Blogtable: Assessing the new coaches

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEOCan Scott Skiles turn the Magic around after several awful seasons?

> The Bulls, Magic and Pelicans all got new coaches in the last five days. Which of those hires will still be on the bench in five years?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m thinking Fred Hoiberg still will be coaching Chicago in five years. Obviously Scott Skiles has a reputation for flaming out one way or another in shorter time frames, and the Magic might need a different type of coach once they reliably become a different type of team. Alvin Gentry didn’t quite last five seasons with Phoenix and might not in New Orleans, depending on Anthony Davis‘ long-term whereabouts or the bruising he and his Pelicans take in the West. Meanwhile, I expect Hoiberg to do well enough to stick around on his own merits, and I also think Chicago goes from contender to rebuilder on his watch, which will buy him more time. Bulls management has burned through a few good coaches in recent years and might want to show the public it’s them, not them who are at fault.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m going with “Mayor” Fred Holberg. He’s been the apple of Gar Forman and John Paxson’s eye for quite some time and they’ll give him all the time to succeed. Scott Skiles‘ personality tends to have an expiration date of less than five years and I’m not sure Alvin Gentry is going to take the Pelicans to the next level, as is hoped.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Fred Hoiberg in Chicago for sure and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans maybe, but not Scott Skiles in Orlando. Very good basketball mind, but unless his personality has changed, that won’t play for five seasons. It’s easy to see Hoiberg as a very good fit for the Bulls, and Chicago has the roster in place to keep winning for years. Similarly, if Gentry delivers the up-tempo style of play New Orleans wants and he has used in other stops as a head coach and assistant, and if he connects with Anthony Davis, the Pelicans have a lot of potential into the next decade.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Hoiberg will still be in Chicago. Alvin Gentry‘s time in New Orleans will last as long as Anthony Davis‘ and I suspect Davis will sign his next contract elsewhere. And we all know Scott Skiles comes with an expiration date because that’s his history, wearing out his welcome after roughly 15 wonderfully productive minutes. Well, OK, 20.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Fred Hoiberg. Bulls brass is under a lot of scrutiny for the way they handled the dismissal of a highly regarded coach who brought them, by far, the most success they’ve had since Michael Jordan retired the second time. So, even if Hoiberg struggles at times, they’ll have to be patient, or be forced to admit that they made a mistake by firing Tom Thibodeau. Furthermore, Hoiberg is only 42 years old, nine years younger than Scott Skiles and 18 years younger than Alvin Gentry. He should be in it for the long haul.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’d love to see Alvin Gentry, one of my favorite people in the league, have a long and prosperous tenure in New Orleans. But things have never really been stable there for whoever is coaching that team. I wouldn’t bet the kids’ lunch money on Scott Skiles lasting that long in Orlando. So, Fred Hoiberg wins by default. That’s mostly because he was the long-rumored and hand-picked choice of a Bulls front office that just bounced a coach (Tom Thibodeau) who piled up 50-win seasons on the regular. They almost have to give Hoiberg one of those Brad Stevens-like deals, if for no other reason than to justify the move.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Alvin Gentry has a chance to build the kind of relationship with Anthony Davis that could keep him in New Orleans. He has the experience and the personality to make it work: To be on the same page with both his front office as well as with his best player. Gentry’s potential to build a working rapport with Davis is crucial. The Pelicans made a terrific hire.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Not Scott Skiles — I think he’ll make the Magic a playoff team but to me he’s clearly a coach who takes a team from point A to point B, but not much further. As affable as Alvin Gentry is, he also has a track record of not being much of a defensive coach, and I’m not sure how that will fly in the Western Conference. Which leaves Fred Hoiberg, a former Bulls player, who has been rumored to be part of the Bulls plans forever and has long-lasting relationships with the Bulls front office. I’m not sure if the Bulls will actually be better under Hoiberg than they were under Tom Thibodeau, but the front office relationship can’t be worse.

Blogtable: Under pressure in The Finals?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEODennis Scott and Rick Kamla reveal their Finals picks

> Fill in the blank: The pressure is on ________ in these NBA Finals.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comStephen Curry. He’s got to close this out, this MVP year of his. Consider it the pressure of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Had James Harden and the Rockets prevailed in the West finals, it would have been a little bit of a referendum on Curry’s marvelous season and his ability to carry a team at his weight class. Now, facing LeBron James — another 2015 MVP candidate as well as a four-time winner — it’s even more so. Curry has to be his pesky, shot-making self and not let the big lug from Akron or any of the other Cavs drape themselves over him so effectively it swings the series in Cleveland’s favor.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLeBron James. Because it’s always on LeBron James. He’s the best player in the game today, one of the greatest of all-time and yet he continues to come under more scrutiny and draw more criticism and than any athlete of the era. So even though the Warriors had a league-best 67 wins, have cruised to a 12-3 record in the playoffs and are the favorites to win the series, it’s somehow on LeBron to prove that he’s a winner. That’s why we’re already hearing so much about his 2-3 record in The Finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDavid Blatt. Because the pressure has been on more when he was winning in the playoffs than when he was losing the first half of the regular season. Blatt has himself to thank for that, for almost calling timeout he didn’t have, and LeBron James to thank, for throwing his coach under the bus by waving off Blatt’s play and then going public afterward. The Cavaliers had a very good finish to the regular season and reaching The Finals is a big positive. But if Blatt has a rough series, it’s going to look very bad.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comUm, David Blatt? We all know the story by now, how he was hired before LeBron officially returned, how the Cavs struggled at the start, and the almost “timeout” and blah, blah, blah. Blatt has the chance to erase all the suspicion and doubt about his coaching ability with four more victories, and a Cavs win would be surely classified an upset. Of course, LeBron would likely get all the credit if that happens. Blatt cannot afford to be out coached by Steve Kerr and create a dark cloud over his head heading into next season.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMy initial answer would be David Blatt. But really, how the Cavs’ offense performs is more in the hands of LeBron James than his coach. The Warriors are going to do their best to cut off the paint and keep James on the perimeter. It will be up to him to find ways to get to the basket, get his teammates open shots, or start making some jumpers himself. Thursday would be a nice time to break out of his 3-point shooting slump.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Draymond Green. The Warriors’ forward holds the key to his team’s championship dreams within him as this series nears. LeBron James always travels with two-ton boulders filled with pressure on his shoulders. He’s used to it by now. But Green will see much of LeBron in this series, perhaps on a one-on-one basis for a majority of that time. If he can have a Kawhi Leonard-like effect on LeBron throughout the course of the next 4-7 games, the Warriors will be celebrating with a parade these Bay Area streets haven’t seen the likes of in some 40 years (for their one and only NBA team). That’s serious pressure for a guy no one was sure would be a starter in this league.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron James. The Finals revolves around him. His team is the underdog and yet he is expected to win. Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao — his starting front line — are out and Kyrie Irving has been hurt, and yet Cleveland is counting on him to lead his newly-rebuilt Cavaliers (at both ends of the floor, no less) to the city’s first championship since 1964. Don’t think he doesn’t feel that pressure, and don’t think it’s a bad thing either — in the end he’s going to find a way.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogLet’s work backward here. I don’t really feel like the pressure is on Golden State, who had a terrific season and have reached The Finals for the first time in 40 years. With their young core, this should be Golden State’s first trip of many to The Finals. In Cleveland, for all the talk of the Cavs being cursed and unlucky, the reality is this is the Cavs’ second trip to The Finals in the last eight years. That’s thanks to LeBron, who has now made five consecutive Finals trips and shrugs off pressure. I guess if anything, the pressure is on Cleveland’s role players, who will have to chase the Splash Bros. and hit the open threes LeBron creates for them if Cleveland is going to have any chance.

Blogtable: Could Wade, Heat split up?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEODwyane Wade figures heavily into the Heat’s top 10 plays from 2014-15

> Do you think a Miami Heat-Dwyane Wade breakup is a real possibility? And if so, which team should go after the 33-year-old shooting guard?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Puh-leeze. All of a sudden he’s Brett Favre? Wade isn’t going anywhere. He might like drama, but he also is to the Heat at this point what Ernie Banks was to the Chicago Cubs in his hometown. The money he feels owed by Miami after accommodating teammates and the salary cap, isn’t insignificant, but it also is money that only Wade’s grandkids (or great-grandkids) might get around to spending. It’s more lucrative, I’d guess, for him to stay with that franchise for life than to chase every last dollar by going to, ugh, the Knicks or something.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIf Dwyane Wade wanted to stick a thumb in Pat Riley’s eye, he’d take whatever spot was available and join LeBron in Cleveland. But I think his legacy in Miami is important and he’d like end his career in just one uniform, so I think he stays with the Heat.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Enough of a possibility to kick around, not enough to think it will happen. Do not get swept away by posturing. Nothing was said to indicate a broken relationship. Nothing was said that can’t — and won’t — be walked back by something along the lines of “Dwyane earned the right as a free agent to explore his options.” That’s a long, long way from seriously imagining himself in another uniform.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Dwyane Wade in another uniform, all because of money? Not. Gonna. Happen. Heat owner Micky Arison won’t let it, and that’s where the buck — pardon the pun — stops. There are two players who are franchise icons, for what they’ve done on the court and in the community: Alonzo Mourning and D-Wade. These negotiations will end peacefully and Wade’s career will end where it started, where it should.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. Wade has a right to opt out of his current contract and ask for the money that he’s owed for taking less in 2010. The Heat should obviously try to maintain flexibility. But it’s hard to imagine these two parties without each other. I’d say it’s more likely than not that they find a way to compromise, maybe with a new, two-year deal that gives him another option next summer.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI never say never, not in a league where it seems so very few stay in one spot for their entire careers these days. I’m going to assume (perhaps foolishly) that Dwyane Wade really believes that “Wade County” stuff and cannot imagine suiting up for anyone but the Heat. He’s already a living legend in Miami. I just have a hard time seeing him chase ghosts somewhere else when he’s already laid down a Hall of Fame foundation in Miami. He doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody, so why not finish in style in house he helped build?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Too early to say: It’s going to be difficult for both sides to walk away from this relationship. But if he must leave, then the Hawks should try to land him — they need a charismatic star. 

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: After seeing LeBron walk away, I’m not so sure the Heat can afford to allow Wade to go anywhere. For all the talk about the Heat being a family, what would it say if the Heat don’t take care of Wade? At the same time, I’m not sure there’s a great market in today’s pace-and-space NBA for a 33-year-old shooting guard who can’t shoot threes, isn’t an elite defender and hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2011. Wade can still score at an elite level — he averaged 21.5 ppg last season — but he can’t be the main man. Being surrounded by talented players, like the roster the Heat is assembling, is exactly what Wade needs.

Morning shootaround — June 3


VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Rick Kamla make their picks for the 2015 Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Williams joins Donovan’s staff | Speights ‘more than likely’ to play in Finals | Bosh goes through workout with Heat

No. 1: Report: Williams joins Donovan’s staff in OKC — Roughly three weeks ago, the New Orleans Pelicans fired coach Monty Williams after five seasons on the job. They have since filled his position with Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry and Williams, it seems, has a new gig lined up as well. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Williams will become the lead assistant on rookie coach Billy Donovan‘s staff in Oklahoma City:

Monty Williams has reached an agreement to become the top assistant under Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

For Donovan, who is transitioning from the University of Florida to the NBA, the securement of Williams stands as the first significant coup of his regime.

Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti targeted Williams and sold him on a prominent role on the staff. The Thunder have championship aspirations with a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and playing a part in helping Oklahoma City into a deep run in the postseason could become a springboard for Williams, 43, to ascend into another head coaching job.

Donovan will keep Oklahoma City assistant Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic on staff, and likely make former Alabama coach Anthony Grant his No. 3 assistant coach, league sources said. The Thunder are still searching for an assistant coach with a strong defensive pedigree, sources said.

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Morning shootaround — June 2


VIDEO: Relive Stephen Curry’s top 10 assists from 2014-15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Hoiberg headed to Bulls| All-time great shooters marvel at Curry’s shooting skill | LeBron says he’s playing at his best ever

No. 1: Reports: Hoiberg headed to Bulls; Has reached 5-year deal with Chicago — The worst kept secret in the NBA regarding who will replace Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Chicago Bulls will likely be fully out in the open today. According to multiple reports, the Bulls are set to formally introduce Iowa State coach (and former Bulls player) Fred Hoiberg as their next coach. ESPN.com has more on the move, which isn’t a done deal yet, but is close enough that Hoiberg is telling some at Iowa State he won’t be back for 2015-16:

Fred Hoiberg has informed several Iowa State players and staff members that he is leaving, a source told ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman.

