Jeff Hornacek Out in New York, and Doc Rivers In?

New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek finally got a chance to run the team his own way. With Phil Jackson being let go as team president in the offseason, Hornacek ditched the triangle offense forced upon him, and instilled a new look.

Unfortunately for Hornacek, running a new offense with different faces hasn’t resulted in any more wins. New York is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 24-38 record.

What’s worse is that he’ll coach the remainder of the season without All-Star forward Krstaps Porzingis. The 7’3″ Latvian big man tore his ACL and won’t be back until later in next season’s campaign.

All of this has caused speculation that the Knicks will cut ties with Hornacek in the offseason. And this leaves them looking for a new coach.

According to a report by the New York Post’s Marc Berman, this future coach could be Doc Rivers. Berman spoke to a former associate of Rivers, who said that the ex-Knick wouldn’t mind coaching the team he played for.

“Doc enjoyed his time there,’’ said the anonymous associate. “He respects the city, he respects the organization.’’

How would This Deal Work for Rivers and the Knicks?

doc-rivers-new-york-coachThe biggest roadblock to luring Rivers to the Knicks is that he still has one year left on his L.A. Clippers contract. And Doc is unlikely to give up this year, considering that he’ll earn $10 million next season.

New York would have to offer a draft pick as compensation to even pursue Rivers.

But it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility, considering that the 2008 NBA title-winning coach lost his GM title to Lawrence Frank last year. Combining this with how the Clippers got rid of their core, they might not mind doing the same with their long-time coach.

L.A. traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in the offseason. More recently, they shipped Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons.

Rivers Has Done His Best Coaching in 2018

Many wondered if the Clippers were tanking when they traded away an unhappy Paul, and later got rid of Griffin. But team owner Steve Ballmer has insisted all along that he doesn’t want to bottom out.

Rivers has worked hard to make Ballmer’s goal a reality, guiding the team to a 33-28 record. They’re currently 33-28 and just one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed.

L.A. consultant Jerry West believes that Rivers should be in the 2018 Coach of the Year conversation. After all, he’s taken a team of newcomers, including Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Avery Bradley, into playoff consideration.

Rivers may be on thin ice in L.A., given the team’s interest in changing the franchise’s direction. But he’s still a hot coaching commodity after the job he’s done with this mix-matched Clippers roster. And it would be no surprise if he drew further interest from the Knicks.

Rivers Might Bring Mike Woodson to New York

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson currently serves as an assistant to Rivers. And this would only sweeten the deal for New York if they can bring both coaches aboard.

Woodson, Rivers’ top assistant, was the Knicks’ most successful head coach since Jeff Van Gundy quit in 2001. Woodson led the Knicks to a 54-28 record in the 2012-13 season. He also rallied a team with multiple injuries the following season to only miss the playoffs by one game.

If Rivers were to bring along Mike Woodson as his associate coach, it’d be more enticing than the current Hornacek-Kurt Rambis pairing.

Nevertheless, Jackson decided to replace Woodson with Derek Fisher for the 2014-15 campaign. And Knicks owner James Dolan is still writing Fisher checks, long after he’s been gone.

Dolan Has Always Kept Tabs on Rivers

Another reason why New York may continue pursuing Rivers is that Dolan has always been interested in him. Rivers, who played for the Knicks from 1992-95, has impressed Dolan ever since winning the league title in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.

james-dolan-knicksAs for Rivers, he’s enamored with Porzingis, whom many call the “unicorn” due to his ability to play outside at 7’3″. Following a Nov. 20 game, where Porzingis scored 25 points in New York’s route of the Clippers, Rivers had plenty of good things to say about him.

“He’s just a beast,” Rivers said following the game. “I mean he’s going to be, or he is, one of the great ones now. He’s just going to keep getting better.

“You look at his numbers and you forget his age, I think, and what he’s doing. It’s just a scratch. He’s going to keep getting better and better. And that’s going to be scarier for all of us.”

Here’s why Rivers Won’t Coach the Knicks in 2018-19

Everything I’ve covered up to this point offers compelling evidence that Rivers will indeed coach New York in the near future. But we also have to look at the reasons why this won’t happen too.

Again, Doc is still under contract in Los Angeles for another season. And he’s not going to walk away from another year where he’s making coach/GM combination money.

Another thing to consider is if Rivers would still be in love with this coaching job with Porzingis currently nursing a torn ACL. Odds are that he comes back fine from his injury. But it could make sense for Rivers to wait another season and see how Porzingis’ return goes when he can start playing again next winter.

On the Knicks’ side, they have to consider whether it’s worth compensating L.A. with the draft pick to go after their coach.

Furthermore, they may have another decision if Rivers decides that he wants GM responsibilities again in the next gig. This is a big issue considering that many don’t believe Rivers’ strong suit is putting together rosters.

Weighing the pros and cons, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see Rivers on the New York sidelines. But then again, we certainly can’t rule out the possibility when considering that Dolan likes Rivers’ coaching abilities.

Grizzlies Marc Gasol Frustrated on NBA’s Worst Team

marc-gasol-grizzliesMemphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has played on a number of winning teams in his 9-year NBA career. That said, it must be a shock playing on the league’s worst team this season.

Memphis is currently 18-44 and riding a 13-game losing streak. They’ve also yet to win a single road game in 2018. Given that the Grizzlies currently have the league’s worst record right now, they’re no longer listed in our NBA futures for winning the Western Conference and championship.

Gasol won’t draw much sympathy from the average person, given that he’s earning $22.6 million this year, and will collect over $50 million in the next two seasons. But basketball fans have to feel for one of the best centers to play in recent times.

Gasol led the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies teams over the past several seasons. Since winning 40 games in the 2010-11 campaign, Memphis has yet to have a losing season.

But that’s officially guaranteed to end this year. Even if Memphis wins their final 20 games, they’d end with a 38-44 mark.

The Grizzlies have never made it to the Western Conference Finals during Gasol’s tenure. But they’ve always been very competitive in the conference and given the top teams a run for their money. That said, Gasol has to feel in a different world now.

Injuries and Free Agency Have Decimated the Grizzlies

Nobody expected Memphis to dethrone the Golden State Warriors this season. After all, they lost a key cog in their Grit and Grind teams after Zach Randolph left in free agency. And All-Star point guard Mike Conley has been out most of the year with an injury.

marc-gasol-grizzlies-1This has left Gasol playing with rookies and other unproven players. For example, unheralded rookie Dillon Brooks is playing over 30 minutes a night. Deyonta Davis, a former Iowa Energy/Memphis Hustle member, is the team’s leading scorer off the bench recently.

This isn’t to bash Brooks and Davis for taking advantage of the opportunity and showcasing what they can do. But Gasol is no longer playing with skilled veterans like Conley and Randolph.

Gasol Hasn’t Had a Great Season Himself

Marc Gasol is a 3-time All-Star and was the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. That said, people expect a lot out of the 6’11” big man. But 2018 definitely hasn’t been his best season.

He’s shooting a career-worst 41.3% from the field, including 32.8% from three-point range. He also ranks just 206th in defensive rating among starting players according to NBA.com. His points per game have dipped from 19.5 PPG last season, to 17.8 PPG this year.

This means that Gasol is not only losing games, but also playing worse basketball on the offensive end.

Memphis Coach Weighs In

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff was asked about the struggles of both his team and Gasol. Here’s what Bickerstaff told Yahoo Sports:

“It’s frustrating A guy as competitive as he is, and a guy who every day matters to him, whether it’s practice, drill work, three-on-three, he’s trying to win. The games come on, same thing, he’s trying to do everything in his power to lift his team.

A guy who is so unselfish, he doesn’t care how many points he scores. The only thing that matters to him are wins and losses. I think we all understand and appreciate guys who are that way. There’s no doubt about it, it’s frustrating for him.

“He has his moments. But one of the things he has done is he’s embraced the young guys. You watch him put his arm around guys, teaching guys, working with guys.

“And then he has started to work on his game and do different things that will help him moving forward as a player. He’s human, and those moments [of frustration] do come up, but he’s spent more time focusing on growth than he has on the situation that we are in.”

Gasol Still Working Hard

marc-gasol-grizzlies-2Despite the struggles, Gasol has continued to work on improving his game. While this is a lost season, he can at least better his skills for the 2018-19 campaign.

“He’s working on different parts of his game,” said Bickerstaff. “Post-up game. The way teams are playing, you don’t see a ton of post-up opportunities any more. He’s working on his face-up game, he’s working on a different array of shots, in the paint, how he gets to those spots, things like that.

“Playing from the perimeter, being able to attack off the catch versus other big guys. Those things we’ve seen him be able to implement. He’s been able to implement them quick. As soon as he puts his mind to it, he can add it that night.”

Gasol will Likely Never Win a Title with Memphis

As good as the Spaniard has been, it’s a sad reality that he’ll probably never win a title with the team he’s spent nearly a decade with. He’s 33 years old and entering the back side of his career.

The squad will no doubt improve when Conley returns. And it would certainly help if Chandler Parsons could return to his glory days and live up to his max contract.

marc-gasolUnfortunately, there just aren’t enough other pieces to make Memphis a real contender in the future. Something drastic will have to change in the form of a surprise draft pick or highly skilled free agent somehow choosing this team.

But looking at the facts, Gasol is getting older, Conley will need time to work back from his heel injury, and Parsons has played just 51 games in the last two seasons.

Perhaps Gasol’s best chance to win will be opting out when he becomes a free agent in 2019. At the very least, he could use his option to leverage the team to make some moves – a.k.a. LeBron James style.

But right now, it doesn’t seem like he’s too happy with the current losing situation and state of the organization.

“[Winning is] pretty high … winning is what this is about,” he recently said.

“It’s not about somebody playing well or getting your reps or developing players. We have a league [the G League] for that. We have a team here in Memphis to develop guys. This is the NBA, not the [G] League.”

Gasol may have to get used to seeing G League and rookies on his team for a while, given that there’s little hope for the immediate future.

Timberwolves Odds: Jimmy Butler Tears Meniscus – Could Return in 2018

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injuryMinnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler tore his meniscus in Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets. And he’s already undergone successful surgery to repair the injury at the Mayo Clinic.

Butler suffered a non-contact tear in the third quarter of Minnesota’s loss to the Rockets. He sat on the floor in pain, then needed help getting back to the locker room.

The All-Star is averaging 22.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 56 games for his team. Minnesota is currently sitting in third place in the tough Western Conference.

Butler Hopes to be Back before the 2018 Playoffs

A torn meniscus is certainly not a light injury. But the good news for Butler is that it’s also not as bad as tearing an ACL. This has him thinking that he can be back before the playoffs start in late April.

Assuming Minnesota can hang onto one of the top eight spots in the West, they’ll clinch their first playoff berth in the last 13 seasons.

“I’ve been around this a long time,” said Minnesota forward Taj Gibson, who’s been Butler’s teammate dating back to their days with the Chicago Bulls.

“The bright side is it isn’t his ACL, so that’s a good thing. It still sucks he has a tough injury; all injuries are tough, but the doctors are saying some good things, so we’ll see in a few weeks maybe.”

What will Timberwolves be Facing without Butler?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injury-1Minnesota is coming off an easy schedule of eight straight games against teams with sub-500 records. And they’ve used this to add a cushion in the standings with regard to earning home-court in the first round.

Furthermore, there’s still a chance that Butler returns this year, given that a meniscus injury isn’t as bad as an ACL. One more positive is that even if he doesn’t make it back for the playoffs, he’ll be fully ready for the start of the 2018-2019 campaign.

But not everything is great for Minnesota following the loss of Butler. Their schedule heats up considerably in March, when they play road games against Portland, Utah, Washington, and San Antonio. They’ll also have tough home games against Boston, Golden State, Houston and the L.A. Clippers.

All of these teams are above .500, and some of them are either chasing Minnesota in the standings or trying to hold them off.

The Timberwolves weren’t a playoff club last year due to their young roster. And there’s no question that adding Butler has accelerated this team’s development. This being said, they’ll be tested moving forward without their All-Star swingman.

Minnesota should still play well, given that they have Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague leading the way. But it’s going to be much tougher to make it through their March schedule without Butler on the floor.

How Minnesota emerges from the upcoming eight-game stretch will say a lot about them moving forward. It doesn’t help matters that the team is only 4.5 games ahead of the 10th-place Western Conference squad.

Adding to the difficulty is that other players will have to step things up on the defensive end, with stars like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum; Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, James Harden, and Lou Williams coming up on the schedule.

Butler is one of the best defenders in the league, and he can guard multiple positions with ease. But without him, Minnesota could struggle to contain the gauntlet ahead.

Timberwolves Odds Moving Forward

If you want to bet on the T-Wolves, you can do so right here. But keep in mind that it will be fairly difficult to judge them for the next few games.

It’s also hard to figure out where we can expect the Timberwolves to land in the standings. The West is still very much unsettled right now. But given that Minnesota has been out of the playoffs for so long, many will be rooting for them to make it through the tough upcoming stretch.

Steelers Put Martavis Bryant on the Trade Block – 5 Teams where He could Go

martavis-bryant-2018-tradePittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant clearly wasn’t happy with his role last season. He was especially unhappy with seeing rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster pass him on the depth chart.

But head coach Mike Tomlin said that there was no way Bryant would be going anywhere in 2017.

“He was out of bounds in what he said … it will be dealt with,” said Tomlin. “I’ll visit with him at some point … he’s a good guy to work with in the building and has been.”

It looks like the organization has had a change of heart, though, about shopping their disgruntled receiver. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Pittsburgh is listening to potential deals on Bryant.

What can Bryant do for Teams?

Martavis Bryant is no doubt a very talented receiver. The 6’4″ target runs a 4.4 forty and had solid hands too. His combination of height and speed is what makes him so dangerous to opposing teams on deep balls.

martavis-bryant-2018-trade-1The Clemson man was really building momentum in his first two seasons, tallying 549 and 745 receiving yards in 2014 and 2015, respectively. But his career hit a snag when he was suspended for all of 2016 after multiple substance-abuse violations.

Bryant returned in 2017, but didn’t gain much traction early on in a reduced role. He also complained about playing time and was benched for a short while. He ended the year with 605 receiving yards and a career-low three touchdowns.

Considering his potential, though, Bryant could be a huge bargain for his $705,000 base salary next season. And given that Pittsburgh has Antonio Brown and Schuster, they can afford to part with their talented wideout.

5 Teams that Bryan could be Traded to

1. Buffalo Bills

According to CBS, the Buffalo Bills made a play for Bryant last season. And given that their receiving core isn’t significantly better, it doesn’t seem like they’ve lost interest in him. Tight end Charles Clay led the team with 558 receiving yards, while prized rookie wideout Zay Jones caught just 27 of 74 intended passes. The team traded for Kelvin Benjamin, but they could no doubt use more help in this department.

2. Washington Redskins

Washington traded for Kansas City QB Alex Smith, signaling that they’re not going to give Kirk Cousins a big deal. And their top receiver is Jamison Crowder, who’s not a big-play threat. Adding Bryant to the fray would help make Smith’s transition to the nation’s capital much easier.

3. Chicago Bears

The Bears are another team without a top-flight wide receiver. And they even gave former Steeler Markus Wheaton a chance to fill this role, although he didn’t have any success. Young QB Mitchell Trubisky needs some weapons, and Bryant would be a nice start.

4. Miami Dolphins

Miami could pay Jarvis Landry to retain his services. Or they could let him walk and pursue Bryant or another wideout. This will all come down to how much the Dolphins are willing to shell out for a guy who’s become a star under their watch.

5. San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco landed their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. They now need to add more talent to their roster, especially on offense. Bryant would be a great step in this direction, considering his speed, height, and hands.

As for Pittsburgh, they could really use a good defensive player, or at least draft picks to land multiple prospects. Again, they’re pretty set in the receiving department. And they also have star running back Le’Veon Bell along with veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger.

But what they lack is pass rushers and elite secondary players. That said, look for them to shop Bryant for a defensive player or two.

Chiefs Trading CB Marcus Peters to Rams

marcus-peters-tradeThe Kansas City Chiefs have a deal in the works to trade cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. Peters is one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, but he’s also caused some drama in Kansas City.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the deal is nearing completion and should be agreed upon by both teams. However, the trade can’t officially be finalized until March 14, which is considered the first day of the league’s year.

Why are the Chiefs Trading Marcus Peters?

As good as Peters may be, he’s also had his share of on-field problems. In a game against the New York Jets last season, he threw an official’s flag into the stands and left the field, because he thought he’d been ejected.

When Peters found out that he wasn’t ejected, he returned to the field without any socks on. The 2-time Pro Bowler was suspended for a game afterward for a combination of this incident, and an argument with head Coach Andy Reid on the way to the airport before the game.

Marcus PetersDespite the suspension, Peters came back the next game against the Rams and played excellent. His two interceptions helped the team win and clinch the AFC West title.

He also drew heat from Chiefs fans for sitting during the national anthem throughout the entire 2017 season. When asked to explain his reasoning during an interview with the Kansas City Star, he said the following:

“I’m an American, bruh. I’m an African-American that was born in this wonderful country that we all can live in. How about we start all protecting each (expletive) other and come together, you feel me? It will be better for it.”

What are LA and Kansas City Getting in This Trade?

Los Angeles will likely lose cornerback Trumaine Johnson in free agency. That said, they’ll be looking for another elite cornerback to fill this space on their defense. And the trade for Peters will do exactly this.

Peters himself should enjoy the move too, because he won’t be far from his hometown of Oakland, California. And given that Kansas City has been very active on the trade market – they dealt quarterback Alex Smith already – they’ll have no trouble also dealing their star cornerback.

The compensation that L.A. is sending back hasn’t been announced yet. But NFL Media’s Rapoport reports that the team will most likely get draft picks and/or a player in return.

Rapoport believes that the possible player could be outside linebacker Robert Quinn. Quinn had 8.5 sacks for the Rams last year, which pushed his career tally up to 62.5.

Regarding the draft picks, it’s unclear exactly how high these will be. But gaining Quinn along with one or more middle-round picks for Peters wouldn’t be a bad deal.

Chiefs should Have a New Look Next Season

Even after dealing Peters, Kansas City should still have a very strong defense. But many will be interested to see if their offense improves or regresses next season, based on Smith being dealt.

Smith is a veteran who started for the team the past two seasons. By dealing him, Kansas City is ushering in the the future with second-year QB Patrick Mahomes.

The 10th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes certainly isn’t short on confidence. In fact, he claims that he has an even stronger arm than Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

“I’ve seen these things with Josh, but I’m going to say I believe I have the stronger arm,” Mahomes told the KC Star. “I’ve never seen anyone throw harder than me with the football. Until I see it in person, I believe I have the stronger arm.”

He added, “The furthest I have even thrown the ball was 85 yards. But I had a little wind at my back, so I don’t claim that one. At my Pro Day, I threw it like 80 if it was windy, but I didn’t throw it as good as I could have. It was wobbling.”

The Chiefs will also return second-year running back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 1,327 yards and added another 455 receiving yards. This helped him earn Pro Bowl top honors as a rookie.

Add in explosive wide receiver Tyreke Hill, and the team could have one of the best offenses in the league. But much of this will depend upon how Mahomes performs in his first year as a starter.

Bulls Bench Robin Lopez, Justin Holiday in Tank Job

robin-lopez-justin-holidayThe Chicago Bulls will bench starters Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez for the immediate future. Meanwhile, Cristiano Felicio, David Nwaba and Cameron Payne will be playing serious minutes.

They’ll join Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen as rotation players who are ushering in the Bulls’ youth movement.

Executive vice president John Paxson announced that the team wants to get a better look at some of its younger players over the last 25 games.

“You can’t play 12 guys in our game. Nine or 10 is the most. And it’s just the position we’re in as a young team, with a lot of young guys and several who we haven’t really had the chance to see play much this year,” Paxson told the Chicago Tribune.

“For us to make the proper evaluation in terms of who fits us moving forward, this is something we have to do.”

Felicio and Nwaba will be in the starting lineup alongside Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen. And Paxson said that these players will see “sufficient time” in the future.

Payne will also play more minutes, backing up Dunn at point guard. Meanwhile, Grant, Lopez, and Holiday are going to see their playing time reduced moving forward.

“Having played, I was out of the rotation several times. I know what it’s like to be asked to take a lesser role,” Paxson explained. “Players have pride. So it’s hard. I don’t take that lightly at all.

The VP added, “But we have to look at the big picture. And that’s what we’re doing. It’s not easy as players. But one thing I’ve been impressed by with this group all year is they’ve bonded together, they like one another and they support one another. I don’t see that changing.”

Paxson Points to Portis and Valentine as Perfect Examples

Paxson is using Bulls rotation players Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine as examples of what can happen when giving young players more minutes. Both have become important cogs in this year’s squad.

Felicio and Payne could really use the chance to show what they can do. They’ve fared poorly in limited playing time so far.

“What you hope for from a player standpoint is they gain some confidence in who they are, get comfortable on the floor and play well. I still think we have a lot of really good young talent,” said Paxson.

david-nwaba-bulls“I think the exciting thing for us is for the first time we’re going to have a healthy Zach, Lauri and Kris. They’re obviously the core.”

LaVine is still working himself back into the same player he was with the Minnesota Timbersolves. The young combo guard tore his ACL last season, but has looked good so far in restricted minutes.

Paxson is talking to the team’s medical staff about LaVine playing more. He’ll no longer be on a 20-minute limit, but head coach Fred Hoiberg will still be “smart” with his minutes.

Payne has been banged up too, undergoing surgery for a bone in his right foot back in September. Now Paxson would like to see how he handles more minutes.

“Especially when you’re running with the second unit and the way Fred wants to play, play with pace, defend your position, compete every night and stay within yourself. His role is to get us into offense quickly and efficiently and make the right play with the ball. You don’t want to be a high turnover guy.”

Paxson added, “He got some G League games in, which was helpful for his conditioning. But he hasn’t played basketball for a long time. And just as we talked about with Zach, there are going to be some ups and downs.

“Guys have to play through mistakes. But Cam has to run our team. We saw once Kris Dunn got his confidence and swagger back, he did a great job of running our team. That’s what Cam has to do in a backup role.”

Bulls are Tanking at This Point

Chicago exceeded expectations prior to the All-Star break. The team traded starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler in the offseason, bought out veteran Dwyane Wade, and let Rajon Rondo walk.

They made it clear that the team wasn’t planning a serious playoff run. But the Bulls played well when Nikola Mirotic (since traded) returned from a face injury.

At 20-39, the team is no longer competing for anything substantial. So it only makes sense to tank for a better draft pick and see what other players can do.

Hoiberg has done a good job of embracing the rebuilding effort this season. But he’s also had to take instructions from upper brass about whom to play.

“I understand where we are right now as an organization. From my standpoint, it doesn’t change our approach,” explained Hoiberg.

“And that’s the important message to our players. We have to have great practices and great competition and play extremely hard once we step on the floor. We’re going to try to put a game plan together to give our team an opportunity to compete to win. That doesn’t change.”

Chicago will hope to turn their tanking into something productive in this summer’s draft lottery. Last year, they got an excellent pick in Markkanen, a 7-footer who’s adept when shooting both inside and outside.

Chicago Bulls Odds

If you’re interested in betting on Chicago, you can find Bulls odds here. But just keep in mind that they’re an unpredictable bet right now, thanks to the young players they’ll be starting.