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#pounditThursday, October 1, 2020

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Stories by Darryn Albert:

Doc Rivers could reportedly decide to sit out next season

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers is attracting a lot of interest as a newly-minted free agent coach. However, there is no guarantee that he will accept any of the opportunities in front of him.

Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer reported on Wednesday that the former LA Clippers head coach may opt to sit out next season. Pompey cites sources who say that Rivers appears to be happy living in Southern California. The Clippers also have to pay him for the remainder of his contract. There is significant schedule uncertainty for the 2020-21 campaign as well.

Rivers, 58, had been the coach of the Clippers since 2013. Prior to that, he had been coaching the Boston Celtics since 2004. Rivers took a one-year break to work as a commentator for ESPN after his tenure coaching the Orlando Magic from 1999 to 2003. Thus, another gap year could be long overdue for him.

We do know Rivers has gotten some interest from at least one contender. But suddenly uprooting his life for the sake of an up-in-the-air 2020-21 season may not ultimately be worth it for him.

Report: Jimmy Butler was not impressed with Ben Simmons’ mentality

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler has found the perfect situation for himself on the Miami Heat. Now we are getting some more insight into why his previous stops did not quite fit that category.

Zach Harper of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Butler did not view ex-Philadelphia 76ers teammate Ben Simmons as on par with himself when it came to mental makeup. The report further states that Butler did really connect with Joel Embiid however. But more than anything, Butler reportedly did not like the hierarchy of the Sixers organization.

Butler was only on the Sixers for part of one season in 2018-19. He has since indicated that he did have some issues with the team during his brief stay.

Embiid recently expressed displeasure that the Sixers did not keep Butler. The same probably cannot be said about for Simmons though, as the team appears to have chosen him instead of Butler.

Fernando Tatis Jr. almost signed with Cardinals

Fernando Tatis Jr

Fernando Tatis Jr.’s upcoming playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals will be juicy for more reasons than one.

The San Diego Padres phenom revealed to reporters on Tuesday that the Cardinals once offered him a contract but that it ultimately never came to fruition. Tatis Jr. also said that he will always be a part of the Cardinals through his father, Fernando Sr.

“But when we step on the field tomorrow we’re not friends,” Tatis Jr. added however, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Padres and Cardinals are set to face off this week in the NL Wild Card series. It will be the convergence of multiple different storylines since Fernando Sr. famously played for St. Louis during his MLB career. Fernando Sr. had also said that his son received numerous tryouts with the Cardinals.

Now the younger Tatis is one of the brightest stars in all of baseball. As the 21-year-old continues to rack up the highlights, the Cardinals are probably kicking themselves big-time over the one that got away.

LeBron James says Erik Spoelstra gets disrespected by media

LeBron James

Erik Spoelstra has put to rest any doubts about his status among the NBA’s coaching elite by leading the Miami Heat to another NBA Finals appearance. One of Spoelstra’s former players thinks it is about time that the coach got his due.

On Tuesday before the start of the NBA Finals, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said that the media was responsible for the Heat coach not getting enough respect.

“The players and coaches know how great Spo is,” said James, per Lakers Nation. “There’s a narrative [that] Spo is not great.”

Spoelstra was James’ head coach for his four seasons in Miami from 2010 to 2014. It was a fruitful partnership netting four NBA Finals appearances and two championships. But Spoelstra rarely received credit, as many claimed his success was owed entirely to having the likes of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the roster.

The reality though is that Spoelstra had led the Heat to the playoffs multiple times before James even arrived. He has also now done so multiple times since James’ departure, including this year’s surprise run to the Finals.

Still, Spoelstra has never won Coach of the Year, which is voted on by the media. He and James were also the subject of media-driven controversies during their time together. Regardless, James understands the greatness of Spoelstra and the challenge that facing him in this year’s Finals will pose.

Andrew Wiggins downplays old feud with Jimmy Butler

Andrew Wiggins

Jimmy Butler is having a magical first season with the Miami Heat, and one former teammate is (maybe somewhat surprisingly) happy for him.

Golden State Warriors star Andrew Wiggins said on Monday that he was rooting for the Heat, who just advanced to the NBA Finals. Wiggins added that he was rooting for Butler specifically. Wiggins also brushed off Butler’s previously negative reputation. Wiggins said that he always enjoyed playing with Butler, per Wes Goldberg of Bay Area News Group.

Wiggins and Butler were teammates on the Minnesota Timberwolves for parts of two seasons from 2017 to 2018. Their time together was characterized by tension. Butler was often on Wiggins’ case because of his work ethic and defensive effort. At one point, Wiggins’ brother even got involved in it.

Today, both players are getting new beginnings on different teams. Butler’s reputation is now very much on the rise as well. Thus, the time feels right for Wiggins to help put an end to any beef that may still exist between them.

Gordon Hayward reportedly rushed rehab to play in Eastern Conference Finals

Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward toughed it out against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, and now we are getting an idea of just how injured he still was.

Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reported on Monday that the Boston Celtics swingman rushed his rehab to face the Heat. Hayward reportedly sustained nerve and retinaculum damage in his sprained ankle and could barely jump. Washburn adds that he needed about two-plus more weeks of rehab. The Celtics did not have that time though, so Hayward essentially played on one leg.

Hayward was hurt in Game 1 of the first round on Aug. 17. He returned to action for Game 3 of the conference finals on Sept. 19. Hayward managed 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 30.7 minutes a game against Miami. He helped the Celtics get two wins, but they ultimately fell in six.

With how Hayward spoke about the injury at the time, it is not surprising that he needed a lengthy rehab. He now has the entire offseason though to hopefully get himself right.

Bryce Harper pushing for Phillies to re-sign JT Realmuto

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper will be in Philadelphia for the next decade-plus, and he is making clear what he wants the team to do in order to complement him.

After the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, the ex-NL MVP called for the team to bring back catcher JT Realmuto next season.

“JT Realmuto needs to be our catcher next season,” said Harper, per Scott Lauber of the Philly Inquirer. “I don’t think that should even be a question.”

The 29-year-old Realmuto will be a free agent this offseason. He continued to demonstrate why he is one of the game’s elite two-way catchers this year. Realmuto hit .265 with an .840 OPS, 11 home runs, and 32 RBIs in just 46 games. He has also thrown out 42.9 percent of would-be base stealers over the last two seasons.

The Phillies have made little progress on extension talks with Realmuto in recent months. The two-time All-Star has been vocal that he does not want to be paid according to the market for catchers but instead should be paid according to what he believes is his true value.

As for Harper, he has made no secret about not wanting to lose Realmuto. Thus, the pressure seems to be on for the Phillies heading into the winter.

Joel Embiid has reportedly given Sixers his blessing to hire Mike D’Antoni

Joel Embiid

Mike D’Antoni has reportedly gotten one major endorsement in his bid to become the next coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer reported on Sunday that Sixers star big man Joel Embiid has given the team his blessing to hire D’Antoni. Embiid is reportedly happy with D’Antoni’s proposed five-out system. In that system, Embiid would be facing the basket more instead of posting up. Pompey also says that D’Antoni is the preferred candidate of Sixers ownership. General manager Elton Brand is reportedly pushing hard for a D’Antoni hire as well.

The Sixers are looking for a new head coach after firing Brett Brown, the only coach for whom Embiid had ever played. D’Antoni, meanwhile, is in the market for a new job after parting ways with the Houston Rockets.

Some think that Philly’s pursuit of D’Antoni may be part of a bigger plan. In any case, D’Antoni teams have always placed an emphasis on tempo and three-point shooting. That seems to be exactly the formula that Embiid needs around him to thrive.