HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.
Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.
But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.
Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.
What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.
“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”
That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.
The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?
He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.
There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …
Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors
In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.
Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst
No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.
Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks
Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.
Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz
The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.
Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat
With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.
Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic
After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities. Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.
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.
What’s more, he appeared loose, unagitated and as happy as Henry VIII at a smorgasbord when the Magic sent him to the line for an all-you-can-eat menu of 39 free throws, from which he 16 of 20 in the second half.
Which leaves us to wonder if it will now, finally, ever click to the mercurial big man that all he has to do is to shut up and play?
There is no reason for Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to apologize for the strategy, for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to complain or for NBA commissioner David Stern to again ponder a rule change.
Like so much else with Howard’s perpetually conflicted life and career, the problem has always been of his own creation. He is the one with the career .577 free-throw percentage and for all the talk about work in the weight room or getting one-on-one tutoring from Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, has been solidly consistent with his horrid stroke, rarely deviating far from the mean.
If you’re an opposing coach, why wouldn’t you exploit that hole in an All-Star’s game? It’s no different than giving a poor shooter open jumper after open jumper until he learns to knock it down.
If you’re Howard’s coach, why wouldn’t you practically salivate at the thought of your center getting 20 free throws in a half if he can step up and make 80 percent of them?
Howard could have stomped and fumed and moped and blamed his plight on someone else, the way he has with most events of the past two seasons. From former coach Stan Van Gundy to Magic management to Kobe Bryant’s prodding to D’Antoni’s offense to Pau Gasol to unrealistic fan expectations to the media, he’s been a self-made tempest in his own teapot. Just last week he disparaged his old Orlando teammates and then complained at everyone’s reaction to what he said.
It would have been straight in line with the persecuted image that Howard has constructed for himself to flap his arms, howl at the moon and hang his head each time the Magic committed another foul and sent him back to the line.
Instead Howard just shut up and played and enjoyed a night in the kind of career and life of which most people only dream.
He should try it more often.
Top 8 free throw attempts in a single game
Dwight Howard (Lakers): 39 FTA Date: March 12, 2013
That’s what is on tap for Orlando Magic fans tonight when Dwight Howard makes his return to the building built upon his broad shoulders, the one that was supposed to house the city’s biggest and brightest star.
A win over the Los Angeles Lakers would sweeten the deal, anything the Magic can do to damage the Lakers’ playoff chances serves that purpose. And a lousy game by Howard might also add to the feel-good nature of the evening for those Magic fans still wounded by Howard’s departure last summer via a blockbuster trade.
But after it’s all over, when the booing is finished and the Lakers are in the air and headed to Atlanta for a Wednesday night matchup against the Hawks, the Magic and the entire city of Orlando needs to close the door on this Dwightmare drama for good. It’s time to wake up from this mess and finally move on.
That’s an extremely tall order, what with Howard’s refusal to stop sticking his size 18s in his mouth at seemingly every turn. Howard, however, is someone else’s Dwightmare now. The Lakers have to sweat out this summer wondering what he’ll do, whether he’s willing to stick around or chase his fortunes elsewhere (the Brooklyn whispers remain).
Magic fans will get a fresh start after tonight, and a well-deserved one. They can thank their front office for only having to see Howard once this year anyway. The decision to trade him to the Lakers and not somewhere else in the Eastern Conference prevented us all from having to go through this exhausting exercise on more than one occasion.,
That said, tonight’s meeting between the Magic and Lakers (7 ET, League Pass) promises to offer up one of the more bizarre scenes of the season, which is saying a mouthful, given the traveling circus the Lakers have been all season long.
Howard’s recent comments about his time in Orlando and his words about his former teammates (that he insists were misconstrued) will have to be addressed again … and in the flesh. There’s no Stan Van Gundy around to serve as the punching bag/foil for Howard, as he did during that infamous hallways scene after a shootaround practice last season.
One-time Howard ally Jameer Nelson will be in the other locker room. The eyes and ears of former Magic players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis and even Vince Carter will no doubt be tuned into whatever is said.
“What’s said is said, and what happened is over and done with,” Nelson said. “I’m just here trying to look forward and not trying to dwell on the past. The decision was made and things happen, so it’s not like anybody could take them back or anything like that. And me personally, I’m not mad at him for doing what he did. I don’t know. Could things have been done differently? Yeah. But they weren’t. So, me as a person, I just have to move on and try to continue to be successful and do the things I need to do to help the team get back in the position we used to be in.”
“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” he said. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.
“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”
That something else, for now, is trying to rebound from the Lakers’ disastrous start to this season and assist Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in delivering his new team to the playoffs.
Howard would be wise to focus on that tonight and not the hate shower he’ll get from the crowd tonight in Orlando. Because it should get nasty.
But when it’s over, win or lose, the Magic need to wake up from their Dwightmare and just move on.
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: One day after we were treated to a mostly disappointing Pacers-Heat showdown in Miami (the Heat romped in the second half to down Indiana), we had another matchup on paper that looked solid: Thunder vs. Spurs. This one actually lived up to the billing a little bit better than Pacers-Heat did, so it’s our game of the night. Nice early drama in this one as the Thunder took a 32-22 lead after the first quarter, but then things fell apart for OKC in the second quarter and just kept on going south from there. Led by the 3-point shooting of Danny Green and the all-around skills of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs rattled off a 23-4 run in the second quarter to take control of the game. Although OKC made a series of runs each night to keep the game close, San Antonio more than dictated the game with its defense and kept hold of the No. 1 spot out West with the win.
Iggy non-committal on future with Nuggets — In his first season with Denver, Andre Iguodala is the team’s third-leading scorer, ranks second in minutes played, is third in rebounds and leads it in steals. He’s amassed more wins already (43) than he did in any of his eight previous seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and is part of a team that seems primed for a legit playoff run that may carry deep into May or even June. So, re-signing Iguodala — a free agent this summer — seems like a lock, right? Not exactly, writes Paola Boivinfor the Denver Post:
With just 17 games remaining in the season, Andre Iguodala is closer to making a decision about his future.
Iguodala’s contract gives him the opportunity to “opt out” and become a free agent after the season.
Although the issue will get his full attention then, he admits he is aware of what is happening around him.
“Obviously, you’re talking to your agent and you’re paying attention to trades, and salary caps that are being opened up through sign and trades and other guys who are in the same position as you,” he said. “It’s in the back of your mind. But as far as making a concrete decision, you really don’t size it up until the season’s over, because we have some opportunities to do some really good things here.”
Van Gundy remembers the good ol’ Orlando days — Stan Van Gundy‘s farewell season and departure as coach of the Magic likely couldn’t have gone worse, with Van Gundy dealing with the almost-daily “Dwightmare” talk surrounding Dwight Howard, his awkward mid-season news conference in which Van Gundy addressed rumors of Howard wanting him fired (and Howard pretending not to know about it) to getting fired shortly after the Magic lost to the Pacers, 4-1, in the first round. Yet for Van Gundy, in an interview with USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, the memories of playoff runs and building a winner in Orlando outweigh his final season:
Oh for sure, it got squirrely and it all went sideways last season with a compelling mix of humor, stress, bad decisions and communication disorder. It was a general malaise and dysfunction, resulting in Howard’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in August. Howard returns to play in Orlando for the first time Tuesday, and his reception will not be warm and fuzzy.
But before all that, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it was, “a lot of fun. We worked hard, and I think guys had a lot of fun and enjoyed the success. It was just a good time here.
“They had been 12 years without winning a playoff series. We were able to go on a little bit of a run, and there was a lot of excitement around our team. Things were really on the upswing.”
“Dwight matured into an outstanding player … the best big man in our league,” Van Gundy said. “(Then-general manager) Otis Smith did a great job of putting the roster together and surrounded him with outstanding players who really fit him very well.”
…Almost always siding with fun, Howard grew up in Orlando, Van Gundy said.
“At first, there were times when he needed to be more serious,” he said. “But as it went on, he understood, for the most part, being serious when we had work to do. There were other times when he could relax and have a good time.
“Even in practice and games, Dwight’s a guy who wants to have a good time and enjoy what he’s doing and have a smile on his face. That’s just the way he is. I don’t think that will ever change.”
Van Gundy said if Orlando decided to retire a number, “it would have to start with Dwight and Shaq (O’Neal). They are, by far, the two best players in the history of the organization. Then, in my mind, you have to start with Dwight. He was here longer and certainly had just as much success.”
Wallace’s future looking stable in New York — The Knicks’ depth has been tested of late with Amar’e Stoudemire out for the rest of the regular season after surgery on his right knee and Rasheed Wallace out after having surgery on his broken left foot. New York recently re-signed veteran Kenyon Martin to a second 10-day contract to provide another big body for the frontline, but depth remains an issue and signing another player isn’t out of the question. Coach Mike Woodson tells Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that any roster move the Knicks make won’t led to ‘Sheed being released:
Mike Woodson hinted that the club could make a roster to move to add another player but in a strange twist the Knicks head coach indicated that releasing injured Rasheed Wallace isn’t under consideration.
The Knicks have 13 available players with Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. In order to sign a player, the Knicks would have to create a roster spot by cutting a player. Wallace, who had foot surgery last month, is the most logical candidate since it is unlikely he will play again this season. In fact, he may be forced back into retirement.
But when Woodson was asked if he has reconsidering waiving Wallace, a player he convinced to come out of two-year retirement, the head coach said: “I don’t know where that came from. That was you guys (in the media). I never made that statement about waiving Rasheed. Rasheed still has a chance to bounce back as well but again as we go up this road we’ve just got to wait and see.
“Are these guys able to come back for us? I don’t know what the process is in terms of being able to add another roster spot. I haven’t really looked into that.”
Woodson admitted that he is approaching the remainder of the regular season as if he won’t have either Stoudemire or Wallace. He then revealed that he intends to speak with general manager Glen Grunwald next week about adding a player.
“When we come off this trip Glen and I will sit down and start accessing that very closely,” Woodson said. “Because I think we have until the latter part of March to make some decisions.”
Wall on his future, his jump shot and more — As our man David Aldridge pointed out in his must-read Morning Tip yesterday, the Wizards have gone 15-13 after a 4-28 start and have notched wins over the Heat, Thunder, Nuggets and Hawks during that span. The biggest reason for that success has been the return of point guard John Wall, who is improving as a playmaker and shooter for the Wizards while also remaining a solid perimeter defender. Zach Lowe of Grantland.com chatted with the Wizards’ young star about his comeback, his future in D.C. and more in a solid Q&A:
That much is clear from the numbers and your record since you got back. Your jumper will obviously be a key issue going forward. What’s the state of it, mechanically? What do the coaches have you working on, in terms of form?
Nothing much. Just making sure I’m staying on balance, jumping straight up and down. Things like that.
Can you do what they are asking for with consistency? Have they basically remade your jumper since you left college?
No, not really. It’s the same form. It’s just making sure that I don’t hold onto the ball as long as I used to, that I follow through, don’t fade away. Things like that.
Yeah, that Tyreke Evans leg kick, right?
Yeah, something like that. That’s something I used to do a lot, and they don’t want me doing that.
It sounds like you feel a bit better about your shot.
For me, it was just little things, and it’s about confidence. So for me, once I got my confidence, I’m cool. I don’t mind taking them. If I miss a couple, I’m still shooting it, and I’m not scared to take that type of shot in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of those guys: It feels like your name has kind of fallen out of the “elite point guards” conversation a bit, given the time you’ve missed with injuries this season. Do you notice that? Do you care?
Nah, I can’t pay attention to that. I don’t think like that.
Have you started thinking about your contract extension talks yet?
I haven’t started thinking about that.
Really? The deadline isn’t that far away.
