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Report: Knicks, Nets, Rockets all have interest in Tom Thibodeau as coach

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Tom Thibodeau wants to be back coaching in the NBA next season, and he may be.

There have been a lot of image-rehab articles with a theme of “Thibodeau is a good coach who got a bad rap in Minnesota” coming out of New York media recently. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence (and it’s also wrong to think Thibodeau was blameless in Minnesota).

Thibodeau’s decade-long friendship with new Knicks president Leon Rose has made him the frontrunner for that job. Now comes a report from Marc Berman of the New York Post it’s not just the Knicks who are considering giving Thibodeau another chance.

While his reputation took a hit with the failure in bringing Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and allegedly mishandling young talent, sources told The Post the Nets and Houston will have strong interest, too. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni will be a free agent.

It appears Thibodeau would have interest in all three jobs. But the Knicks would get first crack at their former assistant coach since they won’t be competing in any potential playoffs… According to sources, Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each like and respect Thibodeau, who coached them as a Team USA assistant.

While D’Antoni still has a job in Houston, he is in the final year of his contract few around the league expect he will be brought back for another season. Houston will move on.

Thibodeau’s name comes up a lot with the Knicks.

Thibodeau was being booed by the home fans when introduced before every game at the end in Minnesota, and attendance was dropping. The Timberwolves brought in Thibodeau as coach and GM to develop and elevate a young core around an elite center in Karl-Anthony Towns. Thibodeau is a win-now coach who leans on veterans, so executive Thibodeau traded a chunk of that young core — Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and draft picks — to Chicago to bring in his old friend Jimmy Butler. It was a big bet by Thibodeau and it paid off at first when the Timberwolves made the playoffs. Then things fell apart as Butler had issues with Towns — and more so former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins — and soon Butler was forcing a trade and torpedoing the Timberwolves season.

The Knicks are trying to build a core of young players and a culture that can be a foundation for winning in the future. Rose and the New York front office need to ask themselves: Is Thibodeau the best coach to do that? He has developed players before, with Jimmy Butler at the top of his list, but his old-school style has rubbed other players the wrong way. Plus, Thibodeau is not exactly analytics friendly, and his style is to lean on veteran players more able to help the team win now.

Who Rose hires to coach the Knicks will give a clearer understanding of what direction he wants to go in building the team.

In Brooklyn, the buzz around the league is Durant and Irving want Tyronn Lue as head coach, he is considered a clear frontrunner. Thibodeau’s name does not regularly come up for that job when other sources around the league are asked about it.

If Thibodeau is coaching in the NBA next season, it will be in New York. However, the Knicks and other teams have put coaching hires on hold until some resolution to the rest of the NBA season is figured out.

Two upsets in first round of HORSE competition

Bulls guard Zach LaVine
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In the quarterfinal round of HORSE competition, the competition got better as the event went along. There were two upsets in the quarterfinals as current NBA players took on WNBA players and NBA legends.

In the first matchup, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks went against Chauncey Billups. Young raced out to an early HOR to no letters lead. Billups steady shot-making keyed the comeback though, as he defeated Young HORSE to HOR.

For aesthetics, this was the worst matchup of the day. It looked as though Young and Billups were filming the game using old-school flip phones. Young’s “court” was also questionable, as his rim looked bent and was possibly less than the standard 10-feet high.

In the second matchup, Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz went against NBA Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings. Conley defeated Catchings with relative ease, as he won HORSE to no letters.

Conley had a decided advantage, as he was the only player inside a gym. Catching competed outside in the elements. It was sunny, but looked like it was a bit cold and windy.

The third matchup saw Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls go against Paul Pierce. LaVine missed a few shots, but Piece couldn’t get any momentum going. LaVine eventually eliminated Pierce HORSE to no letters using some athletic moves.

The key takeaway was from this matchup was Pierce has an amazing backyard, including a pool and trampoline. LaVine has a multiple-sport area in his yard, including a batting cage and small turf field.

The final contest of the evening was Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder against Allie Quigley of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. In the closest matchup of the quarterfinals, Quigley raced out to an early lead, but Paul rallied. Eventually, Quigley eliminated Paul HORSE to HOR with the final miss by Paul coming on a free throw line bank shot.

Paul had a very nice outdoor halfcourt, while Quigley competed on a driveway court that looked like it could be in any suburb in America. This one also looked the best on TV.

