Posts Tagged ‘Byron Scott’

Cavs Fire GM Chris Grant; Griffin Takes Over On Interim Basis

From NBA.com Staff Reports

The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the most busy and active teams in the 2013 offseason, signing free agents Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack to contracts as well as drafting former UNLV star Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall in the 2013 Draft. All those moves were supposed to help Cleveland reverse a three-seasons (and counting) playoff-less drought.

But, that hasn’t been the case for the Cavs and the man who oversaw many of those offseason moves, general manager Chris Grant, is reportedly out of a job. According to Yahoo!Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Grant has been fired after nearly four years on the job:

The team confirmed the reported move this afternoon and said that Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin will serve as acting GM. As well, team owner Dan Gilbert issued the following statement regarding Grant’s firing:

“I would like to thank Chris Grant for his eight and a half years of service with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the last three and a half as General Manager. Chris always conducted himself with class, integrity and was motivated by what he believed was right for the organization. We wish Chris and his family the best in the years to come.”

“My entire focus the past eight years has been on trying to build a team that can contend and win and provide Cleveland fans the success that they deserve,” said Grant. “I have a tremendous appreciation for the players that are here and the coaches that I have worked with, as well as our front office. I thank them for all of their dedication and commitment to the Cavaliers.”

Gilbert went on to address the current situation and the path ahead:

“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise. We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group. I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.

“There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term. The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change,” concluded Gilbert.

After last night’s loss to the short-handed L.A. Lakers, Cleveland is 12th in the Eastern Conference and 5 1/2 games behind Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff berth. Grant has been at his post as Cavs GM since June of 2010 and oversaw the team’s hiring of Byron Scott as coach in 2010 (as well as his firing after the 2012-13 season) and brought back Mike Brown as Cavaliers coach last summer.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst has more on the Cavs’ firing of Grant:

The team is mired in a disappointing season and a six-game losing streak that has dimmed playoff expectations that were set down before the season by team owner Dan Gilbert.

The 38-year-old GM just last week shouldered some of the blame for the Cavaliers’ poor season and addressed the team’s “unacceptable” lack of effort after a 1-4 homestand.

“We’re all accountable for it, including myself,” he said at the time. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing to our fans. The fans deserve better.”

Grant’s major moves since last summer have not worked including drafting Anthony Bennett with No. 1 overall pick, free agent signings Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum, and a recent trade for Luol Deng has failed to turn the team’s season around.

Grant was a driving force in re-hiring coach Mike Brown last year and the team has not responded to the change. Recently their lack of effort in games has brought Brown under fire as well. Wednesday the Cavs lost to a injury-depleted Los Angeles Lakers team that finished the game with only four healthy players.

The Cavs focused on the draft after losing LeBron James in free agency in 2010 and Grant worked to get six first round draft picks over the past three years. But other than Kyrie Irving, who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, those picks have failed to turn the team around as they are on pace to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Grant, who was named general manager in 2010, had one season left on his contract.

Under Grant’s watch, Cleveland has gone 80-199.

If LeBron Had Stayed In Cleveland…


VIDEO: LeBron James greets Cavs fans during a matchup last season

Their 3-6 start might suggest otherwise, but it’s pretty clear from a quick scan of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster and a few glimpses of their play so far in 2013-14 that they are better off than they were a few seasons ago.

But are they better off than they were 40 months (plus a couple of weeks) ago, when LeBron James had yet to play for any other franchise and, as a free agent for the first time in his career, at least was contemplating a re-up with the Cavs?

It’s a classic “what-if,” parallel universe, hypothetical to which there’s no correct or incorrect answer, which makes it ideal for the blogosphere. Bandying about what might have happened, or even what should have, is so much more entertaining than simply chronicling what did or rehashing why it did.

In broad strokes, the impact on the Cavaliers, on James and on the league are easy enough to discern. Cleveland surely wouldn’t be 105 games under .500 over the past three-plus seasons and 0-for-postseason qualifying if it still had the NBA’s most dominant player on hand.

James very likely would have just as many MVP trophies, All-Star appearances and gold medals, and nearly as much endorsement income, but his vault still might have only store-bought jewelry. Notably, the league’s owners and players might be working under a significantly different collective bargaining agreement, because the jolt provided by Miami’s Big Three roundup — a central issue of the 2011 lockout — never would have happened. The road to the Eastern Conference title still would run very much through Cleveland, so the urgency to tighten the new CBA — with its harsher luxury taxes and shorter contracts — wouldn’t have been the same.


VIDEO: Fans react to LeBron James’ decision in 2010

Drill down to the details, though, and some of the trickier differences in James’, Cavs fans’ and our realities might leap out at you. Such as:

No Kyrie Irving. No Tristan Thompson, for that matter, and very likely no Dion Waiters or Anthony Bennett either. The Cavaliers had to both be bad, and accept being bad, to get those guys (trading away Mo Williams, one of James’ more competent teammates, in the Clippers deal that delivered the Irving Draft pick). Winning 50 or 55 games a year primarily carried along on James’ shoulders would have meant, instead, more Christian Eyengas and Jared Cunninghams.


VIDEO: Best moments from Kyrie Irving in 2012-13

No Mike Brown. But then, no Bryon Scott either. Since Brown was dumped and Scott was hired during that week or so when Cleveland thought it could entice James to re-sign, the former wouldn’t be back working at The Q had James stayed. Then again, Scott almost certainly would have chafed with the organization’s superstar-indulging ways, leading to headbutting in general and eventually a predictable outcome to a classic franchise player vs. head coach conflict. Who’d be coaching the Cavs right now? Hmm, maybe George Karl would be the one getting a second shot.

The supporting cast would be different without necessarily being better. The last Cleveland team on which James played included Daniel Gibson, Danny Green, J.J. Hickson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison, Coby Karl, Jamario Moon, Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, Sebastian Telfair, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, Jawad Williams and Mo Williams, among others. Varejao, alone, remains. Cavs GM Chris Grant surely would have patched, spliced and caulked as desperately as he could to keep reasonable pieces around James, but Draft positions and the club’s forever difficulty attracting top free agents would have undercut that strategy. (Having witnessed first-hand Kevin Garnett‘s career arc in Minnesota, I can attest: building around a young star is easier, or at least a more synchronized effort, than rebuilding around an impatient veteran star.)

The NBA’s balance of power would be quite different. Miami, relying on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and, hmm, some third piece way less dangerous than James, likely wouldn’t have gone to three Finals and won two. Oklahoma City might have broken through in 2011 and decided that keeping James Harden for a repeat, perhaps three-peat, was worth it. If Irving sticks in L.A. with that Clippers’ pick in 2011, Chris Paul might actually have wound up with the Lakers — remember, the lockout probably would have played out differently, in tone and in duration. Maybe Dwight Howard stays put in Orlando if James stays in Cleveland. Heck, maybe even Carmelo Anthony stays in Denver – unless he could find a way to hook up with Wade and Bosh.

Fewer rings for James? As in zero? Probably. And if he signed a contract to stay with the Cavs that included an opt-out, the speculation about him moving this summer would be ten times louder than it is now — and far more likely. His choices of destinations might be far different, too (Brooklyn? The Lakers? A reinvigorated push from Dallas?).

There are a hundred things that would be different had James stayed in Cleveland, including the promishing state of the Cavs’ current roster. The Decision wound up being, in its way, “The Butterfly Effect” of the current NBA landscape.

One Team, One Stat: Three Seasons Worth Of Bad ‘D’ In Cleveland

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team poised to make a big jump this season.

The basics
CLE Rank
W-L 24-58 28
Pace 95.0 12
OffRtg 100.8 23
DefRtg 106.9 27
NetRtg -6.1 27

The stat

3 - The Cavs are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

The context

There are a few reasons Mike Brown is back in Cleveland, but a primary one is how poorly the Cavs played defensively under Byron Scott. Scott wasn’t blessed with the most talented or most veteran-y rosters in his three seasons — Alonzo Gee played 37 more games than any other Cav in Scott’s tenure and Anderson Varejao played just 81. But you don’t have to be that talented or experienced to play decent defense, and Cleveland wasn’t anywhere close to decent.

Cavs defense, 2012-13
Category CLE Rank
Opp2PT% 51.1% 28
Opp3PT% 37.2% 25
DREB% 72.6% 25
OppTmTOV% 16.1% 7
OppFTA Rate .304 28

As you can see from the table to the right, the one thing the Cavs’ defense did decently last season was force turnovers. Otherwise, they were bad across the board. Their opponents shot well from everywhere, they didn’t rebound well, and they fouled too much.

The Cavs were particularly bad at protecting the rim, allowing their opponents to shoot 64.1 percent in the restricted area, the third-worst mark in the league. They lacked rim protectors, but the problems started with breakdowns on the perimeter and continued with poor weak-side help.

Here are some defensive lowlights from a March 31 game where the Hornets (a mediocre offensive team) shot 18-for-27 in the restricted area and scorched the Cavs for 112 points (on about 93 possessions)…


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In comes Brown, who had the Cavs in the top-seven in defensive efficiency in three of his five previous seasons in Cleveland. Of course, Brown had LeBron James, as well as a healthy Varejao. In fact, the two seasons where the Cavs didn’t rank in the top seven defensively under Brown were the two seasons in which Varejao didn’t play a full season.

Cavs defense under Brown

Season DefRtg Rank vs. Lg. Avg. Varejao GP
2005-06 102.6 14 -0.8 48
2006-07 98.9 4 -4.8 81
2007-08 103.7 11 -1.1 48
2008-09 99.4 3 -6.0 81
2009-10 101.5 7 -3.4 76

Varejao’s health is key and it’s great news that he was cleared to play this week. It’s hard to expect anything out of Andrew Bynum at this point, but he could provide a defensive lift as well.

Still, if the Cavs want to challenge for a playoff spot, they will need improvement from their young bigs, as well as those wings that failed to help from the weak side in some of the examples above. So it should be no surprise that Brown is focusing on defense for the first few days of training camp.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTmTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

Vegas Chips: Kings, Cousins Rising? Goodwin A Keeper? Brown At Home?

 

LAS VEGAS – Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. OK, that does. But these don’t:

KINGS FIND ‘GOOD-LUCK CHARM?’

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The most remarkable comment I heard during Summer League came from new Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone about DeMarcus Cousins after he watched the final game from the bench with the summer Kings searching for their first win, which they got: “I told him he was our good-luck charm.”

Wow. When Cousins is suddenly deemed a good-luck charm, you know things aren’t the same old same old. This guy was like the Grim Reaper in Sac, delivering seriously bad vibes wherever he wandered. But maybe, just maybe, new ownership, a new front office and a new coaching staff is breaking through the darkness (74-156 during Cousins’ three seasons) and getting through to the immature-yet-wildly talented big man.

Throughout the game, Cousins was encouraging rookie Ben McLemore to remain confident with his shot and the former Jayhawk went on to score 27 points with nine rebounds.

“I went to Alabama and spent some time with him and his family (this summer),” Malone said. “I thanked him for coming to this game and I’ll come back up (to Las Vegas) and spend some time with him with USA basketball. But I told him he was our good-luck charm. All our other veterans came, we couldn’t win a game. DeMarcus came and we got a win, so we needed that presence on the bench.”

Nothing wrong with doting on Cousins. Malone will give The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder who turns 23 next month — yes, it’s difficult to remember how young he still is — equal parts coddling and hard coaching. Cousins, entering his fourth season, is working on his third coach for a franchise that has operated at the height of dysfunction since he was drafted fifth overall after one season at Kentucky.

Even so, Cousins, despite rampant childish behavior, ejections and fines, has put up impressive numbers thus far. His career averages? Try 16.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 0.9 bpg in 29.8 mpg. Want to do a little comparison? Here’s Dwight Howard‘s numbers after his first three seasons: 15.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg in 35.4 mpg. If you extrapolate Cousins’ numbers to per-36 minutes, his totals jump to 19.1 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 1.1 bpg.

It’s why new ownership and management believe if they can straighten out Cousins upstairs, they’ll have a foundation block and the face of the franchise they desperately want. That’s a notion that even Cousins says he can now envision. Continuing to compete with the game’s other young stars at Team USA workouts as he is this week can only benefit Cousins and the Kings.

“I believe I mature after every season,” Cousins told reporters Monday’s workout. “I believe people forget I am just 22. At the same time I’ve got a big responsibility. It’s going to take me time, and I’m still learning. But I believe I do improve every year.”

How much can the Kings improve this season? It’s not time to call them a playoff contender in a stacked Western Conference, but they finally appear to be headed in a positive direction. The Kings acquired emerging 6-foot-6 point guard Greivis Vasquez (career-highs 13.9 ppg, 9.0 apg last season) from New Orleans in the Tyreke Evans trade. Marcus Thornton will likely start at shooting guard, with rookies McLemore and Ray McCallum, who had an impressive Summer League (12.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), adding intriguing depth. Blue-collar forward Carl Landry is back in town and defensive-minded Luc Mbah a Moute joins a front line that includes Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson.

There’s also a budding camaraderie. Point guard Isaiah Thomas, Thornton, Thompson and Jimmer Fredette made appearances in Vegas and even worked out with the summer team.

“From Jason Thompson to Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer, Marcus Thornton, even DeMarcus, them coming around, sensing the change in the ownership and the commitment from ownership, our front office staff, our coaching staff, they know it’s a new day in Sacramento,” Malone said. “I think they’re all excited, looking forward to the change that’s ahead.”

It’s a welcome change for a beleaguered franchise that just months ago was on the brink of bolting for Seattle.

LATE FIRST-ROUND SLEEPER?

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One-and-done Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was advised to stay in school. His Summer League performance might have been the start of showing why he did not. A lanky 6-foot-5 with long arms, Goodwin finished third on the Suns in scoring (13.1 ppg). More impressive, he shot 50 percent from the floor (26-for-52) — significantly better than his 44 percent as a college freshman — and made eight of his 14 3-point attempts for 57.1 percent (he was 17-for-64 at Kentucky).

“I know what I’m capable of and I just wanted everybody else to know that I can be something they had question marks on,” Goodwin said.

Most impressive was Goodwin’s last game in the inaugural Summer League tournament championship game against eventual-champion Golden State. Yes, it’s only Summer League, but the stakes and pressure were at their highest in a very competitive atmosphere. Goodwin scored 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He also had games of 22 and 20 points and scored in double figures in five of the seven games.

He consistently outplayed 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall, who averaged 5.6 ppg and 4.0 apg while shooting just 38.7 percent overall, although 40 percent from beyond the arc. (As our own Scott Howard-Cooper reported, Marshall was on the trading block in Phoenix even before Summer League began.)

Goran Drajic has the starting point guard job locked down along with newly acquired shooting guard Eric Bledsoe. Shannon Brown is a veteran presence off the bench and Malcolm Lee was acquired via a Draft-day trade with Golden State that netted Goodwin.

First-year coach Jeff Hornacek, a salty combo guard in his playing days with Phoenix and Utah, coached the Suns’ summer squad and aid Goodwin’s talent and athleticism are obvious. Now it’s a matter of how much he improves and learns through training camp, Hornacek added.

“I’ve learned just about how to play the game,” Goodwin said of playing under Hornacek. “He’s taught me a lot of things. Before we came here I was with him working out. He taught me things on my shot, taught me how to read situations, when to kick the ball, when to attack, things like that. So he’s been really good for me.”

BROWN IN CLEVELAND COMFORT ZONE

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It’s a little weird for a coach to go back to the team that fired him, unless he’s Billy Martin. But, Mike Brown is doing just that, returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after being fired after the 2009-10 season and before LeBron James‘ decision to bolt. Cleveland hired Byron Scott to replace Brown and now Brown, fired last season by the Lakers after a 1-4 start, replaces Scott.

Brown, 43, is a bit older and wiser after his experiences as the only man to coach both James and Kobe Bryant. Maybe he was out of his element in post-Phil Jackson Lakerland (and who wasn’t last season?), but Brown said he wouldn’t change his approach if he had it to do all over again.

“I don’t know if there’s any one thing. I feel like I’m going to be the same coach,” Brown said. “If I was able to go through the same experience again, I’d probably do it the same way. I felt like I worked hard. I felt like I had a plan. It felt like in time the plan would have been executed in the right way, so I enjoyed my time there. But just like any other business that you’re in, when you go through trials and tribulations, whether it’s positive or negative or whatever, you grow in all types of ways. So I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I’ve matured, not only on the floor as a coach, but even off the floor, too. So a lot of positives I take from that situation.”

Brown said he and his family always loved living in Cleveland, in fact, they were moving back even before the job offer came along. And, by the way, he has a pretty nice roster to work with, including a rising star in Kyrie Irving, as Brown tries to lead the Cavs back to the playoffs for the first time since he and LeBron left town.

Report: Clippers Targeting Pacers’ Shaw



MIAMI – The Los Angeles Clippers might have solution to whatever problems have been created with prized point guard Chris Paul recently.

Former Lakers and current Indiana Pacers’ assistant Brian Shaw is at the top of the Los Angeles Clippers’ wish list, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, along with Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. One of these guys could help give the Clippers some much-needed stability in their coaching situation with free agency less than a month away:

Shaw is considered the team’s top choice at this point, multiple sources said. His youth, championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers and player development skills, which have been showcased by his work with Indiana’s Paul George and Lance Stephenson, have intrigued the Clippers management and players. He also received strong reviews from Clippers forward Lamar Odom, who played under Shaw with the Lakers.

But since no candidate has formally interviewed for the position, or met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the situation remains fluid. The Clippers front office has done extensive background work on a handful of candidates: Shaw, Hollins, former Cleveland coach Byron Scott, former Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Denver head coach George Karl.

Van Gundy was previously near the top of the Clippers search, but talks with him have cooled recently, sources said. Karl is also still under consideration, but the Clippers have yet to formally ask permission from Denver to speak with him. Karl, the NBA’s Coach of the Year after leading the starless Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins, will enter the final year of his contract with a new general manager at the helm, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure to Toronto. A source said Saturday that his situation in Denver remains “unsettled.”

Convincing Shaw to leave the Pacers for the Clippers would be a coup for the franchise that has bungled the process since coach Vinny Del Negro was let go. But they have to move quickly where Shaw is concerned since he’s at the top of Brooklyn’s search list as well. Both jobs offer some interesting specifics for a first-time coach.

The respective owners, the Clippers’ Donald Sterling and the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, have very different styles. And you better believe that will be a factor in Shaw’s decision-making process, depending on how quickly things process on both fronts.

Report: Clips Part Ways With Del Negro





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Vinny Del Negro‘s future wasn’t so secure after all.

The Los Angeles Clippers parted ways with their coach this afternoon, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, despite helping orchestrate the finest regular season in franchise history. The Clippers won their first division title this season, but were bounced in the first round of the playoff by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Speculation about Del Negro’s future with the team has raged on for months, long before they faltered in the playoffs. With free-agent point guard Chris Paul still undecided about his future in advance of the July 1 free agent free-for-all, where Paul will be as sought after as anyone on the market not named Dwight Howard.

It should be noted that a Paul favorite and a man familiar to Los Angeles, Byron Scott, was on NBA TV’s airwaves Monday night and is available after being fired in Cleveland. The Clippers would be wise to think about coaches that could connect with their superstar point guard while pursuing Del Negro’s replacement.

There’s also the Phil Jackson factor to think about. If he’s interested in returning to the league in some capacity, but not as a coach, maybe the Clippers consider bringing him back and having him select the next coach.

In addition to Paul, the Clippers will have to take Blake Griffin‘s temperature to see what works for him moving forward. Because if Paul bolts in free agency, Griffin becomes the sole face of the franchise heading into the 2013-14 season.

This opening instantly becomes the hottest job on the market for coaches looking for work, especially if Paul remains with the franchise. And you should expect a whose who of candidates to be associated with the rumors in the coming days and weeks. Former Clippers and Suns coach Alvin Gentry, Scott, Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Malone, Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and even Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins will all be targets.

Westbrook Tough Break, Not A Dirty One

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HOUSTON — Patrick Beverley
plays hard and he plays fast and he plays much, much bigger than his listed height of 6-foot-1.

Beverley does not play dirty. At least he did not on the play that might have ended Russell Westbrook’s season.

The injury to Westbrook’s right knee was untimely, unfortunate and could ultimately prove to be the undoing of the Thunder’s chance to win the NBA championship this season. But it was not unsportsmanlike conduct.

It was hustle. It was aggressive. It was the way virtually every coach who ever carried a clipboard wants his to players to play — until he hears the whistle.

Was Westbrook trying to call a timeout? Probably. But he hadn’t and no referee had signaled for play to stop.

Were the chances of Beverley making the steal slim? Probably. But the best players don’t always need the odds in their favor. They force the action.

It is understandable that fans in Oklahoma City have been devastated by the news that one of their two All-Star players could be lost for the rest of the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

It is not understandable, reasonable or even civilized for fans to direct threats toward Beverley on Twitter.

For those over-reactors in the 24-hour media maw, have you watched the video replays? Westbrook dribbled across mid-court and was perhaps a bit too cavalier in thinking he was going to get a timeout and Beverley did what he always does — he played.

The two players bumped knees and when that happens, often someone gets hurt. In this case, it was Westbrook who turned and slammed down his fist onto the scorer’s table.

Take note: Not only was there no foul called on the play, but Kevin Durant, who was standing right there, did not even give Beverley the slightest derisive look. And not a single player or coach on the Thunder bench reacted as if a breach of etiquette had occurred. By the way, Westbrook played all 24 minutes of the second half, scoring 16 of his 29 points.

Injuries happen and they have derailed more than a few teams and careers. This season alone injuries have kept the likes of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Danny Granger, among others, on the sidelines in the postseason. Dikembe Mutombo’s long and glorious career came to an end when he collided with Portland’s Greg Oden in a playoff game in 2009. The 1989 Lakers were a flawless 11-0 in the playoffs and maybe motoring toward a “three-peat” when hamstring injuries claimed Magic Johnson and Byron Scott on the eve of The Finals and they were swept out by the Pistons.

These are the playoffs and these are the big leagues. Through the years I have seen Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stand up as if he were going to call a timeout. Then the defenders relax and Tony Parker scoots all the way in to the basket for an uncontested layup. It occurred most famously at the Staples Center in a playoff game against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers.

Two years ago, while playing for the Blazers, Andre Miller dribbled across the half-court line, head-faked toward the referee and when the Hornets defense stopped in its tracks, turned the corner and scored a cheap bucket.

It’s a bad time for Westbrook, who had played 439 in a row and never missed a game in his career. It’s bad luck for the Thunder, who will now have to lean on Durant more than ever and have others step up to fill the void. It’s a bad break for everybody who wants to see the best go head-to-head at this time of the year. It was not bad basketball.

Those who suggest that the Rockets be fined, suspended or somehow punished should perhaps turn to croquet, tea parties or other gentler pastimes.

Beverley was playing frantic, frenzied, feverish, furious. Sassy and smart too.

But he wasn’t dirty.
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Aldridge: Brown Nears Return With Cavs

NBA.com

Nearly three years after he was fired as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after a ballyhooed blowout as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers that ended earlier this season, Mike Brown is close to a return to the shores of Lake Erie.

Per TNT analyst David Aldridge:

Brown, the most successful coach in the history of the Cavs, was fired in May of 2010 after failing to win a championship in five years with superstar LeBron James. In his last two seasons in Cleveland, Brown coaxed the Cavs to the best record in the NBA.

The regular-season winning, though, didn’t translate to the playoffs, where the Cavs flamed out spectacularly in 2009 and 2010. Cleveland had a 2-1 lead over the Celtics in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals before losing three straight, including the final two at home by a combined 50 points. Free-agent James left for Miami that summer.

Brown was hired to take over for Phil Jackson with the Lakers in 2011-12 and led L.A. to 41 wins in a lockout-shortened 66-game season. The Lakers were swamped by the Oklahoma City Thunder, though, in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers dumped Brown, long known as a defense-first coach, after a 1-4 start this season, opting to go with the up-tempo stylings of coach Mike D’Antoni. Brown reportedly has some $6 million left on his contract with the Lakers. Early reports have him negotiating a five-year deal with Cleveland for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million.

No Improvement = No More Scott For Cavs

To be fair to Byron Scott, this was not the job he signed up for. When Scott agreed to become the 18th head coach in Cleveland Cavaliers history on July 1, 2010, a fellow by the name of LeBron James still was considered to be the cornerstone of the franchise’s present and future. Yes, James technically was a free agent but the very act of hiring Scott was seen by some as a move that would enhance the Cavaliers’ chances of keeping him.

A week later, James announced his decision. So long, Cuyahoga. Hello, South Beach.

And yet, Scott’s job was the one he stayed on for, through three difficult seasons that yielded some common problems and some unique challenges.

The talent cupboard was pretty bare once all those supporting pieces around James left or were rightly cleared out. What talent remained mostly was young, embodied by second-year point guard Kyrie Irving, rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller and youngters such as Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee and eventually Marreese Speights. And then, this season, injuries to defensive presence Anderson Varejao, to Irving and to others got layered onto the issues already in place.

The result: A 24-58 record that was worse than 2011-12′s 21-45 (in the post-lockout 66-game schedule).

And swiftly, Scott’s termination, not quite 34 months into a 48-month contract but after several weeks of speculation, too. His record: 64-166, heavily tilting the near-.500 mark he brought after most of 10 seasons with New Jersey and New Orleans (he’s 416-521 now).

The Cavaliers, in their news release, said all the expected things: the tremendous respect management has for him professionally, the admiration personally, yada yada yada. That’s boilerplate at this time of year. What got Scott was what gets so many others in his profession: the lack of Cleveland’s tangible improvement in his third season and an eagerness/impatience level from owner Dan Gilbert that was out of sync with the length of his deal, if not expectations.

With Irving running the attack, at least for the 59 games in which he appeared, the Cavs were a third-tier team offensively but trending upward. Defensively, though – and Varejao’s absence can’t be overstated here – they were headed in the wrong direction (27th in the league with a rating of 109.4).

Comments from players once news of Scott’s firing was made official were fairly typical. Gee, I wish I could have done more. And no, it didn’t seem like he lost the locker room.

More interesting, though, was the list of possible replacements that the Cleveland Plain Dealer posted within minutes.

Among the names offered in the combo wish list/guessing game: Phil Jackson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Larry Brown, Rick Pitino, Nate McMillan, Mo Cheeks, Flip Saunders, Jerry Sloan and one or both of the Van Gundy Bros. Current NBA assistants Brian Shaw, Mike Malone and Mike Budenholzer also were mentioned, as were former Cavs bench boss Mike Brown and Keith Dambrot – James’ high school coach now at Akron.

There was a sense, as the news spread, that Cleveland GM Chris Grant ought to act fast, lest some other team with a vacancy snatch the Cavs’ preferred candidate. But that’s the good thing about the coaching carousel – for every one thrown off, another one comes on. And – cue the calliope music! – round and round it goes.

What, you thought the playoffs and the draft were going to provide all the NBA entertainment in the next couple of months?

The Coaching Crunch: On Thin Ice!



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eye contact in a timeout huddle means little to the casual observer.

NBA players do all sorts of things in timeout huddles other than locking into their coach and hanging on every word. Sometimes it means something when they stare off into the distance. And other times it means nothing.

But for a large number of coaches heading into the great (contractual) unknown at season’s end, that connection between coach and player(s) is of immense importance.

It could mean the difference between a contract extension, a new contract or no contract, depending on how certain teams finish the regular season and postseason — provided some of these coaches make it that far.

The list of coaches looking over their shoulders as the regular season winds to a close is long and filled with notable names:

DOUG COLLINS, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

How many coaches of lottery-bound teams get to decide their own fate? Collins might be the only one in the league right now other than Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, who will make his own decision based on things other than basketball. That exhausted look on his face most nights is a reflection of a clearly exasperated coach dealing with a situation that turned a promising, young team last season upside down this season when Andrew Bynum came to town via an offseason trade.

The Sixers hit rock bottom in February and Collins couldn’t contain himself, venting his frustration for all the world to see and hear. But they’ve actually rebounded a bit lately, going 6-4 in their last 10 games and doing whatever they can to finish the season on a somewhat positive note.

His fourth year is already set. The Sixers’ front office wants him back. And they’ll need a steady, veteran coach to guide them out of the mess that the Bynum trade unleashed upon the organization and the fans. Collins is on thin ice only if he wants to be.

TY CORBIN, UTAH JAZZ

Corbin is one of several coaches whose future is tied directly to his team’s finish in the regular season. Make the playoffs, serve as the sacrificial first-round fodder for the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and there is reason to believe that Corbin can cajole more out of this group next season.

And with just one season left on his contract, playoffs or not, the Jazz might not shake things up in the coaching ranks at a time when the roster is in such flux — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap‘s pending free agency (among others) and the future of young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

Corbin’s task has always been daunting in following a legend like Jerry Sloan. But Corbin has handled it about as well as you would expect from a guy who was thrust into an impossible situation.

MIKE D’ANTONI, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The ice beneath D’Antoni’s feet won’t break this season, even if the Lakers miss the playoffs. There has already been too much turmoil, upheaval and loss for one season. But how would you like to work under the extreme pressure that D’Antoni will have to this summer and next season if the Lakers do miss out on that eighth and final spot in the West?

If the Lakers land in the lottery and the blame game kicks off in earnest, D’Antoni will be third or fourth in the firing line, behind Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Dwight Howard (in whatever order you’d like). Having the unfettered support of the Lakers’ two most important players — Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash — certainly aids D’Antoni’s cause.

Still, if things come apart in Los Angeles this summer, D’Antoni could be one of two NBA coaches in the city walking around on cracked ice.

VINNY DEL NEGRO, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Del Negro has just as many detractors as he does supporters these days. Three different league executives have suggested that he’s done a much better job than he gets credit for, when you consider how raw the Clippers’ frontcourt remains with youngsters Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still coming into their own.

Del Negro’s critics quickly point out that an All-Star and one of the top 10 centers in the league is a pretty good place to start your frontcourt rotation. Plus, they say, Griffin and Jordan’s rawness has as much with Del Negro (and his staff’s) inability to polish them up as it does anything else.

The Clippers have dealt with health issues and rumored locker room drama all season, but they also kicked off the NBA’s season of win streaks with a 17-gamer early in the season that cranked expectations (on the team and Del Negro) to unattainable proportions. The only thing that might solidify Del Negro’s status is a run to the Western Conference finals … and that might work.

LARRY DREW, ATLANTA HAWKS

How does a guy spend half the season as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate and the other half on the coaching hot list? Only in Atlanta, where the Hawks coach has been on the proverbial hot seat for the past 10 years (Mike Woodson before him and now, Drew).  He’s known since last summer, when new general manager Danny Ferry arrived, that he would spend his final season under contract on a non-stop audition.

To his credit, Drew has never once made an issue of his predicament. In fact, he’s relished the opportunity to show off his coaching chops to the rest of the league. Drew knows there could be (at minimum) a half-dozen coaching openings this summer. And anyone who has presided over playoff teams every year he’s been a coach — as Drew has — has made a compelling case for making the short list of interview candidates for any openings.

Bottom line? Drew was not Ferry’s pick as coach. And if the Hawks are going to remake themselves this summer, it makes sense that Ferry will do so with his own pick as coach.

BYRON SCOTT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Scott had to fist-fight Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo for the final spot on this list. Carlesimo’s not on thin ice, though, he’s standing in the water. As long as Phil Jackson, Sloan and the Van Gundy brothers (Jeff and Stan) remain options, the coaching seat in Brooklyn is just a temporary perch. Scott is in a much more precarious position because of the belief that the Cavaliers are just a few healthy players (namely Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao) away from turning the corner in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Scott keeps finding himself in coaching situations where he has either overstayed his welcome (New Jersey and New Orleans) or failed to get his team to the next step in time (Cleveland). The Cavaliers showed him some love earlier this season by guaranteeing the final year of his contract next season. But even a financial vote of confidence like that might not stand up to the a coaching free-agent summer that will rival anything the players offer up.

If the aforementioned big names are floating around, you better believe the Cavaliers will be fishing around to see who is interested in helping guide Irving into the prime of his career.

ALSO ON THE RADAR: Mike Dunlap, Charlotte; Lawrence Frank, Detroit; Lionel Hollins, Memphis; Keith Smart, Sacramento; Randy Wittman, Washington.