Storyline: Houston Rockets Turmoil?

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Chris runs hot, too… PJ Tucker: Yeah, Chris is a hothead. But Chris wants to win. Chris might be the most competitive person I’ve ever been around in my life, and I’ve known him my whole life (Tucker and Paul grew up playing against each other on the North Carolina AAU circuit). Like, period. Chris wants to fucking win. Period. Chris wants to win. I don’t care. Chris wants to win.

Does the way he’s wired still help the group? PJ Tucker: I don’t see how it can’t (help the group). I can’t be around somebody who wants to win like that and not want to win. So if you can’t do that, then this might not be where you need to be, because that’s the stuff you need to be able to win. I wasn’t (sweating the recent reports). I ain’t talking to nobody, because I know. I live it every day. There’s nobody on our team together more than me and James and Chris, so why would I sweat it?

Rumors and speculation could not touch Chris Paul now — if they ever could — not here, not on a day like this. The Rockets guard, surrounded by his family in a break in the Go Hoop Day celebrations he co-founded, never seemed more comfortable, more in control, talking about his vision for the event and recognized by the City of Los Angeles for driving it. He had briefly addressed his place with the Rockets and future between portions of the clinics held on Sunday at Crete Academy. But there was one more point to make.

“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.” He did not seem angry about the reports that he had, in part because he had nearly completed the day’s events on a near-perfect Southern California afternoon. He had stepped away for a place on nearby picnic tables, surrounded by his large family, munching on a plant-based burger from one of the event’s sponsors, Beyond Meat, as Paul completed his 11th day since becoming a vegan.

The report cited Paul’s frustration with the offense and a push for more ball movement and off-ball actions, a la Golden State. But Paul isn’t the only one. Several members of the team expressed similar opinions throughout the year and into the offseason, including Eric Gordon’s frustration after a blowout loss in Utah, and continuing with Austin Rivers’ appearance recently on First Take. Per team sources, those complaints have been heard and management has discussed a system that involves less isolation basketball and more ball movement heading into next season. Speeding the game up and looking for easier baskets was also brought up in conversations, per a team source.

For what it’s worth, Houston doesn’t see this as a real problem. One source harkened back to the Dwight Howard days, for a real broken and dysfunctional relationship. “There will always be tension when you’re trying to get shit right,” cited one team source. “Every aspect of basketball gets debated at some point, and the way we lost sucked. “We’ve had players (in the past) who didn’t care about anything other than themselves and wanted everyone else to shore them up. We don’t see (Harden/Paul tension) as a big deal.”

Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season. Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench. “It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.

Harden, by nature, tends to avoid conflict but was pushed hard enough to snap back at Paul from time to time. That’s what happened during the Rockets’ elimination loss, when, team sources said, Harden told Paul he didn’t always know best and had talked too much. “Chris has a personality where he just doesn’t let anything go,” a team source says. “He just keeps pestering and pestering and pestering and pestering. Sometimes James has had enough — and not just him. That’s what makes [Paul] a winner and also what keeps him from being a big-time winner. He’s got to temper that.”

Fertitta failed to mention the buyout language that guaranteed D’Antoni only half of his base salary if the Rockets fired him before the extension began. That was the primary sticking point for D’Antoni, who hoped for a commitment of two more seasons beyond this contract and never seriously considered a half-hearted offer of one more year. Five days later, Fertitta boarded his private jet along with Morey and flew to West Virginia to smooth things over with D’Antoni. The Rockets’ executives returned to Houston believing they had a handshake deal. “I feel very good about it, and I’ve always felt good,” Fertitta told ESPN the following week. “I’m disappointed that it got talked about in the press, and I’m disappointed I responded in the press.”

As an olive branch, Fertitta offered $2 million in incentives tied to playoff advancement in 2019-20, the remaining season on D’Antoni’s current contract, if they worked out an extension. He also agreed to remove the buyout language, claiming LeGarie hadn’t made it clear it was considered so problematic. D’Antoni told them the reworked offer sounded good, but they needed to iron out the details with LeGarie. “I have not heard from them since that trip to visit Mike,” LeGarie says. “Mike is prepared to coach out his contract.” LeGarie insists that a second year and a higher base salary are musts to sign an extension with the Rockets. He was annoyed D’Antoni, a client for more than three decades, came across as agreeable to a lesser proposal without consulting him.

Where do they go for a solution? The reserved Gordon hasn’t been the happiest of campers this season, but even he couldn’t hold back any longer when I caught up with him as he was leaving Vivent Arena. “I’m just not having fun man,” Gordon told The Athletic. “I’m just not. This sucks. Even the times where I have good games. We’re just not using some guys the right way. Are we gonna make the right sacrifices? Do we have the right attitude? “Last year was the best year I’ve ever had being a part of a team,” he added. “We just never had a bad moment. If we ever had a bad game as a team, you knew the next game we would blow somebody out. It didn’t matter who it was.”

With the Rockets slumping, with losses in seven of nine games, but also with a record that is the fourth-best in the NBA, they said they have to maintain a mix of urgency and confidence. “That’s what we’re fighting with right now,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re fighting as coaches, is what we’re doing good enough? Is it tired legs, injuries and we need to hang in there, or do we need to change something? It’s a fine balance. I can’t say a coach always knows. I can tell you afterwards. We’ll try to play with a swagger and confidence.”

That likely will be only the start. Morey disputed the depiction of the Rockets’ chemistry problems, saying that they were no greater than is typical when teams play badly and that the chemistry was no worse this season than it was good with the same players last season. But anyone privy to all those team meetings could describe dysfunction that will have to be addressed. Next season’s coach will have to demand or inspire that kind of change and likely will have to convince Morey, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and CEO Tad Brown that he can turn the Rockets into a team built to win in the postseason.

But he disputed the notion that he does not value chemistry or that it was as much of an issue this season as many, including some of his players, have said. “I think it’s hugely important,” Morey said. “I don’t remember articles about how our chemistry was great last year. I don’t remember articles last year that said how great our guys were together. That’s a label people throw on a team when it’s not going well. The reality is we didn’t have enough guys playing together and playing well. Last year, we had a lot of guys playing well and playing together. It’s the same group of guys. They had good chemistry. They just didn’t play well.

As the Rockets rushed from the Oracle Arena visitor’s locker room and a long, frustrating season, James Harden looked to the off-season pledging to return a better player. “Just a tough year. Tough year,” Harden said. “I think every player, every great player goes through it. It’s an opportunity to get better. I’ll come back as a better basketball player. “It was a frustrating year. A lot of ups. A lot of downs. I have to be better next year.”

“That’s going to happen,” Terry said regarding distractions. “I’ve been around this thing a long time. You will be faced with all types of adversities and how you come through those is a sign of the type of team you have. Our team was just not strong enough mentally to get through those adversities and learn. A lesson for [Harden] as a star of a team, you have to deal with certain issues and still be able to be mentally tough to bring your level of play up with your team and get them to where you want them to go. It happens.”
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May 27, 2020 | 6:57 pm EDT Update


May 27, 2020 | 5:17 pm EDT Update
‘I honestly want the death penalty for the cops because he casually, hand in his pocket, killed my brother,’ Jackson, 42, told the Daily Mail. ‘No effort. He put no effort into killing him. Kneeled on his neck, had him cuffed, and just suffocated him. ‘The only way that people are gonna feel like there’s justice, and the only way these police are gonna stop killing people in broad daylight like it ain’t nothing, is if they start dying too.’

May 27, 2020 | 4:44 pm EDT Update
NBA Central: Austin Rivers talks about the time an unranked Kyrie showed up to Deron Williams’ camp and gave buckets to the top ranked HS players in the country “He wasn’t even supposed to be there…Guys were like ‘Who the f*ck is this guy?’” (🎥 @uninterrupted ) pic.twitter.com/2YHYeXx0AM

