Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Early coach of the year?
Steve Aschburner: Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra have done the best coaching jobs, in my opinion. And in that order. Spoelstra was in a position to get steamrolled by the star power in Miami, yet was able to navigate the egos, recover from that LeBron James shoulder shiver and fend off the tabloid mentality waiting for his failure. Thibodeau, as a rookie head coach, has been one of those overnight sensations 21 years in the making. He has the Bulls believing in his defensive teachings and in his ability to make them better. But Popovich has been even more impressive, keeping San Antonio at the top as a title contender while remaking his roster and reinventing the Spurs’ style to push the pace. And while he has great mature players – adults – on his roster, he’s doing it without a Top 5 candidate for MVP.
Fran Blinebury: Gregg Popovich. The annual flaw in the Coach of the Year voting is that it rarely goes to the guy whose teams finishes with the best record in the league. It seems he’s expected to be a big winner. Well, virtually nobody that I saw in any preseason predictions expected the Spurs to finish with the No. 1 record in the league. Pop has rejuvenated Richard Jefferson, remade his offense, still complains about his defense and he’s got the Spurs sailing along with the best record while the Heat, Lakers, Magic, Knicks, etc have drawn all the headlines.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Gregg Popovich of the Spurs was the early call and remains the pretty-late call. Now he gets another chance to win over voters, unwanted opportunity or not, as San Antonio plays without Tony Parker. Nate McMillan has an impressive campaign going as well.
Shaun Powell: Everyone who had Jerry Sloan in the pre-season poll, and there were many, are a bit woozy right now. I like what Monty Williams has done in New Orleans and Doug Collins in Philly; both men taking teams with issues and turning them into winners. But you simply can’t ignore the work of Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, and I’m surprised he isn’t getting more love. Everybody points to Derrick Rose as the reason the Bulls are threatening to win the East, and he is having an MVP-like season, but the Bulls would not be winners without defense, which allowed them to cope with losses to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
John Schuhmann: I think there are four candidates: Doug Collins, Nate McMillan, Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau. Collins because the Sixers are the second most improved team in the league (behind Chicago), having only signed Tony Battie and traded for Spencer Hawes last summer. McMillan because the Blazers are a playoff team in the West despite all their injuries. Popovich because the Spurs are 49-11 without anyone averaging more than 33 minutes. And Thibodeau because the Bulls are competing for the top seed in the East despite 48 missed games from Boozer and Noah. I wouldn’t argue much with any of the four, but I’d put them in this order: Popovich, Collins, McMillan and Thibodeau.
Sekou Smith: Arguments can be made for several worthy candidates in something as subjective as this. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stands out in the crowd, thanks to his team’s season-long grind (49-11) of all the competition. This honor often goes to the coach of the most surprisingly successful team of the season. Pop wins in that category as well. Bottom line, as long as the Spurs finish what they’ve started, Pop should win this one in a landslide.