able to get out front. If we can keep that mindset of defense first, get stops and we let the offense take care of itself, we’ll be in great shape.”

All of that is interesting, but the real debate of the night: Was this an offensive foul by Alperen Sengun, or a block by Zach Collins?

Sengun was in the air when Collins came over, but he also used his off hand to create space for the dunk. This is a bang-bang call and the challenge of the block/charge call — I think that’s a block by Collins, but that’s not how the referee or many others have seen it. How would you have called it?