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#pounditSunday, September 20, 2020

Basketball

Paul George reveals Clippers’ mindset after blowing Game 6

Paul George

The pressure is growing on the Los Angeles Clippers after another blown lead in Game 6, but Paul George is insisting that the mood is good.

The Clippers blew a 19-point second half lead, the second straight game they blew a huge lead in a closeout game. It means they will go to Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets, and given the circumstances, the pressure on the team to avoid a historic collapse will be huge.

According to George, the team’s mood is positive, and there’s no panic despite the nature of the back-to-back losses.

The Clippers can still win Game 7 and essentially put this in the past. George is saying all the right things with that in mind. If they don’t, though, they will never live this down. They led by 16 in Game 5 and 19 in Game 6 and did not win either. This is a team built to win a title now. If they don’t — especially in this fashion — it will go down as one of the NBA’s more infamous playoff collapses.

George scored 33 points in the Game 6 loss, but was a -23. He’ll need to step up his all-around game like he did earlier in the series to push the Clippers past Denver in Game 7.

Report: Sam Cassell and Rockets have mutual interest for head coach job

Sam Cassell

The Houston Rockets may have an early candidate for their vacant head coach position.

According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Los Angeles Clippers assistant Sam Cassell is interested in the Houston job, and that interest is mutual.

Cassell has no head coaching experience. He has, however, been an NBA assistant since 2009, first with the Wizards and now with the Clippers. He’s also remembered for his 15-year NBA career.

The longtime NBA point guard has been on Houston’s radar for a while. He even interviewed for the position in 2016, when the Rockets ultimately hired Mike D’Antoni.

Cassell is an intriguing name and has plenty of experience as an assistant by now. If the Rockets would prefer someone with head coaching experience and ties to the organization, it sounds like they have an option there, too.

Report: Mike D’Antoni will be candidate for 76ers head coach position

Mike D'Antoni

Mike D’Antoni may already be eyeing his next move after leaving the Houston Rockets.

D’Antoni informed the Rockets on Sunday that he will not return to the organization next season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski went on to report that he will now be a candidate for the vacant Philadelphia 76ers job.

D’Antoni might be the ideal fit for a team that hasn’t turned talent into consistent playoff success. As noted, he has some experience with the Sixers, having served as associate head coach in 2015-16.

It sounded like the Sixers were leaning toward a candidate already in their coaching search. D’Antoni’s availability could change that.

Mike D’Antoni will not return to Rockets

Mike D'Antoni

The Houston Rockets are on the market for a new coach.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Mike D’Antoni has informed the Rockets that he will not return next season and plans to become a free agent.

With the Rockets out of the playoffs, D’Antoni’s contract is officially expired, so he’s already on the market. The language makes it sound like the 69-year-old fully intends to coach again.

The Rockets made clear they wanted D’Antoni back. The feeling apparently was not mutual.

D’Antoni went 217-101 in four seasons as Houston’s head coach. The team was never able to break through in the Western Conference, though. They lost three times in the conference semifinals and once in the conference finals during his tenure.

Houston will now embark on a coaching search. Rumor has it that a big name former coach might be in line for a return.

James Harden: Danuel House situation hurt Rockets in playoff series loss

James Harden

The Houston Rockets’ season came to an end on Saturday, and James Harden says the Danuel House situation did not help matters.

The Rockets won the first game of their Western Conference semifinals series with the Los Angeles Lakers before losing the next four. The final three games of the series were played without Danuel House.

House did not play while being investigated and later thrown out of the NBA Bubble for having an unauthorized guest in his hotel room.

Harden says the situation hurt them in two ways.

“It affected us because of the distraction and he was a huge part of our rotation. But we still had to go out there and compete and try to win games,” Harden said.

Not only did the Rockets have to think about the distraction, but they also lost one of their starters for 60 percent of the series. House averaged 10.5 points in 30.4 minutes per game this season. He added 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs.

Going up against the Lakers is not easy with a full roster, let alone down a key player.

The Lakers now advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010, when the late Kobe Bryant was leading the team. The Rockets will have to contemplate their future, which could include a head coaching change.

Jeff Van Gundy a possible replacement for Mike D’Antoni?

Jeff Van Gundy

The Houston Rockets’ season came to an end on Saturday, and that has led to questions about how they will handle their head coaching situation.

Mike D’Antoni’s contract is set to expire. The Rockets could try to give him another shot with the team or choose to make a switch. D’Antoni said after the Game 5 series-ending loss to the Lakers that he hopes to return.

If the Rockets do not bring D’Antoni back, there is talk the team will “strongly consider” Jeff Van Gundy.

Van Gundy, 58, was a head coach for the Knicks from 1996-2001 and the Rockets from 2003-2007. He has not coached in the NBA since then but has been active as an analyst for ESPN.

Van Gundy was said to be a candidate for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets jobs. There has been talk for a few months about him being a candidate for Houston if they make a change.

Video: Rajon Rondo’s brother William ejected after exchange with Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook point

Rajon Rondo’s brother William was thrown out of Game 5 between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday after an exchange with Russell Westbrook.

William Rondo reportedly was trolling Westbrook by waving in the fourth quarter as the Rockets were on the brink of elimination. Westbrook responded and started talking to Rondo, who later was asked by security to leave.

Westbrook’s Rockets were trailing by over 20 points in the fourth quarter and down 3-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinals series. His frustration was likely related to having his season about to end.

As for William Rondo, he is part of the NBA Bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. because he has a role as an official barber for the players.

Getting into it with a fan is nothing new for Westbrook, who was involved in a high-profile incident last year.

Report: Rockets players were yelling in locker room after Game 4

Houston Rockets logo

The Houston Rockets had some yelling going on in their postgame locker room after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Thursday, according to a report.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Saturday that there was “audible shouting” in the team’s locker room after a 110-100 loss to the Lakers to fall behind 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals series. He says there was talk about players bringing better body language and effort.

Some might take such a report to think there is fighting and dysfunction among the team, but that should not be the takeaway.

The loss put the Rockets on the brink of elimination. Airing frustration and vowing to play better and harder in the next game is a natural reaction.

If the Rockets lose to the Lakers in the series, it would mark their third time being eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals in the last four seasons. Two of those series losses came at the hands of the dominant Golden State Warriors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has NBA fans alarmed with Instagram activity

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo had some NBA fans alarmed due to his Instagram activity.

Someone noticed that Antetokounmpo unfollowed the Milwaukee Bucks and all his Bucks teammates on Instagram.

That set off some concerns, especially among Bucks fans who thought it was a negative sign about Antetokounmpo’s future with Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo is under contract with the Bucks for one more season. Milwaukee wants to sign him to a contract extension, but there are constant talks about him possibly leaving.

On the surface, Antetokounmpo’s Instagram activity might be a concern, but with more context there might not be as much of an issue.

Some people like to cleanse their accounts from time to time. Some have even said that Antetokounmpo did the same thing last offseason too.

And, most importantly, when Milwaukee’s season ended with a playoff series loss to Miami, Antetokounmpo said he wasn’t ditching the Bucks.

Antetokounmpo won NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and is likely to repeat as NBA MVP.

Jimmy Butler does not think Heat should be considered underdogs

Jimmy Butler

Coming off a gentleman’s sweep of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Jimmy Butler is feeling plenty confident.

This weekend, the Miami Heat star brushed aside the notion that the team should feel like underdogs against the Boston Celtics in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals.

“We don’t really use ‘underdog,'” said Butler, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “We may say that we have a chip on our shoulder, but I don’t think that we’re the underdog. I think that we’re a really good team. We play together. Everybody knows their role. We just compete.

“I think we’re supposed to be here,” the All-Star swingman went on. “That’s how we think of it. To me, to us, that’s all that matters. We’re not underdogs. We’re competitors.”

The Heat enter the series as the No. 5 seed in the East as opposed to Boston, who is the No. 3 seed. But Miami just toppled the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 seed and the NBA’s best regular season team, in five fairly lopsided games in the second round. Thus, the Heat have to feel like they can beat anybody in the league right now.

Butler has helped carry the Heat this far with some unwavering confidence, and he is certainly not about to stop with the bravado now.