NBA

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

I've always kind of liked Gregg Popovich. But I've respected him even more than I liked him. He is one heck of a coach who has been able to adjust to changing times and players.

But he's been getting on my nerves lately.

I'm not a fan of the way he treats sideline reporters during games, seemingly turning ridicule into his favorite sport. And is it just me or does he seem to pick on the women more than the men? Either way, every other coach in the league has to put up with those in-game interviews and I'm not sure why he thinks he's so special that he shouldn't have to do them. And he seems to treat the people doing the interviews as if they were the ones compelling him to do the chats. Trust me, Coach, they are no more excited to talk to you than you are to them.

But Popovich's rant about Za Za Pachulia stepping under the airborne feet of Kawhi Leonard, which resulted in a Leonard ankle sprain, bothered me. Popovich, of course, is trying to intimidate officials into giving him a few more calls during Game 2 of the series against Golden State and intimidating officials is something the Spurs' coach does better than anyone in the league.

But he's also engaging in some situational ethics.

Bruce Bowen used to play for Popovich in San Antonio and he slid under so many sneakers that the ploy used to be called "the Bowen." But Popovich, when he heard the league had called Bowen and threatened his player with a suspension for such actions, sprung to Bowen's defense:

“So why did they call Bruce? Because it’s happened to him twice? Bruce guards an All-Star every night. If he was doing what they’re accusing him of doing, wouldn’t it have happened a higher percentage of times?”

And:

“The league is just trying to cover its ass,” Popovich said. “I told Bruce, ‘You be Bruce Bowen. You’re the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.’

In other words, keep doing it Bruce. If they don't like it, too bad.

Now I will say that I've seen more incidents of this thing happening in recent seasons than I ever did in the old days. But is it intentional? Probably not, in most cases. But I would go along with Popovich that it doesn't matter if there is intent or not, players should not be allowed to slide under jump-shooting players.

Not that Popovich felt that way when his own player did it.

It's high time for the NBA to rid itself of the incentive for teams to lose games

It's high time for the NBA to rid itself of the incentive for teams to lose games

OK, so Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went public Wednesday morning, becoming the first owner I can recall to admit that his team tanked games:

"The Mavs, once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything possible to lose games," he admitted Wednesday on the Dan Patrick Show.

Wow. I suppose we should salute the man for his honesty and he certainly didn't admit to doing anything that we know a substantial number of teams in the league do every season.

But really, shouldn't we take a more global view of the whole situation? I mean, what does it say about a league where a significant number of teams are trying to lose as many games as possible for a good part of the season? Is that fair to the paying customers? I don't think this happens in any other sports league. But the way the NBA lottery is set up, there is so much incentive for teams to get high draft picks in the rare sport where one player can turn a franchise around.

I don't like tanking and think any league with a conscience would do everything it can to stop such things. How? Well, there's a decent idea out there that's been around for a couple of years. It's been called "The Wheel."

I'm not going to attempt to get into the mechanics of it (you can go to the above link for that) but suffice it to say it involves simply rotating the draft order each year with everyone getting an equal shot at top picks. I didn't like the idea at first but I'm convinced now it's the best way to combat a league full of teams willing to temporarily dismiss the moral responsibility of trying to win every game.

Am I the only one in the world who is offended by a league half-full of teams intentionally trying to lose games? Honestly, I find it appalling and always have.

And maybe the wheel would help some of the mid-level teams escape the limbo of not being good enough to compete for a title and not being bad enough to hit the lottery. It might also help those borderline teams battle the super teams, which are dominating the league. You worried, with the wheel,  about one of the league's best teams ending up with the top pick every three decades?

Well, wake up! It has happened this year under the current system, with Boston holding the No. 1 choice.

I know this, as someone who watches a ton of NBA games every season, I think I saw more lousy regular-season games this year than ever before. There is too big a disparity between the bad teams and average teams. And too much difference between the great teams and the good ones.

Something must be done and it has to start with doing away with the incentive to lose games.

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

Not many people picked the Houston Rockets to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in their second-round playoff matchup that began last night in San Antonio. But I did. So you would think I'd be feeling pretty good about the Rockets after their 126-99 thrashing of the Spurs Monday night.

And even though San Antonio appeared to be way overmatched in Game 1 of the series, I feel worse about my prediction than you might think. That's because I was in the old Boston Garden on May 27, 1985 for the first game of that season's Finals when the Celtics ran the Los Angeles Lakers out of the gym with a humiliating 148-114 defeat. They called it the Memorial Day Massacre.

I was one of many people after that game to write about how washed up the Lakers -- and 38-year-old center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- looked in that game. Abdul-Jabbar finished with 12 points and three rebounds and just didn't look as if he could keep up with Boston's talented front line. I thought the series was over right then and there.

And I was very wrong. The Lakers won four of the next five games and closed out the Celts in Boston in Game 6 -- behind Abdul-Jabbar, who won the MVP award for the series. It was the only time the Celtics ever lost an NBA championship in that arena.

So that whipping Houston put on San Antonio didn't make me feel all that much better about its chances. It was just one game and next one doesn't start with the Rockets holding a 27-point lead.

I'd say the series hinges on the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored just four points Monday night. When Aldridge left Portland for the Spurs, I'm sure he was satisfied with the salary he'd be making and the winning tradition of his new team. But I'm wondering now if he understood the sort of responsibility he'd be having to shoulder as the Spurs moved through the playoffs. Tim Duncan isn't going to be walking through that locker room door during this series.

There were times in Portland when I thought Aldridge wanted very much to be a superstar but didn't always respond like one. He had the talent... but did he have the heart?

He better find his way in a hurry for the Spurs because Kawhi Leonard can't be expected to carry that team by himself.

WARRIORS HEAD COACH STEVE KERR OUT INDEFINITELY WITH CHRONIC PAIN

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USATI

WARRIORS HEAD COACH STEVE KERR OUT INDEFINITELY WITH CHRONIC PAIN

Still suffering with chronic pain after multiple back surgeries nearly two years ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr will step away from his duties for an indefinite period.

Kerr made the announcement Sunday afternoon, one day after he was unable to attend Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against the Trail Blazers at Moda Center. He conceded the possibility he could miss the rest of the postseason.

“This past week for whatever reason, things got worse,” Kerr said from the team hotel. “My symptoms got worse. And I was not able to coach. The last few days have been difficult.

“With things getting worse, I just made the decision I couldn’t coach. As of now, I’m consulting with my doctors. I’m hoping for some improvement. If I can get some improvement, I’ll get back on the sidelines. But I’m not going to do that unless I know I can help the team.”

CONTINUE READING

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Kerr, Kevin Durant OUT for Game 3

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USATI

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Kerr, Kevin Durant OUT for Game 3

In a stunning development just hours before tip-off of Game 3 between the Trail Blazers and Warriors at the Moda Center Saturday night, Golden State announced they'd be without their head coach. 

Kerr did not attend Saturday morning's shootaround because he was “under the weather,” according to a Warriors spokesman via NBCS Bay Area. He stayed behind at the team hotel.

Mike Brown, a three-time head coach, will assume head-coaching duties.

“Obviously, it’s different,” Draymond Green said via NBCSN, talking of the possibility that Brown would take over for Game 3. "It’s two completely different personalities. But at the end of the day, the beat goes on.”

This is at least the second time this season Kerr was unavailable for a morning shootaround on game day. He also missed one last month in Chicago.

Kerr missed 43 games during the 2015-16 season after continuous discomfort related to multiple back surgeries he underwent during the summer of 2015. 

Kerr has not missed any games this season.

DURANT, LIVINGSTON, BARNES QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME 2 VS BLAZERS

DURANT, LIVINGSTON, BARNES QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME 2 VS BLAZERS

Kevin Durant hates to acknowledge injury, which is why he said he was OK Sunday despite being examined by a member of the Warriors training staff in the third quarter of Game 1 against Portland.

“I’m cool,” Durant said when asked about it after a 121-109 Warriors victory.

Durant is not so “cool” after all, as the Warriors announced the 6-foot-9 forward missed practice Tuesday because of a left calf strain and is questionable for Game 2 on Wednesday.

Backup guard Shaun Livingston also is listed as questionable, with a hand contusion and sprain of his right index finger. Reserve forward Matt Barnes, who missed Game 1 with a right ankle/foot sprain, also is listed as questionable.

CONTINUE READING

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

I've heard a lot of people saying that Russell Westbrook should automatically be the NBA's Most Valuable Player simply because he's averaging a triple-double this season.

That's a great achievement, without a doubt. But this is also a season when triple-doubles have been more plentiful than any other time in NBA history.

On March 4, when Ricky Rubio recorded a triple-double, it was the 79th of the season in the league -- which broke a record for triple-doubles in the league set during the 1988-89 season. And as of right now, there have been 108 triple-doubles this season. That's an incredible jump over the old record of 78. And 10 players have had multiple triple-doubles, 22 players have had at least one.

Why has that happened? I'm not sure but I would guess it has something to do with the court being so spread in the league right now. Teams are attempting so many three-point shots that it has resulted in the court being more wide open than ever. I would assume that means it's easier for guards to get rebounds these days than it was when the big guys packed the paint and dominated the scoring. And after all, rebounds are the toughest category to crack for guards, who have the inside track on piling up assists and points.

So, what I'm saying, I guess, is that triple-doubles are so much cheaper now than they EVER have been in the NBA. Why suddenly make them such a big deal?

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

By now, you all know about the Charles Oakley incident at Madison Square Garden.

I'm not sure exactly what to believe about the events of that night. The story linked above gives both sides of it. Garden officials say Oakley was "abusive" and "disrespectful" from the moment he walked through the doors of the arena. Oakley called the accusations "outrageous." The video, also in the above link, shows Oakley getting physical with security guards who were attempting to escort him out of the arena. His actions toward those people certainly did not make him a sympathetic figure. And neither did witness reports obtained by TMZ.

Particularly when his reputation as a player was as an enforcer and frequent fighter. It was obvious security people were handling him with great caution.

Public and media outrage have followed, most of it, predictably, critical of Knicks/MSG owner James Dolan and his treatment of a former player. I assume a lot of the media is attacking Dolan simply because this incident gives them another chance to do so. But when I watch the video of the incident it's pretty hard for me to sympathize with Oakley, who seemed to escalate his problems by physically confronting the security people. Should he have been ejected from his seat and the building? Hard for me to judge, but if the stories are true about his conduct in the arena, he should be treated like anyone else whose actions are threatening to those around him.

Many in the media are turning him into a martyr.

I've always sympathized with sports franchises when it comes to the way they are expected to treat former players. In a good many cases the players are paid handsomely for their tenure with a team, then upon retirement, return to the franchise and expect special treatment and some sort of paid position -- oftentimes a job that requires little work and high salary. I have heard, over the years, front office people in just about every sport complain about players who have earned big bucks from a team and then expect special treatment when their playing days are over.

VIP treatment? You get plenty of that as an active player and anything beyond your retirement is a bonus. I'm a big fan of employing ex-players if they are willing to earn their pay. But beyond that, I don't see a responsibility for a team to have to continue the sort of pampering these guys get while playing.

Oakley, by the way, is not one of those players who has squandered his salary as a player and is expecting a handout. His net worth, according to one source, is $52 million. He has been at odds with Dolan for years for reasons not entirely known. But Oakley earned more than $15 million from the Knicks during his tenure there. The franchise owes him respect for what he gave his teams, but nothing more.

To me, he's just another disgruntled ex-player running around whining about how "soft" the NBA is today:

The coaches in this league, in this day and era, are soft; the players are soft, how can you build something? They put all these stat guys, these analytic guys, and put them on the bench and make them GM because of numbers.

Or worse:

“When we played in the ’80s, it wasn’t OK [for European players to play in the NBA]. They weren’t coming over here. They were scared. The game was tough and they weren’t tough.

I believe if he walks into that building and is responsible for making people feel uncomfortable or threatened, he ought to be removed from the building, whether he played for the Knicks or not -- just like you or me. Oakley made a big deal about buying his own ticket for that game, but so what? He did so, apparently, to sit near Dolan, for whatever reason.

To me, Oakley having to buy his own ticket is not a great hardship and it buys him nothing more than the same rights and responsibilities of any other ticket holder. I have very little sympathy for him.

The NBA has been very, very good to Charles Oakley -- and I'm not sure he was in Madison Square Garden the other night with the idea of returning the favor.

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

AT AN ARENA NEAR YOU – Welcome to the latest and greatest edition of the CSN Insiders Notebook.

The rumor mill is starting to get hot and heavy with some of the game’s biggest names being talked about as being on the move.

At the top of the list these days is the New York Knicks and their star player, Carmelo Anthony.

Our CSN Philly Insider Jessica Camerato gives us the latest on how Melo is handling this latest round of trade rumors.

MELO ON THE MOVE?

Who will Carmelo Anthony be playing for after the trade deadline?

Anthony holds a no-trade clause with the Knicks, but his time in New York seems like it will be coming to a close. If the Knicks find a team that Anthony agrees to, this could mark the end of the Melo era in the Big Apple.

The Clippers have emerged as the main suitor for the 14th-year veteran who is averaging over 22 points, six rebounds and three assists this season. Now comes the challenge of finding a third team to make a deal work.