The semifinals of the HORSE competition will be broadcast on ESPN on Thursday, April 16 at 9:00 PM Eastern. Chauncey Billups will take on Mike Conley and Zach LaVine will face Allie Quigley.

Let’s all hope for more trick shots in the rest of the competition. There were a few crazy attempts, but it would be nice to see the competitors throw up some hook shots or backwards shots in the semifinals.

See bracket for NBA HORSE competition

NBA Horse
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The biggest names for the NBA HORSE competition already leaked: Trae Young, Chris Paul and Zach LaVine.

Now, we have the full field.

The other competitors are a current NBA player (Mike Conley), two former NBA players (Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups), a current WNBA player (Allie Quigley) and a former WNBA player (Tamika Catchings).

Here’s the bracket:

NBA HORSE bracket

The NBA HORSE quarterfinals will be televised Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern. The semifinals and final will be televised the following Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

The rules, per NBA release:

A coin toss at the start of each game will determine who shoots first, with the more senior player calling heads or tails.  Players must describe each shot attempt, specifying the type of score they intend to make before taking a shot, such as a bank shot or swish. Dunking is prohibited. The first player in each game to accumulate the letters “H-O-R-S-E” after failing to match five shots is eliminated.

No dunking is a big blow to LaVine. That was his nearly unstoppable competitive advantage (which is surely why it’s banned).

As is, all eight entrants have a shot. The current NBA players would usually have a greater superiority, but with training interrupted, the field is leveled. Anyone could get hot during the competition, which will be held with each player shooting from a separate location.

I don’t have high expectations for this event. Previous NBA HORSE competitions at All-Star Weekend underwhelmed.

But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing widespread cancellations in sports, the bar is low. I’ll watch this.

Report: Bulls hiring Nuggets’ Arturas Karnisovas to lead front office

New Bulls executive Arturas KarnisovasNew Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas
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Nuggets executive Arturas Karnisovas separated himself in the Bulls’ search process.

Soon, he’ll take over Chicago’s basketball operations.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

With Karnisovas working under Tim Connelly, the Nuggets have drafted and developed well. Nikola Jokic was the biggest gem, but Denver has more than its fair share of success stories. Though it’s difficult to assign credit and blame from the outside, Karnisovas developed a reputation for his ability to connect with people around the world, scouting acumen and meticulousness.

In Chicago, Karnisovas inherits a team stuffed with high-variance young players. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. could all play central roles on the next good Bulls team. Or not. Each has shown flashes. None has proven himself. It’s on Karnisovas to identify who’s a keeper and how to proceed with the others.

Chicago has all its future first-round picks, including a high one in the upcoming draft. So, Karnisovas will have a big opportunity to put his stamp on the organization next offseason.

The Bulls could eventually become more of a force in free agency. Chicago is a large market. But drafting and development will be key to heading in the right direction.

It’s unclear how patient Bulls ownership will be. Fans – eager to be rid of the Gar Forman-John Paxson regime – will give Karnisovas ample opportunity to succeed. That can influence ownership.

Chicago’s search didn’t go completely smoothly. Other candidates opted to stay with their current teams. Questions emerged about whether the Bulls were giving potential black candidates fair treatment.

But Chicago got a respected executive, and Karnisovas got his first chance to run an NBA front office. This definitely could work out, though anytime someone ascends to a new position – especially a leadership role – there’s risk with the unknown.

Report: Trae Young, Chris Paul, Zach LaVine to compete in H-O-R-S-E

Trae Young and Chris Paul
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Televised H-O-R-S-E during the NBA’s coronavirus stoppage?

The Hawks’ Trae Young, Thunder’s Chris Paul and Bulls’ Zach LaVine are apparently in.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA had H-O-R-S-E at 2009 and 2010 All-Star Weekends. The event was a dud. But we’re all far more desperate for fresh basketball content now.

Young (deep shooting), Paul (consistent shooting from different ranges) and LaVine (hops) each bring distinctive strengths. Lavine’s is most difficult to match. He could just do dunks that no opponents could even approach. Even reinvigorated, Paul merely dunking at all is noteworthy. Perhaps, LaVine won’t be allowed to dunk on every try.

As far as retired players, Paul Pierce is a good guess: