NBA Finals

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

One team is looking to three-peat while the other team is appearing in its first NBA Finals ever. So who you got, the Warriors or the Raptors?

Our Blazers Outsiders took a time to give us their picks:

Jake McGrady: Heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. The Raptors are intriguing. Kawhi Leonard is a complete force of nature, a beast in his own right. He's been to the NBA Finals with the Spurs, but he's never been the sole leader and heart of a franchise going into the finals. I think something interesting is going to happen and at the least, the series will go farther than people are predicting. 

Alex Haigh: I don't have a good feeling about the Raptors... I'm with Jake. It's like heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. But my mind really says Warriors, especially if KD comes back. It's the Raptors' first trip to the finals and I don't know if they have it in them

Chris Burkhardt: Until they are dethroned it's hard to go against the defending champs. We saw first hand what they did to the Blazers, and that was without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. And before you say "well, the Blazers were trash..." No. No, they weren't. We can argue about Portland's roster deficiencies all day long, but the fact of the matter is that roster was good enough to get them to Western Conference Finals. Then, a team that was just that much better than everyone else destroyed them. The Warriors are that good. Now, with the way the Raptors are playing, I think the Warriors are going to get the biggest test they have had in these playoffs. I even think the Raptors have what it takes to pull off a series upset if the cards fall right. But if I'm walking up to window in Las Vegas right now, I'm putting my money on Golden State. 

 

Sen. Ron Wyden pens letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to guarantee Enes Kanter's protection

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Sen. Ron Wyden pens letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to guarantee Enes Kanter's protection

The NBA and the Canadian government may have an Enes Kanter problem on their hands. 

With the Portland Trail Blazers just four wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance in 27 years, it's a real possibility the Blazers could dethrone the Warriors as best in the West and face off against either Toronto or Milwaukee in the finals. 

Enter Enes Kanter: Portland’s Turkish center who has been a vocal critic of his homeland’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to Kanter, the Turkish government requested an INTERPOL “Red Notice” for the NBA star in January and the 26-year-old is scared to leave the USA due to safety fears.

[RELATED: Enes Kanter remains in USA on "Red Notice"... but what does that mean? ]

Should Portland make it to NBA Finals and play Toronto, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden wants to make sure Kanter feels safe.

In a letter penned to Canadian Prime Minister, Wyden asked the country to take special precautions to ensure Kanter's safety. 

Here’s a look at the full letter:

This isn't the first time Kanter has stayed in the U.S. due to safety concerns. When the Trail Blazers traveled to Toronto in early March for a regular-season meeting with the Raptors, Kanter remained in the U.S. due to issues with his immigration status and the threat of the red notice. As a member of the New York Knicks, Kanter chose to forgo a trip to London, citing concerns he would be assassinated. 

"Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter told ESPN. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there."

The Trail Blazers and Warriors will meet in the Western Conference Finals beginning Tuesday, while the Raptors face off with the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Blazers and Raptors were to indeed meet, Toronto would have home court advantage for the first two meetings. 

Here's how the Trail Blazers could make the NBA Finals

Here's how the Trail Blazers could make the NBA Finals

Thursday night’s OT loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was a tough one to stomach for Portland Trail Blazers fans. Several calls down the stretch seemed to indicate a lack of control by officials at best, and to expose the seams of NBA referee competitive gerrymandering at worst. 

But halftime of the TNT game brought with it bombastic takes from the likes of Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley which got the NBA community talking. Both Smith and Barkley made claims that the Blazers could be the Western Conference champion when the dust settles on the 2019 playoffs.

Folks around the league scoffed at the notion that Portland — a team that was swept in the first round of the postseason  a year ago — could make such an improbable run. Indeed, this kind of take-ism is routine on the TNT halftime show, and didn’t even register with me in terms of the faith behind it. There’s been quite a bit of turnover on this Trail Blazers roster, but the core players and thus, this team’s core weaknesses, are likely to be the same as they’ve been in years past.

But I’m also not one to ascribe to normalcy ruling the NBA because, time and time again, this league isn’t that normal. This is an association where proposed trades for stars on Twitter get mercilessly shouted down as unrealistic, only for teams to make even crazier trades instead. What did the New York Knicks trade Kristaps Porzingis for, again? A loaf of bread?

Look, I get it — I’m not the most optimistic person when it comes to this team. I’m the guy who tweeted, “Real Blazers fans aren’t worried about this because real Blazers fans are already dead inside.” But If there’s a path for Portland to make it to the 2019 NBA Finals, however narrow, it’s worth looking into how they might make it. 

Here’s how your Portland Trail Blazers could make an NBA Finals run, however unlikely.

The playoff seeding

As it stands today, the Blazers are the fifth seed in the Western Conference. They also have the third-easiest strength of schedule out of teams in the West who are currently playoff-seeded. On paper, they don't look as though they’re in danger of being caught from behind by the Utah Jazz, currently 1.5 games back.

There’s also some momentum considerations to think about here. If Portland is going to be an NBA Finals team, they’re going to need to be hot at the right time. At a half game back of the four spot, that means assuming that they’d have a strong finish to the season. If they hit it just right — the way they’ve done in years past — they can grab the fouth seed away from the Houston Rockets. 

That homecourt advantage could set the stage for a first round matchup against Houston. The Blazers are 24-9 at Moda Center this year. For our example, let’s say they’re the No. 4 seed at the end of the regular season on Apr. 10. 

Our final playoff seeding would look like: Golden State, Denver, Oklahoma City, Portland, Houston, Utah, San Antonio, Los Angeles Clippers.

First round: neutralize PJ Tucker and the Houston bench 

The Blazers don’t seem to have a true answer for James Harden, who is an MVP candidate yet again for the Rockets. But Portland has beat Houston twice this season, and in each of their wins they’ve either forced the Rockets bench to be a non-factor, disallowed PJ Tucker to contribute offensively, or both.

They also need to hold off Chris Paul, who has come on stronger in February and March. Damian Lillard seems to have learned a few tricks from the player I’ve long considered to be his conference foil, and at this point it seems like Lillard annoys CP3 more than the other way around. That dynamic could prove important.

There’s something to be said about Portland’s real-life chances here, by the way. Houston has played great as of late, winning six straight games in a row. They’ve also evened out their rotation. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has said that load management is part of their strategy as an older team, and Tucker and Paul have a combined age of 66. If the Blazers can keep Paul and Tucker off balance, a Game 7 victory at Moda over the Rockets where Harden and Eric Gordon still get theirs is possible.

Second round: Kevin Durant is moody, injured, or moody about being injured

Round 2 is going to be a serious concern for the Blazers this season, real or imagined. Unless a serious shakeup happens, they’re slated to play the Golden State Warriors in the second round as participants on either side of the 4 vs. 5 series. That’s a problem for any team, even one in Portland that has split the season with the Warriors.

Golden State is starting to show cracks in their armor, even if you have to squint to see them. Aside from rumors about Kevin Durant departing after this season, it’s obvious that Draymond Green isn’t the same player he once was and if that’s the case, how will the Warriors fare with reduced output from their second-most important playoff performer?

Portland has the ability to gameplan for Golden State, and with a deeper bench they’re now more of a threat offensively against the Warriors. But Durant … man, that guy hates Portland. Durant is averaging better than his season marks against the Blazers in 3-point shooting, scoring, and field goal percentage. While it might seem like a cop out to say this, the Blazers’ best chances are that some kind of emotional instability from Durant — perhaps additional back-and-forth with Green — causes him to play well below his peak to give Portland a fighting chance. 

This would no doubt be another seven game series, and the idea of the Blazers winning at Oracle in an elimination game might be too much disbelief to suspend. We’re outside the realm of reality here, but if a Finals run is in the cards, we all know it goes through Oakland. Maybe the Basketball Gods finally smite the Warriors for their cap space indiscretions and Durant is injured altogether. Nothing serious, of course — maybe just a strong bout of trypophobia so he can't hold a basketball.

Western Conference Finals: let Westbrook be Westbrook

Set aside Wednesday night’s OT fiasco aside: how much confidence do you have in the Oklahoma City Thunder? Paul George is playing out of his mind, but Westbrook is currently shooting 28.4 percent from 3-point range and he’s in the 28th percentile when it comes to points per shot attempt, per Cleaning the Glass.

That’s especially helpful because, although Westbrook has cut down on some of his troublesome midrange tendencies, he’s not upped his attempts at the rim. They’ve mostly moved beyond 3-point arc, so forcing him to take his own shots and take them deep is the strategy.

Of course where the Thunder make their money is not just with George, but with how Westbrook attacks and dishes out assists. He’s still strong there despite significant dips in free-throw shooting and and-1 attempts, and I wonder if teams couldn’t afford to give him even more space.

Sticking Maurice Harkless or Al-Farouq Aminu on Westbrook to start games could be one defensive strategy if Terry Stotts wanted to go 1-on-1. He could also let Lillard fend for himself, then send a double team vertically from the weakside arc once Westbrook is deep enough into the paint. That could conserve fouls on guys like Jusuf Nurkic without giving up 3-pointers to Thunder teammates at the corners.

I'm spitballing here, but if the dynamic in Oklahoma was easy to solve they wouldn't be the 3 seed right now. Yes, the Thunder swept the season series against Portland. However, most of their games were competitive, if not close. The Nuggets represent a far more difficult matchup over the course of a seven game series for the Blazers, and but for a few elbows and uncalled fouls against OKC’s top players, Wednesday’s game never sees OT with Portland coming out on top.

Is a Blazers run to the championship likely? No. Is it probable? Again, I wouldn’t be optimistic. But this league is nothing if crazy, and while fans in Rip City are eminently maudlin about their favorite team, so too are they overeager to a fault about their talent and potential. The “championship or bust” mantra has gotten too much play in modern sports evaluation, but if you’re not going to at least dream about your team someday going to the Finals, why root at all?

The dream is alive in Portland. At least for now.

Thanks for that one, Kenny and Chuck.

I'm getting very tired of the NBA's "Cult of personality"

I'm getting very tired of the NBA's "Cult of personality"

Well, here we go again. Cleveland vs. Golden State. And if you're not fired up about this matchup, well... join the club. It's likely to be a very short series and more of what we've been watching for the past several weeks in the playoffs, including:

  • The thing that's bothered me about the league for several years now: The total glorification of its star players unlike any other major sport. It's what's called a "Cult of personality." Webster's Dictionary defines that as "a situation in which a public figure (such as a political leader) is deliberately presented to the people of a country as a great person who should be admired and loved." For example, LeBron James -- whom the ESPN announcers just can't seem to find enough adjectives to describe. They are fawning all over him. He couldn't be more celebrated if he cured cancer. Yeah, OK, I've got LeBron Fatigue -- I admit it. But this has been going on for years in a league that has for decades celebrated individuals over teams.
  • Scott Foster. This referee is seemingly in hot pursuit of the impossible -- making the fans of every team in the league believe he's out to get their team. And it looks sometimes as if they might be correct.
  • Speaking of referees, there is no way in the world they should be paid in full for working playoff games. They simply don't do their job. They overlook fouls to the degree that when they call one, the reaction is always, "Wait a minute, you just let worse than that go at the other end!"
  • If I never see James Harden take another dive after a three-point field goal attempt I will be a happy man. And I would love not to watch him travel on his step=back move. And it's not fun to see him dribble endlessly between his legs without using it to go anywhere. Actually, overall, I have Harden Fatigue, too.
  • I fully understand the value of three-point field goals and why teams are hoisting them by the dozen. And really, it's only going to get worse. But what I don't get is why a team with a double-digit halftime lead doesn't try first to get easy two-point shots. When you have a solid lead, it's going to take a lot of three-point makes to overcome your two-point makes. And I'm talking about YOU, Houston. And by the way, if you just stood back and let Harden take it to the basket, he'd have been at the foul line all night and you wouldn't have lost.
  • I heard the jokesters on the TNT panel talking about Kevin Love missing a Game 7 because of a concussion and they, of course, bragged about how they would have played no matter what. You know, take a couple of Advil and go get 'em. And for all the things they make TV guys apologize for these days, this should have been one of them. My goodness -- concussion protocol is there for a very good reason and it's to protect players from their own stupidity. But here we are again with the macho garbage about playing with an injury that could lead to some serious brain damage.
  • That said, I cannot understand why ESPN can't come up with a halftime/pregame panel even remotely as good as the one on TNT.
  • Oh well, there's still the Finals to come. Let's all sit back and watch Lebron and Scott Foster do their thing. Enjoy!

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Last season, with the Golden State Warriors on the verge of a second consecutive NBA Finals win, the officiating of the series suddenly changed. Cleveland began holding and bumping Steph Curry as he attempted to move without the ball. The game got more ugly.

And not a lot of fouls were called.

I've seen this kind of thing before and it's about time to start bringing out the usual NBA Conspiracy Theories.

In the old days, the story was often told that David Stern would just send an officiating team of "fixers" out to manipulate the outcome of games in order to ensure a longer Finals (more games = more money for the league).  And, it was often said, the league had a desire for the large-market teams to win. And I have to admit I actually suspected some hanky-panky in those days regarding certain games.

But Stern is gone and Adam Silver is now in charge.

So I'm just asking, can we look forward to some radical change in how the rest of the Finals games are going to be called? Will the Cavs be able to wrestle the Warriors into submission?

Well, I'd guess not. I'm not sure Cleveland is close enough to Golden State that officials could actually do much to help.

The Warriors are good. REAL good. I've seen a lot of teams come and go and I think this is certainly at least among the best. This team is in that conversation. And just like the Trail Blazers, the Cavs need help to beat them. I said from the start the only way Portland could beat the Warriors is to play its best game and have the Dubs play their worst.

And it's not much different with the Cavaliers.

Relive the glory of the 1977 championship tonight on CSN

Relive the glory of the 1977 championship tonight on CSN

 

On this day in 1977 the Portland Trail Blazers did the unthinkable: They defeated the heavily favored Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and won the team’s first, and to this day only NBA championship.

Tonight at 7:00 on CSNNW we will re-air the greatest game in the franchise’s history, giving Rip City a chance to relive the glory that was the 1977 championship.

As is usual here at CSN in the modern day, we write a game preview prior to every Trail Blazers game. So close your eyes for quick second, imagine it’s 1977, and enjoy this “preview” of Game 6 of the 1977 NBA Finals.

We know how the story ends, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.

Tonight. You. CSN. Your television. See you at 7:00 PM! 

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GAME PREVIEW: Blazers can win it all with a victory tonight over the 76ers

The Portland Trail Blazers can bring home the team’s first NBA title with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

It was just over a week ago that the heavily favored 76ers held a 2-0 lead over the Trail Blazers, and looked dominate in a 107-89 victory in Game 2.

However, there was more than just a simple basketball game that night: In the closing minutes of the game tempers flared resulting in bench-clearing brawl that saw the ejection the Philadelphia’s Darryl Dawkins and Portland’s Maurice Lucas. The brawl has since ingnited the Trail Blazers.

With the fire still burning from Game 2, and the sixth man of the Rose City behind them, Portland throttled the 76ers in Games 3 and 4: 129-107 and 130-98 victories respectively. Some say it was the home cooking. Other say that Dawkins temper has sparked the Blazers. I say it is a little bit of both.

With the team riding high after tying the series 2-2, it was time to head back east for Game 5. Of course things would be more difficult on the road, but this was a much different team than the Philly faithful saw visit town the first two games. This Blazers squad scratched, clawed, and battled for the110-104 victory to get us where we are today: One victory away from crowning them champions.

Needless to say, it really looks like the 76ers may regret Dawkins firing up Lucas and Co. Since that moment we have seen an entirely different Trail Blazers team. A team now poised to do the unthinkable.

To continue the hot streak and end this series the Blazers will need to rely on their two-headed monster that is Lucas and Bill Walton. Through five games Lucas has averaged 20.6 points and 11.8 rebounds, while Walton has averaged 18.2 points and 18.2 rebounds. They have really set the pace for the Blazers, and are the main reason they are on the brink of a championship.

For the 76ers to keep this series alive not only do they need to shutdown Walton and Lucas, they will need a big game from Julius Erving and Doug Collins. Erving is averaging 28.4 points and 7.0 rebounds this series, while Collins is averaging 22.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. However, they haven’t seen much from the supporting cast which could end up being the difference here in Game 6.

Will the 76ers bounce back, force a Game 7, and send this series back to Philadelphia? Will the Blazers slam the door and start their championship party on their home court?

Tune into CSN tonight at 7:00 PM to find out (wink, wink).

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Game Details:

Where:  Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland OR (Well, it was there way back in 1977, don’t show up today planning on seeing a game).

Television: CSN, 7:00 pm

CSN Programming: A special '77 Championship edition of Talkin' Ball will air immediately following the game

Twitter: Follow us on Twitter @CSNNW for all the latest game updates and details

 

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

Reaction and overreaction to Game 1 of the Finals:

  • It stinks to be Kevin Love sometimes. I'm hearing people say that he wasn't very good Thursday night, but 15 points and 21 rebounds isn't exactly a bad night, is it?
  • The Warriors won with ease even though Klay Thompson and Draymond Green combined to go 6-28 from the field. That doesn't bode well for the Cavs.
  • Don't ever go overboard on Game 1 of a seven-game series. Cleveland will have a better game and the Warriors may have a worse one. It takes some adjusting when you play the Warriors.
  • There were some Trail Blazer fans who were upset with me when I told them they'd have to be patient until the Warriors' reign of terror abated in a few years. But I wasn't talking about just the Trail Blazers. The way it looks now, there's really nobody in the league who can look ahead and figure they have a shot at stopping Golden State next season. That team is too good.
  • Yeah, I know, people think it's just terrible that one or two teams can dominate the NBA like this. But welcome to pro basketball. It's been pretty much like this forever. The Celtics, the Lakers, the 76ers, the Spurs, the Heat -- they've all taken their turn. Golden State waited 40 years in between championships and is getting its run now. In a game where there are only five players in action at a time, it's pretty easy for one or two players to create a big advantage. It's one of basketball's historic problems.
  • I'm convinced that the Warriors are one of the best teams I've ever watched in the NBA. They move the ball like the 1977 Trail Blazers and defend like some good Spurs teams. They are so deep that when they go to their bench, players you've never heard of before they became Warriors look terrific.

Irving's Game 5 masterpiece leaves LeBron, Cavs in awe

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USATI

Irving's Game 5 masterpiece leaves LeBron, Cavs in awe

The Cavs locker room was nothing but smiles Monday night following their shocking 112-97 shellacking of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Smiles, ice and more smiles.

While LeBron James stared down at his phone, half the team sat together looking like a group of kids in a middle school class, one of which who had just put a thumbtack on the teacher’s chair.

They were guilty. Guilty of walking into a hostile environment and shocking the NBA world. Guilty of making a couple of hundred reporters jump onto travel sites in hopes of landing an overpriced plane ticket back to Cleveland. Guilty of defying the odds and living to play another game.

Kyrie Irving was one of the players huddled together. He was joined by Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, but the latter three were an afterthought.

Irving had just had the game of his life. Maybe it was necessary or maybe he was just playing to the crowd, but the 24-year-old guard had his right hand wrapped in ice. Was it there to reduce swelling? That’s possible. It’s also possible he was still on fire from his shooting performance earlier in the evening and didn’t want to set the locker room ablaze.  

Report: NBA won’t force Draymond Green to miss celebration if Warriors win

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USATI

Report: NBA won’t force Draymond Green to miss celebration if Warriors win

Draymond Green is looking for a way to attend Game 5 tonight despite beingsuspended.

The NBA is seeking something similar.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

The relevant rule:

If a player, coach or assistant coach is suspended from a game or games, he shall not at any time before, during or after such game or games appear in any part of the arena or stands where his team is playing. A player, coach or assistant coach who is ejected may only remain in the dressing room of his team during the remainder of the game, or leave the building. A violation of this rule shall call for an automatic fine of $2000.

Other rules could come into play, though. 

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