Tuesday, June 22, 2021

For four key teams, the low season begins early

Stone: This Pacers fan reacted with dismay to reports over the weekend, including one from me, that Indiana was interested in Stotts after he was expelled by the Portland Trail Blazers – but before Indiana actually had an opening. I also get that horror completely. It can sometimes be a cold, cold league, and this is definitely one of those times.

Bjorkgren has been in limbo since reports of friction in his first season as Pacers coach appeared in early May. It was then difficult to imagine how Bjorkgren, as a rookie coach whose most remarkable previous head-coaching experience came in the G-League, could survive such an open discussion of tumult behind the scenes.

Kevin Pritchard, Indiana’s president of basketball operations, only added to the uncertainty at a virtual news conference on May 24 when he said he “does not undertake in any way” to bring Bjorkgren back to year 2. The working conditions in league circles since this statement were , that the Pacers tried to determine through back channels whether they had a shot at hiring a proven coach like Stotts before deciding Bjorkgren’s fate.

The Pacers clearly will not let Bjorkgren go and then strike out on the top goals, which would only increase their drama, while Nate McMillan, abruptly ousted by Indiana after last season, has the Atlanta Hawks unexpectedly competing for a spot in the East. Conference finals. It is not inconceivable that Bjorkgren could end up staying, perhaps with a relegated staff, but the optics are undoubtedly indecent.

Question: Cheers to all the NBA intelligentsia who tricked us into thinking the Nets Bucks were a series. – @yagofidani from Twitter

Stone: Count me among the guilty. I thought Milwaukee took a significant step forward by sweeping Miami in Round 1. I thought the Bucks with the additions of Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker were as apt to protect the nets as anyone. I certainly thought that hurting James Harden to a hoarding injury in the first minute of Game 1 would hurt the Nets more than it has done.

It’s too early to write off the Bucks as the series shifts to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Thursday, but the prospect of the Nets losing four out of five games – to anyone – is hard to imagine when they move the ball the way they are. Ditto when Blake Griffin looks reborn as a role player and defender, and when the unusual Bruce Brown and Mike James have been so solid.

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