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NBA AM: Are The Kings Targeting George Karl?

Are the Kings targeting George Karl to replace Mike Malone?

Steve Kyler



Kings Fire Mike Malone:  While this one seemed a little out of left field, the Sacramento Kings decided to part ways with head coach Mike Malone. The truth behind the curtain is, this one wasn’t nearly as shocking as it may seem despite the Kings’ hot start and somewhat improved situation.

Malone is a defensive-minded coach that was hired by new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive before he had hired his front office. There was a sense at least initially that Malone would be dictating a lot of the structure of the Kings, however over time that’s changed somewhat dramatically.

Ranadive has become much more hands on. He is much more involved in the day-to-day than your typical NBA owner in a very Mark Cuban kind of way. Malone’s defense-first mindset has been problematic for Ranadive for some time.

Sources close to the process say while Ranadive respects how important defense is, the stagnation of the Kings’ offense and the massive lapses the team has endured are placed more on Malone as a coach than on the players and it seemed Ranadive had enough.

Malone was hired in the summer of 2013 on a three-year, $9 million deal that was to pay him a bit more than $2 million per season. Malone has this year and next year fully guaranteed, unless he takes a job with another team.

The Kings have named assistant coach Ty Corbin the interim head coach, although they reportedly have eyes on former Nuggets head coach George Karl.

Given General Manager Pete D’Alessandro’s history with Karl and his style of play, he’s a natural fit. D’Alessandro was hired after Malone in 2013 and had no say in the hire. This time he will and he has a comfort level and trust in Karl that he was never able to form with Malone.

Karl has said numerous times he’d like to get back into coaching and has been visible during the offseason scouting players and being around the league’s offseason process.

Karl parted ways with the Nuggets after a highly successful season that yielded the Coach of the Year award in 2013. His contract was oddly structured, giving him three fully guaranteed years as a single team option. The Nuggets were interested in keeping Karl for one more season. However, the option locked in three years, something the Nuggets were unwilling to do and Karl was unwilling to negotiate.

Karl is currently 63 and was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer in 2010. Karl underwent treatment and was declared cancer free.

Karl was a panelist during last year’s Sloan Analytics Conference and joked that he had gained a reputation as being someone who could win a bunch of regular season games, butn his style had the a reputation that it couldn’t win playoff games.

Karl played professionally for the San Antonio Spurs both in the ABA and the NBA in the late 70’s. He began his coaching career in 1978 and has coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, the former Seattle Sonics, Milwaukee Bucks and Nuggets. Karl also coached two stints in the defunct CBA with the Albany Patroons and internationally with Real Madrid.

In his 25 seasons as a NBA head coach Karl has amassed an 1131-756 record in the regular season and is 80-105 in the postseason, qualifying for the playoffs in 22 of 25 seasons.

While Karl is viewed as the primary target for the Kings, there is no guarantee that he’ll take the job, especially in-season. That’s why the Kings are giving Corbin the chance to earn the job long-term this season.

The Kings are currently 11-13 on the season and have lost three straight games and eight of their last ten games.

Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins is recovering from viral meningitis. He has missed the last nine games and has been at practice trying to work himself back into game shape.

One Of The Greatest To Have Done It:  Last night Lakers star Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the career scoring list, placing himself as the third highest scorer in NBA history with 32,310 points – now 18 more than Jordan.

After knocking down two free throws and passing the milestone, the game was stopped and Bryant was presented with the game ball.

Bryant now sits 4,618 points behind second place Karl Malone and 6,077 points behind first place Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To put those figures into perspective since the 2007-2008 season Bryant has scored 2323, 2201, 1970, 2078, 1616, 2133, 83 and 610 points.

To eclipse Malone, Bryant would need to continue to score at his average rate this season and roughly two more seasons after that.

After passing Jordan, the Charlotte Hornets owner and retired star released a statement congratulating Kobe on the accomplishment:

“I congratulate Kobe on reaching this milestone,” Jordan said. “He’s obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. I’ve enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”

Bryant, 36, is playing in his 19th NBA season and is averaging 25.4 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the field a career low by a little more than three percent. Bryant’s career average is 45.2 percent from the field.

Bryant has one more year remaining on his contract after this season and there has been massive speculation that he would retire when his current contract is up.

Among Bryant’s many career accomplishments, he has won five NBA championships, been the Finals Most Valuable Player twice, the NBA’s regular season Most Valuable Player once, made an All-Star selection 16 times and won the NBA’s scoring title twice in his career.

Ironically, Bryant was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 and was part of a pre-arranged draft-day trade with the Lakers.

The Lakers are 8-16 so far on the season, Jordan’s Hornets are 6-17 on the season.

The Dance With Lance:  Today marks the first day that the majority of players signed this summer become trade eligible. The NBA, via the Collective Bargaining Agreement, blocks teams from trading players they obtained in free agency for 90 days or December 15, whichever is later.

This becomes meaningful for teams that signed guys who no longer fit or for teams that are looking to make changes and need more roster parts included to make a deal work under the cap.

The Charlotte Hornets are said to have explored trades involving free agent signee Lance Stephenson and have kicked the tires on a number of options. The Hornets are finding, much as Stephenson’s representation did this summer, that the market for him isn’t exactly steaming with interest.

Add in the season he is having and what’s being viewed as a desperation sale by the Hornets and few teams are expressing real interest or offering serios value.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Hornets have reached out to Brooklyn and Indiana about a possible deal, but are finding that Stephenson by himself won’t return much, in fact the Pacers are believed to be asking for a first round draft pick in exchange for taking back Stephenson.

The Nets become an interesting destination, mainly because there is a sense in Brooklyn that the Nets want to part ways with center Brook Lopez, who is struggling to find a groove that works for head Coach Lionel Hollins.

The Hornets had eyes for Lopez when he was a free agent in 2012, however Lopez has the option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and that’s something both the Nets and inquiring teams have to weigh in making trying to make a deal.

Lopez has a player option on his deal this summer worth $16.7 million, which he likely trades in for a chance at looking in more long-term security.

Wojnarowski also mentions that the Hornets and Nets have discussed the potential of a larger deal that could include Nets swing man Joe Johnson.

Johnson is owed $23.1 million this season and has a final year next season worth $24.89 million left on his deal. His contract becomes problematic in trade simply because his current $23.1 million accounts for 36 percent of Charlotte’s $64.094 million payroll.

NBA trade rules restrict the variance between swapped salaries fairly significantly once the outgoing salaries pass the $19.6 million mark, meaning teams have to get the combined salaries within 125 percent plus $100,000.

Said differently, for Brooklyn to move Johnson and Lopez, who combined make $38.89 million the Hornets would have to move off roughly $31 million in their own salary, which could only be achieved by trading multiple players – arguably six depending on how things get structured – which the Nets could not absorb without culling their own roster.

The Hornets posture seems to indicate they want Lance off the roster, the problem is moving off $9 million in salary this year and a fully guaranteed $9 million next year is tough to do, especially when the players is shooting 38.9 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from the three-point line and 65.3 percent from the foul line and is being portrayed as a toxic influence in the locker room.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.


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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”

Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.

Dennis Chambers



The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.

Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.

With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.

One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.

“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”

Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.

“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”

In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.

“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”

Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.

Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.

“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”

The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.

Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.

“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”

Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.

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