SH Blog: Al Jefferson has foot injury; NBA salary cap set to increase by $5M

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Nothing in the NBA playoffs is going like it’s supposed to. The Pacers look like they’re all done, the Spurs struggled to get past the Mavs, the Warriors-Clippers game was a mess of missed free throws and turnovers, the Wizards are winning games… yeah, it’s a little weird.

Of course, we’re only one game in. There’s going to be lots more. But right now, if I were a Pacers fan, I’d be worried. Losing to a Hawks team without Al Horford, a Hawks team that finished the regular season with a losing record, on your home court is not the way #1 seeds should be opening the playoffs.

The last two years, top contenders have had their star point guards go down to knee injuries in the first round. Russell Westbrook recovered, but we’ve barely seen Derrick Rose since. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen this year. The playoffs are better when the stars play.

There’s still one game to go tonight, and it should be a good one. Can the Rockets guard Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge? They’re considering bringing back a strategy they tried briefly for this series. Read on to find out what it is.

First, though, let’s get to the rest of the NBA’s latest news:

SH Blog: D’Antoni says analysts need to adjust; Dantley calls Isiah a ‘con man’

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The NBA playoffs got off to a good start today, with a competitive Nets-Raptors game followed by a thrilling Clippers-Warriors battle. The former reminded everyone why Paul Pierce is still a quality NBA player, and the latter was an intense battle between two rivals, albeit both playing below their potential. Blake Griffin only got 19 minutes due to foul trouble, which the Clippers have to be praying won’t happen in the rest of the series. Otherwise, they could be in for an early exit, and after jumping through hoop after hoop to get Doc Rivers last summer, another first-round exit would be a major disappointment.

If you haven’t already seen it, check out what happened when the shot clocks lost power in Toronto:

Turn the sound on and note the PA announcer saying “horn” because there was no actual horn. This happened in a playoff game.

Electronic embarrassments aside, the city of Toronto showed up to support the Raps in their first playoff series in years. Good show by my fellow Canadians in keeping the game strong north of the border.

Now let’s get to the latest from around the NBA:

HOW DWANE CASEY TURNED AROUND THE RAPTORS’ D

lowryCasey has kind of flown under the radar with Jeff Hornacek coming so close to getting the Suns to the playoffs, and Gregg Popovich winning the West again with a Spurs team that’s another year older, but getting the Raptors to the 3-seed, even in the East, speaks for itself. Rachel Brady of the Globe and Mail writes about how he did it:

When he took over the Raptors in the 2011-12 season, he was inheriting the NBA’s worst defence. He could see some talent on film, but knew good defensive principles weren’t in place. Casey knew changing the focus from offensive to decidedly defensive would be a grind.

“We didn’t have a LeBron or a Kobe or a [Michael] Jordan,” he said, adjusting the Raptors cap he says he wears daily as a sign of consistency to his players. “Our guys were young and I knew it would take time and hard work to become a playoff team. We weren’t going to out-run or out-score anybody. I knew it would take a couple of years and I wanted to find something that signified how hard and monotonous it would be for us.”

The story is legend now: Casey asked that a 1,300-pound boulder be placed inside the locker-room entrance to teach them about the “Pound the Rock” motto, used by many teams. It’s based on a piece of writing by Jacob Riis about New York’s poor in the 1800s. It features a stonecutter, who hammers away at a rock 100 times without a crack. But on the 101st blow, it splits in two, not as a result of that one strike, but of all that came before it.

“The concept had a great point to it, and it was understood by us,” said DeMar DeRozan, who has been a Raptor since 2009. “A lot has changed since then, and it’s very evident. The whole culture has changed for the better … It just takes the right chemistry, the right group of guys doing what it takes to win. You don’t need superstars and this, that and the other – whatever people say you need. We’re proof of that.”

D’ANTONI: ‘BASKETBALL HAS CHANGED,’ ANALYSTS NEED TO ADJUST

Mike D'AntoniWell, that’s one possible explanation for why nobody thinks D’Antoni did a good job with the Lakers.

Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

As far as public opinion, the Lakers coach pointed at television analysts as part of the issue.

“I do think that the game is changing and has changed,” said D’Antoni.  “Some of the hard part of coaching is to be able to drag people over to the next side.  People are comfortable doing business a certain way.  When that business kind of shifts, to get people to change is not easy.”

“The problem is most people commenting on it, played a different way.  And now you’re shaping opinion a different way,” he continued.  “As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think they’re better off.  But basketball has changed.  It’s not the same basketball that your father played.  It’s just not it.  Teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful.”

How exactly has the game changed?

“I do think the league is going to a more open style, and a faster style,” continued D’Antoni.  “That doesn’t mean there’s no place for a post-up player, there’s no place for a mid-range game.  There is a place, but it’s just not what is dominant today.”

“The league now is dominated by point-guard play, three-point shots and smart players,” said D’Antoni.  “Unless the NBA changes the rules again, like the three-point line and no hand checking, then basketball is going a certain way.”

WHAT’S LIFE LIKE FOR AN INTERIM COACH?

David Mayo of MLive.com gives us a glimpse inside what it was like for David Loyer after Maurice Cheeks was fired:

One of Loyer’s bigger challenges internally was keeping point guard Brandon Jennings engaged after Cheeks was fired.
Jennings regarded Cheeks as a father figure and as he failed to adapt after the change, Loyer found himself turning more to backup Will Bynum, one of several Pistons who later ended the season injured.
Loyer said he ultimately went to Jennings to encourage the guard to rediscover joy in the game.  He said he appreciated how Jennings responded.
“Any time you have a coaching change, any time you have a management change, it’s going to affect different guys in different ways,” Loyer said.  ”It’s your job as a coach to kind of figure out who it’s affecting, either adversely, or whether it’s someone you need to help a little bit to get back on path.
“There are some guys who are affected by both things (the Cheeks firing and, earlier this week, the reassignment of former team president Joe Dumars), so you try to get them back on path.  I thought Brandon, the path he has taken is a winning-type path, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”
ADRIAN DANTLEY STILL DOESN’T LIKE ISIAH THOMAS
DantleyBrian Manzullo of the Boston Herald:

Adrian Dantley didn’t watch Thursday night’s “Bad Boys” 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN.

In fact, he didn’t even want to be a part of it.

“But the NBA kept begging me to be on there, so I did the interview,” Dantley told Matt Dery on Detroit Sports 105.1 FM today. “But I did not watch the 30 for 30 and I will not watch it. My wife tried to get me to watch it, but I didn’t watch it.”

The documentary chronicled the entire Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” era, including the rift between Dantley and point guard Isiah Thomas and the eventual trade during the 1988-89 season that sent Dantley to the Dallas Mavericks for Mark Aguirre.

The Pistons went on to win their first NBA championship that season, then repeated the feat in 1990, and the rest was history – or was it?

“That was 25 years ago, yet you sound today just as angry as you were 25 years ago,” Dery told Dantley. “Is that accurate?”

“Well yeah; I mean, It’s not that I’m angry, it’s just that there’s no need for me to get involved with that,” Dantley responded. “Yes, I guess you could say that I’m just the way as I was 24 or 26 years ago.”

Later in the radio interview, Dery jokingly asked Dantley if he thought Thomas should be the next Pistons president and general manager after former “Bad Boys” teammate Joe Dumars stepped down as president of basketball operations earlier this week.

“Con man,” he replied. “He has a way of tricking people, and he tricked a lot of people.”

DENG SAYS IRVING AND WAITERS CAN COEXIST

Kyrie Irving 2Read into this whatever you like regarding Deng’s future in Cleveland, but it’s pretty unequivocal in what it says about Irving and Waiters.
Cavaliers forward Luol Deng keeps reading about how much Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters don’t care for each other.
Some believe one of the talented guards must go. They can’t co-exist.
Some contend they are almost mortal enemies.
However, Deng saw no evidence of that behind closed doors in the locker room, players’ lounge or workout facility.
“It’s a distraction,” he said. “I mean all this stuff that I hear, but when we’re in the locker room with these guys every day, they love each other. I can’t say one word or one incident, and when we get on the court, we never think twice about it.”
Deng, traded to the Cavs on Jan. 7, believes if the two players reach their vast potential, it could pay off in a major way.
“They have to be willing to work together, watch tape together, watch tape with the coach,” he said. “They’ve shown they can play together. There’s times where they’ve looked great. They’re human, but in terms of can they play together? Yeah. I’ve played in this league for 10 years and I know they can.”

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Dan Malone is currently in graduation limbo after finishing his journalism degree at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent last summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

NBA Athletes Offer Support For TNT’s Craig Sager

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sager1

Craig Sager, often recognized for his quirky suits and ties, has been a staple on NBA sidelines for 17 years.

Thursday afternoon, Craig Sager, Jr. broke the news on Twitter that his father, long-time NBA on TNT sideline reporter, Craig Sager, would be out for 3-4 weeks while receiving treatment for acute leukemia.

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Ties Broken for 2014 Draft Order; Jazz Gain One Ping-Pong Ball

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NBALottery-ping pongNEW YORK – Four ties among teams that finished the 2013-14 NBA regular season with identical records were broken Friday through random drawings to help determine the order of selection for the 2014 NBA Draft, which will be held on Thursday, June 26.

The drawings were conducted by Jason Cahilly, NBA Chief Strategic and Financial Officer, and Dan Rube, NBA Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel. The tiebreak process was overseen by Darrington Hobson, a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young.

The results of the drawings:

_Utah (25-57) won a tiebreaker with Boston.
_Brooklyn (44-38) won a tiebreaker with Washington.
_Chicago (48-34) won a tiebreaker with Toronto.
_Portland (54-28) won a tiebreaker with Miami and Houston; Houston then won a tie-breaker with Miami.

Below is the order of selection for the 2014 NBA Draft, as well as the number of chances for teams in the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery, to be held on Tuesday, May 20.

2014 FIRST ROUND DRAFT CHOICE ORDER

The teams entered in the lottery are as follows (note: the first three picks in the Draft will be determined by the lottery and the remainder of the “lottery teams” will select in positions 4 through 14 in inverse order of their consolidated standings at the end of the regular season):

Milwaukee 15-67 (.183) 250
Philadelphia 19-63 (.232) 199
Orlando 23-59 (.280) 156
Utah 25-57 (.305) 104
Boston 25-57 (.305) 103
LA Lakers 27-55 (.329) 63
Sacramento 28-54 (.341) 43
Detroit (1) 29-53 (.354) 28
Cleveland 33-49 (.402) 17
New Orleans (2) 34-48 (.415) 11
Denver (3) 36-46 (.439) 8
New York (To Denver) 37-45 (.451) 7
Minnesota (4) 40-42 (.488) 6
Phoenix 48-34 (.585) 5

The order for the remainder of the first round picks is as follows:

15. Atlanta
16. Charlotte
17. Brooklyn (To Boston)
18. Washington (To Phoenix)
19. Chicago
20. Toronto
21. Dallas (To Oklahoma City)
22. Memphis
23. Golden State (To Utah)
24. Portland (To Charlotte)
25. Houston
26. Miami
27. Indiana (To Phoenix)
28. LA Clippers
29. Oklahoma City
30. San Antonio

(1) This pick may be conveyed to Charlotte.
(2) This pick may be conveyed to Philadelphia.
(3) This pick may be conveyed to Orlando.
(4) This pick may be conveyed to Phoenix.

2014 SECOND ROUND DRAFT CHOICE ORDER

31. Milwaukee
32. Philadelphia
33. Orlando (To Cleveland)
34. Utah
34. Boston (to Dallas)
36. LA Lakers (To Milwaukee via Minnesota and Phoenix)
37. Sacramento (To Toronto)
38. Detroit
39. Cleveland (To Philadelphia)
40. New Orleans (To Minnesota)
41. Denver
42. New York (To Houston)
43. Atlanta
44. Minnesota
45. Charlotte
46. Washington
47. Brooklyn (To Philadelphia via Dallas and Boston)
48. Toronto (To Milwaukee via Phoenix)
49. Chicago
50. Phoenix
51. Dallas
52. Memphis (To Philadelphia via Cleveland)
53. Golden State (To Minnesota)
54. Houston (To Philadelphia via Milwaukee)
55. Miami
56. Portland (To Denver)
57. Indiana
58. LA Clippers (To San Antonio via New Orleans)
59. Oklahoma City (To Toronto via New York)
60. San Antonio

SH Blog: Reggie Miller says Lee and Griffin can’t stand each other, Smush Parker punches a kid

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Reggie_MillerMost people are counting the Golden State Warriors out in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers.

In fact, no one in the ESPN staff picked them to come out of the first round, and mostly the same goes for our staff (predictions will be out soon).

There is at least one guy that is publicly saying anything goes when it comes to these two teams, though, and his name is Reggie Miller. Rusty Simmons of San Francisco Chronicle has details:

“I give the Warriors a chance, because it’s a rivalry between these two teams,” TNT analyst Reggie Miller said. “They hate one another. Any time you hate a team, you can throw out who’s hurt and who’s not playing, because it becomes personal. ”David Lee and Blake Griffin can’t stand one another, and I love it. Good. You’re not supposed to like them. Go out and kick his behind.”

It’s certainly understandable. Even with Andrew Bogut (fractured rib), the Clippers were likely favored to win the series. Without him, most believe there is virtually no chance. That doesn’t mean the Warriors feel the same way, and Andre Iguodala expressed as much:

“Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala said: “All of those guys have that L.A. about them, where they want to live in the spotlight. They want to go out there and show what they can do on the court. … ”They have a chippiness about them. They try to get you out of your game. We’ve got a group of guys who aren’t going to back down, but we won’t let it affect our psyche.”

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