NBA mailbag (cont'd)
Will DeMarcus Cousins ever get it?
-- Jim, New York
Probably not, Jim. Who is going to help him learn to get it? He needs desperately to be paired with a leader like Indiana's David West. But there are very few like West in the NBA, and not one of them plays for the Sacramento Kings. Cousins could be a great player, but he needs to respect those who are trying to show him the way.
Why has Joe Dumars been able to keep his job in Detroit despite terrible results for the last several years?
-- John R., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Dumars has done more than most general managers will ever accomplish. Since the Pistons' inevitable fall after seven straight years of 50 wins or more (they averaged nearly 55 through 2007-08), they've never picked higher than No. 7 in the draft. Maybe they -- like most rebuilding teams -- need a high draft choice to change course and provide a future All-Star as an anchor to recent picks Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond.
But the Pistons have a new owner, and patience is understandably short given the large amounts of money that fans are charged to attend games. Detroit should ask one question before it considers firing Dumars: Will the franchise be able to replace him with a GM who is capable of reaching six straight conference finals? The answer, John, is no: A new GM would be unlikely to have such upside because very few executives are capable of executing such a run of extended excellence. Dumars' achievements have been no fluke, and the Pistons should be extremely cautious before throwing away such a talent.
Which of the Van Gundy brothers do you see getting another NBA head-coaching job first? Do you think both will return as NBA coaches at some point?
-- Melvin, Georgia
Jeff may have the better chance, if only because there are owners and executives who believe that Stan betrayed the confidence of management and ownership in Orlando last season by revealing that Howard had demanded a trade.
The truth is that many teams should be interested in hiring either one of them. It may not be easy to deal with them because they are extremely demanding, but the Van Gundys have a record of turning those demands into winning seasons. The team that hires either one of them will be telling its fans that winning is the priority. I think we'll see both of them coaching in the NBA again.
Are people sleeping on the Grizzlies as a possible title contender?
-- Robbie, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Grizzlies surely have a chance to reach the Finals, thanks in part to the upheaval of the Western Conference. The Thunder have traded James Harden, the Lakers are a mess and the Spurs have disappointed in recent postseasons. Of course, it's too early to draw any firm conclusions, because all three teams are talented enough to rise up and dominate the conference over the course of the season. None of them will look forward to playing the Grizzlies with their talented front line and strong defense.
As the season progresses, however, there is also the chance that the Grizzlies' new ownership will decide that the team isn't good enough to merit its $74 million payroll, in which case Zach Randolph (making $16.5 million this season) could be put on the market. The change in management puts pressure on the Grizzlies to continue to make good on the investment made in them.