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Davis, Lakers beat Nuggets to take 3-1 lead in West finals


Updated

10:50 pm CDT, Thursday, September 24, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers are a victory away from returning to the NBA Finals — and only another comeback from 3-1 down by the Denver Nuggets can stop them.

Anthony Davis scored 34 points, LeBron James had 26 and the Lakers beat the Nuggets 114-108 on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

Davis got the Lakers off to a fast start with his scoring and James helped them finish it with his defense, forcing Jamal Murray into some late misses after the guard had kept the Nuggets in it with an array of high-difficulty baskets.

James added nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Lakers had 12 offensive rebounds for a whopping 25-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Game 5 is Saturday, when the Lakers can reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.

The Nuggets will be facing elimination for the seventh time in the bubble. They were down 3-1 against Utah in the first round and climbed out of the same hole against the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals.

Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23) shake hands in the final moments of their 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23) shake hands in the final moments of their 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 24, … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23) shake hands in the final moments of their 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23) shake hands in the final moments of their 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 24, … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Davis, Lakers beat Nuggets to take 3-1 lead in West finals

But they couldn’t come back in this game, getting within one point in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but constantly turned back from there by a key stop or rebound by the Lakers.

The Lakers have 16 championships, one behind Boston for the most in NBA history, but they haven’t played for one since winning their most recent title in 2010.

The Lakers started Dwight Howard at center and he had 12 points and 11 rebounds, helping put Nikola Jokic into foul trouble.

Murray had 32 points and eight assists, but Jokic finished with just 16 points and seven rebounds.

Davis scored 27 points in Game 3 but the 6-foot-10 forward acknowledged that his two-rebound performance was “unacceptable.” He came out much more aggressively Thursday after the Lakers played from behind much of the last game.

With an array of short jumpers, Davis made his first six shots before anyone else on the Lakers made a basket. Then Howard scored on consecutive follow shots before James followed with his first two field goals.

Murray kept the Lakers from getting too far away with a 7-for-8 start. He followed his acrobatic layup around James with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the half with a pair of free throws that cut it to four, before the Lakers took a 60-55 edge to the locker room.

The Nuggets shot 59% in the first half but the Lakers had an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points.

The Lakers seemed to be taking control when Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for a flurry that pushed the lead to 11 with under 4 minutes remaining in the third, but Michael Porter Jr. hit two 3-pointers late in the period that cut it to 87-84 going to the fourth.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Howard hadn’t started in any of his 10 postseason appearances and didn’t play much at all in the last round, when the Lakers went small to match up against the Houston Rockets. He made two starts in the regular season. … Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points and Rondo had 11.

Nuggets: Jerami Grant scored 17 points and Porter had 13.

THOUGHTS FOR TAYLOR

James had the words “We want justice” written next to Breonna Taylor’s name on his sneaker. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said the news a day earlier that a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the Black woman’s shooting death hit the players hard.

“It’s heartbreaking, and you know, there’s really no silver lining to it. It’s a reminder of, it’s not just — it’s hard for Breonna Taylor, her family, and everybody that was invested in this,” Vogel said.

“But it’s just a reminder of all the other acquittals when unarmed black men are being killed, and it’s just something that’s hit us hard. Just a reminder that, you know, how important it is for all of us to vote and to be educated on all the potential police reform bills that are out there, and just play our part and do everything we can to help affect change.”

MILLSAP’S VOTING LOCATION

The Nuggets announced a partnership between forward Paul Millsap and DeKalb County to make the CORE4 training facility in Chamblee, Georgia as a general election voting center. Millsap, wearing “Vote” on his jersey during the restart, is the founder of the facility that will be open for early voting from Oct. 12-30.

___

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Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach, replaces Boylen


Updated

6:27 pm CDT, Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls hired Billy Donovan as their coach Tuesday, landing one of the top candidates on the market to lead a rebuilding team with an overhauled front office.

