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NBA PM: Livingston Mourns Legendary Coach

Shaun Livingston’s former high school lost a legend back in October, and he talks about what that loss means to him… Ty Lawson doesn’t think Brian Shaw is the problem in Denver…

Joel Brigham



Livingston Mourns Loss of Legendary Coach

Back in October, former Peoria Manual High School head coach Wayne McClain passed away at the age of 60. He was, without question, one of the greatest coaches in Illinois high school history and meant a whole lot to Peoria basketball players, including Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston.

“It really hit us in our hearts as a community in the Central Illinois area,” Livingston said. “His legacy and everything he meant to the game, to the high school game and just basketball in general… He was the godfather of Peoria basketball.”

For those outside of Peoria basketball, that might not sound like much until one considers just how successful the Peoria Manual program was under McClain. After serving as an assistant coach for 18 years there, McClain took over as head coach in 1994 immediately following a state championship that would ultimately prove to be the first of four consecutive AA Illinois State titles. In other words, McClain’s first three years as a head coach resulted in hardware for the school he represented. The rest of his head coaching career there was defined by that early success.

Livingston didn’t play for Manual until 2003, the year following McClain’s move to Champaign, where he became an assistant coach at the University of Illinois, but McClain still spent time around the team and everybody who played with Livingston in 2003 and 2004—both championship seasons—all understood and appreciated the man’s legacy.

“He’s from those parts so everyone already knows him as far as being from the area. They can relate to him because they know that he knows what he’s talking about because he is well connected among those parts,” Livingston said.

“Another factor was just the respect he commanded. There was a lot lacking in the respect department during our youth so because he was able to command that respect and just communicate and get across his message, that became the key to earning our respect.”

As many high school coaches have learned in their times working with kids from rough areas, earning that respect can be challenging, but that wasn’t the case with Coach McClain.

“He did it with his consistency, his discipline and the way he just connected with his players and how he just demanded everything from him,” Livingston said. “He was like a father to all the kids that he coached growing up in those rough communities and rough parts of the city. He got them all to buy in and he really let their talent shine because we had a lot of talent, but just like everywhere kids get into trouble and fell out and didn’t make it. He was able to connect the bridge.”

And even though Livingston never got to play under McClain officially, Livingston always hoped he’d end up at Peoria Manual to share in the winning tradition the legendary head coach established.

“It was my dream,” Livingston said. “He had already left by the time I got into high school, but growing up watching those teams win state? That was what I always wanted to do. They inspired me and they were my role models. They really inspired me to be great and gave us the confidence coming from a small town to really compete on a national stage because they were able to set the table.”

And Livingston did, of course, represent his city quite well by proving talented enough to forgo college and go directly to the NBA. He was the fourth pick of the 2004 Draft, and while injuries certainly derailed him from a future as a superstar, there’s no question that he’s the best player to ever come out of Peoria Manual.

McClain was arguably the best coach Peoria Manual ever had, and Livingston and the rest of the Peoria community will need a long time to completely get over the loss of their legend.

Ty Lawson Says Team Still With Coach Brian Shaw

It hasn’t been an easy year for the Denver Nuggets, who are two games under .500 and currently dealing with one of the nastiest cases of inconsistency in the NBA. Some nights they look pretty good, other nights they’re a train wreck.

Point guard Ty Lawson, like everybody else, is exhausted by the up-and-down.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Lawson told Sports Illustrated. “We started out losing six of the first seven, and we’re thinking we might be in the lottery, then we win seven of eight. We were playing well, and then we have a four-game skid.”

The only way to fix it, he says, is to be consistent on the end of the court that lends itself more to consistency.

“It’s about defense. When we lock in on D, it all flows over,” Lawson said. “When we force jump shots, we are a totally different team. I put it on me to come out with energy. We can’t allow too many points in the paint or threes, and we have to keep teams off the free throw line.”

Head coach Brian Shaw has taken a great deal of the blame for the slow start to the season, but according to Shaw’s starting point guard, Shaw hasn’t lost the locker room.

“At the end of the day, Brian just wants to win,” he said. “We are all trying to figure out a winning formula. We all want to bring a championship to Denver. We want to run, but we have to have a little bit of both. In the playoffs, we have to slow it down. We have to execute in the half court. I like both styles. And we are versatile with our players. I like half-court basketball. You can hit them with action, decide where you want to go. I never played like this before.”

Lawson, through the team’s struggles, is having a career-year as a distributor, averaging a career-high 10.3 APG, the third best average in the NBA. He says he’s made a concerted effort to improve in that regard, and that it’s helped him be a better all-around player.

“I’m being more aggressive,” he said. “We have great shooting. When I’m out there, teams have to take notice of guys like Arron [Afflalo] stretching the floor. And I want to get people involved early first quarter. I want to try to get seven or eight assists early, then in the second or third quarter get myself going. Last year I thought I was getting myself going too early for us to win games. I also notice that CP [Chris Paul] does that a lot. He will get Blake [Griffin] and DeAndre Jordan going early. It works.”

Only 1.5 games out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, the Nuggets have plenty of time to turn things around, and if that does happen it’s a safe bet that Lawson will be at the head of the surge. Soon, he hopes, the rest of the team will get healthy and have just as eye-opening of a season as he’s having.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.




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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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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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