So far the Cavaliers and Celtics -- two enticing destinations for a player looking to win -- reportedly have said they are not interested. (LINK: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18561036/report%C2%A0knic ks-clippers-discussing-trade-for%C2%A0carmelo-anthony)

This leaves Anthony waiting out his time on a losing Knicks team while he waits to see what the front office does before mid-February.

"You've got to deal with that, even though I try not to read it. And everywhere you go, even if you don't hear about it, somebody is telling you about it, somebody is saying something," Anthony said, via ESPN.com (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18570450/new-york-knicks-fans-boo-carmelo-anthony-calls-last-week-mentally-draining ). "It can be mentally draining, mentally fatiguing."

ATLANTIC DIVISION

SIMMONS RECOVERY ON TRACK

While there is no timetable for Ben Simmons’ return, the number one pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to make progress in his rehab from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Simmons had a scheduled scan with the operating specialist last week in New York. The results showed his recovery is moving along as expected. As part of that recovery, Simmons began one-on-one activity at the Sixers training complex. He competed “very slow” at about “80 percent,” according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown, against Delaware 87ers forward James Webb.

“If you said it’s 20 percent, 10 percent I’d get thrilled,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to coach him. I really can’t wait to coach him.” (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/brett-brown-ben-simmons-i-cant-wait-coach-him ) – by Jessica Camerato

CROWDER’S PLAY OF LATE STANDING OUT

Jae Crowder has far exceeded the expectations many had for him when he came to Boston two years ago as a throw-in to the Rajon Rondo trade with Dallas. His play of late has been really good which has only added to the reluctance on Boston’s part to include him in any trade.

In his last nine games, Crowder has averaged 18.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

The Celtics were contacted by the New York Knicks regarding a possible deal involving Carmelo Anthony. If Boston was open to the idea of adding Melo which at the time of this writing they were not, they would most likely have to include Crowder in the deal. He is not untradeable, but his versatility, production and extremely team-friendly contract will make it difficult for the Celtics to part ways with him. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

IS SULLINGER THE ANSWER TO RAPTORS’ BIG MAN NEEDS?

The recent skid by the Toronto Raptors only highlighted what many NBA execs have been saying all season. Toronto has a good team, but title contender? Nope.

And the Raptors know this, which is why they’re in the market for an impact power forward.

Could they already have him and not know it?

Jared Sullinger was supposed to be that guy, but foot surgery has kept him off the court until recently.

 And let’s just say the early returns have not been encouraging, which is why the Raptors are open to trying to acquire another power forward such as Atlanta’s Paul Millsap.

In his first five games, Sullinger averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting a woeful 25.8 percent from the field and 18.2 percent on 3’s. The Raptors recently announced he would do a rehab stint with their Development League affiliate, the Raptors 905.

“I tell them all the time, when I come back I’m gonna bring one thing and that’s probably rebounding right now,” Sullinger told CSN’s Abby Chin recently. “Just because everybody is in midseason form. It’s gonna take time for me to fit in, know where my shots are, kind of know the offense.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

 NETS AMONG TEAMS TO ‘REST’ HEALTHY PLAYERS

It’s hard to imagine that the Brooklyn Nets won’t finish this season with the NBA’s worst record. And yet you will still find some nights where some of their best players – and I use the word ‘best’ very loosely – are on the bench in street clothes. 

Like San Antonio, Atlanta, Memphis and others throughout the league, the premise is to make sure players are relatively healthy as can be as they near the end of the season and prepare for the playoffs.

And then there’s the Nets who are not only going to fail to make the playoffs, but they can’t even cash in on the one benefit to being a bad team – a high pick in that upcoming year’s NBA draft.

The Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry trade in 2013 netted Boston several picks which included the right to swap this year’s pick which at this point is looking like the top overall selection.

So no playoffs and no lottery pick and guys still getting time off to rest?

Nets guard Randy Foye is among those who likes the approach taken by GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson who came from San Antonio and Atlanta, respectively.

“I think fatigue injuries [result from] back-to-backs or three-in-four-nights where you don’t feel anything, but at the end of the day, you’ve strained a hamstring or pulled a muscle or something like that,” Foye told Newsday. ‘I think the way we’re doing it right here is pretty smart. We’re building toward something.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

CENTRAL DIVISION

DRAMA TAKES CENTER STAGE WITH THE BULLS

Drama, thy name is the Chicago Bulls.

First it was Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler calling out their teammates for a perceived lack of commitment, then Rajon Rondo calling out Butler and Wade on Instagram for their leadership style.

Then there was a team meeting, fines, pseudo-punishments and a blowout.

Well, a blowout loss to the Miami Heat Friday night.

But in the end, there were no regrets as Wade said he’d have no issues working and playing with Rondo despite Rondo’s feelings. And Wade stuck to his sentiment even through the firestorm.

“When you’re a leader, certain things you do and say aren’t always going to be the popular thing in the locker room,” he said. “As a leader, sometimes you can’t be liked. It’s the harsh truth and harsh reality. I’m probably not liked in this locker room today. I’m OK with that.”

And with all that, the Bulls are still holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. – by Vincent Goodwill

JAMES WANTS MORE HELP IN CLEVELAND

Drama seems to carry in the Eastern Conference or even more specifically, the Midwest as LeBron James again laid down the gauntlet for what he perceives is a lack of help from the Cleveland Cavaliers management and ownership.

James, in his 14th year, is averaging a league-leading 37.5 minutes per game—not a great sign for a 32-year old who’s played deep into June every year since 2011.

After a losing streak that included a puzzling loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team playing without Anthony Davis, James said to reporters, “I just hope that we're not satisfied as an organization."

The Cavaliers have the highest payroll in the NBA and have paid the luxury tax in the two years since James’ return from Miami, in addition to losing $40 million in operating losses, according to Forbes Magazine.

And with his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert always being a point of contention, one wonders if the Cavaliers will continue to press forward with personnel moves or try to save a few bucks—if so, will James try to save his ailing body before the playoff run? – by Vincent Goodwill

DUMARS INTERESTED IN RETURN TO NBA

Hall of Famer Joe Dumars has been synonymous with the Detroit Pistons for 29 years, starting with being drafted in 1985 all the way through his playing career and run as president of basketball operations before his reign ended after the 2013-14 season.

Dumars has laid low from the public eye since but confirmed he wants to get back into the NBA in a podcast with the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski this week.

“Actually, it’s been great,” Dumars said. “The run in Detroit was tremendous on a lot of levels -— on and off the court. I enjoyed every moment of it. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine straight years, I enjoyed every moment of it. But then sometimes, it’s time to turn the page and have someone else come in and do this and carry that load.”

Dumars led the Pistons to a championship in 2004, another Finals appearance in 2005 and was at the helm of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003-08.

His run in Detroit ended when he admitted he should’ve rebuilt instead reloaded, but his resume is as stacked as anyone not with an NBA job—and better than most who have jobs currently.

He should be back in the NBA and fairly soon. – by Vincent Goodwill

ROBINSON III TO COMPETE IN SLAM DUNK CONTEST

Indiana Pacers second-year forward Glenn Robinson III hasn’t hit the league by storm in the way his father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson did two decades ago as one of the league’s most deadly scorers.

But Robinson III can get up and above the rim in a way his father never could, so it’s no shock to see him enter his name into the participants of All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk contest in New Orleans in the middle of February.

Robinson will be the third Pacer in franchise history to enter the contest, and the small-town Pacers have had decent moments for Robinson to live up to. Paul George was part of a winning combination in the 2014 dunk contest with John Wall, and who could forget Terence Stansbury in the 1987 dunk contest with his “Statue of Liberty” dunk that’s been remembered through time.

So basically, Robinson II has more footsteps to follow, and he’s used to it by now. – by Vincent Goodwill

NBA POTENTIALLY IMPACTED BY PRESIDENT’S TEMPORARY BAN

The Milwaukee Bucks are mired in a terrible losing streak but recent world events have put that in the background as Thon Maker’s status has come into question with President Trump’s temporary ban on the entry of non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Maker was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan is one of the seven banned countries, along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

With the NBA having several players who fit this description, the league has to get on top of this and league spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement Saturday saying, “"We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries. The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world." – by Vincent Goodwill

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

WALL-BEAL BACKCOURT CLICKING

John Wall wishes Bradley Beal could be an All-Star with him, and after an offseason in which he raised eyebrows by admitting to CSNmidatlantic.com that they had a tendency to “dislike” each other they’ve smoothed out their differences which is a big reason why the Wizards were 26-20 heading into Sunday’s game at the Pelicans.

The backcourt is having its best season together, and individually, as Wall and Beal are averaging career highs in multiple categories and defending as well as in duo in the league.

“People say we couldn’t get to this road together. Whatever dislikes we had with each other we put that to the side when we stepped between those lines because we know how much we both want to win, how competitive we are,” Wall told CSN after being selected to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. “I know I can’t be John Wall without Bradley Beal, and Bradley Beal can’t be (himself) without John Wall.” – by J. Michael

HEAT’S WAITERS SERVING UP BETTER PLAY, WINS

With Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed and Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup – and no Hassan Whiteside – the Heat won their sixth game in a row entering the weekend to give themselves hope though they’re still mired at the bottom of the East.

Babbitt, who Tony Allen of the Grizzlies admitted he voted for as an All-Star, plays reserve minutes to score 22 points during the streak has had an impact if you believe in plus-minus ratings. With him on the floor, the Heat have been on the positive side five times.

But it’s the clutch shot-making of Dion Waiters that has keyed the hot streak as he beat the Warriors with a three and slammed the door shut with one vs. the Nets. Miami is 5-15 without him. They’re 12-15 with him.

Waiters only makes $2.9 million when he signed as a free agent and is surely going to opt out of his second year to test the market. – by J. Michael

ANOTHER REBUILD IN THE MAGIC’S FUTURE?

A team built to be defense-first is failing miserably, and the Magic lost even more offense with Jodie Meeks being knocked out indefinitely following right thumb surgery.

“It’s everybody,” Bismack Biyombo said after Orlando gave up 128 points to the Celtics which made for 100-plus in 14 of 15 games. “Our efforts are not good enough. We talk about the right thing. Everybody says the right thing but we’ve got to hold each other accountable. … It is embarrassing to be out there.”

Another restructuring seems to be in order for a roster with good pieces that don’t fit. For Meeks, he hasn’t played a full season since 2013-14 with the Lakers and he only has played 24 games after missing the start of this season with injuries. – by J. Michael

PACIFIC DIVISION

KINGS FALTER AT HOME, FALL OUT OF PLAYOFF SPOT

After a 1-6 homestand, the Sacramento Kings embarked on a season-long eight-game road trip that included three sets of back-to-backs. Six games in, the Kings are holding their own with wins over the Pistons, Cavs and Hornets. Following Tuesday’s game against the Rockets, the Kings return home where they will play 11-of-13 at Golden 1 Center. They do not leave the Pacific time zone from February 1-March 5. … Rudy Gay, 30, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon on Monday in New York. According to Dr. Martin O’Malley, Gay is expected to make a complete recovery in time for training camp before the 2017-18 season.  … DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star again. The 26-year-old big man will make his third straight appearance in the annual event next month as a Western Conference reserve. Cousins is posting huge numbers across the board, but over his last 18 games, he’s handing out 6.2 assists per game. Not bad for a 6-foot-11 big man.- by James Ham

DURANT THE PLAYER IS GOOD, BUT THE ACTOR …

In their fourth month as Warriors teammates, Draymond Green finally is willing to admit he is not impressed with Kevin Durant.

As an actor, that is.

Green recently re-watched “Thunderstruck,” a 2012 comedy in which Durant plays himself, a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder whose talents are switched with those of his biggest fan, a 16-year-old aspiring hoopster who previously couldn’t make a simple layup. Durant, meanwhile, becomes as hopeless as the kid once was.

“I’ve seen it multiple times,” Green said. “But that’s the first time I’ve seen it since KD was my teammate, though. I thought it was bad before. But now that we’re really close, I can really voice my opinion on it.

“It was bad, man. It was really bad. Oh, it was bad.”

Identifying “He Got Game” and “Coach Carter” as his favorite hoop movies, said his review was less a knock on Durant than on the movie, which is intended for children.

“I’m not saying KD is a bad actor, I’m saying that was a bad movie,” Green said. “Somebody else should give him another shot, though.

If somebody brought me a movie (script), I would have probably done it too. But after seeing his first movie, if somebody brought me a script like that now, I wouldn’t do it.” – by Monte Poole

DOC RIVERS WILLING TO TRADE HIS SON AUSTIN?

It could happen any day, any hour, any minute. Clippers coach/president Doc Rivers could bring Knicks star Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles.

And Rivers’ son, Austin, the team’s backup point guard behind Chris Paul, reportedly is among the players that intrigue the folks in New York. Would Doc trade his son for a player entering his twilight years?

“Listen, I would trade anyone,” Doc Rivers told ESPN. “You have to be willing to do that, so -- and (Austin) would be one of them, and any of them would be one. But I don’t want to trade any of our guys. I like our team.”

The Knicks have essentially placed Anthony in a “for trade” ad. The veteran forward, however, has a no-trade clause in his contract. He’d have to approve any deal.

Because the Clippers one of the few teams Anthony would agree to join, there have been discussions regarding a deal. At issue is with whom, exactly, are the Clippers willing to part. Rivers and veteran guard Jamal Crawford are among the names.

Can Doc resist? – by Monte Poole

KOBE RETURN TO THE LAKERS … AS A COACH?
Coach Kobe?

Retired Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in a recent radio interview made it clear he’d be available to assist his former team, which sits in the Western Conference cellar.

“The Buss family knows I’m always one phone call away,” Bryant told ESPN Radio.

Though LA coach Luke Walton is a former Lakers teammate of Bryant and consistently expresses admiration for the future Hall of Famer, he’s not sure the timing is right for a dose of Kobe.

“It depends in what capacity he will come in and help,” Walton told reporters. “After losing by 40, he’s not the first guy I’m calling.

“Kobe is more about tough love. At that moment, I didn’t need tough love. I didn’t hear (Bryant’s comments), but it’s good to know he’s here for us.”

Insofar as Bryant, who retired after last season, is notoriously intense, the concern is that might alienate a talented young team seeking growth under a first-year head coach. – by Monte Poole

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

HARDEN CONTINUES MVP CHASE

James Harden went off for a historic 51-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-double on Friday against the Sixers. With those remarkable numbers, he became the second player to record two 50-point triple-doubles in a single season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Remember, we’re not even at the All-Star Break yet.

Of those 51 points, Harden scored 19 points in the third and 17 in the fourth. He finished with a stat line of 16-28 FG, 6-11 3PG, 13-14 FT, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2 steals and 1 block in 39:09.

"Tonight was me just scoring the basketball, being aggressive," Harden said after the Rockets’ 123-118 win (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/after-triple-double-vs-sixers-james-harden-praises-joel-embiid-calls-him-problem ). "They were doing a really good job of not leaving our shooters and so I had to make plays." – by Jessica Camerato

GASOL PLANS TO STAY WITH THE SPURS

 Pau Gasol intends to opt in to his $16 million player option for next season with the Spurs. The 36-year-old big man is currently out of action after undergoing surgery on his left hand. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury.

Rookie DeJounte Murray went scoreless in two minutes of action in the Spurs loss to the Pelicans on Friday. But in the four games leading up to the contest in New Orleans, the 20-year-old guard averaged 13.3 points, including a career-high 24 against the Nuggets on Jan. 19. … Jonathon Simmons has missed three straight games with a wrist injury. – by James Ham

FERRELL MAKES THE MOST OF LAST-MINUTE OPPORTUNITY

A day after signing a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, Yogi Ferrell found himself in an unexpected play … the starting lineup.

“It was definitely very eye-opening for me,” Ferrell told reporters. “You know, when coach (Rick Carlisle) told me I was going to start, my mind switched and I made sure I was ready.”

He was indeed up for the moment, helping the Mavericks pull off a 105-101 upset of the San Antonio Spurs.

Ferrell had nine points along with seven assists and zero turnovers, in addition to tallying a pair of steals.

Among his nine points were a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to secure the victory.

Regardless of whether he sticks with the Mavericks or not, to get a last-second start and deliver how he did in the clutch … it’s exactly what you have to do as an undrafted player, to stick in the NBA. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NORTHWEST DIVISION

NOT THE BREAK THAT KANTER, THUNDER WERE LOOKING FOR

Enes Kanter, the high-scoring big for the Thunder was having a nice stretch of games before deciding to punch a chair during the Thunder’s 109-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Kanter, 24, will miss the next two months with a broken forearm, leaving Oklahoma City without their third-leading scorer.

The Thunder have won three in a row heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook posted three straight triple-doubles early in the week to give him 23 on the season. His streak was broken against the Mavericks, but he still managed to drop in 45 points, grab eight rebounds and dish out three assists in the win. – by James Ham

TWITTER BEEF BETWEEN MCCOLLUM AND PARSONS

There was quite the Twitter war last week in Portland between the Blazers’ CJ McCollum and Memphis wing Chandler Parsons after the Trail Blazers beat Memphis.

Parsons, who was pursued by the Blazers in free agency in July and offered $94 million before he opted to sign with Memphis, air-balled a three-point attempt during the game.

After the game, the Blazers’ team authorized Twitter account sent out a video of Parsons’ air-ball, with a tweet that read, “To be fair, the NBA 3-point line is really, really far away from the basket.”

Parsons immediately retaliated, tweeting back to the Blazers, “good luck in the lottery show this year” in reference to the Blazers being 21-27 at currently out of the Western Conference playoff seeding.

McCollum then fired back at Parsons: “We hit the lottery by not signing you’’ in reference to Parsons being hobbled by knee problems this season.

Parsons tried to counter with a response aimed at McCollum: “Stop it. Technically, I hit the lottery.’’

 When McCollum arrived at Blazers practice the next morning, his exchange was quite the topic. 

“A lot of jokes being made,’’ McCollum said. “I always have a sense of humor, so when I see something that I want to respond to, I respond. I felt like that was something I wanted to respond to.’’

Teammate Evan Turner, for one, said he nearly lost himself when he first read the tweets on Friday night while dining at Departure in downtown Portland.

“I knocked like everything over at the bar,’’ Turner said. “Everybody went crazy. I went crazy … threw my cellphone. It was unreal, man. It was crazy: On Chandler’s part, on CJ’s part … very funny. Hilarious.’’

McCollum said he knows Parsons in passing from a few encounters throughout the years. He said he made the response mostly because he was defending his team.

“It’s my team. I ride with my guys,’’ McCollum said.

Turner said one of the things that made the exchange so funny is knowing the personality of the two players involved. Turner said Parsons is very sarcastic and McCollum is usually very conservative.

“I’m surprised CJ said it because he is always so politically correct like he’s trying to run for president,’’ Turner said. – by Jason Quick


HAYWARD EARNS FIRST ALL-STAR SELECTION

The Utah Jazz have been one of the surprise teams this season, and the play of Gordon Hayward has had a lot to do with that. That’s why it came as no surprise when he was selected by the Western Conference coaches as an all-star reserve this season.

He becomes the first Jazz player to be named an all-star since Deron Williams in 2011.

"My teammates, our coaching and support staff helped put me in this position," said Hayward. "We still have work to do but I'm excited about the direction we're headed. I look forward to representing Utah in New Orleans."

This season, he’s averaging 21.6 points and 5.7 rebounds – both career highs.

While the numbers are good, it’s the team’s success that certainly played a significant factor in the coaches selecting him as an all-star.

Including games played Sunday, Utah (30-19) has the best record in the Northwest Division and are currently fifth in the West overall. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

LAVINE PASSES ON SLAM DUNK CONTEST

There will be no sequel to what was one of the greatest slam dunk competitions in recent memory. Zach LaVine, who defeated Orlando’s Aaron Gordon last year in slam dunk overtime – a first – said he will not participate in the event next month in New Orleans.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I could in the dunk contest,” LaVine told reporters. “I’m never saying I won’t ever do it again, but I’m focused on this (season). We’re getting close to being able to make the playoffs, and we have that on our mind. Getting the rest and I guess just focusing more on the game was a big thing.”

Gordon said he’s not sure he’ll participate in the slam dunk contest, either. And his reasons sound very similar to what ultimately led to LaVine deciding to not participate.

“I don’t know what else I have left up my sleeve or in the tank dunking-wise,” Gordon told reporters in Boston recently. “The other reason is, I’d like to focus on the Orlando Magic and game play. That’s the most important, the main priority right now.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NBA referees vs. Mark Cuban -- if fines don't work, suspend him

NBA referees vs. Mark Cuban -- if fines don't work, suspend him

If you haven't read about the latest shots fired in the war between the NBA and its officials, you need to go here to check it out. Already irked about the league's "last two minute reports," referees are up in arms about all the harassment they're taking from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. A letter from the officials' association's counsel details several examples of Cuban's mistreatment of officials and the impact it may be having:

In a recent letter to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, NBRA general counsel Lee Seham outlined what the union considers to be a lengthy pattern of documented violations by Cuban of the NBA constitution and “undue influence of the league’s management of its officials.”

“We consider the threat to the integrity of NBA basketball presented by Mr. Cuban’s misconduct to be real and growing,” Seham wrote on Dec. 9.

Cuban's public harassment of officials has been documented in the past and anyone who has watched Dallas games frequently has seen examples. He is not shy about showing them up -- conduct league owners are not supposed to engage in.  The problem is, like a lot of NBA owners, the league cannot influence Cuban's behavior with fines. He is too rich. He mocks them. I believe at some point the NBA is going to have to start barring him from arenas or from the vicinity of the court if it wants to deter him.

At the same time, if the league's officials are being intimidated by his antics, they need to take inventory. His behavior should not impact them any more than fan reaction to their calls. In fact, I would assume his antics would push the average official into making more calls against Cuban's team. In the old days of rogue officials, that stuff happened all the time in the NBA with players. Referees held grudges and never hesitated to show it.

I don't want that day to ever return. But I also believe that in order to recruit and maintain the best officials in the world -- which the NBA has -- they must be treated properly by everyone associated with the league. If fines don't stop poor behavior, suspensions must be next.