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Celtics’ Horford (illness) questionable for Game 2

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* Tonight on TNT:   Game 2, Pacers vs. Celtics

The Boston Celtics may have to build on their 1-0 first-round series lead without one of their top players. 

Center Al Horford is listed as questionable tonight with an illness, the Celtics announced this morning. In Boston’s Game 1 win against the Indiana Pacers, Horford finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes.

Horford has been key in Boston’s recent playoff runs, starting and playing in 37 playoff games over the last two postseasons.

 

Are the Celtics reverting back into their playoff form from 2017-18?

If Horford were to miss Game 2, centers Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis would likely see an uptick in minutes. In addition, the Celtics could potentially move reserve forwards Marcus Morris or Gordon Hayward into a starting role. Baynes started in Game 1 in what was a new-look starting crew for Boston that also included Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Horford.

During the season, the Celtics used 23 different starting lineups, with its most popular lineup consisting of Tatum, Morris, Horford, Irving and (now injured guard) Marcus Smart. That group started 33 games together, but coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday he went with a new starting lineup out of necessity and by choice.

“For us, it wasn’t as much about starting big … as it was really re-establishing a defensive identity with our team with Baynes in the game,” Stevens explained after Tuesday’s practice session, per Celtics.com.

A potential absence by Horford tonight would likely mean another starting lineup switch for the Celtics.



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Report: Chris Paul wants out of Houston

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The Houston Rockets have major decisions to make this offseason, especially if the latest reports from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports are true. 

According to Goodwill, the dynamic between Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul has become “unsalvageable” after a difficult season in Houston.

The relationship has reportedly reached the point where Paul demanded a trade and Harden issued a “him or me” ultimatum after the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Here’s more from Goodwill on the reported problems in Houston:

The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise.

Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games.

[…]

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

Paul’s injury-related absences and grating personality have annoyed Harden, sources said.

[…]

Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season.

Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench.

“It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.

If the Rockets do decide to trade Paul, they may have a difficult time finding a trade partner. The 34-year old guard reportedly is due to make $38.5 million, $41.3 million and $44.2 million over the next three seasons, which would be a lot of salary for another team to absorb in a trade. 

Paul — who missed 24 regular season games due to injury — finished the 2018-19 season with averages of 15.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals.



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Lawyer: Deputy in clash with Ujiri has concussion

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP)  — A deputy suffered a concussion and is on medical leave after an altercation with the president of the Toronto Raptors as he tried to join his team on the court to celebrate their NBA championship, a lawyer said Tuesday.

The 20-year-veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office also has a serious jaw injury and is considering filing a lawsuit against Raptors President Masai Ujiri, attorney David Mastagni said.

“The officer is off work, disabled and wants to go back to work,” Mastagni said. The name of the deputy has not been released.

The clash between the deputy and Ujiri happened as the deputy checked court-access credentials after the game Thursday in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

Authorities say Ujiri tried to walk past the deputy but the deputy stopped him because he didn’t see Ujiri’s on-court credentials.

Ujiri pushed the deputy, who pushed him back before Ujiri “made a second, more significant shove and during that shove his arm struck our deputy in the side of the head,” sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said. He said Ujiri also shouted obscenities.

Several bystanders intervened and Ujiri got onto the court without displaying any credentials, Kelly said.

Investigators were questioning witnesses and the office hopes to file a report to prosecutors this week recommending a misdemeanor battery charge against Ujiri, Kelly said.

They are also reviewing footage from body cameras worn by the deputy along with footage from the arena surveillance system and cellphones.

The office does not plan to release the deputy’s body camera footage to the public during the investigation, Kelly said.

Kelly confirmed the officer is on medical leave.

The Raptors said last week the team was cooperating with the investigation and gathering information on its own. It had no further comment Tuesday.

Warriors fan Greg Wiener, who witnessed the altercation, said last week the incident began when the deputy put his hand on Ujiri’s chest and pushed him. Ujiri shoved him back before bystanders intervened, Wiener said.

He also said then that there was no conversation between the deputy and Ujiri. But on Tuesday, he said he remembered the officer shouting, “No one gets on the court without credentials.”

Wiener said he recalled the detail “after thinking about it all weekend.”

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Study: NBA, WNBA earn high grades in diversity hiring

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)  —  A diversity report shows the NBA still leads men’s professional sports leagues in racial and gender hiring practices.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Tuesday indicated almost identical scores from last year. The grade for racial hiring was an A-plus with an unchanged 98.7 score. The grade for gender hiring was a B, but slid slightly to 80.9.

The overall grade was an A at 89.8. That was better than Major League Soccer’s B-plus, the NFL with a B and Major League Baseball with a B-minus. The NHL doesn’t participate in the study.

The only professional league with a higher grade from the past year was the WNBA, with an overall A-plus and 97.6 score.

Richard Lapchick, the TIDES director and lead report author, said the NBA has “always had a leadership position” regarding diversity initiatives. The study’s release comes less than a week after the Cleveland Cavaliers hired California women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb from the college level as an assistant coach, making her the seventh woman serving as an assistant coach or player development staffer.

“We always look forward to this report in particular because we know we’re going to see encouraging things,” Lapchick said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The study examined the racial and gender breakdowns in numerous areas, such as players, coaches, trainers, front-office staffers at the team level and positions at the NBA headquarters. It reviewed data from the 2018-19 season.

The report was particularly good for the NBA league office. It earned an A-plus for racial hiring with 37.6% of professional staff positions filled by people of color, the highest percentage recorded in the study. Women made up 39.7% of those positions for a gender grade of B-plus.

Those were both better than scores for the team level, where people of color made up 31.6% of team management positions (still an A-plus) and women filled 30.9% of those positions for a gender grade of a C.

The league also had 10 head coaches of color among the 30 franchises to start the season and earned an A-plus for its initiatives to promote diversity. Lapchick pointed to an emphasis starting under former commissioner David Stern in the 1980s.

“The NBA is the only league that didn’t have to enact a Rooney rule,” said Lapchick, referring to the NFL’s rule requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a head coach.

“They’ve just been hiring the best candidates and bringing in a diverse pool of candidates since David took over. And then he pushed that to the team level, where they don’t have control but they do have a lot of influence.”

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