• Flip Saunders, hired in 2009 to coach a veteran team on the (alleged) cusp of something, has been fired after a disastrous start in Washington. Sean Fagan, writing at Bullets Forever, on the links between the dismissals of Eddie Jordan (in 2008) and Saunders:
However, one salient point gets lost amidst all the chatter: neither coach was ever given the tools to succeed at his profession. Despite all the criticism that Jordan received for not playing his youngsters, he ran a complicated system that necessitated the drafting of players with high basketball IQ who could come in and contribute immediately. Instead, Jordan was supplied with a series of long shot projects and low-IQ players who needed excessive amounts of development on what was at the time a veteran team. How Jordan was supposed to develop Andray Blatche and Nick Young while also keeping the team competitive within his system of play would eventually (along with the injury to Gilbert Arenas) prove his undoing. Bones were thrown to Jordan by supplying him with Antonio Daniels and Darius Songalia, but neither an impact player nor a draftee with a high-IQ pedigree was ever supplied. Instead, “we got buckets, son.”
Ownership has changed, but this same lesson has borne out with Saunders.
• The final lasting image of Saunders in Washington, found in the video clip at the bottom of this post, is fitting: Saunders, bashing his clipboard on the ground after Brandon Bass outworked Andray Blatche for a rebound.
• Saunders gave Michael Lee of the Washington Post an exclusive interview today after learning of the team’s decision. Perhaps the most salient quote of many here:
I was disappointed. When I took this job, there were very much unique challenges. Usually the focus was, I believe we had the opportunity to coach a veteran team that had a chance to make a run into the playoffs. That job description changed drastically, when we experienced the gun in the locker room situation. We went from a job with a totally different challenge, to all of a sudden survival mode, then immediately after that, into a developmental situation. I felt comfortable because I’ve developed a lot of young players over my career and it’s extremely challenging to develop so many players at the same time.
• Luol Deng has a torn ligament in his left (non-shooting) wrist, and like Kobe Bryant, Deng will opt against surgery and instead sit out for “a while” in hopes the injury will heal or at least feel better. It’s unclear at this moment how similar the injuries to Deng and Bryant really are (Bryant tore a ligament in his right wrist, for starters), but given Chicago’s 16-3 start and the minutes Deng typically logs, some enforced rest might end up the best possible outcome here –provided he feels better when he comes back.
• Paul Flannery of WEEI.com on the Celtics’ pasting of Orlando on Monday:
This was the Celtics we know. It wasn’t a schedule win or a lockout game. The Magic have been off for two days and had everyone healthy. They had won seven of eight with the only loss coming in overtime against San Antonio. The Celtics were the ones on the second end of a back-to-back, missing two key starters.
• Two more telling quotes from Orlando’s brickfest in Boston, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. First, Stan Van Gundy, who doesn’t say things like this lightly:
That’s the most dominating defensive performance at least that I’ve ever had against me. There’s no singling anybody out. It’s the first game, I think, in my career I’ve ever been through where literally not one guy played well. We didn’t play well. So there’s no finger-pointing, and it’s why you get dominated. Not one guy had a good night, and I’m foremost among them.
And then from Boston back-up guard Avery Bradley, who hounded Jameer Nelson all over the floor, forcing both an eight-second call and a panicked palming violation:
Bradley fired up his teammates, and he also appeared to unnerve Nelson.
“He seemed like he didn’t even want to bring the ball up,” Bradley said in a postgame interview with NBA TV. “I looked at him and he kept telling me throughout the game, ‘You know what, don’t pick me up, don’t pick me up.’ And that’s when I knew, if I brought pressure, he didn’t want nothing to do with it.”
If Nelson really said this, then: 1) Wow. 2) He’s probably quite embarrassed Bradley outed him like this on national TV.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation on David Stern handling Eric Gordon’s negotiations for an extension with the league-owned Hornets.
• Speaking of Gordon: Here is all the public knows about his bruised knee, which is keeping him out much longer than expected.
• The Warriors blew a massive fourth-quarter lead against Memphis on Monday. Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Warriors World dissects the collapse, with some photo evidence of Tony Allen and Mike Conley baiting the Warriors’ guards into bad passes.
• After another solid performance from Craig Smith in Portland’s easy win over the Kings, it’s clear Smith has won Nate McMillan’s trust — for now (via Ben Golliver’s fantastic-as-usaul recap at BlazersEdge, which includes video of a surprise Jumbotron marriage proposal):
“Smith has been a calming effect for us,” McMillan said. “A guy who we’ve been going to here lately. He’s been making good plays. He’s been able to allow us to rest LaMarcus as somewhat of a go-to guy. We’ve kind of got that balance with that second unit now. It’s not just jacking jump shots up, we have an inside presence that we can go to. He’s making good decisions with the ball.
“Coaching against him when he was in Minnesota and when he was with the Clippers, this is pretty much what he did. He was a guy who could score on the post, at the elbow, and he makes good decisions with the ball. He uses his body well. He finishes well. Good passer out of that. That has helped us.”
• More on the Lakers’ scoring struggles, and on Pau Gasol’s place within the offense, from Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles.