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Report: Bucks hiring Mike Budenholzer

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The Bucks and Raptors were reportedly focused on former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer in their searches.

Milwaukee got him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a strong hire for a team ready to reach the next level.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Khris Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter.

Coaching was holding back Milwaukee.

That’s unlikely to be the case anymore.

Budenholzer brings a strong track record of a flowing offense, sound defense and player development.

The Celtics and 76ers are rightfully seen as the top Eastern Conference contenders once LeBron Jamesreign ends. But don’t exclude the Bucks from the conversation. They’re also a challenger.

More immediately, this hire will be felt in Toronto and Atlanta.

The Raptors must move onto another choice to guide their very good team. Maybe they’ll now hire one of their strong internal candidates – assistant coaches Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian and minor-league coach Jerry Stackhouse. Stan Van Gundy, Steve Clifford and Monty Williams carry impressive head-coaching experience if Toronto wants someone more proven.

Unlike the Raptors, the Hawks are a winner in this. They will no longer have to pay Budenholzer his full salary.

Rockets sound divided on offensive solutions

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The Rockets’ biggest problem was defense in their Game 1 loss to the Warriors.

But Houston’s offense wasn’t performing at peak levels, either.

Running an isolation-heavy attack, James Harden scored 41 points (9-of-15 on 2-pointers, 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, 8-of-10 on free throws). But the Rockets scored just 102.7 points per 100 possessions.

What should they do about that? Depends whom you ask.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni:

Q. You’re not worried at all about the iso ball wearing him down both ways?
MIKE D’ANTONI: I don’t think so. I mean, that was the best thing we had. I don’t know why it’s bad. Perception is not reality. Reality are numbers. Numbers are, that’s good. Numbers are, yeah, we had a couple 24-second violations and everybody goes, oh, and everybody goes crazy and our guys do sometimes. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. Yeah, it’s going to happen. We’re not going to be perfect. But the numbers show it’s pretty good.
Now, having said that, we’ve got to get into transition. We’ve got to get Trevor [Ariza] and those guys shots. We’ve got to get the ball moved up a little bit quicker, and we can do that. We control that.

Q. Are there things you can shore up offensively that will help you defensively?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Yeah. Well, one thing we can shore up is be sure to keep all the noise out. We talked about that. There are just too many, and rightfully so, I’m not complaining — but we play the way we play. When we’ve played that way, we’re pretty good. Again, we get a little upset on offense, as we did on defense, because we weren’t as good on offense. So we have to be able to understand where we have to do this a little bit longer, a little bit better, and up the ante a little bit.
Our pace has got to be up a little bit. There are things that we can do and we will do. That’s why I just expect us to be a lot better on Wednesday.
Q. What noise are you talking about?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Just everybody. I mean, just from ourselves. Like, oh, my gosh the iso, that’s all we do. No, it isn’t. That’s what we do best. We scored like 60 percent of the time on that. Oh, really? Oh, they don’t pass, everybody’s standing. Really? Have you watched us for 82 games? That’s what we do. We are who we are, and we’re pretty good at it. We can’t get off who we are. Embrace it. Just be better of who we are and don’t worry if somebody else solves the puzzle a different way. Fine, that’s how they solve it. We solve our puzzle this way. We’ve got to play at our strengths. We know our strengths and we’ve just got to do it better.

Q. There were questions afterward for James about kind of the comfort level of some of the guys on the offensive end. There were people asking questions about Eric Gordon and other players. Do you agree there were times that they looked a little uncomfortable? What you have to do to get the rest, not James and Chris, going and feeling good about what you’re doing offensively?
MIKE D’ANTONI: Like I said, this is how we play. It’s how we played all year. I don’t know why you wouldn’t be comfortable. Wee got some shots up there. I don’t know how many layups we just missed and they turned them into fast breaks. You just take that away, make the layups and defend a little bit better. We’ve just got to get in transition and we’ve got to defend better. A lot of things — up the ante.
But like I said, how are we going to get comfortable? We can put some blankets out there or something, but that’s not happening. You know what? Play through it. So be it. This just comes down to a dogfight. It doesn’t come down to feeling comfortable. Everybody’s feeling uncomfortable. Your hair should be on fire, and you should be playing and spitting blood out there.
This is hard stuff to overcome, one of the better teams ever in the history of the NBA. They’ve got to embrace the situation.

Eric Gordon, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

“I definitely would like to get the ball more for me to be aggressive and get good looks,” said Gordon, who took 13 shots. “Offensively with everybody, we really don’t get real good looks. … We can’t isolate as much against a good defensive team. I don’t care who you are. We have some of the best isolation players out there. But against a team like that, it’s going to be too tough.”

