Posts Tagged ‘Blackhawks’

Pop The Rock Rolls Up On Win No. 900

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HANG TIME, Texas – It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.

Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.

With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.

Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.

In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – Popovich stands a step apart and above.

He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.

When he sat at a makeshift table for a news conference last spring when he was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, Popovich’s face turned different shades of red. But it wasn’t for the usual reasons of screaming at a referee or boiling at another question from a reporter. He was, in short, embarrassed with the attention.

Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.

“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.

But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.

He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.

“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.

He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.

“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”

Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”

That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.

After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)

No Room For Emotion in Mavs’ Rebuilding

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HANG TIME, Texas — The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and that means general managers are spending endless days on the phone and many veterans are spending sleepless nights on edge.

On one hand, athletes get to plead the case that they’re the only professional group in today’s modern age that can be swapped like heads of lettuce at a farmer’s market, having their homes and their lives relocated on short notice.

On the other, the rest of the world outside those well-paid lives usually get only a handshake and a pink slip when they’re no longer wanted or needed.

So here is 14-year-veteran Shawn Marion telling Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas that he won’t necessarily show up in a new city and play if the sinking Mavericks trade him.

“If I’m going to get traded, they’re going to tell me what’s going on and where I’m going,” the 14-year veteran said. “Because if I’m going to a (expletive) situation, I’m not going. It’s just that simple.

“At this time, I’m too old to be trying to go through and be a, you know what I’m saying, not have a chance to do anything. I’m at a point where I want to be playing for something right now.”

Certainly it is easy to understand the emotional and professional viewpoint of Marion. It was just 20 months ago that The Matrix was playing in The Finals and playing a key role on a team that would win a championship. He figures he’s paid his dues over the years, jumping from Phoenix to Miami to Toronto to find a place in Dallas where he has been comfortable and appreciated.

And all that just goes out the window because Dirk Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season following knee surgery, the Mavericks plummeted in the standings and now team owner Mark Cuban must start looking toward the future?

Well, yes.

Perhaps somebody could cue up the Lion King music for Marion, because this is just the circle of life. For all that he has done in Dallas over the past 3 1/2 years, the Mavs are probably hopelessly out of the race for even the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and must begin to look ahead.

Of course, things would have been radically different if Cuban would have been able to reel in star free-agent point guard Deron Williams or made a deal for center Dwight Howard.

But that is the past and it’s time for Cuban, team president Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle to build for the future. Can they somehow convince Chris Paul, the free agent next summer, to leave all that he’s built with the Clippers? Can they talk Howard into leaving money on the table with the Lakers to start fresh in Dallas?

They Mavs at least have to try and that means making tough choices, namely moving veterans such as Marion or Vince Carter in hope of getting draft picks, young prospects or just to clear out salary space. Marion will be owed $9.3 million next season, Carter nearly $3.2 million. Those elder statesmen are the most logical — and valuable — trade chips for a team that has to get much better real soon so they don’t squander what’s left of Nowitzki’s career.

Marion is hardly alone on the hot seat. Atlanta is evidently willing to talk to anyone about veteran Josh Smith. Despite all the claims to the contrary from Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchak, Pau Gasol listened to the talk all season until getting sidelined by his foot injury.

By the way, from a historical perspective, players refusing to report to an undesirable location is hardly a modern phenomenon. As far back as 1950, Bob Cousy was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, but would not sign and was later picked up by the Celtics. Six NBA titles later, that worked out well for Cousy.

Marion, of course, can only hope that Dallas would send him to a place where he can compete for another championship come June. But if not, the Mavs owe less to him than they do to themselves and their fans.

After a decade of excellence that included annual trips to the playoffs, culminating with the 2011 championship, it is time to move on in Dallas.

The circle of life in the NBA.