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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Basketball

Mike D’Antoni predicts ‘great’ series against Warriors

Mike D'Antoni

Mike D’Antoni has high expectations for a potential second-round playoff series against the defending champions.

The Houston Rockets punched their ticket to the second round on Wednesday by defeating the Utah Jazz 100-93 to close out their first-round series. The Warriors would be their opponent in the second round should they eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers.

The potential high-octane matchup would represent a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, which the Warriors won in seven games. It’s a series many basketball fans want to see, and one D’Antoni said should be “great.”

There are more than a few Rockets fans who feel their team could have beaten the Warriors last season had Chris Paul not injured his hamstring in Game 5. Houston won that game to go up 3-2 in the series. However, the Warriors won the next two games, both of which Paul missed.

Barring injury to any of the important players from each team, a Warriors-Rockets series should indeed be one worth watching. It’s the matchup one Rockets player wants.

Earl Watson has notable reaction to Phoenix Suns firing Kokoskov

Earl Watson

Earl Watson only needed one word and some punctuation to perfectly capture the Phoenix Suns’ decision to fire Igor Kokoskov after one season as head coach.

Watson sent the following simple tweet after news emerged about Kokoskov being fired:

If anyone can relate to Kokoskov’s plight, it’s Watson. Watson was hired as the Suns’ interim head coach for the final 33 games of the 2015-2016 season. He coached all of the following season, but then was fired three games into the 2017-2018 season in a bizarrely planned move.

The Suns have gone through four head coaching changes (not including interims) since Mike D’Antoni’s final season in 2008. They have developed a reputation for having a quick trigger with coaches, making one wonder whether any decent candidate would consider them.

Enes Kanter takes another shot at Knicks after Blazers advance in playoffs

Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter has made a significant impact with the Portland Trail Blazers since they signed him two months ago, and the veteran big man would like to thank his former team for providing him an opportunity to contend for a championship.

After the Blazers advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a 4-1 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kanter began his postgame press conference by thanking the New York Knicks for waiving him in February.

Kanter played a key role in Tuesday night’s 118-115 win, scoring 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He averaged 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for the series, which ended up going five games.

The Knicks wanted to go in a younger direction once their season became a disaster yet again, and the 26-year-old Kanter apparently did not fit in with their plans. This is the second time he has taken a jab at his former team this postseason, so he is clearly enjoying the ride.

Donovan Mitchell vows to be in better shape next season

Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell has identified one area he can approve in prior to the start of next season.

The Utah Jazz saw their season come to an end on Wednesday after losing to the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their first round series. Following the game, Mitchell mentioned being in better shape as something he can work on during the summer that will be a benefit to him next season.

Mitchell struggled with his shot against the Rockets. Perhaps it did have something to do with the physicality Gordon exerted on him throughout the series.

Mitchell’s offseason program was delayed last year due to a foot injury he suffered during last year’s playoffs. He wasn’t cleared to resume basketball activities until the middle of June. This year, Mitchell should be able to get to work on his plan sooner, which would bode well for he and the Jazz.

Luke Walton’s attorney calls sexual assault allegation ‘not credible’

Luke Walton

Luke Walton has hired an attorney to defend him against a sexual assault lawsuit that was filed by a former reporter, and the lawyer insists the claims are baseless.

The attorney, Mark Baute, released a statement early Tuesday morning labeling former SportsNet LA reporter Kelli Tennant an “opportunist.”

Tennant has made disturbing allegations against Walton that stem from when he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. She said Walton requested a meeting with her at his hotel after she wanted him to write a foreword to a book she was writing, and he physically forced himself on her in a sexual manner. Tennant says she did not initially report the incident but that Walton continued to behave in an inappropriate manner toward her when they encountered one another after that.

Walton was recently hired as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors all say they were unaware of the lawsuit or allegations.

Damian Lillard responds to Paul George calling game-winner a ‘bad shot’

Damian Lillard wave

Paul George was not impressed with the shot selection on Damian Lillard’s series-clinching three-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, and Lillard seems quite amused by that.

George was the one defending Lillard when the Portland Trail Blazers star buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to send his team to the next round of the playoffs. There was nothing more George could have done, as Lillard chose to put up a shot from about 36 feet out. Following the game, George called it a “bad shot.”

Lillard made 8-of-12 shots from 30 feet or beyond in the series against OKC, so it is clearly a better shot for him than most. He also knew that the game was tied and the worst-case scenario was going to overtime, so that probably was a factor in his decision to launch such a deep attempt. When Lillard caught wind of what George said about the shot, he had a very simple response.

There is plenty of bad blood between the Thunder and Blazers, and Lillard’s reaction after hitting his series-winner was a reflection of that. Even if his shot came from half court, it got the job done. That’s something George and his OKC teammates will have to live with until next season.

Magic Johnson seemingly responds to Pelinka-Buss email report

Magic Johnson

On Wednesday, Ric Bucher went on the Colin Cowherd show and offered an explanation for Magic Johnson’s sudden resignation as Lakers president. According to Bucher (as recounted by Complex), Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss exchanged e-mails about Johnson and what he was and was not doing in his role as president, and Buss inadvertently blind carbon copied Magic on some of those emails.

“So when he talked about the backstabbing, to me, my understanding that’s what started it,” Bucher said.

On Thursday morning, Magic Johnson took to Twitter to send this cryptic message:

Now, he went on to also talk about his anticipation of the NFL Draft and other topics shortly after, but in the NBA world, these kind of comments do not come by accident. Maybe Magic was talking about the world and life in general, but the timing sure seems to be related to Bucher’s revelation, as there has not been much activity on the Lakers/Magic backstory in two weeks since his surprise announcement.

If Bucher’s account is accurate, it would explain why Magic gave an impromptu surprise press conference to announce his decision to step down, and acknowledged not talking to Buss first about his decision.