Celtics Odds: Kyrie Irving Out with Sore Knee

kyrei-rving-celticsKyrie Irving is playing very well in his first season with the Boston Celtics. He’s averaging 24.4 PPG and shooting a career-high 49.1% from the field. Unfortunately for the Celtics, their star point guard will be forced to miss time with a sore knee.

He missed the second half of Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers when his knee flared up. The pain started in a March 3 contest against the Houston Rockets and sidelined him for a win over the Chicago Bulls.

Many hoped that the problem was behind Irving when he returned to score 23 points and dish out eight assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves. But even then he complained about how his knee felt.

Head coach Brad Stevens and Irving agreed that the best decision will be for the guard to sit out a few games to heal up. There’s no definite timetable on his return at this point.

Irving had the following to say to MassLive.com’s Jay King:

“It’s just been aching for a little bit,” Irving said. “I just think I need to take some time. … “I’m not concerned. Where we are in the season, I’m pretty comfortable.

“I think that competitively, I think that’s what I’m more or less concerned about, just when I actually do get back on the floor I want to feel the level I expect myself to play at and I want to play at. And being able to sustain it. So right now I’m unable to do that. So I’ve just gotta deal with that.”

Added Irving: “I think (taking time off) will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping that it gets better over the two or three days which it usually does. It’s aching a little bit more than I want it to now, so I’m just going to take the necessary time.”

ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg also reported on the situation:

kyrie-irving-celtics“At halftime, he was talking about [the knee], felt some soreness in it, probably similar to the Houston game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He was getting it worked on after halftime. We don’t know what it is above general knee soreness, and he doesn’t seem overly concerned, big-picture, with it. But obviously it’s been giving him fits here and there for the last five to eight days or so.”

Stevens sounded open to the idea of shelving Irving until he’s more confident in the knee.

“If he doesn’t feel 100 percent, then we need to have him sit, and so I think that that is something that we’ve all talked about, and [that’s] why he didn’t come back in [against Indiana],” Stevens said.

Celtics could Struggle without Irving

Given that Stevens would also like Irving to rest, sitting out seems like the best short-term decision. But it’s also likely that Boston could struggle in his absence.

While the team’s record without Irving is 5-2, the Celtics have had trouble getting quality shots when he’s not on the floor. The team scores just 101.1 ponts per 100 possessions without their floor general. But they score 108.7 points per 100 possessions when he does play.

Terry Rozier is a capable fill-in at point guard and can generate some offense. But the other option, Marcus Smart, is a defensive specialist who doesn’t shoot well from the field. The good news, though, is that Rozier and Smart bring a nice balance at the position.

Injury Woes for the Celtics

gordon-hayward-injuryBoston has a deep roster with quality bench players. But this depth is being tested with the injuries that the team has been hit with. Gordon Hayward headlines the list since he suffered a broken ankle in the season opener and won’t play until the 2018-19 campaign.

Second-year forward Jaylen Brown suffered a bad fall in the game against Minnesota. Thankfully, he didn’t do any structural damage, but he will be sidelined for at least a few more games.

Center Al Horford was forced to sit out the Indiana game with an illness. With he and Irving on the bench, the team produced 12.2 fewer points per 100 possessions.

And German rookie Daniel Theis will miss the rest of the year after tearing a meniscus in his left knee.

Goal is to Prepare for the Postseason

The Celtics are having another fine campaign that sees them holding down the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. They’re currently 3.5 games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors and are well ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second spot.

kyrie-irving-celticsI doubt that Stevens is willing to rest on the team’s laurels and just accept that they’re resigned to the two seed. But with just 15 games to go, the smart play here is to sit Irving for a few games so that he’s ready for the playoffs.

The team will be hoping for another deep postseason run. Last year, the Celtics made the Eastern Conference Finals, where they met the Cavs. Boston wasn’t really very competitive in this series, losing 4-1 in a matchup that featured multiple Cleveland blowout victories.

This convinced Ainge that he needed to shake up the roster. The result was multiple trades that sent away all but three players from the 2016-17 team.

Irving was the biggest addition in this busy offseason. The 26-year-old was a costly add that required sending All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick to the Cavs. But based on the numbers, this looks like a good trade in hindsight.

Of course, how Boston performs in the playoffs will go a long way towards validating whether all of the off-season moves were a good idea.

Some criticized Ainge’s decision to overhaul the team’s defensive identity. But they haven’t taken any step back in terms of regular season results so far. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how they do come playoff time in April.

