HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Kobe Bryant will never escape Michael Jordan‘s shadow, not as long as basketball fans from different eras continue to measure one superstar’s greatness against another’s.
The argument gets some unique spice this time around, though, from none other than Hall of fame coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson’s new book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” addresses the MJ-Kobe topic head on. The book is set to be released Tuesday but The Los Angeles Times received an advanced copy and highlights the Kobe-Phil-MJ dynamic in detail. Phil sides with Jordan in basically every instance, which kicked off a Twitter back and forth between Kobe and Phil that is sure to gain more steam when the hoops loving public gets their hands on the book, and throughout Phil’s book tour.
Listen friends of bball; don’t get hung up on words. I was most fortunate to have the chance to coach two of the greatest gds. EVER MJ/Kobe— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) May 17, 2013
In the book, Jackson finally details what separates Jordan from Bryant, comparing the two superstars with a perspective no one else can match. He won all 11 of his rings (six with Jordan and five with Kobe) coaching one of them. My main man Mike Bresnahan of The Times serves up the good stuff:
“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around,” Jackson said in the book, which was obtained in advance by The Times.
“Kobe is different. He was reserved as a teenager, in part because he was younger than the other players and hadn’t developed strong social skills in college. When Kobe first joined the Lakers, he avoided fraternizing with his teammates. But his inclination to keep to himself shifted as he grew older. Increasingly, Kobe put more energy into getting to know the other players, especially when the team was on the road.”
While Jackson coached, he often jabbed at Bryant’s seemingly annual appearance on the NBA’s All-Defensive team. Now we know why.
“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense,” said Jackson, who coached Jordan to six championships and Bryant to five.
“Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael’s tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game. In general, Kobe tends to rely more heavily on his flexibility and craftiness, but he takes a lot of gambles on defense and sometimes pays the price.”
But the most interesting topic by far is his perspective on the differences between MJ and Kobe:
“Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson wrote. “Michael was stronger, with bigger shoulders and a sturdier frame. He also had large hands that allowed him to control the ball better and make subtle fakes.
“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”
Jackson’s most scathing observation of the two men involves the leadership qualities they possessed, and in Kobe’s case did not possess, and what kind of impact that had on their respective teams (and granted, Kobe was a youngster on those Lakers teams with Shaquille O’Neal):
“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson writes. “Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence. Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he’d yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had in his bones.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Despite our best efforts to convince him to do so, Kobe Bryant did not live Tweet Episode 114 of the Hang Time Podcast.
Apparently, the injured Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar was serious about curbing his enthusiasm for 140 character bursts of his insights after his work in Game 1 of the Lakers-San Antonio Spurs series caused an uproar (even Phil Jackson got in on the Twitter fun).
Seriously, though, if ever there was a time for some instant analysis on what’s going on in the NBA, it’s the first round of the playoffs, when the chatter on and off the court comes in constant waves from one side of the country to the other.
Can Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finish off the Boston Celtics as we’ve known them in their series? Can the Chicago Bulls, sans Derrick Rose, upset the Brooklyn Nets and move on to a second round date against LeBron James and the Miami Heat? How in the world did Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors shoot a mind-boggling 65 percent from the floor (57 percent from deep) in a playoff game?
And how exactly did the Cleveland Cavaliers convince Mike Brown to come back to them for a second go around as their head coach (there are $20 million reasons that forced him to say yes)?
We discuss answers for all of those questions and plenty more on Episode 114 of the Hang Time Podcast: Playoff Chatter!
Which available spot is most appealing to an out-of-work coach? Least?
Detroit’s Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight (by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE)
Steve Aschburner: Detroit. The core of young talent makes the Pistons an attractive job – Greg Monroe put up more double-doubles for Detroit than anyone since Grant Hill, Brandon Knight is so young he still has time to develop better point guard sensibilities and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond had solid inaugural seasons. Drummond might have been brought along too slowly, so there’s untapped potential right below the surface. The payroll is in good shape, too, with space this summer and guys like Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey entering the final years of their deals.
Fran Blinebury: Geez, it’s closing time at the bar and time to make your pick. Coaches win with the best players and so you’ve got to start there. The best players on the teams with openings were Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and Jrue Holiday in Philly. (I’m assuming we still are counting the Cavs in here in the 24 hours of Mike Brown‘s return.) Since the Sixers are such a mess and have to figure out what they’re going to do with Andrew Bynum, I’m leaning toward the Cavs as most appealing. Do you really have to ask about the worst? Charlotte is a black hole inside a smoking ruin wrapped up in a disaster. And Error Jordan is still calling the shots.
Jeff Caplan: Let’s answer the last part first: Charlotte. What a disaster. Hey, what coach would want that gig? There’s only been three coaches in the last three seasons. How’s that for security? Oh, and the collective talent … well, yeah. OK, so there’s a couple ways to look at the most appealing job. The first is that it got snapped up Tuesday with news that Mike Brown is headed back to Cleveland to coach Kyrie Irving and the Cavs’ kids. The other is that the most appealing job isn’t open, yet. Remember, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman will make a decision on his return depending on his wife’s health. If he decides it’s best to walk away, then someone will walk into a very well-stocked cupboard. Similarly, Brooklyn will make a decision on interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. If he’s out, someone will get a team that’s maxed-out deep into the luxury tax, but comes with All-Star level players at point guard and center.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Most appealing of the jobs open at the moment, since others may be coming, is Cleveland (at least until Brown walks through the door). Getting the certainty of Kyrie Irving along with the real promise of a few others is a running start to success for a new guy. Least appealing: Charlotte. A brief moment of hope with Larry Brown has become year after year of instability.
John Schuhmann: I’m going to assume that we’re including Cleveland (and not the three or four additional jobs that may open up in the next few weeks) among our options, because it was available just a few hours ago. And then I’m going to answer Cleveland, because the Cavs have the star player. Every team and every coach wants a star to build around. Mike Brown had it in his first go-round in Cleveland, and he has it now. And this is a team he can improve right away by just getting them to play decent defense, just like he did previously. I also think that Detroit, with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, is pretty appealing. Least appealing? Charlotte, Charlotte and Charlotte.
Sekou Smith: Of the available openings today, the Detroit job shows the most immediate growth potential. You have a veteran general manager in Joe Dumars who remains in place and a young core that includes Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight (he will survive the highlight reel tumult of this season) as building blocks. The Pistons finished this season playing decent basketball under ousted coach Lawrence Frank, so there were signs of life from this group even at the finish of a season that was lottery-bound months ago. That speaks to the mettle of the players. They have to do sound work in the Draft and in free agency, but this a rebuild that is past the foundation process. As for the least appealing, well, there is always Charlotte.
Lang Whitaker: Most appealing has to be Cleveland — besides having Anderson Varejao under contract through 2015, you get Kyrie, and having an All-Star point guard already in the fold in the age of the point guard is a decided advantage. Also, seems like Dan Gilbert would be fun to work for, because you know he cares about winning. And I bet he sends out some fiery emails to his staff from time to time. For least appealing I’ll go with Charlotte. Consider that next season, in his third season in the NBA, Kemba Walker will be playing for his third coach. Doesn’t really seem like the organization is setting its guys up to be successful.
The framework of a deal that would reunite the Cleveland Cavaliers and their former coach, Mike Brown, is in place, according to league sources, though the two sides do not yet have a contract in place and there are several remaining issues that have to be resolved.
The Cavaliers have moved quickly after firing Byron Scott, who replaced Brown in Cleveland in 2010, last week. Owner Dan Gilbert met with Brown on Sunday for dinner and discussions have quickly picked up steam.
The two sides are still working out the structure of the contract. Brown is looking for a five-year deal; the team is currently offering four years. A fifth-year club option might be a potential compromise. Brown would also have to work out the offset he has with the Lakers, who still owe him $10 million after firing him five games into his second season as coach there.
Brown posted a 272-138 record in five seasons in Cleveland, building a team around LeBron James that got to the NBA Finals in 2007 and won 50 games or more four times. He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2009. Criticized early in his tenure there for an unimaginative offense, Brown changed much of his offense, giving assistant coach John Kuester broad authority, and the Cavaliers became one of the NBA’s better offenses in Brown’s last two seasons there.
But the Cavaliers failed to reach The Finals in Brown’s last three years, including the 2008-09 season, when Cleveland went 66-16 in the regular season. The following year, the Cavaliers lost in especially ignominious fashion to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Soon afterward, Gilbert decided not to pick up Brown’s option, in what many believed was a desperate attempt to keep James from leaving via free agency. James, of course, did leave, for Miami.
The Akron Beacon-Journal first reported that a deal between the sides were close.
Cleveland’s current management team pushed to go after Brown after Scott’s outster. The Cavaliers were impressed with Brown’s ability to create a defensive structure while evolving on offense, and winning 127 regular season games his last two seasons in Cleveland — a mark that is just as good as James has had in Miami — without the presence of Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
The Cavs may also be moving quickly to keep Brown from the open market.
And speculation has run rampant throughout the league for months that the Atlanta Hawks — whose general manager, Danny Ferry, hired Brown in Cleveland in 2005 — would reach out to Brown at the end of their season. The Hawks’ current coach, Larry Drew, is in the final year of his contract, and the team opted to wait until after the season to decide what to do about his future status.
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:
Framework 4 deal that would reunite Cavs and Mike Brown in place, per source. Several issues remain. Yahoo! first to report deal was near.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 23, 2013
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.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers have their way, that won’t just be a question … it’ll be a reality. The Cavaliers’ coaching search shifted from reuniting with former coach Mike Brown to focusing on another, much more accomplished former Los Angeles Lakers coach.
The Cavs have entered the Zen Master’s zone, per a report from ESPN.com, as they reached out to the “retired” Jackson to gauge his interest in coming aboard to help revive the franchise. It’s not the first time the Cavs have approached Jackson:
Jackson interviewed with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in 2005, when Gilbert was looking for a coach. That year, Gilbert ended up hiring Mike Brown.
Brown and the Cavs have mutual interest in a reunion. Gilbert and Brown met over dinner Sunday night, a league source confirmed.
Jackson is considering other coaching options, sources said. The Brooklyn Nets and possibly the Sacramento Kings – if they relocate to Seattle — are two teams likely to appeal to Jackson more than the Cavaliers, according to sources close to the situation.
The Nets reached out to Jackson before even firing coach Avery Johnson last fall and are expected to check his interest again following the season. The Seattle-based group attempting to purchase and relocate the Kings, led by investor Chris Hansen, is interested in bringing Jackson on board in an executive role if it wins approval for the deal, sources said.
Jackson is believed to be looking for a similar situation as Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat– oversee personnel moves and mentor a head coach. To land and keep Riley, the Heat gave him a deal that included an ownership stake in the franchise.
Jackson entertaining an offer to get back into coaching is one thing. To dive into a situation in need of as much rebuilding work as the Cavs require, however, seems like a longshot. All-Star Kyrie Irving is a promising young talent and the Cavaliers will have financial flexibility this summer, but they just don’t fit Jackson’s usual profile.
With a number of potential coaching vacancies this summer, and Jackson high on the wish list in each and every instance, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to be proactive in their pursuit of arguably the best coach in NBA history.
Whether or not that pursuit produces anything other than interesting headlines and lots of chatter remains to be seen.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As much as the rest of this season for the Los Angeles Lakers is about Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, the responsibility for how the Lakers finish sits squarely on the shoulders of one Mike D’Antoni.
The Lakers’ coach lost the cloak of Kobe Bryant, who is recovering from Saturday surgery to repair his torn Achilles and will be out for at least the next six months. D’Antoni no longer has the option of allowing Bryant to answer for the Lakers basketball sins this season. He can’t ease into the background as Bryant explains away one of the great botched chemistry experiments in pro sports history.
All of that internal security from doubters, both near and far, evaporated with just over three minutes to play Friday night at Staples Center, when Bryant’s season came to an abrupt end.
This season’s defining moment will come without Bryant in uniform, it could come as early as tonight’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), with D’Antoni clearly at the controls of a team he had no says so in building after taking over for Mike Brown in November.
The style disconnect that has existed all season can no longer be used as an excuse, not with both Howard and Gasol playing their old selves in recent weeks. Nash is a non-factor and has been for much of the season, due to injuries, and World Peace is going to bring the same frenetic energy he always does, regardless of who is and is not in uniform.
D’Atnoni is now the wild card. Can he cajole this team into the playoffs, making good on Bryant’s guarantee, and ensure that they make the noise Bryant swore they would once they got in? D’Antoni’s future with the Lakers depends on it. D’Antoni has a chance to reintroduce himself to this team in ways that he simply could not when Bryant was at the center of all things.
Unlike some, I don’t blame D’Antoni for pushing Bryant too hard, playing him a merciless amount of minutes as the Lakers clawed their way back into playoff contention after the All-Star break. There’s enough of Southland bashing of D’Antoni, Lakers’ owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak to fill every minutes of every day until Bryant returns, and you know he’s coming back from this.
Bryant was in the midst of a seven-game stretch where he was averaging 46 physically taxing minutes a night trying to rescue a team that plenty of us feel has been mismanaged since Bernie Bickerstaff‘s brief tenure at the helm, he bridged the gap between Brown and D’Antoni. Even a freak injury like the one Bryant suffered looks a bit curious to those of us who don’t buy into the conspiracy theories.
I blame D’Antoni for dropping the ball and not being able to reign in Bryant’s wicked competitive streak at a time when it was clear the seemingly ageless wonder was laboring. I blame him for being too stubborn to adjust his own philosophy to fit the talent on the roster he inherited. Game after game Bryant was forced to carry the Lakers in ways that were really unnecessary, given the fact that remain the only team in the league with two elite 7-footers at their disposal.
Lucky for D’Antoni, he has a chance to make it all right. If can guide the Lakers past the Spurs tonight, he could set up a weekend date with Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs. Or maybe it’s Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There is room for redemption if D’Antoni can claw his way out of this weekend’s and this season’s mess. But it has to include the Lakers finishing this playoff fight with the Utah Jazz right and following it with a playoff run as spirited as anything Bryant did during his one-man rescue of the Lakers before Friday night.
We can all agree that D’Antoni is an offensive genius and visionary in a league filled with followers. But if he can’t engineer the Lakers’ rise from this latest fall, if he can’t go back to the drawing board and pull out the motivational tactics to inspire this team, then he might very well be devoured by the Lakers’ season on the brink.
But if he wants out of Phil Jackson‘s shadow and wants to write his own chapter in Lakers’ lore, he has to step into the void now and run with it for as long as humanly possible.
It’s a case of can’t live with him, but can he live without him? For Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who has often felt like Kobe Bryant’s picked-on little brother in his first season in Lakerland, this baffling year now falls in the palms of his massive hands after Bryant’s devastating Achilles injury Friday night.
Make no mistake as the Lakers quickly move on with no other choice to Sunday’s critical game against the San Antonio Spurs. This is not suddenly the overly cerebral and emotional Pau Gasol’s team nor is it the injured Steve Nash’s job to keep Lakers’ chins ups. The bionic Metta World Peace? Hardly.
We’re about to find out just how much the 27-year-old Howard, L.A.’s hopeful future rock of the franchise, has grown up in the past year, through the scars and lessons of an implausibly wild ride: His never-ending debacle in Orlando, the trade, the back surgery, the firing of Mike Brown, the head-bumping with Mike D’Antoni, the shoulder injury, the death of Jerry Buss, Bryant’s relentless, often backhanded, tutelage, and, of course, all the losing by a team already declared one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
Just two games stand between the Lakers making the playoffs after an arduous climb or descending into a long, uncertain offseason. Immediately the cycle will begin of will-he-stay or will-he-go questions that will hound Howard and the Lakers all the way to the July 1 start of free agency when Howard can hand-pick a team with enough cap space to sign him.
All indications have suggested that Howard seems headed for a long-term stay in L.A., tabbed as the successor to Kobe’s throne once he calls it a career, perhaps as early as after next season as Bryant himself has suggested now on multiple occasions.
How Bryant’s Achilles injury, which could keep him out as little as six months or as long as 12, will affect the Lakers’ immediate playoff hopes will be known in a matter of days. Less certain is Bryant’s availability for next season and ultimately his longevity now 17 years in, and especially how it might alter Howard’s feelings about re-signing under such circumstance.
The latter is impossible to even speculate. Nothing with Howard has ever been what it seems.
And now Bryant’s absence thrusts Howard into the spotlight like never before, even as he smiled through all those years leading that rag-tag bunch as a sole superstar stuck in Orlando. For the remainder of this season, however long it lasts, and, without a doubt, for at least the start of next season if he chooses to stay in Lakers purple and gold, all eyes will be trained on the 6-foot-11, 265-pound man-child.
D’Antoni, whose offense has failed to integrate Gasol and Howard on the low block, will have no choice now but to slow the game up and put the team’s fate in Howard‘s ability to go to work down low.
With Bryant out, Howard is the Lakers’ best player on the floor. If L.A. is going to take the final steps and achieve the satisfaction of having at least scrapped into the playoffs, they’ll need Howard to lift his team and produce like he is indeed the best player on the floor.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are a must-watch down the stretch of this season, for reasons that were ridiculously obvious during a historic (for Bryant) Wednesday night in Portland.
Bryant played the entire game, scored a season-high 47 points and finished with an unprecedented stat line as the Lakers rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 113-106 and move a full game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase with just three games to play.
The Lakers have won four out of five to continue their season-defining playoff stand, a charge led by the wicked Bryant, who torched the Blazers with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals — filling the box score in a way that no player before him has. (He also outdueled Portland Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard, who was spectacular himself with 38 points and nine assists.)
Whether the Lakers make the playoffs or not, Kobe is going to make sure their final three games are played with an intensity and at a pace that is playoff-worthy. That’s just who he is and has been his entire NBA career. There have been times when his individual drive and focus have been detrimental to his team (early in his career for sure and again later, when he and Shaquille O’Neal battled for control of the team). There’s no Phil Jackson around this time to balance the scales.
All that said, there is no player I’d rather watch under these extreme circumstances. The Lakers’ season goes into the category as one of the greatest crimes against the game if a crew with Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash doesn’t find its way into the postseason.
Would it have been nice to see the same sense of urgency in December that we all saw last night? Of course. In or out the postseason, a CSI crew will be needed to comb through the scattered wreckage of the Lakers’ regular season. There’s no way it was supposed to go down the way it has.
Kobe’s fingerprints will be all over the wreckage, along with those of Howard, Gasol, Nash, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and just about anyone else inside the organization you want to throw in the mix.
“It’s bittersweet,” Pau Gasol said when asked about Bryant’s dominating performance against the Blazers, in which he played all 48 minutes in a non-overtime road game for the first time in his career. “Because, I think it’s spectacular and it’s very impressive and it’s remarkable to be able to play 48 minutes and score 47 points. That’s incredible. On the other hand, I’m a player that likes to see a little bit more ball movement and better balance. I’ve always been [like that]. That’s just how I perceive this game.
“But again, he was incredible tonight. He scored a tremendous amount of points that I never scored in my life. So, like I said, it was very impressive and it’s not something that you do every night, of course.”
