NBA News & Notes: Kobe goes out with vintage performance, Warriors first to reach 73 wins

April 15, 2016

In the DSH's latest NBA News and Notes report, we take a look at Kobe Bryant's grand exit from the game, the Golden State Warriors record-setting victory, and all the latest league news:

Warriors Set NBA Record with 73rd Win 

The 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors earned their 73rd victory of the 2015-16 season with a 125-104 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the regular-season finale at Oracle Arena, eclipsing the mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72) to establish a new NBA record for single season wins.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 46 points on 10 made threes (10-of-19 3FG), making him the first player in NBA history to hit 400 threes in a single season (402) and giving him a season scoring average of 30.1 points.

Curry, who became the seventh player in league annals to hit at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line, is the first guard to average 30 points on at least 50 percent from the field since Michael Jordan in 1991-92, scoring 30 points per game in fewer minutes than any player.

With the win, the Warriors finished the season with a 39-2 (.951) record at home, matching the franchise-record for single season home wins set in 2014-15. At 73-9 (.890), Golden State finishes the season at an NBA-record 64 games above .500.

Golden State will meet Houston in the First Round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs on Saturday, April 16 at 12:30 p.m. (PDT).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the Golden State Warriors’ record-setting 73rd win:

“Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on their 73rd win and the best regular-season record in NBA history. The team held itself to a high standard throughout the season, playing with purpose every night and captivating fans around the world with its free-flowing style, spectacular shooting and flair for the dramatic. Kudos to the entire Warriors organization.”

Wizards fire coach Randy Wittman

Following a disappointing season that ended with a .500 record and a failure to secure a playoff berth, the Washington Wizards announced that they will not pick up the option on the contract of Head Coach Randy Wittman.

“There were high internal and external expectations for this team coming into this season based on the momentum we had generated over the previous two years,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld. “Unfortunately, the inconsistency of the team’s performance and effort, particularly on our home court, did not allow us to meet those expectations and we decided a coaching change was needed.”

Wittman was originally promoted to head coach on January 24, 2012, and compiled a 178-199 (.472) overall record in four-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards. During his tenure, the team advanced to the second round of the playoffs twice (2014 and 2015).

“Randy should be commended for the job he did in taking over as head coach during a very difficult time for our franchise and for helping to establish a culture and identity that led to success,” said Grunfeld. “This was a very tough decision on a personal level, and we wish Randy and his family the best moving forward.”

Kobe Bryant concludes career with 60-point effort

In a career filled with great individual performances, Kobe Bryant went out in style in his final game, putting up 60 points on 22 for 50 shooting to power the Lakers to a fourth-quarter comeback victory at home over the Utah Jazz, 101-96.

The Bryant love fest started well before the game when the greatest Laker of all time, Magic Johnson, gave a speech about Bryant prior to the game.  Many of Bryant's former teammates were in attendance as well, and once the ball tipped off, Bryant made sure to put on a show.

After a slow start, Bryant began to find his groove, and his Laker teammates, encouraged by the crowd, began to look for him almost exclusively.  Bryant, like the great ones often do, responded to the moment, delivering shot after clutch shot in the second half to erase a deficit and put the Lakers ahead in the closing minutes.

The performance was vintage Kobe, and captured all the elements that have made him such a controversial figure over the years -- high volume shooting (some might say ballhogging), questionable shot selection, high-degree-of-difficulty shot-making, all-out effort, and a knack for delivering in the clutch.

The win and 60 point explosion temporarily erased the sting of what has been the worst season in Lakers history.  A season that happened on Bryant's watch, no less.

In fact, Bryant for several reasons, should take much of the blame for this year's vaudeville act.  Starting with his refusal to take a Tim Duncan-like hometown discount, the Lakers struggled acquire players in free agency, and were limited to courting one max free agent at a time, rather than possibly inking two and making their team a more appealing destination.

Bryant also undermined much of the team concept coach Byron Scott was trying to convey to his young players, as the internal team rules did not apply to the veteran superstar in the same manner that it did to the kids.

But most of all, Bryant's play, the one thing he has been able to count on all these years, was one of the largest factors in the team's demise, as he was a mere shadow of his former self and was one of the most inefficient players in the league.

When the game was over, an exhausted Bryant spoke at mid-court to the crowd for the final time, concluding with the words, "Mamba out."

Whether you love or hate the polarizing Bryant, one thing is certain, things just became a lot more boring in Lakerland.

