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AP Photo/Michael Wyke

Rumor: Trail Blazers expected to keep Terry Stotts

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The Trail Blazers have lost 10 straight playoff games, including this year becoming the highest seed (No. 3) to get swept in a best-of-seven first-round series. Portland had the NBA’s fifth-highest salary. Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was investigating earlier this season where to assign blame.

So, of course, rumors swirled about Portland coach Terry Stotts’ job security.

But it appears Stotts will last another year.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The latest word in coaching circles is that the Blazers prefer to keep Stotts heading into the final year of his contract

Damian Lillard probably saved Stotts’ job. The star guard has vigorously supported Stotts, and the Trail Blazers want to keep their franchise player happy.

But this won’t erase the questions in Portland.

The payroll is bloated for years to come. Starting center Jusuf Nurkic will be a restricted free agent this summer. Stotts must show he can make adjustments in the playoffs.

Will Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey lose his job? Will someone have a change of heart on Stotts – no announcement has been made – and conduct a coaching search? Will Lillard remain content in Portland?

Stotts has done well with this team, particularly developing a bond with Lillard. Stotts deserves to remain coach. But succeeding in the final year of his contract won’t be easy.

Dirk Nowitzki gets very different response than Victor Oladipo did about training

AP Photo/Ron Jenkins
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The Pacers’ season ended at 3:52 p.m. Sunday.

Just 17 minutes later, Victor Oladipo reached out to his trainer to “take it to another level:”

What a great example of Oladipo’s determination. He has built himself into a star.

And then there’s 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki.

The Mavericks season ended April 11. Twenty days later he reached out to his trainer with the same question as Oladipo: “When do we start?”

The response:

Stephen Curry playing in Warriors-Pelicans Game 2

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The Warriors beat the Pelicans by 22 in Game 1.

Now, Golden State is adding a two-time MVP still in his prime to the lineup.

Warriors:

Stephen Curry was targeting tonight for his return for a while. So, everything is on track.

Curry opens so much for the Warriors’ offense with his elite shooting. The attention he attracts is immense – and he’s still a highly efficient scorer on his own.

Where will New Orleans hide Rajon Rondo now? Will Jrue Holiday primarily defend Curry or Klay Thompson (or Kevin Durant)?

The Pelicans were in a hole already. The questions they face get even tougher now.

Knicks cap coaching interviews with Warriors assistant Mike Brown

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Mike Brown won 62% of his games while head-coaching the Cavaliers and Lakers over seven-plus seasons. As lead assistant, he helped the Warriors win last season’s title and filled in for Steve Kerr at times.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson obviously factor prominently into Brown’s impressive record.

But Brown also worked his way up as a Spurs assistant. And his record of success, no matter the reason, shouldn’t be ignored.

All that should at least warrant an interview in the NBA’s widest coaching search, which the Knicks conducted.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After talking with Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown, the New York Knicks have completed interviews for the franchise’s head-coaching job and team officials are huddling to reach a consensus on the hiring of a candidate, league sources told ESPN.

The Knicks hope to hire a new coach this week, sources said.

The known candidates:

This is how to run a coaching search. Speak with many candidates of varying backgrounds. Make it a priority, not a vacation-interrupting chore.

The Knicks aren’t guaranteed to make the right choice. Even if they do, they could undermine him with a lacking roster.

But New York is giving itself the best chance of hiring the optimal coach by considering such a large pool.

Will Raptors finally get past LeBron James, Cavaliers?

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Before the Cavaliers and Raptors met in the 2016 Eastern Conference finals, Toronto coach Dwane Casey called Cleveland “probably the best team in the league right now.” That proved prescient, as the Cavs beat the Raptors in the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history then went on to win the NBA title.

After losing that series to the Cavaliers, Casey said: “We’re learning. We’re not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We’re going to be.” Will that also come true? It didn’t last year, when Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round.

Maybe third time’s a charm.

The Cavs and Raptors will meet in the third straight postseason, beginning with Game 1 of their second-round series tonight in Toronto. If the Raptors are ever going to beat LeBron James, this ought to be the time.

Toronto has been better than Cleveland throughout the season. Better offense. Better defense. Better starters. Better bench.

On the other hand: LeBron.

LeBron has ruled the Eastern Conference for years. Count the Raptors among the teams he has tormented, and he doesn’t seem to fear them now.

The Cavaliers showed little urgency down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed and get on the same side of the bracket as the injury-riddled Celtics. Do the Cavs believe they have Toronto figured out?

If so, it’s hard to doubt LeBron’s assessment. But it also might be just hubris.

The Raptors have revamped their offense and empowered their role players. They look better prepared for the playoffs, when Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and crew have faltered annually.

But Toronto didn’t exactly steamroll the Wizards in a 4-2 first-round series. Sure, Washington is better than the East’s typical No. 8 seed, and bench lynchpin Fred VanVleet was injured. (He’s healthy now.) But the Raptors weren’t exactly encouraging.

To be fair, neither was Cleveland in a 4-3 win over the Pacers. Strapped with his worst supporting cast since his first Cavs tenure, LeBron had to do nearly everything – in the first round. LeBron has had to shoulder such a heavy load before, but not in the first round like that in many years. And the Cavaliers were still outscored by 40 by Indiana, the third-worst point difference ever for a series victor.

That’s why this familiar matchup feels so unfamiliar.

LeBron is such a mainstay in the playoffs. He has been involved every instance of teams meeting in three straight postseasons in the last decade:

  • Cavaliers-Raptors (2016-18)
  • Cavaliers-Warriors (2015-17)
  • Heat-Pacers (2012-14)
  • Heat-Celtics (2010-12)

The big names are the same between Cleveland and Toronto: LeBron, Love, Lue, Lowry, DeRozan, Casey. LeBron’s teams build so clearly around him, not even Kyrie Irving‘s departure changes the Cavaliers’ identity.

Maybe their ability, though.

LeBron says he’s worn down. Perhaps, the deep Raptors can grind him into elimination.

But it often seems LeBron can simply will his team to victory no matter the odds, like he did against Toronto in the regular season. Especially if this series goes deep, LeBron has proven far more trustworthy in the clutch than the Raptors.

Is Toronto good enough to vanquish the Cavs quickly and not face those situations? Home-court advantage could help.

The Raptors have been building toward this moment for years. Trending the opposite direction, so have the Cavaliers.

Their paths cross again. How that goes seems more uncertain than ever.