More coaches who are under fire
Three coaches have already been fired this season; more could follow
The Clippers and Bulls seem to be a match for a big-for-small trade
Are the 76ers like the promising Bulls team of a few years ago that fizzled?
Call it the Coach of the Year jinx.
Three of the last four winners (Mike D'Antoni in 2005, Avery Johnson in '06, Sam Mitchell in '07) have all been fired or let go by their teams in the past year.
Somewhere, Byron Scott ('08) must be getting nervous.
"It's a thing that we've seen time and time again," Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters Wednesday night. "A guy takes a team that is struggling, rights it and gets it going, and then a lot's expected."
The Zen Master is definitely on to something. Not only have these recent COY winners been axed within a year or two of winning the honor, but also several of those who came close got the same treatment as well. Scott Skiles (Bulls), Eddie Jordan (Wizards), Jeff Van Gundy (Rockets) and Flip Saunders (Pistons) are among the other victims of the "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" syndrome.
Of course, the NBA coaching carousel hardly ever stops spinning anyway -- whether the coaches are successful or not. Which brings us to the first question in this edition of the mailbag:
So now that Sam Mitchell has joined Eddie Jordan and P.J. Carlesimo on the list of fired coaches this season, who's going to be next?
Reggie Theus (Kings), Marc Iavaroni (Grizzlies) and Randy Wittman (Timberwolves) are feeling the most heat. Theus is struggling to balance the desire to win now while also developing several key youngsters. Iavaroni just got the dreaded vote of confidence from general manager Chris Wallace. Wittman has received public support from owner Glen Taylor. It is still possible all three could hang on to their jobs, but don't be surprised if there is at least one more coaching change in the coming months.
Why don't the Bulls trade for Chris Kaman? The Clippers don't need him anymore, and Chicago has all those extra guards.
Bulls GM John Paxson won't talk about specific trades, but it's safe to say that he would be interested in Kaman. I have also heard that Marcus Camby might be his target. The problem is that the Clippers don't appear to be in any hurry to move either player. I could see something like this happening at some point, however. As you mention, the Clippers are set now in the frontcourt with Al Thornton, Zach Randolph and either Kaman or Camby. They need a veteran shooting guard to play alongside Baron Davis, and the Bulls have two available in Kirk Hinrich and Larry Hughes.
At one time it seemed as if LeBron James was a shoo-in for New Jersey/Brooklyn. Now it's a done deal he's going to New York. Why all of the sudden the switch?
New York has the money now, and it's just always going to be the team in the Big Apple (regardless of whether there is an NBA franchise in Brooklyn). If LeBron really does want to play on a bigger stage, in terms of national attention, he's going to opt for the Knicks over the Nets. Plus, there is also some uncertainty now about when the Nets will move in to their new home. But New Jersey does still have the Jay-Z factor going in its favor. So who knows?
With Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace coming off their books after this season, shouldn't the Pistons be targeting Carlos Boozer? I think he would fit perfectly into their team. With Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and improving youngsters Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell, Detroit could be contending until 2013 at least. The Pistons might even have cap room left over to bring in another player at superstar or star level in 2010.
Plus, it would be payback to the Jazz for stealing Mehmet Okur a few years ago. Joe Dumars will no doubt consider Boozer if the All-Star power forward opts out of his contract and if the Pistons' president thinks he can get him for the right price. But the Heat are also said to be very interested, and Boozer keeps a home in the Miami area. Still, Boozer would be a great pickup for Detroit if Dumars were to decide to use some of that cap space next summer instead of waiting for 2010.
Regarding the Sixers' struggles, I see this going down the way the Bulls did a few years ago after signing Ben Wallace. Sure, it's a different scenario, but that signing was thought to make them a top three team, but did nothing for them really. The Sixers are exactly like that Bulls team: talented players, but no one who can shoot worth a lick. Double teams on Brand are happening regularly, because when he kicks it out, players can't hit open jumpers with regularity. This is bad basketball to watch right now.
You could be right. There are some parallels to the two teams. The Sixers, like the Bulls of a few years ago, relied on defense and hustle to become a surprise playoff team. They then went out and made the big free-agent splash, like Chicago did with Big Ben in 2006, to ramp up expectations. One big difference, though, is that Brand can produce at both ends. Assuming he stays healthy, he gives Philadelphia a lot more versatility to revamp the attack (or rebuild the roster) if needed going forward. The Bulls were basically stuck when Big Ben fizzled because they had no way of going out and getting another good big man.
What happens to the players if an NBA team folds? Last week there was an article on financial troubles for a few teams. I don't think it has happened since the ABA days and that was before collective bargaining agreements and guaranteed contracts. So would the teams still owe the players? Would they become free agents to the highest bidder? Would their new team have to pick up the contracts (similar to waivers)?
I'm not sure what the procedure would be if a team were to fold. (An NBA spokesman declined to talk about it). I assume the NBA would pay all the salaries and obligations out of a league fund. As for the players, they would probably be put into some kind of draft pool for the following season.
How could you not include Javale McGee of the Wizards in your list of early-season "unknown" contributors. Who knew of him outside Nevada? And nearly everything I read about him before the season was that he was a D-League guy. But what he's turning out to be is an extremely athletic 7-footer who's putting up some good numbers.
You forgot Jason Thompson as an early-season contributor. He has played three positions as a rookie, adding energy, points and rebounds to a young team.
I left off McGee and Thompson because they were both mid-first-round picks. The idea was to spotlight guys who were unknown, and I decided to cut it off at the top 20 of the first round.
Love the Knicks through thick and thin, and was severely tested during the Isiah Thomas era. Really love Mike D'Antoni but still don't understand why Quentin Richardson starts and plays major minutes. He provides low point production, poor shooting, and little in the way of rebounding or ball handling. What's up? Is he some kind of defensive stopper or glue guy? I watch most games and I just don't see it.
I remember watching Richardson play in high school here in Chicago. He was one of the best rebounders at his size I have ever seen. Hands like glue. The ball just seemed to find him all the time. His NBA career has not been nearly as good (though he has had some health issues with his back). But to answer your question, I'd say it has to do with the trust factor. D'Antoni knows Richardson will be where he is supposed to be most of the time. Plus, he spaces the floor with his three-point shooting. But don't look for Richardson to be a starter beyond this season. The Knicks will surely be seeking to upgrade.