Clint Capela, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“We’re just out here waiting on (Harden and Chris Paul) to make the decisions,” Capela said. “This is what they do. This is what they’ve been doing all season long, so it’s something that is harder to do right now. Maybe we’re going to have to be more aware on the weak side, maybe (use) flares to get guys open, to get more movement, so all the focus won’t be on the guys on the weak side.”

In Game 1, the Rockets played the offensive style they used all season. They can’t simply overhaul their identity in two days.

That there’s even talk of them doing so speaks to the Warriors’ hegemony. Golden State instills panic in its opponents.

The Rockets shouldn’t panic, but they should make tweaks.

Attack in isolation quicker, so if the initial plan stalls, they can get into another action with more time before the shot clock expires. Use Chris Paul more in isolation with an eye toward Harden saving energy for defense. Play Clint Capela more than 30 minutes, because his lob-finishing ability limits the Warriors’ ability to rotate a rim protector toward the Houston isolationist.

That might not be enough. The Warriors are great.

But the Rockets’ best bet is sticking with what got them here and hoping to execute better.

Report: Tanking GM told GM of playoff team before matchup: ‘Please don’t tell me you’re resting any of your main guys tonight’

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver is just starting to publicly acknowledge the elephant in the room – tanking.

Everyone else is already doing and talking about it.

Here’s yet another example.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

One afternoon soon after this year’s All-Star break, a general manager of a team destined for the lottery was on the phone with a counterpart presiding over a playoff-bound squad. The call was a routine check-in to yak about league business and trade gossip. With the two teams coincidentally scheduled to face one another that night, the executive presiding over the tank job squawked to his more fortunate counterpart, “Please don’t tell me you’re resting any of your main guys tonight.”

The last thing that exec’s team needed was a win, as he was trying to position his organization for the best chance to have its choice of top talent in June’s NBA draft.

The tanking general manager was kidding on the square.

He obviously had no control whether the playoff-bound team rested its top players. I’d be shocked if his off-hand comment had any effect.

But we’re supposed to believe someone so heavily incentivized to tank and who talks about tanking isn’t actually making any decisions to decrease his team’s chances of winning?

Yeah, right.

Marcus Morris on Pacers and Raptors defending LeBron James: ‘Them dudes can’t guard’

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Marcus Morris drew a lot of attention for lauding his own defense of LeBron James before the Celtics and Cavaliers began the Eastern Conference finals. (Morris backed it up in Game 1.)

But Morris’ self-praise came with humbler context. He called LeBron the best player in the NBA. He noted Kawhi Leonard was better at defending LeBron. He emphasized that slowing LeBron wouldn’t be a one-man job.

This isn’t as subdued.

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

Morris waited next in the long line of LeBron defenders, and so he studied the tendencies of the ones who came before. He watched plays on Synergy. He downloaded clips on YouTube. He projected games on his flat screen, pressing the rewind button once, twice, then three times just to figure out what, if anything, he could take from the previous two playoff teams that had been vanquished by the King.

Morris sought inspiration, but he stumbled upon a harsh truth.

“Them dudes can’t guard. That’s what I did pick up,” Morris said, bluntly.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young, O.G. Anunoby and Pascal Siakam can (some reasonably, others not) object – from home.

Morris is busy readying for what will likely be a bounce-back Game 2 by LeBron.

Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans, likely first-rounder, staying in NBA draft

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Cincinnati junior Jacob Evans looks like a first-round pick entering the combine, but his range his wide enough that he could fall into the second round depending on his combine showing.

He’s not hedging his bets, though.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cincinnati junior Jacob Evans has decided to remain in the 2018 NBA draft and forgo his collegiate eligibility, Evans told Yahoo Sports.

The 6-foot-6 Evans is a 3-and-D wing entering a league that craves players like him. Whatever limitations he has, he’ll get a shot.

Evans, who turns 21 the week of the draft, is fairly young for a junior. He improved nicely throughout his college career, developing an all-around game.

He was an effective defender who rarely let his man get by him at Cincinnati, where he covered positions 1-4. Evans might not be quite big and athletic enough to handle so many matchups in the NBA. Still, there should be plenty of pros he can lock down.

Evans will likely be limited to spotting up for 3-pointers in the NBA offensively. He has a compact stroke and can knock down those standstill shots. Though he sometimes played on the ball at Cincinnati, his burst and ball-handling aren’t impressive.

Evans is also a smart player, which shows in his passing and defensive positioning. That’s as encouraging of an indicator as anything else.