Readers weigh in on Brown's player usage, Jackson's legacy
Posted: Friday December 10, 2004 1:11PM; Updated: Friday December 10, 2004 1:11PM
Phil Jackson and Larry Brown had different styles, but they're two of the best ever.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Well, it's about that time again .. time to reach into the mailbag and see what the readers have to say.
Two recent columns generated a torrent of responses. The first, predictably, was my opinion of Larry Brown's player usage in Athens.
Could it be that the players who rode the bench in Athens have improved so much thanks to having such a good coach? -- Jeroen Blok, Gouda, Netherlands
So you e-mail me all the way from Gouda and don't include any cheese? Nary a Heineken? Not even a measly stroopwafel? But I digress ... As for the Olympic squad, I got several letters to this effect wondering if the players were responding in part to Brown's coaching. I think it's a possibility, but it doesn't change the basic point: Brown failed to utilize these guys in the Olympics and went with less talented veteran players instead.
Out of the 2004 U.S. Olympians, what five players do you think could have beat any national team in the tournament, at any given time, and why? My team would've have been Stephon Marbury, LeBron James, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Tim Duncan. -- Feddie, Kansas City, Mo.
Feddie (is that a stage name?),
I'll say none of the above, because no matter what, the point guard was going to be Marbury, and he was horribly suited to the international style. (Exception: Unless it was the Marbury from the Spain game, in which case the U.S. could have beaten anyone by 20. The real problem arose from selecting a point guard (Marbury) who liked to drive in halfcourt sets, making him uniquely ill-suited to international hoops, and then not having any other point guards. I still don't understand why nobody called Chauncey Billups.
I think that one of the reasons the U.S. team played so poorly in Athens is that it lacked an identity. Was it a defensive team, a scoring team or a shooting team? In reality, it wasn't any. It was composed of a bunch of athletes that didn't complement each other's games. In order to be successful in the future USA Basketball needs to decide what type of team it wants and then find players that fit that mold. -- Tony Leung, Regina, Sask.
IOne problem for the U.S. is that in the past our identity has been one of a running, pressing team. When that didn't work, there was nothing to fall back on, because we didn't have a running point guard (I'm not trying to pick on poor Steph here, but people keep bringing it up.) and we didn't force enough turnovers.
Who picked the Olympic team? Jefferson, Odom, Wade, Anthony and James hadn't even played on an All-Star team. And what about the fact that not one player from Detroit was on the team (Billups, Hamilton)? -- Cal Cheney, Ottawa, Ont.
Submit a comment or question for John.
What are you doing in Ottawa? Aren't you supposed to be backing up Mike Dunleavy in Golden State? ...
In fairness to the selection committee, I should point that an entire roster-ful of players turned down invitations to play on the team, which is how the U.S. ended up having these "should we take Emeka Okafor or P.J. Brown?"-type of debates in the first place. But I did find it baffling that the lineup leaned so heavily toward veteran players. It seemed Brown thought he was still coaching the Sixers.
Another column that got the readers riled up was my take on the best coaches in the post-Phil Jackson era. Those of you who have Utah license plates that read "Stok2Mln" probably were particularly upset.
I have to seriously question your basketball IQ if you are going to group Jerry Sloan in the "darn good ones" category of current coaches. This is a textbook example of how long-term excellence can hurt teams, players and coaches. There has been no more consistent coach in basketball over the last 14 years than Sloan but he has yet to win Coach of the Year even once. A dozen current NBA coaches wouldn't have made it through the season with last year's Utah team and he took them to within one game of the posteason. -- Nick Driggs, Los Angeles
I got several e-mails of this variety from Sloan fans, many of whom used words that weren't nearly as kind, and a few that considered me devoid of intellect because I didn't proclaim Sloan the greatest coach ever and offer to have his children.
Hear me out: As masterful a job as Sloan did a year ago (and I thought he got hosed on the Coach of the Year vote, just for the record), you have to look at his entire career. The year before, it was the same Sloan who made the decision not to move Karl Malone to center, which kept Andrei Kirilenko on the bench and cost the Jazz several wins. And, more obviously, it's the same Sloan who is having trouble getting this year's bunch, which has more talent than last year's, to stay above .500. So while I'm a great admirer of Sloan's body of work, I also don't have a big problem rating other coaches ahead of him.
Larry Brown got the Clippers into the playoffs (and over .500). He also steered the non-superstar Pistons a championship. Until Phil Jackson does that, or even tries to coach an NBA team without two of the best five or six players in the league, he hasn't proved he's the best, only one of the best. -- Mark, Seguin, Tex.
There's one flaw in that argument. People consistently forget that Phil Jackson coached a team without Michael Jordan in 1993-94 and was one bad call away from reaching the conference finals with a deeply flawed roster.
And a retort ...
Why is it that Phil Jackson's coaching record always must take account of the "MJ, Shaq and Kobe factors"? These superstars have such big egos that coaching them is a difficult task in itself. The question remains, did MJ, Shaq and Kobe have rings before Phil arrived? -- Ari Chio, Quezon City, Philippines
And now some questions about this season ...
Antonio Daniels is so much better than the guy who starts ahead of him (Luke Ridnour) that it seems that Ridnour must have a box of Polaroids somewhere in which [Sonics owner Howard] Schultz and [Sonics coach Nate] McMillan are featured. -- Frank Welles, Portland, Ore.
I'm not sure it's quite that egregious, but certainly Daniels has outplayed Ridnour thus far this season. Still, while Daniels played exceptionally well off the bench last season, when he got a few weeks as a starter while Brent Barry was out, he was terrible. He showed the same trend in San Antonio, where he lost his job to Tony Parker within hours of the start of the 2001-02 season. Statistically, most players fare better as starters than as reserves, but Daniels may be one of the exceptions.
What are the odds of Jerry West hooking back up with Phil Jackson in Memphis? -- Jason Cook, Lebanon, Mo.
About the same as the odds of Janet Jackson performing at this year's Super Bowl. West may not be in Memphis much longer because he's in a power struggle with the less basketball-savvy but better-connected Dick Versace, and as for the Zen Master, I'm not sure if he wants to coach again. It's an intriguing thought, but that's about it.
It's time for some recognition for the best coach in the NBA: Nate McMillan. There's a lot of talk about how the Sonics started hot last season and then faded and there was even some speculation that McMillan would get fired. But isn't the beginning part of the season when the coach has the most influence over who wins and loses? The Sonics are an under-talented team that has overachieved -- which I believe is all due to their coach. -- Scott Moeller, Seattle
Certainly McMillan is going to win Coach of the Year if the Sonics keep this up, because everybody had them pegged as one of the bottom two or three teams in the West. What's particularly shocking is how much the team has improved defensively. Seattle always could score, but last year they would lose 110-105 and now they're winning 105-100. Vladimir Radmanovic and Rashard Lewis in particular look to have gotten their wake up calls, so give McMillan credit for the improvement.
You downplay the possibility of enlarging the court in order to increase scoring because teams would never stomach the loss of courtside seats. But that's not how geometry works. Enlarging the court to 100' by 55' would increase the amount of courtside space by 7.6 percent. Bigger objects have bigger perimeters, so the seats would be lost from the cheap section. The increase is not a huge amount, I suppose, but still enough to fit in about a dozen extra seats for the fat cats. That's an extra 984 courtside seats over the course of a season -- certainly enough to cover the costs of rebuilding the floor in the first year. -- Dave Leitch, Newark, Del.
A number of readers brought up my shoddy geometry in the last mailbag, with your response being one of the more eloquent ones. However, seats still will be lost by expanding the floor, and they'd be fairly pricey ones. Several folks wrote in to say it would be the cheapest seats in the building that would go away, but that's wrong. No arena is going to bust out the jackhammers and retrofit its lower bowl, so the seats that are lost end up not being the cheapest ones, but the cheapest ones in the lower bowl, which are still pretty darn expensive. I think the tradeoff between adding a dozen new courtside seats and subtracting, say, 150 seats at the back of the lower bowl still doesn't work out for the teams, but it's a much closer call than I suggested before, so thanks to everyone who corrected me.
I keep hearing that you can't rebuild a team in New York because the fans expect a winner, but don't you think, given the current state of the Knicks' salary cap, that if the Knicks' brass presented a solid 3-4 year plan, that the fans would support the team, feeling this could lead to the long-elusive promised land? -- Adam Kaelin, Cutchogue, N.Y.
You raise a valid point. With each passing year of mediocrity in New York, it becomes more palatable from a fan's perspective to just nuke the thing and start over. This is particularly true if you consider that if the Knicks had torn itself down at the end of the Patrick Ewing era, they'd already be at the end of a five-year rebuilding plan. However, the Knicks' cap situation will prevent them from seriously considering this option for several more seasons. Until the contracts of Allan Houston and Tim Thomas expire, it makes the most sense for the Knicks to forge ahead and see how many games they can win with the veterans, because they can't get any top free agents anyway.