The 55-year-old Donovan spent the past five seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He replaces Jim Boylen, who was fired after the Bulls finished 22-43 and were one of the eight teams that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World.

In a statement, Donovan thanked ownership and said he’s looking forward to working with new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

“I’m excited to partner with Arturas as we work together on behalf of this historic franchise,” he said.

The Bulls came into the season with their sights set on a playoff spot. They were 11th in the Eastern Conference when play was stopped in March and decided they needed new leadership.

Chicago hired Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations in April out of Denver’s front office and shifted John Paxson into an advisory role. The Bulls also brought in general manager Marc Eversley to replace the fired Gar Forman, and they let Boylen go last month.

Donovan went 243-157 as coach of the Thunder and reached the playoffs each year. He was a finalist for Coach of the Year this season after his team outperformed expectations and pushed the Houston Rockets to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. But with his contract expiring, the Thunder announced two weeks ago he would not return, saying it was a mutual decision.

Before his time with the Thunder, Donovan coached for 19 seasons at the University of Florida, winning two NCAA titles.

FILE – In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired Donovan as coach Tuesday, Sept. 22. The 55-year-old Donovan spent the last five seasons with the Thunder. He replaces Jim Boylen, who was fired after the Bulls finished 22-43 and were one of the eight teams that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. less
FILE – In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired … more

Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP

FILE – In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired Donovan as coach Tuesday, Sept. 22. The 55-year-old Donovan spent the last five seasons with the Thunder. He replaces Jim Boylen, who was fired after the Bulls finished 22-43 and were one of the eight teams that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. less
FILE – In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired … more

Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP

Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach, replaces Boylen

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls,” Karnisovas said. “The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level. We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

Donovan inherited All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook when he was hired before the 2015-16 season. Oklahoma City reached the Western Conference Finals, squandering a 3-1 lead against Golden State.

Durant joined the Warriors after that season, shaking the Thunder and their fans. But Oklahoma City remained competitive.

Westbrook averaged triple-doubles the next three seasons and was MVP in 2017. The Thunder traded for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony prior to the 2017-18 season in an effort to challenge Golden State. But they’ve lost in the first round four straight times since that run to the conference finals.

They came into this season with lower expectations after trading Westbrook to Houston for Chris Paul and sending George to the Los Angeles Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. But they went 44-28 and pushed the Rockets to the brink in the playoffs.

The Bulls are counting on Donovan to give them a lift after the team missed the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

On the court, the Bulls are led by Zach LaVine, who averaged 25.5 points this season, and Lauri Markkanen, who took a step back. The 7-footer from Finland missed 15 games with a pelvic injury and his scoring and rebounding numbers dropped.

Chicago hosted the All-Star game but didn’t have a player selected. That hammered home just how far the Bulls have fallen.

___

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Historic year: Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo’s historic year earned him a historic awards sweep.

The Milwaukee forward is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season, receiving that award Friday. He got the Defensive Player of the Year award earlier in these NBA playoffs.

The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo becomes just the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining only Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots. … Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”

Antetokounmpo — who was in his native Athens, Greece, with his family when the award was announced — received 85 votes from the 100-person panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, plus the one additional vote granted by winning fan balloting.

“It feels good to get this award announced when I’m back home,” Antetokounmpo said, after telling NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — who was in possession of the trophy Friday — to hang on to the hardware until he returns to the U.S.

“I’m going to ship it to Greece,” Silver said during the televised announcement show on NBA TV.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Historic year: Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award

“No, don’t do that,” Antetokounmpo replied. “I’ll come get it when the season starts.”

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers got the other 15 first-place votes and finished second, and James Harden of the Houston Rockets finished third. James has been first, second or third in the MVP voting now 11 times in his career, and Harden has been a top-three finisher in each of the last four seasons.

Antetokounmpo’s numbers this season were unprecedented, with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Nobody had ever averaged those numbers over a full season; Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor both had seasons where they topped Antetokounmpo’s averages for points and rebounds, though both fell just shy of matching his assist average.

And the numbers weren’t inflated by big minutes, either. Antetokounmpo was fifth in the NBA in scoring, second in the league in rebounding — but only 71st in minutes per game. He led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record this season, before Milwaukee was ousted from the playoffs by Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve back-to-back MVPs,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said when the team was in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World this summer. “What he does for us on both ends of the floor, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culturewise, work ethicwise … he’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving.”

Jordan won both the MVP and Defensive Player in 1987-88 and Olajuwon won both in 1993-94. Antetokounmpo came close to joining the club last season by winning MVP and finishing second in the Defensive Player balloting.

A handful of others have also been first and second in those categories in the same year. Kawhi Leonard was second in the MVP race and won Defensive Player in 2015-16, just as Dwight Howard was in 2010-11 and Alonzo Mourning in 1998-99. James won MVP and was second in Defensive Player voting in 2008-09 and 2012-13, and Shaquille O’Neal did so in 1999-2000.

But only two players had pulled off the sweep, until now.

“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo said. “The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”

Dallas’ Luka Doncic was fourth, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers was fifth and the Lakers’ Anthony Davis was sixth. Rounding out the top 12: Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

Antetokounmpo also becomes the 14th player with multiple MVP awards and the second international player in that club, joining Canada’s Steve Nash. This is the fifth time that someone won MVP honors while playing for the Bucks — only Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia and Chicago have had more — and he’s the 11th player to win back-to-back MVPs.

The others: Stephen Curry, James, Nash, Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

“I’m happy for this, I’m happy for this award,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I want more. … I’ve got to keep getting better. I want to be a champion.”

___

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Source: Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

10:35 am CDT, Friday, September 18, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shouts from the bench in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Source: Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo’s historic year earned him a historic awards sweep.

A person with knowledge of the situation says the Milwaukee forward is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league is not announcing the award until Friday afternoon.

The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo becomes just the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining only Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Antetokounmpo’s numbers this season were unprecedented, with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Nobody had ever averaged those numbers over a full season; Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor both had seasons where they topped Antetokounmpo’s averages for points and rebounds, though both fell just shy of matching his assist average.

And the numbers weren’t inflated by big minutes, either. Antetokounmpo was fifth in the NBA in scoring, second in the league in rebounding — but only 71st in minutes per game. He led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record this season, before Milwaukee was ousted from the playoffs by Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve back-to-back MVPs,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said when the team was in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World this summer. “What he does for us on both ends of the floor, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culturewise, work ethicwise … he’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving.”

ESPN first reported that Antetokounmpo won the award.

Jordan won both the MVP and Defensive Player in 1987-88 and Olajuwon won both in 1993-94. Antetokounmpo came close to joining the club last season by winning MVP and finishing second in the Defensive Player balloting.

A handful of others have also been first and second in those categories in the same year. Kawhi Leonard was second in the MVP race and won Defensive Player in 2015-16, just as Dwight Howard was in 2010-11 and Alonzo Mourning in 1998-99. LeBron James won MVP and was second in Defensive Player voting in 2008-09 and 2012-13, and Shaquille O’Neal did so in 1999-2000.

But only two players had pulled off the sweep, until now.

James and Houston’s James Harden were the other MVP finalists this season. Antetokounmpo and James were the only players to be first-team All-NBA selections on all 100 ballots cast by the panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.

Antetokounmpo also becomes the 14th player with multiple MVP awards and the second international player in that club, joining Canada’s Steve Nash. This is the fifth time that someone won MVP honors while playing for the Bucks — only Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia and Chicago have had more — and he’s the 11th player to win back-to-back MVPs.

The others: Stephen Curry, James, Nash, Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

MAURIELLO GEREMIA

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Kings hire former Rockets executive Monte McNair as new GM

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

11:52 am CDT, Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Sacramento Kings have hired former Houston Rockets executive Monte McNair as their new general manager.