It wouldn’t be necessary every night if the Lakers had worked these issues out earlier in the season. They’ve been riding this roller coaster since training camp, with established veterans trying to sort out their roles — first under Mike Brown and since those first five games under Mike D’Antoni. (more…)
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Although the matchup of All-Star point guards failed to live up to our hopes, the Spurs-Cavs game was a thriller down the stretch. Tony Parker did his part, going for 24 points and seven dimes, but Kyrie Irving had one of his toughest nights of the season, shooting 2-for-15 for six points to go along with seven assists himself. Rookie Dion Waiters showed some clutch skills with a step-back jumper to give Cleveland a two-point lead with 9.5 seconds left. But Parker — who won his lone Finals MVP by dicing up the Cavs in 2007 — went to work, operating out of the pick and roll to find a wide open Kawhi Leonard on the baseline for the game-winning 3-pointer.
Ex-Lakers coach sees bright future for L.A. — Depending on your point of view, it may not seem that long ago that the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown after going 1-4 to open the season. Since then, there’s been plenty more drama in Lakerland, USA, and we haven’t heard much from the man who had the first crack at making the Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash “superteam” work this season. Brown stopped by Colin Cowherd‘s ESPN Radio program yesterday, though, to say he sees some signs that the Lakers are heading in the direction he couldn’t get them to go when he had the gig:
Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown has had three months to ruminate on his former team and its struggles amid the additions of coach Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and the departure of Andrew Bynum.
Brown says despite a slow first half, he sees a Lakers team that can, with some work, turn its season around.
“I think it can be done,” Brown said Wednesday in a telephone interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio. “Mike has a different philosophy, and it’s worked for him the many years he’s been coaching in the NBA. And I’m sure he’ll figure it out, which he’s been doing.
“He’s been making some adjustments as time’s gone on. So I think it’s a matter of time before they get it going.”
Brown noted he was skeptical when D’Antoni, upon his hiring, said the Lakers would implement a run-and-gun style offense and score in the 110-115-point range — “be the old ‘Showtime.’”
“I did not feel that was a running team,” said Brown, who was fired in November after a 1-4 start to the season. “Kobe [Bryant] is a guy who can run, but if you look back at the history of his career, he really hasn”t been on a running team, in his 15, 16, 20 years — whatever he’s been in the league.
“Then you talk about having two bigs,” Brown said of Howard and Pau Gasol. “And both of those bigs are agile and capable runners, but they’re not the type of runners that you need to have to play in a system that’s going to score those types of points.”
Brown related his experience as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, when they had both Tim Duncan and David Robinson, saying an efficient scoring tandem is indeed possible between players with the skill sets of Howard and Gasol.
Regarding his firing, Brown said he was “shocked” to learn of the Lakers’ decision.
“But I always look at it this way,” Brown said. “It’s their team. They have every right to do what they want to do with it. You know, I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me, and it was a decision that the Busses and Mitch Kupchak came to. They felt they would be better going in another direction. So from that standpoint I respect it, I appreciate the opportunity, but it was a little surprising.”
KG bidding adieu to All-Star Game? — All-Star starter Kevin Garnett is making his 14th appearance in the league’s midseason showcase, but I guess we should all take time to soak in his play there. According to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, Garnett says this will be his final All-Star Game. That would seem to imply that KG is pondering retirement after this season, but the Celtics’ standout said his reasons for not wanting to be in the game in the future have more to do with fatigue than the end of the road in the NBA:
Kevin Garnett said last night that his 14th All-Star Game appearance on Sunday in Houston will also be his last, though the Celtics forward stopped short of saying he was retiring at the end of the season.
Garnett, realizing he had just set off an alarm, then turned cryptic. He has two years remaining on his contract.
“This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he said. “Ya’ll don’t know what I know. I’m more than grateful, and I’m not going to act like I have more All-Star Games in me. I’ll enjoy this one with friends and family. That’s what I meant.”
Garnett added he simply plans to enjoy himself this weekend.
“I’ll have no feelings whatsoever,” he said when asked about Sunday. “I always enjoyed each All-Star Game. I’m not a guy who is going to show too much emotion at that time. The All-Star Game for me is more for friends and family. You always have that wild-assed uncle who shows his ass, you always have that friend you always have to pull to the side and have that little conversation (with). It’s a fun time.”
Garnett admitted to feeling the wear and tear on the inside this season.
“The last four or five days have been exhausting,” he said. “Mentally more than physical. The three overtimes against Denver was emotionally draining, the travel, having to come in here and prepare after losing to Charlotte, so yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”
Jennings refutes talk of frustration — Bucks fourth-year guard Brandon Jennings is having one of his better all-around seasons, averaging 18.5 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.9 spg and shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. Jennings, a restricted free-agent this summer, had a chance to sign a four-year, $40 million extension with Milwaukee but passed on it and will test the free-agent waters this summer. An analysis story on ESPN.com said that Jennings has “irreconcilable differences” with the Bucks’ front office and is demanding a trade by the Feb. 21 deadline. But Jennings later came back and spoke with ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard — who did not write the first Jennings story — to clear up his side on things:
ESPN.com, in an analysis story on 10 NBA players who could be traded, cited sources as saying Jennings is frustrated. One source called it “irreconcilable differences” and said Jennings wants to be moved before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“That is not true,” Jennings said in a text message when asked if his relationship with the Bucks is beyond repair. “Just because I got a new agent doesn’t mean anything. That stuff never came out of my mouth. They’re just reaching for a story since I changed my agent [to Jeff Schwartz].”
ESPN.com said it stands by its reporting.
A year ago, Jennings told ESPN.com that he was “doing [his] homework on big-market teams.” Since then, Jennings’ long-term status in Milwaukee has been the subject of speculation among league insiders, and when Jennings left agent Bill Duffy, the rumors swirled again about whether the guard is unhappy with the Bucks. The Bucks offered Jennings a four-year, $40 million extension, according to sources, but he turned it down. He will become a restricted free agent this summer.
One other theory being floated: Jennings is upset because he didn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team, despite leading the Bucks into playoff position by averaging team-highs of 18.5 points and 6.1 assists, or that he wants more exposure than small-market Milwaukee can offer.
Jennings denied that.
“Being in Milwaukee wasn’t the reason I didn’t make the All-Star Game,” Jennings said. “Guys just had better numbers than me.”
When asked about his future on Wednesday, Jennings said he’s only focused on the present.
“That’s something me and Jeff will discuss in the offseason,” he said. “The Milwaukee Bucks are in 8th place in the East, and I’m looking forward to helping them get to the playoffs in the second half of the season.”
Jazz’s lingering question: What to do with Big Al? — Utah has one representative — Jeremy Evans in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday — heading to Houston this weekend, which might be a good thing for the front office. Leading scorer Al Jefferson has been thrown about in trade rumors, but nothing of serious merit has floated out there. Jefferson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, has said in the past the Jazz will have the right of first refusal for him. The emergence of second-year center Enes Kanter as well as Utah’s desire to eventually free up minutes for third-year big Derrick Favors puts it in a situation where some decisions have to be made, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune:
The Jazz’s biggest issue, as they head into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s game at Minnesota and anticipate the NBA’s Feb. 21 trade deadline, is what to do with Jefferson. His expiring contract will make him a free agent in July, creating options for the team. How the Jazz’s management addresses the Jeffersonian Dilemma is central to the franchise’s immediate and long-term future.It’s complicated, that’s for sure. The answer is not as simple as saying the Jazz should trade him just to get something in return before he walks away. Any deal they make next week must genuinely advance their rebuilding process, not merely bring them some temporary assets that the other party wants to unload.
The Jazz keep showing enough flashes of potential, such as Tuesday’s convincing win over Oklahoma City, to make this season’s goals worth pursuing, as opposed to starting over with two months remaining. When the injured Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward return, the Jazz should be able to solidify a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and I’ll always endorse postseason play as meaningful.
The tricky part of this discussion is that the Jazz have become so dependent on Jefferson that he’s both the solution and the problem with their offense.
Averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds, Jefferson has done more than anyone could have expected of him in his third season with the Jazz. He’s the team’s closest thing to an All-Star and he cares about winning, by all accounts.
It’s just while I’ve come to appreciate his game more and more, I still say his style — backing in, holding the ball, faking and working for a shot — just doesn’t fit the Jazz’s traditional offensive approach that calls for the players and the ball to keep moving. To his credit, he’s become much more willing to pass in the last month, resulting in the team’s field-goal percentage finally climbing above .450, ranking in the top half of the league.
The summary is that even though I don’t see him as a long-term fixture here, trading him is not necessarily the right call.
The Jazz should move Jefferson only if they can net a return that’s a reasonable percentage of the package they received from New Jersey/Brooklyn for Deron Williams two years ago. They got Derrick Favors, Devin Harris (later traded for Marvin Williams), a first-round draft choice in 2011 (Enes Kanter) and a future first-round pick, which will be conveyed via Golden State this year.
In any case, the D-Will deal should be somewhat of a model for any trade of Jefferson. It actually would make more sense for the Jazz to trade Paul Millsap, as popular as he is, because Favors is better prepared than Kanter to assume a bigger role right now.
For the sake of their future, the Jazz have to commit themselves to Kanter, at some point. I’m just not sure that time is next week.
Why Smoove to the Spurs doesn’t make sense — Few players have had their name bandied about in trade rumors more the past few weeks than Hawks forward Josh Smith. From New Jersey to to San Antonio (and points inbetween and beyond), there’s been talk of the multi-talented forward having his skills shipped to any number of contenders around the league. The Spurs would seem to be a Finals shoo-in should they pick up Smith, but we’ve got a dose of reality courtesy of the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald on why a Spurs trade for Smith is nonsense:
And so we come to the “rumor” that the Spurs are looking to trade for Atlanta forward Josh Smith. In a power-rankings column yesterday, the great Marc Spears at Yahoo! Sports mentioned the Spurs as one of many teams expressing interest in Smith.
This morning, the folks at ProBasketballTalk took Spears’ mention a step further, hopping on the trade machine to put together a hypothetical deal between the Spurs and Hawks. To PBT’s credit, the site made imminently clear the “hypothetical” part.
The deal they made up: Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson’s expiring contract, a pick (perhaps?), a young point guard (perhaps?).
Again, nobody is reporting that the Spurs and Hawks have discussed any sort of deal at all. It’s all hypothetical.
If I may, here are three reasons why the Josh Smith-to-Spurs thing will not happen.1) The Hawks are primarily interested in acquiring picks. Lottery picks. The Spurs, as you may have read, are 41-12. They’re going to have to do a championship job of tanking after the All-Star break to wind up in the draft lottery. As it stands now, they’re going to have the No. 30 pick overall. Not an enticing trade chip for a team like Atlanta.
2) The Spurs have little to no interest in adding big payroll after this season. Smith is going to want a maximum contract when his deal is up. It’s the reason the Hawks are shopping him. I have no doubt some team out there will give Smith the payday he desires. I guarantee you it’s not going to be the Spurs. You really think the Spurs would be interested in giving up Kawhi Leonard — a guy Gregg Popovich envisions as the future face of the franchise – for a half-season rental? Because I don’t.
3) Leonard is borderline untouchable at this point. Look, you never say never about trading anybody (except maybe Tim Duncan). But thanks to the rookie scale contract system, the Spurs have Leonard — aka “Bruce Bowen with skills” — for two more seasons at a total of $3.1 million. That’s chump change, and quite a value for a player who is becoming increasingly important to what the Spurs do at both ends of the floor. For the budget-conscious Spurs, a player so vastly over-performing his contract is worth holding onto for dear life.
ICYMI of the night:JaVale McGee gets a lot of heat on Shaqtin’ A Fool when he does something wrong, and most of the time the criticism is deserved. But when he does something right — like this dunk last night over Gerald Wallace – well, we’ve got to give him props …: