Tweet of the Day: NBA, Players Remember Nelson Mandela

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Many amazing men have walked the earth having had a profound impact on the world with their lives. Men like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.. Their deaths were monumental and the cause of grief to many.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95.

Mandela was instrumental in bringing about the end of Apartheid (racial segregation) and ushering in an era of ethnic equality in South African politics. His efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Addressing his passing, United States President Barack Obama spoke to the press from the White House.

He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today he’s gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”

SH Blog: Rivers/Garnett to Clippers talks stall over Bledsoe; Kings hire ex-Nuggets assistant D’Alessandro as new GM

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Doc_RiversIt was a beautiful Saturday today, at least in the Northeast, and if you spent the day enjoying it, you might have missed one of the craziest days in recent NBA history. We got the entire life cycle of a rumor. It was great. It’s a good argument for staying in the house all day endlessly refreshing every basketball news site. Not that I do that myself or anything.

And oh yeah, the Finals are still happening, and they’re shaping up to be pretty nice. Check out Chris Sheridan’s latest to find out which start is considering retirement. Also, the draft is coming up, and we’ve got a new mock up from Joe Kotoch. Give it a look.

Now let’s get right to that rumor that ate up all the column inches and air time all day:

  • Over the last fourteen hours, the possibility of Doc Rivers coaching the Clippers has gone from a crazy idea to a genuine possibility to a seeming likelihood to apparently not going to happen, and for that whole time, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has been completely on top of everything. Here’s an excerpt from his latest Doc story, but click through for as good a summary of the whole situation as you’re going to find anywhere: “Discussions over a blockbuster deal to send Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers – with Doc Rivers as coach – reached an impasse on Saturday afternoon, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Clippers are willing to part with center DeAndre Jordan and a first-round draft pick for Garnett – and the rights to hire Rivers – but so far have refused to include Boston’s desire for point guard Eric Bledsoe into the package, sources said. Since the February trade deadline, Bledsoe had been a part of talks for Garnett, and more recently, Rivers, but that changed Saturday morning, league sources said. The Clippers were no longer willing to part with Bledsoe, sources told Y! Sports. If the deal completely falls apart, Celtics management and Rivers are still committed to his return to Boston as coach. Boston general manager Danny Ainge has requested Bledsoe and a second first-round pick, but all involved believe that Bledsoe’s inclusion into the package would get a deal done.”

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SH Blog: Karl says Kroenke was stupid and disrespectful for firing him, Magic Johnson wants LeBron to play more like MJ

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DEN_Karl_GeorgeWhen the Denver Nuggets shockingly fired George Karl soon after their first-round exit from the playoffs, many around the league questioned the hasty decision. How can you fire a coach that just won Coach of the Year?

It was reported by various reporters that some of the reasons for letting him go after winning 57 games in the regular season included the following: Karl’s demand for a new long-term contract became unbearable, they blamed him for losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round, thought young talent like Evan Fournier was being held back, and didn’t appreciate his negligence of their offseason-prize JaVale McGee. What we never got to hear was what Karl thought of all this.

Until now, that is. Karl spoke with the Denver Post and explained why he felt what Josh Kroenke did was stupid and disrespectful to everything he did for the team, from Benjamin Hochman:

Q: Can you explain the emotions of finishing third in the Western Conference and then being fired?

A: “We won 57 games and are in a great place. Continuity, consistency, togetherness all are so much more valuable than what they have on their priority list of playing JaVale McGee or the young players. And first of all, it shouldn’t be that I didn’t play young players. It’s I didn’t play young players enough, because we played a lot of young players — Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, Evan Fournier at the end of the year, Ty Lawson. And, I never had a meeting where there was disappointment, in that part of it, voiced to me. I heard through whispers. I’m sorry that 57 wins doesn’t make you happy. I think it was a special season because of the connection this team has with each other and with the coaching staff and with the city. The fans like this team. The staff likes each other. And to blow up that connection is, in my opinion, extremely disrespectful to coaching.”

Q: Can you describe your desire for a contract extension, heading into the last year of your contract?

A: “I didn’t demand an extension. I said to Josh, ‘I will coach this team next year, I’m excited about coaching this team next year, but in the last year of a contract, there are things that could happen.’ I didn’t say they would happen, I said they could happen. I said I didn’t think I deserved a three-year extension, but it’s a signed contract (with an option), so let’s compromise. I don’t think I deserved to get my option picked up, even if we won in the first round (of the playoffs), but there’s a middle ground. The thing that annoys me every day still is the fun connection we have with this team. They think they can unplug us and plug somebody else in, and I’m going, ‘Wow, that is not respectful of the coaching profession.’ ”

Q: Looking back, is there any way to have regrets about not playing McGee major minutes, knowing that they paid him big money?

A: “I’m sorry, I’ve never had management tell me that money’s important (for playing time). Every team I’ve ever coached, it was, ‘It’s your job to distribute minutes.’ I think JaVale built a foundation that next year is going to be very good with him. I don’t think our relationship was in a bad place. It wasn’t in a great place, but it wasn’t in a bad place. … I felt pretty good that JaVale, with a good summer with us, probably would have been the starter next year. But, in the same sense, I don’t think JaVale and Kenneth fit. They have similar limitations. I still think having a passing point guard for JaVale, like Andre Miller, is an asset.”

Karl is right about a variety of things mentioned in his interview. Not every coach is capable of developing great chemistry for a team, which the Nuggets had. You never heard about individual players causing issues and friction in the locker room because of playing time or any other matter. It’s also not his fault that management decided to throw big money at a player that is widely recognized for the things he does wrong on the court as opposed to the things he does right. Truth be told, Kosta Koufos has developed into a much more reliable player (save for his piss-poor performance against Andrew The Giant Bogut) than McGee this season, and that credit should also go to Karl. To be upset at a coach for not playing a player that lacks fundamental focus just because he gets paid a lot isn’t and shouldn’t be the way a team operates.

Karl appears to be a likely candidate to be coaching elsewhere when next season starts, so you can’t feel too bad for the guy. At the same time, the reasons for his dismissal appear to be mostly for the wrong reasons, so it’s not hard to understand why he’s lashing out. The whole thing is a shame, really.

Onto other news from around the league:

  • Stu-JacksonThe NBA is looking to make a big leap in calls made by considering the idea of reviewing judgement calls from the refs, from The AP: “This is significant,” Jackson said at an NBA Cares event to celebrate a new learn and play center at Wheatley Middle School. “It’s our first foray into utilizing instant replay for a judgment call. It at least cracks the door open.” When Commissioner David Stern addressed the media before the start the finals, he said that expanding replay and using the technology that was available was a priority. ”We’ve always taken the stance that we want to look at ways to expand instant replay review, just because it makes sense,” Jackson said. “The referees themselves have supported it because they just want to get the plays right. We’re constantly looking for ways to utilize review.”

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SH Blog: David Lee does a Willis Reed; Flip Saunders returns to Wolves

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The first round of the playoffs has turned out to be as tense as could have been hoped, with six of the eight series going six games and at least one going the full seven.

Meanwhile, the other 14 NBA teams are getting ready for next season, and for quite a few, that means new coaches, or possibly new management. While the Raptors continue to court Phil Jackson, Jackson himself is signing on with the Pistons in what is described as a favor to his friend, Pistons owner Tom Gores, to aid in the franchise’s search for a new coach.

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SH Blog: Pistons hire Phil Jackson as advisor, Lala Vasquez calls out Jordan Crawford

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Phil JacksonIt may be playoff season for 16 teams right now – well, 13 now that three teams have been eliminated – but it’s the offseason for other teams around the league, as they try to figure out the best course of action for next season.

[Related: NBA players react to wild Game 6 between Warriors and Nuggets]

The biggest news come in the way of hiring and firing of management positions, and we start with the biggest surprise – the hiring of Phil Jackson by the Detroit Pistons, from Vince Ellis of USA Today:

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