Hoiberg is in negotiations with the Chicago Bulls for a five-year contract to become their new coach and was en route to Chicago to finalize the agreement, according to the source.

Although contract language is still being hammered out, multiple sources said the feeling from many within the Bulls organization is that the deal is all but complete.

On Monday night, the Bulls informed media that the team will make a “major announcement” Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

Hoiberg has been mentioned as a successor to Tom Thibodeau for months, due to Hoiberg’s close friendship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and several others in the team’s front office.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports Hoiberg has in fact already signed with the Bulls and has a five-year, $25 million deal with them:

Fred Hoiberg has signed a five-year contract worth nearly $25 million to coach the Chicago Bulls, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Chicago has a news conference set for Tuesday afternoon to introduce Hoiberg as coach.

Hoiberg’s contract is comparable to deals that Golden State’s Steve Kerr and New York Knicks’ Derek Fisher signed a year ago.

Hoiberg had been making $2.6 million a year at Iowa State.

Bulls management considered the partnership that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens had developed as a model for the Hoiberg hiring, league sources said. Stevens made the leap to the NBA from Butler University three years ago.

The Oklahoma City Thunder hired Florida coach Billy Donovan, agreeing to what sources say is a five-year, $30 million contract.


VIDEO: K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune analyzes the Thibodeau firing

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Longtime NBA referee Delaney to join Naismith Hall of Fame board

In a nod to the notion that there are three teams involved in every basketball game – the home team, the road team and the referee team – the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is adding former NBA referee Bob Delaney to its Board of Trustees, a league source told NBA.com.

Delaney, currently the league’s vice president of referee operations, becomes the first game official to be part of either the Hall’s 30-member Board of Trustees or its 23-member Board of Governors. The announcement of Delaney’s addition is expected with the boards’ meetings Tuesday in Springfield, Mass., home of the basketball shrine.

Longtime NBA ref Dick Bavetta will be enshrined with other members of the Class of 2015 on Sept. 11. Bavetta, who officiated in the NBA for 39 years, will become the 15th referee honored among more than 300 inductees representing professional, amateur and international basketball.

Hoiberg will have his hands full


VIDEO:
GameTime crew discusses Bulls’ dismissal of Tom Thibodeau

It was a private jet that delivered “The Mayor” from Ames, Iowa to the Windy City on Monday evening, evidently to wrap up the negotiations to make Fred Hoiberg the next coach of the Bulls.

In the end, what had been categorized as an extensive, perhaps worldwide, search to find the best man available, delivered the one that everybody figures has been waiting in the wings for nearly a year.

Before boarding the plane, Hoiberg made amends for the way the entire situation had been handled.

“I want to apologize to everybody just for the way that it’s all gone down and everything that’s been reported out there and all the rumors and the speculation that’s been thrown around. It’s been very difficult to deal with that,” Hoiberg said.

“When this opportunity came about, this was something that interested me greatly. One of my life goals is to coach in that league.”

Now comes the really hard part — replacing what his predecessor Tom Thibodeau delivered to the Bulls’ offense.

Yes, offense.

As Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times points out, the reputation of Thibodeau, who had a 255-139 (.647) record in five seasons, as a one-dimensional grinder who only cares about down-and-dirty defense is belied by the numbers:

One of the narratives the front office tried to paint the past few seasons was that Thibodeau’s defense-first mentality ignored the offensive side of the ball.

The two offensive categories that many NBA teams focus on, however, are not only offensive efficiency, but also points per possession.

Twice over the last five years, Thibodeau’s offensive efficiency finished in the top four in the Eastern Conference, with the 2011-12 team second best in the conference and this year’s team fourth best.

This year’s team was also 10th overall throughout the entire league in points per possession, according to Elias Sports Bureau, at 1.077.

Not bad for a starting core that played only 21 regular-season games together, handcuffed by injuries, minutes restrictions and practice limitations.

Cavs still face questions about their D


VIDEO: GameTime: Comparing Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov

CLEVELAND — Is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense good now?

That may be the most important question heading into The Finals.

The NBA started counting turnovers in 1977. Since then, no team had reached The Finals after ranking as low as 20th in defensive efficiency in the regular season … until now.

20150601_below_avg_d

Ranking anywhere outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency is not a good sign for your hopes of winning a championship. Only three teams — the ’01 Lakers (19th), the ’95 Rockets (12th) and ’88 Lakers (11th) – have won the title after ranking outside the top 10 in the last 37 years. And all three had won the championship (with a top-10 defense) the year before.  

Morning shootaround — June 1



VIDEO: Who would you build your team around — Stephen Curry or LeBron James?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls going with the Mayor, so what of Thibs? | Experience edge to Cavaliers | Thompson’s status (mostly) revealed | Jazz weighing young core versus free agency

No. 1: Bulls go with ‘the Mayor’, so what of Thibodeau? — The marriage between the Chicago Bulls and Fred Hoiberg is in need of rubber stamping to finalize the deal and is the worst kept secret in the NBA. So with “the Mayor” soon to be sworn in as the new coach in the Windy City, what of his predecessor, Tom Thibodeau? Joe Cowley of the Sun Times examines the fallout for the man who put the Bulls back on the map:

Meanwhile, now that the Orlando Magic’s and New Orleans Pelicans’ coaching vacancies have been filled, only the Denver Nuggets’ opening remains. But a source said Thibodeau has little interest in that job.

That doesn’t mean Thibodeau won’t be coaching next season, though. As long as Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt has the ability to signal for a timeout he no longer has — something he did in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls — he has zero job security, regardless of what happens in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

And while Minnesota Timberwolves general manager/coach Flip Saunders has said he wants to coach for one more season, owner Glen Taylor has remained noncommittal to the idea.

A person close to Thibodeau recently indicated the Timberwolves are a team Thibodeau always has had special feelings for because he began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with them from 1989 to 1991.

If Thibodeau is willing to sit out a year, some interesting possibilities might be open to him. First, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson can opt out of his deal after next season. That might open the door for Thibodeau to return to New York, where he was an assistant for seven seasons and might be granted GM responsibilities.

Thibodeau had little say about personnel matters with the Bulls, and that seemed to lead to some bad feelings between him and the front office.

Then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers’ job, which belongs to Byron Scott — for now, at least.

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Kevin Love expects to be back, healthy for Cavs’ (yes, Cavs’) season opener


VIDEO: Kevin Love talks about rehab, returning to Cavs

Kevin Love expects to be playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Opening Night, 2015-16.

There’s the headline out of Love’s session Sunday with reporters after the Cavaliers’ practice at their facility in Independence, Ohio. That means Love, who has been sidelined since Cleveland’s first-round finale against Boston by a dislocated shoulder that required postseason-ending surgery, expects his recovery and rehab to be complete in time for the regular season.

More important, it suggests – as a snapshot of what he’s thinking now or at least what he’s saying about what he’s thinking – that Love will be back by one contractual path or another. Love has a player-option for next season worth approximately $16.7 million, so he could stay by invoking that. Or he could opt-out and sign a new long-term, maximum-salary deal with the Cavs. Or he could opt-out and sign something shorter – say, a two-year deal with another player-option after one – that still would be worth a few million dollars more and provide some back-end security if he needs it.

Again, it’s only a snapshot and could change if any of a dozen or a hundred other moving parts change on Love, the Cavaliers, the NBA’s free-agent marketplace this summer or maybe even global and cosmic events over which none of us has control.

Still, that provides a little bit of calm as Love’s teammates head toward their most important challenge of the season – the Finals, facing the Golden State Warriors in the best-of-seven championship round that begins Thursday – and should cover him from the media throngs who might try to spring loose something click-generating from Love during non-game hours in the Bay Area or in Cleveland. He has been cleared to fly as his left shoulder continues to heal, so Love will accompany the team to California.

A smaller throng was on hand Sunday, with Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal providing the most important nugget:

Asked at Cleveland Clinic Courts if there was any any question in his mind if he’d be back with Cleveland next year, Love said, “No, I truly haven’t even thought about it, but as I mentioned, I expect to be suiting up by Game 1 of next year.”

For the Cavs?

“Yes, sir,” Love said.

Love said he has tuned out the Internet rumors, learning to stay off social media during the season.

That means the Cavs’ injured power forward, missing all but four games in his first taste of the NBA playoffs, also missed tweets such as these that told the story of his chinwag. These should pretty much capture what Love has been up to and how he’s feeling about his very-limited role in pursuit of a championship: