Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.
The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.
The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons: (more…)
ORLANDO — General manager Rob Hennigan would not say he’s suspended trade talks for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard, but did admit the process has stalled and the Magic will take a step back to regroup.
Hennigan had been in talks in recent days with the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Howard’s preferred destination of the Nets.
“As currently constructed, there’s not much there,” Hennigan said of his talks with the Nets. “I’m not sure there’s much more to discuss.”
The Nets signed center Brook Lopez, the centerpiece of a package that Orlando would receive in return for Howard, to a maximum contract. That eliminates the salary cap space the Nets would have to trade for Howard and, according to NBA rules, make Lopez ineligible to be traded before Jan. 15.
“We tried,” Hennigan reportedly told Howard during their conversation.
Hennigan denied that the Magic were turning away from the Howard situation entirely in order to concentrate on hiring a new head coach for the team.
“That’s not accurate,” Hennigan said, though admitting that he hoped to have the job filled soon.
Warriors assistant Michael Malone, Spurs assistant Jacques Vaughn, Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek, Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter and Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw are said to be the prime candidates for the position. (more…)
ORLANDO — Only part of the action is taking place on the court. While wannabes and might-have-beens are trading shots, rebounds and passes in the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League, most of the talk swirls around the host team off the court.
Remember, whenever the Dwight Howard trade circus finally concludes, the Magic still need a head coach.
The latest candidates to get into the running are Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek and Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter. They join a list that includes Spurs assistant Jacques Vaughn, Warriors assistant Michael Malone and Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw. Former Lakers assistant Quin Snyder passed up on an interview with the Magic and chose to take a similar job with CSKA Moscow.
Shaw and Hornacek are both currently in Orlando and buttonholed constantly by media, peers and friends in the hallways just outside the Amway Center practice court.
Shaw told the Orlando Sentinel that he is “playing the waiting game” and has no indication when new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan will make his decision.
Former Charlotte coach Sam Vincent, who played for the Bulls during Jackson’s days as an assistant in Chicago and also played for the Magic, continues to captain the cause that would have Jackson work remotely (likely from Los Angeles, where his longtime girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, remains with the Lakers) most of the time. Vincent would operate in a front-office role in the plan, while the team would be coached by a protégé (or two) of Jackson’s.
According to the sources, the latest version of the proposal has Pacers assistant and ex-Lakers assistant Brian Shaw coaching the team and Hall of Famer and Bulls ambassador Scottie Pippen as the lead assistant. And as if Jackson’s potential price tag wasn’t daunting enough (he earned $12 million in his last year with the Lakers), one of the sources said he is asking for a slice of minority ownership in the franchise as well. The hope, of course, would be for Jackson to use his cachet to convince Dwight Howard to remain in Orlando for the long-term. Jackson’s agent, Todd Musburger, did not return a call for comment.
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – We can see it now: Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” blaring from the sound system and a suited and booted Shaquille O’Neal walking to the podium as he’s introduced as the Orlando Magic’s new general manager.
Don’t laugh. It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
Dan asked Barkley if Shaquille O’Neal has told him he’s is interested in the Orlando GM job. “Yes,” Barkley said. “I do know he’s interested in the job and he’s going to interview for it.”
Barkley said O’Neal and Dwight Howard have had issues in the past, but that doesn’t mean Shaq can’t go to Orlando.
Barkley thinks Howard needs to make a decision and stay or go in Orlando. He’s sick of talking about it.
“They’re trying to do anything they can to keep Dwight there and get a buzz,” Barkley said. “They have to do something whether Dwight stays there or not. Bringing in Shaquille is an attention getter.”
This gives folks a license to let their imaginations run wild with images of O’Neal back in the city where his Hall of Fame playing career began, the same city he calls home. If Shaq is on the short list of people the Magic want to talk to about replacing Otis Smith, it is noteworthy. Especially considering the nature of his departure from the Magic in 1996 for the Los Angeles Lakers.
O’Neal hasn’t even finished his first year of retirement and already his name is popping up in a GM search. That’s impressive, no matter how it all transpired.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the eyes of the basketball-loving public focused squarely on the playoffs and who will emerge from the Eastern Conference semifinals, we decided to take a mini-detour this week on the Hang Time Podcast.
With all the news coming out of Orlando, we simply could not let an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the goings on down there slip away.
We also had to talk about the potential replacements for both Van Gundy, the coach, and Smith, the general manager. Names like Brian Shaw, Jerry Sloan and Phil Jackson, yes the Zen Master himself, have popped up on the short list of replacements for Van Gundy. Meanwhile, names like Donnie Walsh, Jeff Bower and TNT’s very own Shaquille O’Neal have popped up on the surprising short list of candidates to replace Smith.
(We first heard these rumblings about O’Neal being a candidate Monday night … talk about things getting interesting if the Big Fella were to return to the Magic after all these years.)
You get conversation about all that and more, we talk plenty of playoffs, flagrant fouls, suspensions and everything else with our main man Evan Dunlap of the OPP.
Check it out on Episode 80 of the Hang Time Podcast:
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Before anyone else in Los Angeles points another finger at Pau Gasol, Mike Brown, Ramon Sessions or any of the other convenient scapegoats in the wake of a second straight second-round playoff exit, look in the mirror.
Stare long and hard and ask yourself if you didn’t see this coming. Didn’t you realize last season, when Andrew Bynumwas heading to visitor’s locker room in Dallas without his jersey, that this team was fatally flawed and had no chance of overcoming its own internal obstacles?
Like an aging heavyweight champ who gets K.O.’d in his last bout and then comes back into the ring the next time without truly understanding what went wrong, the Lakers got popped against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. This time, it came by believing in their ability to overcome any obstacle with sheer talent alone.
Avoiding the sweep this time around shouldn’t ease the sting for Lakers fans, either. They knew (better than most) what they saw from this group during last season’s semifinal flame-out against the Mavericks exposed the team’s flaws.
Why would anyone, Kobe Bryant included, be surprised at Gasol’s struggles against the Thunder when you saw him crumble against the Mavericks?
You replaced a living legend in Phil Jackson with a good coach in Brown, but if Jackson couldn’t get this team over the proverbial hump in his final season, why would anyone assume Brown would be capable of pulling it off now? And Sessions was supposed to be the anti-Derek Fisher — a younger, more athletically gifted point guard capable of matching up better against the league’s younger and more athletic guards. He proved to be just as ill-equipped to handle Russell Westbrook as Fisher would have been.
This is a mess of the Lakers’ own making, whether they admit it or not. They are the ones that tossed Jackson’s hand-picked successor, Brian Shaw, aside in favor of Brown. They saw the cracks in their foundation and opted for some instant sealant instead of legit fixes.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff from the Indiana Pacers.
They are using the tried-and-true method of “Nobody Believes In Us” to shine their own spotlight on themselves as they wrap up the franchise’s best regular season in years.
The Pacers have won six straight games, nine of their last 10 (against a very generous schedule) and have the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings on lockdown, and yet there is still hesitation from the basketball-loving public to buy into this team.
There would be no need for these commercials (like the one above) with Pacers’ boss Larry Bird asking for support if the home folks were convinced their blue-collar team was more than just another temporary feel good story (see also: the 76ers of Philadelphia). The trepidation belies the facts, though. The Pacers have given us every reason to believe they are indeed for real.
Look inside the 40 wins and start categorizing the wins in terms of quality and all of the prime suspects are there. The Thunder, Heat, Bulls, Lakers and reigning champion Mavericks have all been vanquished at least once. With no RPI to worry about in the NBA, we don’t normally concern ourselves with a weighted system of measuring wins and losses. But if that’s needed in the Pacers’ case, so be it.
The best part for us, though, is that the Pacers seem to have a firm grasp on the concept of earning their respect the hard way, the old-fashioned way … by making some serious noise in the playoffs.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – At least a half-dozen different outfits have staked a claim to the title of “surprise team” in the month leading up to the quarter pole of this abbreviated NBA season.
Portland, Philadelphia, Orlando, Utah, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers have all been in that mix at one point or another. Most of them remain among the select group of upstarts prepared to challenge for top-four seeds in the playoff chase in their respective conferences, while some others have started to fade in the face of that spotlight.
Well, you can add the Indiana Pacers to that mix of teams that surprised early on and appear to be constructed for more than just a momentary spin through the high-rent district. Having gotten off to an impressive 11-4 start this season, one that includes Sunday’s mettle-testing win over the Lakers in Los Angeles (Roy Hibbert has the broken nose, courtesy of a Kobe Bryant elbow, to prove it), coach Frank Vogel‘s team continues to turn heads.
The way the Pacers are doing it might the most impressive part. With the brain trust of Larry Bird and David Morway choosing to eschew the superstar round-up approach for a more traditional roster makeover, the Pacers have found the perfect fit. They’re getting some serious bang for their free agent bucks out David West, who has joined Hibbert and leading scorer Danny Granger in a stout starting frontline. The Pacers have talent, depth, good chemistry and a clear goal in mind. Seven players average double figures in scoring, Vogel can go 10-deep into his rotation without blinking and if you asked someone who the Pacers’ most important player was you’d get five or six different answers.
As one Pacers insider told me via text this morning, “these guys play hard, they’re athletic and for the first time in years they play as a team.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Spend 20 minutes talking basketball with Lawrence Frank and I promise you, it’s impossible not to be both impressed with his knowledge of the game and won over by his straight-shooter personality.
Spend the same amount of time with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson and I guarantee you’d come away feeling the same way. When the Detroit Pistons’ coaching search came down to Frank and Woodson as their final two candidates, there was no way they could lose, right?
Try telling that to Pistons fans (I’m Michigan born and bred, so I’ve got more than a few Pistons diehards dangling from the family tree), who from what we could gather didn’t seem particularly enthused about any of the options they were presented.
Still, for a franchise in need of a strong personality in that head coach’s chair, after several years of misses, Frank offers offer the qualities needed to deal with a young roster that needs shaping.
His selection over Woodson, an offer is coming soon as first reported by Yahoo! Sports, signals more than just an apparent shift in philosophy — the Pistons’ last three coaches have all had some connection to the organization, either player or assistant coach, prior to taking over the top bench job. It’s also a sign of the influence the new ownership group is placing in the hands of Dave Checketts, hired as a consultant by new owner Tom Gores to advise and assist alongside Pistons president Joe Dumars.
Franchises wish the process was as simple the brain trust coming together and choosing between two worthy candidates that also happen to be ideal fits.
But we all know that the only thing tougher than lucking into a transcendent talent at the top of a draft is finding the right coach for the right team at just the right time.