Norman Powell, Karl-Anthony Towns named NBA Rookies of the Month

The Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns today were named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Powell, a UCLA product, helped the Raptors to a 6-2 record behind averages of 15.3 points (tops in the Eastern Conference), 4.4 rebounds (seventh), 2.5 assists (tied-fifth) and 1.4 steals (third).  He scored in double figures in six of eight games and shot 54.8 percent from the field.

In Toronto’s regular-season finale, Powell scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting (including 5-of-6 from three-point range) and added nine rebounds and five assists during the Raptors’ 103-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Towns becomes the first player to sweep a season of Kia NBA Rookie of the Month awards since the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard in 2012-13.  In April, Towns helped the Timberwolves to a 4-3 mark as he led all rookies in scoring (18.9 ppg), rebounding ( 11.7 rpg), blocks (1.7 bpg) and minutes (35.6 mpg).

Towns capped his first NBA season with his 51st double-double (third most in the NBA) when he tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds during Minnesota’s 144-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on April 13.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, New York’s Jerian Grant, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, and Utah’s Trey Lyles.

NBA 2016 Draft tie-breakers announced 

Ties among teams that finished the 2015-16 NBA regular season with identical records were broken through random drawings to help determine the order of selection for NBA Draft 2016, which will be held on Thursday, June 23.

The drawings were conducted live on NBA TV in New York City by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.  The tiebreak process was overseen by Denise Pelli, a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst and Young.

The results of the drawings:
  • Sacramento (33-49) won a tiebreaker with Denver and Milwaukee; Denver then won a tiebreaker with Milwaukee.
  • Dallas (42-40) won a tiebreaker with Memphis.
  • Detroit (44-38) won a tiebreaker with Portland.
  • Atlanta (48-34) won a tiebreaker with Boston, Charlotte and Miami; Charlotte then won a tiebreaker with Boston and Miami; Boston then won a tiebreaker with Miami.

LeBron James and James Harden named NBA Players of the Month

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

James, who captured his third consecutive monthly honor, led the Eastern Conference in scoring (28.8 ppg) while shooting 65.6 percent from the field (second in the East), including a conference-best 56.3 percent (9-for-16) from three-point range.  He added 8.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists (third in the East) in a conference-high 36.9 minutes.

James scored at least 30 points in three of his five games, including a 34-point performance against the Hawks on April 11, when the Cavs clinched the top seed in the East playoffs with a 109-94 victory.  He also grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds in a 110-108 overtime win over the Hawks on April 1.

Harden led the NBA in scoring (34.8 ppg) as the Rockets closed the season 4-2 to secure the final playoff spot in the West.  He shot 49.3 percent from the field and ranked fifth in the West in three-point shooting at 51.7 percent (30-for-58).

Harden also ranked fifth in the conference in assists (7.2 apg) and second in minutes (38.9 mpg).  He scored at least 30 points in five of six games and hit the 40-point mark twice.  On April 13, he scored 38 points as the Rockets clinched a playoff berth by defeating the Sacramento Kings 116-81.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month included Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Phoenix’s Mirza Teletovic, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, and Washington’s John Wall.

NBA Approves Sale of Jersey Sponsorships

This probably is not a good thing, but NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of jersey sponsorships, beginning with the 2017-18 season, as part of a three-year pilot program.  The sponsorship patch will appear on the front left of the game jerseys opposite the Nike logo.  Patches will measure approximately 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches and be adjusted to fit the dimensions of each sponsor’s logo.

The NBA’s 30 teams will be responsible for selling their own jersey sponsorships.

“Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.”

The sponsor patch will not appear on the retail versions of the player jerseys, but teams will have the option to sell the jerseys with sponsor patches in their own retail outlets.

Frank Vogel and Doc Rivers named NBA Coaches of the Month

The Indiana Pacers’ Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Rivers guided the Clippers, the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, to a 6-1 record, tops in the West.  The Clippers surrendered 100 or more points just twice in seven games and held opponents to an average of 94.1 points on a league-low 40.6 percent shooting from the field.  L.A. posted back-to-back home wins over two West playoff teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, on April 10 and 12, rounding out a 4-0 month at Staples Center.

Rivers also received the award in February of 2016 and April of 2015. He is the third Clippers coach in franchise history to earn the honor (Vinny Del Negro, December, 2012 and Larry Brown, March, 1992).

The Clippers ended the season with a 53-29 mark, their fourth straight season of at least 53 wins.

Vogel led the Pacers to the best record in the Eastern Conference at 6-1.  The Pacers won their final three games and held off the Detroit Pistons for the seventh seed in the East playoffs.  Indiana averaged 108 points per game and shot a conference-best 49.3 percent from the field in April.  Four of the Pacers’ six wins came by double digits, and their +8.6 scoring differential led the conference.

Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Boston’s Brad Stevens, Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, Portland’s Terry Stotts, and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.

Timberwolves Begin Search for New Coach

The Minnesota Timberwolves have announced Sam Mitchell has been relieved of his interim head coaching duties, effective immediately, and the team will initiate a search for both a new head coach and a new head of basketball operations.

Due to the sudden onset of Flip Saunders’ illness leading to his untimely death, the team was unable to conduct a search for these two critical positions in the timetable leading up to the start of the 2015-16 season. In these unusual circumstances, Sam Mitchell was named to interim head coach and Milt Newton was asked to act as the head of basketball operations, filling the void left by Saunders.

“I would like to thank both Sam and Milt for a good job under very difficult circumstances in guiding our team this season,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. “They were put in a historically challenging position as no team in NBA history has had an active head coach pass away. Both men provided our team with continuity and direction for the 2015-16 season. We will always be grateful to Sam for his contributions this season and wish him and his family the best in the future.”

With the conclusion of the season a comprehensive search can take place to fill both vacancies. The search will focus exclusively on candidates outside the current organization.

“The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves has never been brighter,” said Taylor. “It’s important that we find the best leaders to shape our talented team and help them realize their full potential. We owe it to our fans, our community and to our players to ensure our team has the best chance possible of winning an NBA title.

The team’s search for these two basketball leadership positions will be wide-ranging and extensive. Milt Newton will continue to serve as General Manager as the new leadership team is assembled.

NBA reduces time on replay reviews

NBA referees spent significantly less time reviewing calls this season as the NBA Replay Center stepped up its efforts to improve efficiency and maintain the flow of the game.  The average review time was reduced by nearly 25 percent, dropping from 42.1 seconds during the 2014-15 season to 31.9 seconds.

Overall, the average review time has been trimmed by more than one minute since the state-of-the-art NBA Replay Center was unveiled last season to enhance the performance of NBA referees.  A review officially starts when the headset is put on by an oncourt referee and ends upon removal.

This season, in addition to the three referees working each game, current NBA referees were staffed in the NBA Replay Center for all games to make decisions on certain replay situations and facilitate the on-the-court review of others.  With the NBA Replay Center ruling on more than half of all replays, oncourt referees were able to resume play faster.

NBA Statement on North Carolina LGBT law

The following statement has been issued by Mike Bass, Executive Vice President, NBA Communications:

“During a media availability earlier today following the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Adam Silver clarified that the NBA remains deeply concerned about its ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, in light of recent legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community.  At no time did Adam affirm that the league would not move the All-Star Game; rather he stressed repeatedly that the legislation is problematic, that we feel it is best to engage with the community to work towards a solution, that change is needed and we are hopeful that it will occur.”

NBA ratings up

The NBA concluded one of its most memorable regular seasons in history with viewership increases for all four of its national networks: ABC, TNT, ESPN and NBA TV.

Combined viewership for ABC, TNT and ESPN averaged 1.9 million viewers – up eight percent over last year – and the highest year-to-year increase since the 2010-11 season.  Additionally, NBA TV had its most-viewed live game coverage ever averaging 345,000 viewers, a 19 percent increase from last season.

ESPN2 delivered its most-viewed NBA game in its history when it televised Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers last NBA game against the Utah Jazz (April 13: 3,465,000 viewers).

NBA TV presented its two most-viewed games in history this season (Warriors vs. Spurs on April 10: 2,561,000 viewers; Warriors vs. Spurs on Jan. 25: 1,442,000 viewers).

Cavs' Mo Williams still out

Cavaliers guard Mo Williams recently received additional evaluation of his left knee in New York from Dr. David Altcheck. Williams is currently undergoing a treatment and rehabilitation process and is listed as Out for this Sunday afternoon’s Game One of the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs series in Cleveland at The Q vs. the Detroit Pistons.

His status for Game Two of the series (Wednesday night in Cleveland) will be updated early next week.

By Staff of and news services

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