Rob's Rants — LaVar Ball's slippery slope

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Rob's Rants — LaVar Ball's slippery slope

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Big blowhard brand
In news that ranks right behind the sun rising in the East and the Cleveland Browns stinking, LaVar Ball is once again popping off. The latest episode surrounding the carnival barker/helicopter dad comes from his comments to ESPN regarding his son Lonzo's coach, Luke Walton. 

"You can see they're not playing for Luke no more," LaVar said. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him." 

At this point, you would just chalk this up to a guy begging for attention and who doesn't care in the least that said attention does nothing but make life more difficult for his rookie son. The same father who in the last year has also pulled his 16-year-old out of high school because he didn't like the coach and removed his freshman son in college because his school had the audacity to suspend his son for allegedly shop-lifting in a foreign country.

But Ball's latest diarrhea of the mouth has brought about a very interesting reaction from some of Walton's fellow NBA coaches. Namely Rick Carlisle, Stan Van Gundy and Steve Kerr. Carlisle, also president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, and Van Gundy were highly critical of ESPN for writing the story and giving Ball the platform to say what he said. They went as far as threatening non-cooperation with the network when it comes to access, interviews, etc.

This is a slippery slope. Networks, including this one, pay big bucks for the rights to broadcast games. The players and coaches are paid handsomely, in part because of those deals. So there is a partnership. But that pact does not give the coaches or the owners or the leagues the right to tell networks what stories they can or cannot do. You may disagree with Ball, you may be sick of him and the whole circus that follows him, you may hate the TMZ-ization of sports, and I would agree with you. But the reality is, sports are covered differently in 2018 than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Gone are the days of highlight, postgame soundbite, next highlight. For better or worse, debate, controversy, salaciousness sells. 

The leagues do not have the right to dictate content. And Ball has every right to his opinion, even if it is stale and not in the best interest of his kid.

No flow
Let me get this straight, the Flyers and the entire Metropolitan Division have a mandated bye this week? The orange and black last played Sunday and won't play again until Saturday. Keep in mind, the NHL all-star break is coming up later this month and they are off again for five days? The Flyers finally appear to be gaining some consistency, having won three in a row and four of their last five and they're being shut down for six days. Awesome.

The Sixers last played Friday and next play Thursday in London. Granted this is not your typical flight or travel game — the Sixers are considered the home team — but six days in between? Then they don't play again until Tuesday. Two games in the span of nine days in January?   

Timing is everything
Monday night's national championship game between Alabama and Georgia lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes. It ended at 12:10 a.m. I know the argument about the West Coast and splitting your audience when it comes to start times, but Alabama's overtime win over Georgia was a classic and it's a shame that most kids and folks who have to get up early for work missed it.

Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

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Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell's 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs' 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah's 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Pacers use late run to edge Clippers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles' fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games (see full recap).

Jokic, Murray lift Nuggets over Wizards
WASHINGTON -- Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 25 points to keep the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes alive by beating the Washington Wizards 108-100 on Friday night.

The one-two punch of Jokic and Murray plus outside shooting from Will Barton allowed the Nuggets to withstand a third-quarter charge from the Wizards and maintain their sights on one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Denver went into the night two games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz and shot 50 percent from 3-point territory to stay very much in the race with nine games remaining.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 24 points as it failed to gain ground in a competitive East where five teams are separated in the standings by four games (see full recap).

Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

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Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

The Coach of the Year award in every sport typically comes down to: 

1. Which team overachieved the most?

2. Which team increased its win total the most?

3. Which team that fits both descriptions has a media-friendly coach?

Brett Brown is a deserving candidate this season. Not saying he'll win, or even that he stands out as the most deserving, but he's more than just "in the conversation."

Before getting to the other candidates and their likelihood of winning, let's acknowledge why Brown deserves serious consideration. 

We all knew the Sixers would be better this season. A second year of Joel Embiid and the first of Embiid and Ben Simmons. Finally, a good veteran shooter in JJ Redick.

But did you expect the Sixers to up their win total by 20 games? Currently, that's what they're on pace to do.

Did you expect them to pick up wins over the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics, Raptors, Cavs and Spurs again? Yeah, the Sixers have laid some eggs this season, but they have just as many high-quality wins.

Factor in the continued development of players like Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell and it should be clear that Brown has gotten a whole lot out of this team.

Now, on to the other candidates. The way I see it, there are six in addition to Brown: 

• Dwane Casey (Raptors)
• Nate McMillan (Pacers)
• Brad Stevens (Celtics)
• Mike D'Antoni (Rockets)
• Quin Snyder (Jazz)
• Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Just being realistic here, I think Casey wins it. The Raptors will be the 1-seed in the East and may even end up with the NBA's second-best record given the Warriors' injury report.

It goes beyond that, though. Toronto revamped its system to place less stress on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The result has been the emergence of the NBA's best bench. DeRozan is also now shooting threes, a big benefit to the Raps' spacing.

Lastly, Casey is a media darling. He's done the podcast circuit this season, and his long tenure as a personable NBA assistant will help him with voters.

Nate McMillan
McMillan's Pacers have overachieved, but that has so much more to do with Victor Oladipo than anything else. That's not meant to discredit McMillan, but the gap between expectations and reality for Oladipo is the reason the Pacers have surprised. Unless the Pacers finish several games ahead of the Sixers, I can't see McMillan finishing ahead of Brown.

Brad Stevens
The Celtics have faded of late, mostly because of mounting injuries to their backcourt. Stevens deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team 25-plus games over .500 with so many young pieces, but he won't finish ahead of Casey.

Doc Rivers
Rivers' case is dependent on whether or not the Clippers make the playoffs. The Clips, based on talent alone, have no business being 38-33 in a loaded West. They just play extremely hard and have been maybe the hungriest NBA team this season — so many contributions from guys on two-way contracts.

But LA is now 2½ games out of the 8-seed, so we can almost close the book on Rivers for COY.

Mike D'Antoni
The Rockets have been the best team this season and D'Antoni is a huge reason why. The Chris Paul addition is a bigger reason why, but the Rockets are where they are because of how Paul has been integrated into D'Antoni's system, and because Houston is finally focused on defense. D'Antoni should finish in the top three of the Coach of the Year voting, but it's hard to win when you add a veteran superstar in the offseason.

Predicted order of finish: Casey, Brown, Snyder, D'Antoni, Stevens, McMillan, Rivers