2018 Celtics Futures (via GTBets.eu)

Celtics Odds to Win 2018 NBA Championship

  • Golden State -170
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +850
  • Toronto +950
  • Boston +1400
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • Philadelphia +4500
  • San Antonio +5000
  • Washington +6000

Celtics Odds to Win 2018 Eastern Conference

  • Cleveland +140
  • Toronto +180
  • Boston +350
  • Philadelphia +1200
  • Washington +1800
  • Milwaukee +5000
  • Indiana +6000

12 Teams that can Win 2018 March Madness

top-2018-march-madness-teamsMarch Madness starts out with 68 schools that want to hoist the championship trophy. And each school – big and small – dreams of cutting down the nets at the Final Four.

But let’s be honest: only about a dozen or so teams have a realistic chance at winning college basketball’s most prestigious title. And some of these schools, like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Villanova, are in the title hunt year after year.

Which teams have the best chance to emerge the champ in the April? Let’s find out by looking at the 12 best contenders. Also keep in mind that we’ll have odds on all of these favorites and other schools throughout the tournament at GTBets.

1. Virginia (1 Seed)

The Cavaliers haven’t lived up to their tournament expectations in recent years. And here we are again, with them having a high seed and already drawing doubters.

But this doesn’t feel like the same Virginia team that’s come up short in the past. There are few reasons to believe that this squad is the one that’ll make a breakthrough.

They have a methodical offense that uses every second of the shot clock to get highly efficient looks.

Opponents also use every second against Virginia, but only because they’re hounded into doing so.

Virginia’s defense is the second best in college basketball in the last 17 years (0.002 adjusted points per possession). They’re also really good at forcing turnovers, which is a lethal combo for opposing schools to deal with.

Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense has even been smothering against elite opponents like Clemson, Duke, and UNC. The Cavaliers played 16 teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season, holding 12 of 16 of these squads to less than a point our possession (including the three mentioned above).

Virginia hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1984, and they don’t have any future NBA lottery picks on their roster. But this is the ACC champion, and they have the country’s best defense. You can’t do any better in picking a potential winner.

2. Duke (2 Seed)

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Michigan State vs DukeIf we’re basing everything on pure talent, then the Blue Devils would be the odds-on favorite to win it all. They boast a starting five that’s filled with NBA first-rounders, including Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Marvin Bagley

The only problem with this lineup is that they’re inconsistent at times. Allen is the only senior, and he’s scored 20 points or more 10 times this year. But he’s also been held below 10 points on eight different occasions. The underclassmen haven’t fared any better in the consistency department.

Duke utilizes a zone defense, which is an improvement from when they were trying to play man to man. But it’s still nowhere on par with Virginia right now.

3. Villanova (1 Seed)

The Wildcats come into 2018 March Madness with a top-2 seed for the fifth straight year. It’s obvious that as long as Jay Wright stays here, his team is always going to be a contender.

jay-wright-villanovaWright won the title a couple of years ago. The team stumbled as a top seed last spring. Which Villanova squad are going to see this year? My bet is one that wants to avenge last year’s disappointing tournament appearance.

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were role players on the 2016 national championship squad. But now they’re the top options and looking for the second championship of their college careers.

4. Kansas (1 Seed)

The Jayhawks have entered each of the past two tournaments as a potential champ. They lost a close contest to Villanova in 2016 before the latter went on to win the title. Kansas also had the misfortune of running into a red-hot Oregon team last year.

I don’t think that this year’s Jayhawks squad is exactly as talented as the two teams that recently lost. But they’ve got to be due for better luck with opponents in 2018.

And the talent is still here of course, including star point guard Devonte Graham. Kansas can also rely on the sharp-shooting Svi Mykhailiuk and all-around talent Udoka Azubuike.

5. Michigan State (3 Seed)

cassius-winstonThe Spartans may not have a top-2 seed. But they do have the potential to rise from being a three seed to cutting down the nets in San Antonio.

Cassius Winston offers excellent guard play, Nick Ward is a load down low, and Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are future lottery picks.

The problem with Michigan State’s bid is that they’re just 2-4 against NCAA tournament qualifiers. They’re no doubt going to need a more-complete effort against the top seeds to have any hope at winning. I’m still high on their talent, though.

6. Arizona (4 Seed)

Arizona forward DeAndre Ayton has had a stellar freshman season with 20.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG. The 7’1″ phenom has likely played his way into being the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

deandre-ayton-arizonaThis means that the rest of the team has been lacking, given that they’ve only achieved a No. 4 seed. Sure, Arizona won their conference. But the Pac-12 was down this year, and the Wildcats didn’t exactly dominate the conference, despite what their title suggests.

The biggest problem for Arizona is that they don’t play great defense. They also have an ugly out-of-conference loss to Purdue (25 points) on their resume.