The team announced the move to replace Vlade Divac on Thursday, making McNair the team’s top basketball executive reporting to owner Vivek Ranadivé.

“Monte is one of the NBA’s top basketball minds who has played an instrumental role in building several winning teams in Houston,” Ranadivé said. “I am excited to bring his extensive experience and vision onboard to lead our basketball operations department, and it is my pleasure to welcome Monte and his family to Sacramento.”

McNair has a tough task ahead with the Kings having missed the playoffs for 14 straight seasons. That’s the longest active drought and one shy of the NBA record. The Kings went 31-41 this season in the first year under coach Luke Walton.

McNair is a Southern California native who spent 13 years working for the Rockets. He has been the assistant general manager since 2018 and also was integral in the team’s analytics department, working closely with the coaching staff on strategy.

The Rockets have made the playoffs for eight straight seasons with two trips to the Western Conference final and seven 50-win campaigns.

McNair played college football at Princeton and worked as a sports programmer and researcher at STATS LLC.

The Kings also announced that Joe Dumars has been named chief strategy officer after running the basketball department on an interim basis following Divac’s departure.

Divac was initially hired by the Kings in March 2013 as vice president of basketball operations and franchise operations. He became general manager in August 2015 but was unable to get the Kings back into the playoffs.

He traded DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans in 2017 and made the decision to draft Marvin Bagley III second overall in 2018, one spot ahead of Luka Doncic.

___

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Rockets look for new coach after another early playoff exit


Updated

4:07 pm CDT, Monday, September 14, 2020

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden and the Houston Rockets believed the addition of Russell Westbrook and their unorthodox small lineup would be what they needed to win their first title in 25 years.

Instead, they suffered another early playoff exit and must find a coach after Mike D’Antoni told them he wouldn’t return after he and management couldn’t agree on a new contract.

The Rockets beat Oklahoma City in seven games in the first round and won Game 1 against the Lakers before losing the next four games to be eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year.

“It’s very, very frustrating,” Harden said. “Especially with the amount of work individually that I put in. But I’m going to keep chipping away, I’m going to keep going and going until I can’t go anymore.”

Harden had another splendid regular season, averaging 34.3 points to lead the league in scoring for the third straight year. He was also first in the NBA in 3-pointers (299) and free throws (692) and ranked fifth in steals (1.84) and seventh in assists (7.5).

He continued that elite play in the postseason where he averaged 29.6 points a game. But the Rockets struggled to find other players to step up and help him carry to load. Westbrook missed the first four games of the Thunder series with a quadriceps strain. He returned for Game 5 of the opening round and played every game after that, but never looked quite right.

He was widely panned for his terrible performance in Game 2 against Los Angeles when he made just 4 of 15 shots and finished with 10 points and seven turnovers in Houston’s 117-109 loss.

Westbrook said after Game 5 that he was never 100% after his injury. He also said he felt behind after arriving in the NBA bubble late following a coronavirus diagnosis that kept him from working out for three weeks.

Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, left, and Russell Westbrook sit on the bench in the closing minutes of a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, left, and Russell Westbrook sit on the bench in the closing minutes of a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, left, and Russell Westbrook sit on the bench in the closing minutes of a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, left, and Russell Westbrook sit on the bench in the closing minutes of a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Rockets look for new coach after another early playoff exit

“It’s just very frustrating honestly for me, man, and knowing that the postseason is where you’re supposed to elevate your game and I was just trying to catch rhythm and there’s not time for that,” he said.

Despite Westbrook’s playoff woes, Harden said he was pleased with how his friend’s first season in Houston went and is looking forward to seeing what they can do in the future. But he believes they can’t do it alone and that the team needs to make a move this offseason to get to the next level.

“I feel like we’re a piece away and we’ve just got to keep trying to figure it out, keep trying to grow and put the right pieces around me and Russ to get to where we need to go,” Harden said.

The Rockets went all in on their small lineup when they traded center Clint Capela to Atlanta in February. They believed that lineup was more conducive to success in D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense that relies on a high number of 3-point attempts. Houston led the league this season by averaging 45.3 attempts per game in D’Antoni’s fourth season.

Now that D’Antoni is gone, it’s unclear if the Rockets will stick with their small lineup or if they will revert to a more traditional starting five with a true center.

While some questioned whether Houston’s unconventional lineup contributed to its playoff ouster, Harden thinks they would have been fine using that configuration had they executed better.

“We never really gave ourselves a chance,” he said. “And that’s talking about rebounding, that’s talking about our switches, that’s talking about offensively our movement, things that we’re trying to attack on the offensive end that we never really got to consistently. So that’s on us.”

Along with Westbrook’s struggles, the Rockets were also slowed against the Lakers because of the absence of Danuel House. An important player off the bench, House was averaging 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in the playoffs but missed the team’s last three games after violating the NBA’s health protocols by allowing an unauthorized guest in his hotel room “over multiple hours.”

Harden called House’s actions disappointing and said it hurt the team against the Lakers.

“It affected us because obviously just the distraction and he was a huge part of our rotation,” Harden said.

But the Rockets can’t worry about what might have been, and Harden is already looking ahead. The 31-year-old is focused on trying to lead the Rockets to their first championship since they won back-to-back titles in 1994-95.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” he said before a long pause, “headed in the right direction.”

The question for Harden and the Rockets is how long until they actually get to their destination instead of just going the right way?

___

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Source: Mike D’Antoni tells Rockets he’s not coming back


Updated

2:24 pm CDT, Sunday, September 13, 2020

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Source: Mike D’Antoni tells Rockets he’s not coming back

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Mike D’Antoni has told the Houston Rockets that he will not be back as coach with them next season, and he essentially becomes a free agent, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

D’Antoni told the Rockets on Sunday — not even a full day after the team’s season ended with a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers — that he would seek coaching options elsewhere for next season and not return to Houston. The person with knowledge of those talks spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to announce anything publicly.

ESPN first reported D’Antoni’s decision.

It was not totally unexpected; the Rockets and D’Antoni couldn’t agree on an extension last year, meaning he was coaching this season with no guarantee of his future in Houston. D’Antoni had already been mentioned as a potential candidate for vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia, but when the season ended Saturday night there appeared to be at least some hope of his remaining in Houston.

ON TEXAS SPORTS NATION: Mike D’Antoni informs Rockets he won’t return to coach next season

“We’ve got a great organization, great city, great fans, team’s great,” D’Antonio said. “I mean, everything’s good here. We’ll see what happens, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it keeps going. You just never know.”

But sometime between late Saturday night and early Sunday afternoon, he knew that it was time to move on.

Houston becomes the eighth team that will be going through a coaching change since the end of the regular season — March 11 for eight clubs that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s restart bubble, and mid-August for the league’s 22 other franchises.

In recent weeks, Brooklyn has hired Steve Nash and New York hired Tom Thibodeau. Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and now Houston are vacant.

D’Antoni was with the Rockets for four seasons. Houston went 217-101 in his regular-season contests, a .682 winning percentage.

The Rockets’ winning percentage this season — .611 — was the worst of his four-year tenure. He went 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets.

“Mike has done some unbelievable things here,” Rockets star James Harden said Saturday night, making clear that he would have liked to have seen D’Antoni come back. Houston’s other star, guard Russell Westbrook, also raved about the type of person D’Antoni is and said he enjoyed his lone season playing under him.

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AP source: D’Antoni tells Rockets he’s not coming back


Updated

2:22 pm CDT, Sunday, September 13, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Mike D’Antoni has told the Houston Rockets that he will not be back as coach with them next season, and he essentially becomes a free agent, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

D’Antoni told the Rockets on Sunday — not even a full day after the team’s season ended with a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers — that he would seek coaching options elsewhere for next season and not return to Houston. The person with knowledge of those talks spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to announce anything publicly.

ESPN first reported D’Antoni’s decision.

It was not totally unexpected; the Rockets and D’Antoni couldn’t agree on an extension last year, meaning he was coaching this season with no guarantee of his future in Houston. D’Antoni had already been mentioned as a potential candidate for vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia, but when the season ended Saturday night there appeared to be at least some hope of his remaining in Houston.

“We’ve got a great organization, great city, great fans, team’s great,” D’Antonio said. “I mean, everything’s good here. We’ll see what happens, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it keeps going. You just never know.”

But sometime between late Saturday night and early Sunday afternoon, he knew that it was time to move on.

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni yells from the bench during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

AP source: D’Antoni tells Rockets he’s not coming back

Houston becomes the eighth team that will be going through a coaching change since the end of the regular season — March 11 for eight clubs that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s restart bubble, and mid-August for the league’s 22 other franchises.

In recent weeks, Brooklyn has hired Steve Nash and New York hired Tom Thibodeau. Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and now Houston are vacant.

D’Antoni was with the Rockets for four seasons. Houston went 217-101 in his regular-season contests, a .682 winning percentage.

The Rockets’ winning percentage this season — .611 — was the worst of his four-year tenure. He went 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets.

“Mike has done some unbelievable things here,” Rockets star James Harden said Saturday night, making clear that he would have liked to have seen D’Antoni come back. Houston’s other star, guard Russell Westbrook, also raved about the type of person D’Antoni is and said he enjoyed his lone season playing under him.

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Protesters block buses outside NBA campus, asking for help


Updated

11:28 pm CDT, Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — A small number of protesters carrying signs and shouting into megaphones blocked at least two buses chartered by the NBA from briefly from entering the Walt Disney World campus on Saturday night, with the group saying it wanted LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and other top players to take notice.

The group blocked charter buses carrying members of the news media and some NBA staff, but no players or team personnel. Among their chants: “Black Lives Matter” and “LeBron can you help us?” Some also carried signs with messages such as “Russell Stand With Us.”

The protesters assembled near one of the entrances and were not inside the so-called bubble, where teams, NBA staff and other have been for more than two months in some cases for the resumption of the season. They appeared to have gathered on a road that is open to the public, then stopped buses on an access road near a primary entrance to the resort.

It was not known if they were able to be seen by any buses carrying players. At least one of the buses carrying players from the Los Angeles Lakers-Houston Rockets game Saturday night had left the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex before the first protest was noticed.

Calling attention to racial inequality and police brutality has been a top priority of the NBA restart, for both players and the league itself. Playoff games stopped for three days last month in response to player protests over the shooting of a Black man by police in Wisconsin, and dozens of players have spoken out with calls for justice in the case of Breonna Taylor — a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation on March 13.

The group outside the Disney complex on Saturday — through messaging on some of the shirts they wore and signs they carried — made clear that they were trying to draw attention to the case of Salaythis Melvin, a Black man who was fatally shot in the back by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy last month. Sheriff’s officials have said Melvin was armed; attorneys for his family have said he posed no threat to the deputy involved.

The mall where Melvin was shot is about 15 miles from the site of the NBA restart.

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Sports

MAURIELLO GEREMIA: Welcome back: Lakers, LeBron headed to the conference finals

MAURIELLO GEREMIA


Updated

10:17 pm CDT, Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the conference finals for the first time in a decade, ending the longest drought in franchise history.

LeBron James is going there for the first time since 2018. For him, that also qualifies as ending a drought.

James scored 29 points and the Lakers wrapped up their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2010 by topping the Houston Rockets 119-96 on Saturday night in Game 5 at Walt Disney World.

“It’s the reason I wanted to be a part of this franchise, to take them back to a place that they were accustomed to being — and that’s competing for a championship,” James said. “It’s an honor for me to wear the purple and gold, and for us, we just try to continue the legacy.”

Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points, Markieff Morris had 16, Danny Green added 14 and Anthony Davis finished with 13 for the top-seeded Lakers. They will play either the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or third-seeded Denver Nuggets for the West title in a series that won’t begin before Wednesday.

James is going to the conference finals for the 11th time overall — six with Cleveland, four with Miami and now with the Lakers. It’s his ninth time getting to this round in the last 10 seasons; the one miss in that stretch was last season, when his inaugural year with the Lakers fell apart because of injury and the team missed the playoffs.

“The opportunity to play for a championship, that’s what we’re all here for, that’s what we all signed up for,” James said.

James Harden scored 30 points, Jeff Green scored 13 and Russell Westbrook had 10 for Houston.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. less
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, and Anthony Davis argue a call during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball gameagainst the Houston Rockets Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake … more

Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Welcome back: Lakers, LeBron headed to the conference finals

“Tough season for us,” Harden said. “Obviously, it didn’t end like we wanted it to. Just got to figure it out.”

And now that the offseason is here, the speculation about coach Mike D’Antoni’s future will ramp up. His contract with the Rockets is now complete, the sides couldn’t agree on terms of any extension a year ago, and he’s been mentioned as a candidate for the vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia.

“We’ve got a great organization, great city, great fans, team’s great,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, everything’s good here. We’ll see what happens, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it keeps going. You just never know.”

It was a tough end to a tough week for the Rockets.

Westbrook exchanged heated words with a fan in the family section during the fourth quarter; NBA security asked the man, identified by ESPN as a brother of Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, to leave the game.

“He started talking crazy,” Westbrook said. “I don’t play that game.”

Houston won Game 1 of the series and lost the next four. Saturday’s finale came a day after Danuel House — who averaged 11.4 points in nine playoff games this season — was told to leave the bubble. An NBA investigation showed he had an unauthorized guest in his room for several hours earlier this week, and he missed the last three games of the series.

“It affected us,” Harden said, who called the situation disappointing.

The Lakers ran out to a 33-11 lead, though Houston came right back with a 17-2 run to get within seven. The Lakers’ lead was 62-51 at the half after the Rockets turned 13 Los Angeles turnovers into 15 points, the biggest reason why Houston was still in the game to that point.

Houston got within seven on a drive by Westbrook 2:09 into the third, and that was the last real gasp of hope for the Rockets. The Lakers scored the next 15 points, and the lead was 95-69 going into the final quarter.

“I’m really proud of our whole team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston finished the postseason with a 5-7 record. … The Rockets took a pair of time-outs in the game’s first 6:06, first when it was 13-2 and then after James made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-7. … Houston was outrebounded 50-31.

Lakers: Los Angeles went seven years without a conference-final appearance from 1991 through 1998, the team’s longest drought before this 10-year run. … The Lakers took the lead in Game 3 on a jumper by James with 10:01 left. They didn’t trail again in the series, going the last 106:01 without facing a deficit.

D’ANTONI’S TENURE

If this was the end of D’Antoni’s time with the Rockets, he’ll be leaving with some strong numbers. Houston went 217-101 in his four regular seasons with the team — a .682 winning percentage. This season was his “worst,” at .611. He’s gone 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets. “Mike has done some unbelievable things here,” said Harden, who said he’d want D’Antoni back.

CONGRATULATIONS

Less than two hours before game time, James tweeted at Naomi Osaka — who rallied to win the U.S. Open women’s championship in three sets on Saturday. “GREAT COMEBACK!! Congrats,” James wrote. Osaka wore masks throughout the tournament bearing names of Black victims of violence; James saluted her efforts by adding a raised-fist emoji to the end of his tweet.

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MAURIELLO GEREMIA