For an Orlando franchise understandably staggered by four straight losses and a grueling 1-5 road trip – with three of those defeats coming after they had built leads of at least 15 points early in the games – any sort of good news is needed right now. The worst of their schedule is behind them and there’s still a strong belief that they can recapture the good vibes that they played with early in the season – even after Wednesday’s second-half collapse in a 106-93 loss to the Utah Jazz. “Ending the trip like this, it’s really hard, but we’re still in the race and still in the playoff (chase),’’ said guard Evan Fournier, a veteran of 4 ½ Magic seasons. “A lot of stuff can still happen. It’s going to feel good to be back in Orlando. I mean, the biggest thing, we just have to figure out when we have a lead, we have to keep it.’’
March 24, 2019 | 11:05 am EDT Update
Adam Wexler: #Rockets recall Gary Clark from @RGVVipers. He was (+26) in their west clinching win last night. They’re top seed in West for playoffs which begin this week. Rockets at Pelicans, tonight at 6.
Murray State star Ja Morant will wait to make an announcement on whether he plans to enter the NBA draft after his team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament Saturday. “That time will come,” Morant said. “My focus is not on that right now. It’s just celebrating this — what a great season we had — with my teammates.” Morant is widely projected to be a top-three pick in this year’s draft, should he choose to forgo his final two years of college eligibility.
According to multiple sources, some high profile international candidates are being or have been considered. David Blatt, an American who coached the Russian national team as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers, was first choice but may have pulled out due to back problems. Former Italian national team head coach and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina is also being interviewed. A complicating factor? Financial challenges at Canada Basketball mean that the money being offered for the role is minimal or perhaps not even more than an honorarium covering expenses.
Meanwhile, a number of Canadian coaches are not impressed that Triano has been put in a situation where he has to effectively re-apply for his own job. “I know he was under the impression last summer that he was the head coach and hadn’t heard anything differently until recently,” said one source. “The way this has played out is disrespectful. He’s either your coach or he’s not.”
March 24, 2019 | 7:25 am EDT Update
Players, coaches and management all have insisted on how important center Robin Lopez has been to the rebuild, so much so that the Bulls didn’t want to buy him out the last month for the stretch run. With Lopez facing free agency this summer, and staring at a backup role with the Bulls if he does return, what are the chances that the mutual admiration brings him back? “Robin has been terrific for us,’’ Paxson said. “We’ll keep an open mind on that, absolutely.’’