Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical

  • How Michael Jordan's hire rescued his Hornets

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 1 hr ago

    MIAMI – It was 11:20 p.m., and Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford had slipped out the back door of his news conference and marched out to his seat on the bus. He had the dome light on, his ear to the phone and history's greatest NBA playoff closer on the line.

    “Michael was happy,” Clifford told the Vertical, “but …”

    A little later on Wednesday night, as his players waited to be whisked away from an improbable Game 5 victory on the shores of Biscayne Bay, Clifford was back outside and trying to get his mind on Game 6, the biggest of his coaching career.

    Yes, Charlotte owner Michael Jordan had been thrilled about the first road playoff victory of his ownership regime, but Clifford nodded with complete agreement now.

    “He knows Friday is going to be a lot harder,” Clifford told The Vertical.

    Only a week ago, this would’ve been hard to imagine: After leaving Miami with brutal losses in Games 1 and 2, the Hornets left American Airlines Arena on Wednesday night in a most improbable way: Holding the franchise’s first road playoff victory in 14 years, clutching a 3-2 series lead against the Heat.

    “Now, we’re there,” Clifford told The Vertical. “We’ve got to put one good game together.”

  • Kyle Lowry on Raptors advancing past first round: 'We have to do this'

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 23 hrs ago

    Perhaps this Eastern Conference series shouldn’t be such a struggle for a No. 2 seed with 56 regular-season victories, but the truth is unmistakable: Winning a playoff series has transformed into a monstrosity for the Raptors.

    “The crowd is waiting,” Ujiri told The Vertical. “The fans are waiting. The city is waiting. The whole country is waiting. We hope we can do it for everybody. And the players, I know they feel it.”

    Hours earlier in the corridor of the arena late Tuesday, Ujiri had been chatting with the most famous Raptors fan of all. Drake had exhaled too, and shared a laugh with Ujiri and Raptors executive Jeff Weltman over a past postseason memory. Fifteen years of fervor since Vince Carter led the team past the New York Knicks in 2001, 15 years of regular-season futility and playoff failures linger like a fog rolling off Lake Ontario.

    “It’s there,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told The Vertical. “We can’t hide from it. … Listen, you’ve got to go through something as a program. Five years into our program [as a coaching staff], and the expectation level is through the roof.

    “For our program, this next step is the hardest one to get … one of the hardest things to do in sports.”

  • Sources: David Blatt meets with Knicks about coaching job

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt met with New York Knicks president Phil Jackson on Monday to discuss the franchise’s coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.

    Interim coach Kurt Rambis has remained a strong frontrunner to become the full-time coach, and it is unclear if the Blatt meeting was more than a token appearance in a coaching search. Jackson has been determined to continue to run his triangle offense, and Rambis has been a loyal disciple of the system.

    Blatt, 59, has history with Knicks general manager Steve Mills. They played together at Princeton in the 1970s.

    After reaching the NBA Finals in his first NBA season and starting 2015-16 with a 30-11 record, Blatt was fired as Cleveland Cavaliers coach in January. He was 83-40 in his Cavaliers tenure. Blatt joined the NBA after an illustrious two decades of pronounced success in the Euroleague and with FIBA basketball as the Russian national coach.

    Rambis has a career record of 65-164, including a 9-19 mark as the Knicks’ interim coach following the firing of Derek Fisher this season.

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  • Woj Report: The Warriors without Steph

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago
  • Sources: Kings interview Vinny Del Negro for head-coaching job

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    The Sacramento Kings interviewed Vinny Del Negro for the franchise’s head-coaching job on Monday, league sources told The Vertical.

    Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson is expected to meet with Kings officials as soon as Tuesday for an interview, league sources said.

    Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac has been conducting the meetings and is expected to have the strongest voice in the eventual hiring.

    The Kings are considering a large pool of candidates to replace George Karl, who was fired at the end of the regular season.

    After leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the best regular season in history at the time with 56 victories in 2012-13, Del Negro wasn't offered a new contract. The Clippers were eliminated in a first-round playoff series against Memphis – a year after beating Memphis to reach the conference semifinals.

    Del Negro, 49, was the 29th overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft by the Kings and played his first two NBA seasons in Sacramento.

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  • Steph Curry could miss two weeks

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    Curry underwent an MRI on Monday that showed no structural damage to his knee, and the opportunity remains for him to return to the playoffs within 14 days – which would mean he could be healthy enough to play later in the Western Conference semifinals. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

    The Vertical first reported the MRI results and timetable.

    The Warriors lead the Houston Rockets 3-1 in their first-round Western Conference series, with Game 5 on Wednesday.

    Curry injured the knee late in the second quarter of the Warriors' 121-94 Game 4 victory on Sunday in Houston.

    The Warriors would play the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Portland Trail Blazers series in the West semifinals.

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  • Lakers fire coach Byron Scott

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    The Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Byron Scott.

    Scott had two team options left on his contract, but the Lakers told Scott on Sunday that he won't be returning for a third season as head coach.

    The Lakers move into the coaching market after two prominent coaches who had interest in Los Angeles – Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks – accepted new jobs in recent days.

    The Lakers did not dismiss Scott with his successor already in place, league sources said. General manager Mitch Kupchak and ownership will run a search.

    Possible candidates to replace Scott could include Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, league sources said.

    Scott was 38-126 in two seasons, including a 17-65 record this season.

  • Sources: Scott Brooks agrees to coach Wizards

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Scott Brooks has agreed in principle to a five-year, $35 million contract to become head coach of the Washington Wizards, league sources told The Vertical.

    Brooks' deal moves him into the elite of the highest-paid coaches in the league who don't also hold front-office power. Brooks’ $7 million annual package is comparable to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle's contract.

    Brooks met with Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld and vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard throughout the day on Wednesday in Southern California and discussed the parameters of a partnership to take over the Wizards.

    Washington had been searching for a coach to replace Randy Wittman, who was fired at season's end. Grunfeld wanted a coach with the ability to build a strong relationship and earn the respect of star players John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards expected to be a playoff team this year, but fell back into the lottery.

    Brooks was fired after the 2015 season in Oklahoma City, where he went 338-207 in seven seasons as coach of the Thunder. He led the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals.

    Brooks coached Durant for seven seasons with the Thunder.

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  • Remembering the legend of the late, great Pearl Washington

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    Sixteen years ago, Pearl Washington was moving through the stands of the Convocation Center in Cleveland, wearing a WSYR-AM radio press credential for the Syracuse Orangemen's Midwest Regional NCAA tournament game. He kept moving from empty seat to empty seat on press row, until someone tapped the college basketball icon on his shoulder and told Pearl that the seat belonged to them.

    He loved to watch these Orange games, and loved to stay close. All those Syracuse players wanted to be the Pearl, and Pearl Washington still wanted to be them. The Pearl was bigger than life, and that's so much of why it agonized everyone to watch brain cancer slowly, surely take Dwayne Washington. He passed on Wednesday morning, 52 years old, and is still remembered for three glorious seasons in snowy upstate New York that forever impacted college basketball.

    "I threw a punch – and thank God I missed him."

    "You'd do it every time to see that."

    "Hey Pearl," one of the Syracuse players yelled to him. "We're on our way!"

  • Sources: Wizards offer head-coaching job to Scott Brooks

    Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld met with Scott Brooks on Wednesday in Southern California, offering him the franchise’s head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.

    Brooks has been enthusiastic about reaching an agreement with the Wizards and could complete negotiations on a contract that will pay him in the range of $7 million a season, league sources told The Vertical.

    Brooks was fired after the 2015 season in Oklahoma City, where he went 338-207 in seven seasons as coach of the Thunder. He led the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals.

    Jeff Van Gundy has been the Houston Rockets’ No. 1 choice, but he is unwilling to talk to the organization while a coach – in this instance, J.B. Bickerstaff – is in place, sources said. Houston and Van Gundy are expected to engage once the Rockets are eliminated from the playoffs and see if there is a chance for them to partner for a second time, league sources said.

    Van Gundy was 182-146 in four seasons with the Rockets, leaving in 2007.

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