Steve Kerr can’t watch it, and Stan Van Gundy doesn’t need to. Many black people have to keep away from it, because watching yet another video of an African American being killed at the hands of the state strips away at their souls and state of mind — that it can happen at any point with very little recourse. A knee to the neck of George Floyd until his breath is taken away.
“I think all you have to do is read the story to understand that this was a horrific act and, unfortunately, a story that’s all too familiar in our country,” Kerr told Yahoo Sports recently. “We have to do something about it. I think in particular … white people need to stand up and say we’re not gonna stand for this. All we have to do is imagine if the roles were reversed, the races were reversed, it would be a completely different outcome.”
“I’ve never met a single black parent that doesn’t have to sit their kids down and talk to them very directly about how you deal with the police if you’re stopped,” Van Gundy said. “‘You do this, this and this, so you come home alive.’ I started getting more of that in my career. I’m like holy [expletive]. I’ve never once talked to my kids about that or felt the need to. If my kid got pulled over, it was because they deserved to get pulled over. Even if they mouthed off, nobody was gonna shoot them.”
May 27, 2020 | 3:48 pm EDT Update
May 27, 2020 | 3:40 pm EDT Update
Some overseas players have an NBA-buyout clause in their contract (also known as an NBA-out) that allows them to leave their international team if they get an offer from an NBA franchise. Some NBA-outs are monetary buyouts, but many of these buyouts give players a certain date in which they are allowed to test the free-agent market and secure an NBA offer. “Every year, there are a number of overseas players who exercise their buyout clause to sign with an NBA team, and the deadline for those buyout clauses is normally between July 10 and July 20,” one international agent said. “That way, it’s during the free-agency period and the player has the option of participating in Summer League beforehand to see if an NBA team is going to offer him a guaranteed deal or a two-way contract.”
“We’re in limbo because the dates no longer match the NBA’s schedule,” one agent said. “It seems like the NBA doesn’t understand that moving free agency by several months will prevent most overseas players from coming over to the NBA because their contract only allows them to exercise their buyout clause in July.” Also, some NBA-buyout clauses “are based on a certain number of days after the team’s last game,” according to another agent. These could present some unique challenges as well.
Some agents are hopeful that logic will prevail and the involved parties will be able to adjust the contract language without any trouble. “FIBA released some overarching guidelines and one of them is that they expect teams and players to engage in what they call ‘good-faith negotiations’ on these kinds of topics,” one agent said. “They’re basically encouraging teams and players to compromise and figure these things out. They don’t want to have to resolve a thousand disputes like this. Let’s say a player had an NBA buyout set for July 15, which is 15 days after the start of free agency. The logical argument is that the new buyout date should still be 15 days after the start of free agency. So, if NBA free agency begins on October 1, the new buyout date should be October 15. The hope is that a lot of these situations can be sorted out logically.”
It could also mean that the summer of 2021 features more overseas talent than usual since it would essentially have two offseasons’ worth of free agents who are looking to exercise their NBA-out. “The NBA is focused on so many other things right now, so I think this just slipped their mind,” one international agent said. “But this could have a big impact on teams that are targeting overseas players.”
Even if the NBA did find a way to have a 2020 Summer League, it couldn’t start until September or October. By then, many overseas leagues would have already wrapped up their free-agency period, meaning most fringe players would’ve already signed with a team overseas and wouldn’t be able to participate in Summer League. “If Summer League isn’t until September or October, everyone would just skip it and take a guaranteed deal with an overseas team instead,” one agent said. “Who is going to jeopardize a guaranteed deal for the entire season just to play in the Summer League for two weeks?”
According to research in which we looked at every team’s path to their eventual championship wins (we only examined champions who had to win four playoff series during their postseason runs), Hakeem Olajuwon’s 1994-95 Houston Rockets had the toughest road ever to winning a title. The worst team they beat had a 57-25 record, and that was their Finals opponent, the Orlando Magic, who boasted a lineup featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardway, amongst many valuable role players.
It’s a shame they weren’t even mentioned in The Last Dance, even though they were champions when Michael Jordan made his midseason return to the NBA. Some of the other toughest roads faced on the way to a title, per our research, include Jordan’s 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, LeBron James’ 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers, who had to face the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the Finals, and the Shaq-and-Kobe–Bryant 2001-02 squad.
May 27, 2020 | 3:31 pm EDT Update
Last week, ESPN came up with the all-time starting five for every NBA team. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Wilt Chamberlain made the cut for the Warriors. Hey Rick Barry — does that bother you at all? “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” the Hall of Famer said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And that’s all it is — the opinion of some people. It is what it is. I know who I am. I know who I was as a player, and that doesn’t change. Who cares. “Bottom line is — I have my championship ring sitting on my finger that I’m looking at right now.”
In 1975, Barry helped bring the franchise its first NBA title since it relocated from Philadelphia to the Bay Area in 1962. He averaged 29.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals in the NBA Finals that year, as the Warriors swept the heavily-favored Washington Bullets. “We won as a team. We didn’t win because of any one individual,” Barry explained. “We won because we made a commitment to playing the game the right way, and everybody was a major contributor. “That’s what made it so very special. We were like a family.”
May 27, 2020 | 2:04 pm EDT Update

Knicks interested in Kenny Atkinson

Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson likely will also receive an interview, sources said. Atkinson and the Nets parted ways in March with the team at 28-34 and on the way to the postseason during a difficult fourth season at the helm. Atkinson helped turn the franchise around during his tenure, taking it from a 20-win team in 2016-17 to a playoff team last season and one that proved to be an attractive destination for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. He was a Knicks assistant for four seasons under head coach Mike D’Antoni.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 37 more rumors
In Hartenstein’s case, the relationship with Brase had strengthened during Summer League in Las Vegas, with Brase as the head coach and Hartenstein as the team leader. Lucas has a unique way of connecting with players, and his bond with Hartenstein was no different. Being a young player who’s not getting a lot of playing time is one thing, but living alone is another. It’s important to keep players’ spirits up, especially during times like these, and Lucas is well versed in the mental aspect of the game. “More optimistic,” Hartenstein told The Athletic about his attitude toward the league’s progress. “I mean, just seeing that everything was getting closer and closer to opening up and maybe having a chance to start the season.”
As one of the first players in the league to attempt such a workout, Hartenstein was quick with a reminder that these are simply voluntary. Players are well within their right to avoid the facility and carry on whatever they’ve been doing to stay fit and ready on their own. This is just a way to get guys back in touch with the spaces they frequent after having to stay away for two months. “I mean, there will definitely be change,” Hartenstein said of league protocols as resumption talks progress. “But in the sense of what the Rockets are doing, they’re doing a great job. I don’t feel like they were uncomfortable and (they) made sure everything was safe.”
There are some more advanced chefs, namely Celtics center Enes Kanter, who is more familiar with food in the kitchen. He was growing up in Turkey, and as a child his mom told him to learn how to cook and he never really took her advice seriously until he got into the NBA and he started having to cook for himself. But now he experiments with all different kinds of Turkish spices and has actually turned his teammates on to a number of Turkish meals. So he’s very familiar in the kitchen. And you can see on his social media feeds all the lamb chops and steaks and chicken wings and more authentic Turkish food that he’s cooking during the hiatus.
May 27, 2020 | 1:45 pm EDT Update

Knicks coaching search: Thibodeau the top candidate

The New York Knicks and president of basketball operations Leon Rose will soon embark on the search process for a new head coach and Tom Thibodeau is atop the list of targets, sources told The Athletic. The Knicks are believed to be targeting a decision in the next few weeks, sources said. Interim coach Mike Miller has left a strong impression throughout the franchise, including in his time since Rose assumed control of the front office. Miller is expected to receive an interview when the Knicks do start formally talking to prospective head coaches, according to league sources, after stabilizing the team following a 4-18 start that led to David Fizdale’s firing.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 37 more rumors
“What I proposed is that we extend the playoff format to 10 teams from each conference, and play at least five games prior to going into playoffs,” Cuban said laying out is plan to NBC’s Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.” And if we do that, every team in the Eastern Conference would have a chance to make the playoffs, and all but two in the Western Conference would do it [Ed. note: Golden State and Minnesota].
“Then, what I would do, once we got 10 and 10, I would reseed them, and 17 would play 20, and 18 would play 19, in a one-game series. The winner then would take on the eighth-place seed in a five-game series, while the No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye. Then you go ahead normally from there. “That gives us a chance to have more meaningful games, it gives almost every team a chance when we come back for whatever is left of our regular season. I think we’ve got to change it up some, I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way.”
Walt Disney World plans to reopen July 11, according to a presentation the company made to an economic recovery task force Wednesday. Disney’s Florida theme parks have been closed since March 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and their reopening will follow its Florida rival, Universal Orlando, which is set to reopen June 5. SeaWorld Orlando also presented its plan to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force and plans to reopen for employees as soon as June 10, and the public on June 11.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler is depicted as one of the archrivals of fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan in the final few episodes of “The Last Dance.” In the docuseries, Jordan says he was “offended” when the media compared him to Drexler, and the latter has just clapped back at Jordan with his own response. According to Drexler, it’s all part of the game: “That’s Michael’s documentary so obviously it’s going to be from his perspective,” Drexler said on a recent interview with the “The A-Team” on SportsTalk 790. “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. A lot of times guys didn’t like each other from other teams, but as you get older, you’ve got to get beyond all of that and show some love and some respect for the people you played with and against.”
Drexler then went on to take a bit of a shot at Jordan, taking aim at the Chicago Bulls legend’s knack for taking matters into his own hands: “This is a team game, it’s not one guy. You can have 50 points and 40 rebounds but if you lose, are you less of a player than anybody on the other team? No, it’s a team game. “So I hate when people act like it’s an individual competition. I didn’t take 35 shots and get 20 free throws a night, so I wasn’t going to score 40 points a night.”