That’s true. Look, I’m just enjoying D.C. This hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to, in terms of winning, but I think we are building something here.
Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?
I feel like I am. I do, definitely.
Kanter finding his rhythm in second season — When Utah shockingly decided to trade Deron Williams to the Nets at the trade deadline in 2011, one of the pieces they received back from New Jersey was a first-round pick in the 2011 Draft which eventually became the No. 3 overall selection. With that pick, the Jazz took young-but-raw big man Enes Kanter. The center from Turkey struggled with the NBA game as a rookie and, although he showed some prowess on the offensive glass, looked very much like a work in progress. Since then, Kanter spent the offseason honing his body and is regularly tutored by Utah’s veteran center, Al Jefferson, on the post moves and footwork that are Jefferson’s trademark. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune details how Kanter has stepped up his game this season thanks to that offseason and in-season work:
Now that the rest of the league has had an opportunity to catch a glimpse, it may finally be time for an honest discussion about Kanter’s potential and future with the Jazz. In the five games since his start against the Bobcats, Kanter is averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, up from season averages of 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.
“I got experience,” Kanter said. “I just help my teammates however I can. We lost the last couple of games; it was pretty sad.”
While the Charlotte game was the one for which Kanter received the most attention, coach Tyrone Corbin said his subsequent performances in games against Milwaukee and the Cavs may have been more impressive.
From setting hard screens to rolling the right way, Kanter has grown, Corbin says. He was in the game at the end against Milwaukee, and had a chance to win the game after rebounding Gordon Hayward’s blocked layup, but his shot missed at the buzzer.
“He was at the right spot, he caught it and just finished, he didn’t bring it down,” Corbin said. “That kind of thing is invaluable to get guys on the floor to get the experience and grow through it, especially while they’re young.”
Corbin and Jefferson agreed that the key for Kanter in the recent stretch was the confidence that he would play big minutes. That he could be patient, and didn’t have to force anything to try to make an impression.
“I think coming off the bench, sometimes young guys figure if they don’t do things right, they can get snatched out the game,” Jefferson said. “I just think that he knew he wasn’t coming out of the game and he had a swag about himself and it worked out for him.”
Kanter’s role will only increase beyond this year. During Kanter’s struggles earlier this season, it was common to hear chatter that power forward Derrick Favors had developed more rapidly, that he was more ready than Kanter to step into an enhanced role.
All the while, Kanter continued to work. He famously shed 51 pounds in the offseason and arrived at training camp with abdominal muscles that could be played in a zydeco band.
ICYMI(s) of the night: We love “The Manimal” around these parts, so here are a pair of must-see plays from the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried:
Van Gundy answered questions the same way he coached his teams, without a hint of reservation and as brutally honest as possible. Best players he’s ever coached? Dwyane Wade followed by Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal (with the qualifier that O’Neal was in the latter stages of his stellar career).
Is politics in his future? He’s never going to run at the top of a ticket for anything. And who is to blame for him not joining his brother Jeff Van Gundy on ABC/ESPN broadcasts in some capacity? NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The most overrated player in the NBA? Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (“He’s not a guy who should be third in the [All-Star] voting.”) followed closely by Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (“I never thought Deron Williams was overrated but right now people still look at him as one of the top two or three point guards in the league. He hasn’t been that in recent seasons.”) And the most underrated? Nets guard Joe Johnson is Van Gundy’s most “underappreciated.”
A: Like everybody, probably the way the Lakers have struggled. There are probably pretty easy explanations for it. I’m not totally (surprised), but if you had asked me early in the year, I thought they would win the West.
I never could have predicted they would have screwed up the coaching situation — fire a guy (Mike Brown) five games into the season and be on three coaches 11 games into the year. Or have predicted their injuries. That’s as screwed-up a team as I’ve seen in a long time.
Q: What about team chemistry?
A: I still think that would’ve worked out. Training camp now is a total waste. Bill Walsh in his book (Finding the Winning Edge) said that you have to stay true to your process. You don’t circumvent the process. The Lakers screwed up the process. They haven’t given it a chance to work.
Gregg Popovich says you can’t skip steps. They skipped. (Coach) Mike D’Antoni is coming in on the fly and doesn’t have time to build chemistry and respect in the locker room. I feel badly for Mike because he’s a great guy and a great coach. The situation is impossible.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of guys who are qualified to coach. But the key thing is you all have to be on the same page. I sometimes marvel how organizations sometimes shoot themselves in the foot.
Q: Was Phil Jackson the solution?
A: I think Phil would have run into the same problems. Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) are really the only guys left (from his tenure). It all would have been new — he would’ve gone through the same chemistry problems. I mean, I think they should have stuck with (Brown).
There are some firings where, even if you (personally) disagree with them, you see where (management) is coming from. (But) five games in? If you weren’t committed to Mike Brown, you shouldn’t have brought him back. With two new high-profile players, he needed time to put this together.
Q: But was Brown the right guy for the Lakers?
A: I think he was . . . he could have been. They really didn’t have the people to play that way. The hired Mike D’Antoni and they’re (supposedly) going to bring back Showtime. Showtime? Are you kidding me? Those (older players) aren’t going to be Showtime. They weren’t really Showtime when Phil was there, quite honestly. They executed in the half-court and used their size.
D’Antoni is a great coach but they have to have the right pieces. It all has to fit — what management wants, the type of players and the coach. It’s not an easy thing. For all the success they’ve had, I just think this year that they’ve looked pretty foolish as an organization.
The truth according to Stan Van Gundy is a lot of things, but it’s never boring.
History says the Lakers probably had to do something to save a season that was slipping away.
History also says that in making the switch from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni they might just as well be expecting to hit one of those half-court shots to win a car than to be hosting a victory parade next June.
Yeah, the odds are long.
In the previous 66 years, only three in-season coaching changes have produced an immediate championship. Then again, twice it happened for the Lakers, in 1980 and 1982.
However, if the focus is a little farther down the line — and D’Antoni is the right choice — the payoff could be down the line. There have been seven different replacement coaches and eight teams that eventually claimed NBA titles.
1956-57 — Alex Hannum, St. Louis Hawks — The Hall of Famer is more popularly known for leading Wilt Chamberlain and the Sixers in 1967, ending the string of Bill Russell and the Celtics at eight titles in a row. But Hannum replaced Red Holzman and interim coach Slater Martin as player/coach midway through the season. The Hawks lost to the Celtics in The Finals that year. But when he retired and went to the bench full-time, they beat Boston to win it all the following year. He was the only coach to beat Boston in the playoffs during Russell’s 13-year career.
1977-78 — Lenny Wilkens, Seattle SuperSonics — The Hall of Famer took over the reins for Bob Hopkins after the Sonics got off to a woeful 5-17 start that season. He put the spark back in the game with an 11-1 start to his regime and took the Sonics to The Finals, where they lost to the Bullets in seven games. The team featuring Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma and Fred Brown came back to claim Seattle’s only championship by beating the Bullets for the 1979 crown.
1977-78 — Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers — Gene Shue’s talent-laden Sixers were upset by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 and then staggered out of the gate the following season with a 2-4 record. A Philly favorite as a Hall of Fame player, Cunningham got the first coaching experience of his career when he took over the controls. The Sixers with Julius Erving lost to the Bullets in the Eastern Conference finals in his first year, were beaten by the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 1980 and 1982, but finally broke through and it all when Moses Malone led a 4-0 sweep of L.A. in 1983.
1979-80 — Paul Westhead, L.A. Lakers – First-year NBA assistant coach Paul Westhead moved into the main seat 14 games into the season after head coach Jack McKinney suffered a serious head injury in a fall from a bicycle. The Shakespearean scholar got to cap of an amazing debut season when a fellow rookie named Magic Johnson jumped center, then piled up 42 points, 15 rebound and seven assists in the Game 6 Finals clincher at Philadelphia.
1981-82 & 2005-06 — Pat Riley, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat – When Magic became disenchanted with Westhead and nudged him toward the door 11 games into the season, the Lakers plucked the former player turned broadcaster from behind the radio microphone to begin a Hall of Fame career on the bench. The untested Riley guided the Lakers to another NBA Finals win over Philadelphia, then won three more titles in L.A. in 1985, 1987 and 1988. After his cross country move took him to New York and then Miami, Riley the G.M. replaced Stan Van Gundy following an 11-10 start in 2005-06. Seven months later, Riley and Dwyane Wade for the Heat out of an 0-2 hole to beat the Mavericks in The Finals.
1991-92 — Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston Rockets — A year after he was named Coach of the Year, Don Chaney’s Rockets were stuck in a 26-26 rut and he was fired on Feb. 18. A reluctant Tomjanovich, then a team scout and assistant coach, had to be talked into taking the job. A season later he became the first coach in NBA history to take his team from the lottery to a division title in his first full season on the job. The local legend Rudy T then put enough spot-up shooters around Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to produce back-to-back championships for Houston in 1994 and 1995.
1996-97 — Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs – It was 18 games into the season when G.M. Popovich pulled the rug and fired coach Bob Hill. It was a move that was considered presumptuous and unpopular in some corners of town. But all was forgiven when he took a team with David Robinson and second-year forward Tim Duncan to the championship in 1999. Since that time, he has added Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to the lineup, three more titles and the beloved and cantankerous “Pop” is almost as much a part San Antonio lore as the Alamo.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – If Phil Jackson heeds the “We want Phil!” chants dropped like an anvil by the Staples Center crowd Friday night, the Zen Master will follow again in the footsteps of that other multi-title-winning Lakers coach — Pat Riley.
Rewind to the 2005-06 season. Riley’s return to the Miami Heat bench 21 games in doesn’t mirror the current circumstance that has fallen into Phil’s lap, but it’s not all that dissimilar either.
No, Jackson isn’t the president of the Lakers organization as Riley was and remains with the Heat when the then-60-year-old Riley horse-collared Stan Van Gundy into resigning nine days before Christmas.
Still, Jackson’s aura eternally twinkles above the Lakers franchise like a magical puff of — oh, you get the picture. Seven years ago Riley couldn’t resist the urge to return to the bench and coach a team he built not only to contend, but to win. The question in front of Jackson, now 67, is does he have the irresistible urge to return?
The suspense is palpable as the stage is spectacularly set for a hero’s return to save the day.
In the summer of 2004, Riley acquired Shaquille O’Neal in his divorce from Kobe Bryant, seeking a championship companion for his own young star, Dwyane Wade. Van Gundy and the boys won 59 games and advanced to the East finals against Detroit, only to lose Game 7 at home.
When the Heat sluggishly opened the ’05-’06 season 11-10, Riley returned, and the rest is history.
His team won 41 of the next 61 games, knocked off the Pistons in six games in the East finals and then oversaw one of the more remarkable comebacks in Finals history, rallying from a near-certain 3-0 hole to beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
With Kobe running short on time to capture a sixth title and catch Jackson’s original star pupil with the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers seized the offseason, trading for the second coming of Superman, three-time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard, and sure-fire hall of fame point guard Steve Nash. With Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the quintet is easily the most decorated starting unit in basketball.
The results, 1-12 counting the preseason, shoved the bespectacled, mouth-agape Mike Brown out the door before Veterans Day.
It’s seems apparent: the job is Phil’s if he wants it. Other candidates are out there. Mike D’Antoni changedthe face of offense in the NBA and, if not for injuries and bad luck, just might have won a title or two with Nash in Phoenix. The great Jerry Sloan is also available.
Yet there is really only one man for this job. The only man with 11 rings. The only man larger than even the star-studded starting five he’d oversee.
Riley did what he believed he had to do, and he achieved the fairy-tale ending.
We’ll soon know if Jackson wants to re-open the book and begin a new chapter. He’s had a long and brilliant career.
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…)