Despite the drawbacks, Arizona has a chance mainly because of Ayton’s greatness. He can shoot three’s, score inside, rebound, and block shots. Sean Miller’s team also has a solid starting 5 that can provide Ayton support on most nights.

7. Kentucky (5 Seed)

Kentucky is the biggest dark-horse contender in this year’s crop. And the chief reason why is because Gilgeous Alexander has played much better than his pedigree.

gilgeous-alexanderA four-star recruit in high school, he’s shined over the 5-star recruits on this roster. Gilgeous-Alexander’s play has helped a young team stay in contention. Kentucky especially helped themselves win seven wins in the past eight games.

This isn’t viewed as the same top-5 squad it was to open the season. But they could surprise analysts if their young lineup can finally gel in the coming weeks.

8. North Carolina (2 Seed)

The defending champion punished opponents last year with four big men who owned the paint. Three of these players are gone, and the team is quite different this season. Roy Williams team is now utilizing stretch fours and fives, while the team is shooting more three-pointers than ever before.

The good news for Carolina, though, is that the success hasn’t dropped off amid big changes. Luke Maye, a walk-on who was last year’s Elite Eight hero, is likely the top player on a balanced team.

9. Michigan (3 Seed)

This Wolverines team is playing the best defense in John Beilen’s tenure. They force opponents to work the clock and eventually take bad shots. If Michigan’s Big Ten tournament title run is any indication, they have the goods to compete for a national championship.

10. Gonzaga (4 Seed)

Gonzaga had their best-ever tournament run last season, culminating in a close title loss to North Carolina. But they lost four of their top six players from that squad, including lottery pick Zach Collins. Nevertheless, this four-loss team has played its way into being a Final Four contender once again.

11. Xavier (1 Seed)

Xavier isn’t getting much love here as a top seed. But they’re also the most-vulnerable of the No. 1 seeds, especially since they don’t have much depth. Trevon Bluiett must do his best job to carry this team, especially if they meet Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

12. Purdue (2 Seed)

Purdue has used a successful formula that includes five different three-point shooters (all 39% or higher) and 7’2″ center Isaac Haas. This inside-outside combo has frustrated opponents all season.

Celtics Futures: Brad Stevens Confirms No Gordon Hayward Won’t Play This Season

gordon-hayward-celticsThe Boston Celtics are having another very good season. They’re currently 44-20, sitting just 1.5 games back of the top-seeded Toronto Raptors (44-17) in the East.

But the team would be doing even better if they had All-Star forward Gordon Hayward healthy. Hayward broke his ankle in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers and hasn’t played a minute since.

Celtics fans were hoping that he could make it back onto the court at some point this season. This was especially the case recently, when he posted a video of himself dribbling and shooting around.

But if there was any hope that Hayward can make it back this season, head Coach Brad Stevens dashed this notion.

“He’s still super long way from even being in a 1-on-1 workout where he’s cutting,” Stevens told reporters.

Stevens Wants to Focus on the Current Roster – Not Hayward’s Small Chance of Playing

Given that there are less than 20 games left in the regular season and Hayward isn’t even close to 1-on-1 drills, it’s a given that he won’t be ready for playoff basketball in April.

Stevens has essentially known all along that there’s a very slim chance his star forward would play. And he’s been saying over and over that he doesn’t think Hayward will suit up. But this is the most definitive he’s been about saying so.

Celtics Thinking about the Future

Sure, Boston could try to rush Hayward back in hopes that he could support a playoff run. But this Celtics team has been focused on building for the future ever since the 2014 steal they got in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

GM Danny Ainge used the assets from this trade to construct a team that’s capable of competing for the Eastern Conference title year in and year out.

Having Hayward slowly work his way back into shape only fits the notion that Boston wants to get him ready for next season. This is especially the case when considering that Hayward’s ankle was reportedly swollen and purple during All-Star weekend.

Celtics Still Have Plenty Left to Chase Title

kyrie-irving-celticsBoston’s hopes for winning the East and competing for the NBA championship would be far better if they had Hayward. But it’s not like the cupboard is totally bare right now.

The team still has All-NBA point guard Kyrie Irving (24.8 PPG) leading the charge. And he has an excellent supporting cast with Jaylon Brown (14.0 PPG), Jayson Tatum (13.2 PPG), Al Horford (12.8 PPG), Marcus Morris (12.8 PPG), Terry Rozier (10.4 PPG), Marcus Smart (10.1 PPG), and Greg Monroe (8.3 PPG).

The Celtics are still within striking distance of earning the top seed in the East before the playoffs start. Overtaking the Raptors would give Boston home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Even if they can’t catch Toronto, the Celtics would still have home court in the first round and semifinals. This is huge, assuming they run into the Cavs (36-26) in the second round. And the way the standings currently shape up, this is a definite possibility.

Boston Celtics 2018 Futures

While Boston currently holds a 6-game lead over Cleveland, they’re still not favored to win the East in our GTBets NBA futures. The Cavs are a big favorite at -120, mainly because LeBron James is still the top of his game. Furthermore, Cleveland has been the East champions three seasons in a row.

Boston is also sitting behind Toronto in our odds. Assuming they can move past the Raptors in the standings, then they’ll likely move up in our NBA futures too.

Boston currently has the fifth-best odds (+2000) odds of winning the NBA title. Aside from being behind Cleveland (+750) and Toronto (+1400), they’re also behind the Golden State Warriors (-200) and Houston Rockets (+250).

The team felt like they had a “formula” to beat the Warriors last year, thanks to two victories over the eventual champions. But that was with a very different roster, and there’s been a lot of turnover this season.

It’d be interesting to see how this new-look Celtics team performs in the playoffs. Last year, they made the Eastern Conference Finals and were beaten by the Cavs 4-1.

Here’s a look at our NBA futures as of now:

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Futures

  • Cleveland -120
  • Toronto +310
  • Boston +400
  • Milwaukee +2000
  • Philadelphia +2000
  • Washington +2000
  • Indiana +7500

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000

Did Jimmy Butler Take a Big Risk with Meniscus Surgery to Play in 2018?

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnJimmy Butler recently suffered a meniscus injury to his right knee. He underwent successful surgery and could see the court again in as little as four weeks.

This has to make the team feel good, given that they feared Butler was lost for the year when he crumpled to the floor. But it’s also possible that he’s put his long-term health in jeopardy by choosing to have a specific meniscus surgery.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that Butler could’ve opted for a full meniscus repair and returned in the 2018-19 campaign. But he instead went with a different surgery and shorter recovery timeline.

“An NBA executive explained to me that the Yahoo Sports’ timeline suggests that the torn part of the meniscus will be “shaved” via arthroscopic surgery, which often leads to a faster recovery, but can lead to pain or complications down the line,” writes O’Connor.

“The alternative was for Butler to undergo a full repair, which involves sewing the tear together like you might mend ripped jeans. That route would have produced fewer potential complications, but also would have sidelined him the rest of the season.”

Did Coach Tom Thibodeau’s Culture Influence This Decision?

Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has always been a hard-driving coach who preaches hustle and strong defense regardless of the situation. And Butler, who also played for Thibodeau in Chicago, has thrived under this system.

But there will inevitably be people who question whether Thibodeaeu’s team culture influenced Butler to make this decision.

After all, his system calls for toughness and a willingness to play through pain. And questions will arise if Butler has more problems flare up in the same knee.

However, this is also merely speculation and nobody outside the organization truly knows the full story. In fact, there are times where a full repair isn’t an option.

And considering how competitive Butler is, he likely opted for surgery that would help him return to the court sooner than later.

What Kind of Future is Butler Looking at?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injury-1Butler is currently 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He’s had a great season so far too, averaging 22.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 SPG.

But how he rebounds from this knee surgery will go a long way towards determining his NBA future. Assuming everything is alright, he may sign another big deal with the Timberwolves. Or he might find a more-lucrative deal elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor on what could happen between Minnesota and Butler when his deal ends in 2019 (player option) or 2020:

“Butler will make $20.4 million in 2018-19 and has a $19.8 million player option for 2019-20. If he declines his option and signed an extension this summer, Butler’s deal would start at “only” $24.5 million in 2019-20 but provide immediate long-term security.

“If he waits until next summer, he could earn 30 percent of the 2019-20 salary cap—or roughly $32.4 million (based on a projected salary cap of $108 million). Long-term security is nice, so that’s not a bad deal for a player who has missed a lot of games with injuries in the past and whose aggressive style doesn’t exactly bode well for a long, sustainable career.”

O’Connor adds that Butler could even decline his player option in 2019-20 and test the free agent market. Again, as long as his knee is at full strength, he’ll fetch a giant contract from somebody.

Minnesota may decide that they’re not willing to pay him, given how expensive their younger players are. Andrew Wiggins already inked a maximum extension in October, which he hasn’t justified so far.

butler-wiggins-townsGorgui Dieng was re-signed to a deal that’s he’s not playing up to. And this lasts until the 2020-21 campaign. Jeff Teague is also on an expensive contract through the 2019-20 season.

Then there’s Karl-Anthony Towns, whom the team will look to keep at all costs. Towns is going to be a free agent in 2019 and will command a max deal with the T-Wolves, or wherever he goes.

Butler is still more valuable than any of these players in the immediate future. But Minnesota must still evaluate his injury history before re-signing him when the time comes.

2018 Minnesota Timberwolves Futures

The Timberwolves opened the 2017-18 season as darkhorse title contenders after trading for Butler. And they’ve played up to this billing so far, sitting at 38-28 and fourth place in the Western Conference right now.

But as can be seen in our 2018 NBA futures at GTBets, Minnesota doesn’t have a great chance to win the title. They currently have the 9th best odds at +8000.

Will these odds change with a healthy Butler? We’ll soon find out in the coming weeks.

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000

Denver Broncos Targeting Kirk Cousins in 2018

kirk-cousins-steelersThe Denver Broncos were one of the biggest disappointments of the 2017-18 NFL season. And the main reason why Denver went from Super Bowl hopefuls to a 5-11 record is because they had no quarterback consistency. But general manager John Elway thinks that Kirk Cousins could help solve this problem.

According to Yahoo Sports, the Broncos see Cousins as an “all-in” target when free agency kicks off on March 14. Cousins had three strong seasons in a row as a full-time starter for the Washington Redskins. And he would be a huge upgrade over the team’s QB options last year.

Roadblocks to Denver Landing Kirk Cousins

Signing Cousins isn’t going to be cheap. And the Broncos don’t have an abundance of salary cap room at this time. But sources told Yahoo Sports that the team is currently looking at scenarios to free up between “$40 million and $50 million” in cap space before the offseason.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll sign Cousins even if they have the available money. Multiple factors will come into play on both sides, including how many years the contract will be, guaranteed money, and how successful the team could be in the future.

It’s possible that Cousins meets with the team and decides that he doesn’t think they have a chance to win in the immediate future. Or he could simply not like the organization from an overall standpoint.

On Denver’s side, they may not want to commit significant guaranteed money if they can find a solid, cheaper QB prospect.

Competition for Cousins is Intense

kirk-cousins-nflAnother thing that could prevent the Broncos from signing Cousins is the competition for the quarterback’s services.

Denver is far from the only team in the hunt for this star QB. The Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, and Cleveland Browns are all reportedly interested in Cousins.

Each of these teams may have to deal with the fact that Cousins will want a different deal from the average long-term QB contract, which is 7 years with optional years from seasons 5-7.

His contract might be a 3-year or 4-year deal, with salaries that are nearly guaranteed each season. Such a deal would favor Cousins, because he’d get plenty of money and the chance to revisit the negotiating table before he turns 33 years old.

Many teams like the common 7-year deal for franchise quarterbacks, because they can better control the fifth, sixth and seventh years. That said, one or more of the aforementioned teams may ultimately decide that they don’t want to engage in a 3 or 4-year contract.

Signing Cousins will Take Away from Other Team Needs

kirk-cousins-2016Another issue with chasing Cousins is that teams will have to sacrifice in other areas of their football team. This is something that Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t seem thrilled about.

“Part of the reason we’ve been winning games and staying in games is because we’ve been playing good on defense and we’ve been a smart team and all those things,” Zimmer explained.

“I want to be really careful about taking away from our strength and saying, ‘OK, we’re not going to be able to do this and we’re not going to be able to do that anymore because of financial reasons or something else.”

Of course, Zimmer of may change his mind when he and the team eventually meet with Cousins in free agency.

Speaking of which, teams will be able to officially exchange contract figures on March 12, just before the free agency period officially starts. Cousins is expected to earn a lucrative deal and will compare offers from different teams.

Cousins Free Agency is Reminiscent of Peyton Manning

Back in the 2012 off-season, Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning was highly sought after by multiple teams. He met with different franchises before deciding on the Broncos. It would be like deja vu if Cousins did the same and also settled in Denver.

peyton-manning-chiefsHowever, a lot must happen before this becomes a reality. The next two weeks for Cousins will be a rush as he meets with different franchises who are looking for a really good quarterback.

On Cousins side, he’ll not only want a big deal – which is almost guaranteed after three straight years of 4,000+ passing yards – but he’ll also want to play for a winner.

Cousins and the Redskins had some solid years together. But the roster around him was never good enough to make a serious run in the playoffs.

The Browns and Jets probably won’t offer an immediate chance to win. Denver has pieces in place to be a winner, but they’re also coming off a poor 2017 campaign. Minnesota made the NFC championship last season. But as Zimmer noted, they may not want to mess with their formula too much.

In summary, there are still plenty of questions before we find out what uniform Kirk Cousins will be wearing next season.

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.