Posts Tagged ‘Tom Gores’

Morning shootaround — Nov. 26


VIDEO: All the highlights from Tuesday night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry’s MVP case | Who’s scapegoating Chandler now? | Not panicking in Windy City … yet | Slow going in Detroit

No. 1: Curry’s MVP case — If the first level of staking a claim to the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award is impressing teammates, Golden State’s Stephen Curry already has that cinched. Curry’s ‘mates and coaches were again effusive about his talents and his season after he dropped 40 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals on the Miami Heat in a cushy victory in south Florida Tuesday.
Consider center Andrew Bogut, who took to Twitter:

And then there was this, as reported by the Contra Costa Times:

“Who better than him…at the point guard spot,” [forward Draymond] Green said. “I don’t know someone that’s better than him, so I definitely think he’s taken over that top spot at the point guard spot. Obviously, with winning comes accolades, so we keep continuing to win, all that stuff will take care of itself.”

“He’ll be an All-Star. He’ll be all that stuff. You continue to win games, and those wins add up, it’ll be hard to deny him the MVP.”

[Said coach Steve Kerr]: “I know I wouldn’t trade him for any point guard in the league, that’s for sure.”

***

No. 2: Who’s scapegoating Chandler now? — Dallas center Tyson Chandler didn’t appreciate it when New York basketball boss Phil Jackson piled on, not merely trading the big man to Dallas but then scapegoating Chandler and guard Raymond Felton for the teams’ dismal 2013-14 season. He’ll get his chance to demonstrate just how much that irritated him when he and the Dallas Mavericks face Jackson’s Knicks Wednesday night. As reported by the New York Post’s Marc Berman, Chandler is playing well (10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks) for the 10-5 Mavericks and seems to have moved on mentally from the maneuver but it still could – and probably should – impact the teams’ clash in Dallas:

“I don’t know why they did that,’’ Chandler said of Jackson’s remark about needing to change the chemistry with the Chandler-Felton trade in late June. “Only they can answer that question. I’ve since then moved on and don’t pay it any much attention. I know a lot of the media will be returning and me going against my former team. But in all honesty I’ve kind of swept it behind. It’s in the past and under the rug and I’m moving on with my future here.’’

Despite winning Defensive Player of the Year and earning his first All-Star berth as a Knick, it did not work out perfectly for Chandler in New York. He got hurt at all the wrong times after signing with the Knicks months after winning an NBA championship. Last year, Chandler broke his leg four games into the season amid a hot start. By the time he returned, the Knicks had too much ground to make up in the playoff race and he never got his timing back.

Chandler was blamed for too eagerly criticizing former coach Mike Woodson’s defensive schemes. Whispers Chandler was one of the dreaded locker-room “finger pointers’’ have also surfaced. They are odd accusations for one of the NBA’s noted leaders. Of course, it could be a smoke screen for the real intentions of Jackson, the Knicks’ team president, shipping out a player who didn’t fit into his triangle offense because he’s not a good jump shooter or post-up guy. Chandler is, however, a ferocious defender and the current Knicks don’t defend a lick.

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No. 3: No reason to panic in Chicago. Yet – Thanksgiving is hours away, so Chicago Bulls fans – and NBA followers who delight in superstar talents – can feel grateful that Derrick Rose hasn’t suffered any season-ending injuries through the first four weeks of the season. OK, so the fact that his legs have been as healthy as the ones sticking up out of your bird Thursday does remain an issue for coach Tom Thibodeau and his club. Maybe the good news is that Thibodeau now has joined the ranks of the other cautious folks in the Bulls organization in protecting their resident hothouse flower – the coach was the one who shut down Rose at halftime of the team’s loss at Denver. Here is quotage and more from Sam Smith of Bulls.com:

Perhaps Rose should not have played in the second of the back to back after being back just one game after missing four with a hamstring injury. Thibodeau may have realized that as he said he approached Rose at halftime and suggested Rose not play the second half. Rose remained in the locker room to get treatment, but said he suffered no setback and Thibodeau agreed it was merely his own personal concern. Though Rose clearly was not moving well, hesitant to drive to the basket and slow to react on defense.

Though Rose said after the game with two days off he is looking toward playing Friday in Boston, you’d have to wonder what the hurry is given players staying out two to four weeks with hamstring injuries.
Returning from two years of knee injuries, such ancillary injuries are expected to be part of the process. Perhaps frustrating, they need to be dealt with in a rational and not emotional manner. It seemed at halftime Thibodeau understood that.

“It was really nothing that happened,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Other than I didn’t want to take any chances with him. The way the game was going, the way we were going, I just felt at that point I wanted to go a different way. He’s didn’t reinjure himself or anything like that. I just didn’t want to take a chance. We’ve got a couple of days now, regroup and the way they were playing, the way we were playing I wanted to see if we could change it with a different type of ball pressure. I knew the start of the third quarter (with the Bulls trailing 56-49 at halftime), the defensive transition and the speed of the game (needed to increase). That was my big concern and I didn’t want to take a chance there. That’s basically it.”

Similarly, Rose agreed.

“It wasn’t anything where I was limping or I pulled it again or anything,” said Rose. “It was just that I wasn’t moving the way I wanted to while I was on the floor. I wasn’t able to affect the game the way that I wanted to, so I came in here and talked to Thibs and we agreed on just sitting out. He initiated it and I agreed with him… “

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No. 4: Slow going in DetroitStan Van Gundy looked sweaty and anguished even in the best of times during his days in Orlando, a natural worry-wart for whom mistakes and losses always loomed larger than victories and success. So you can imagine how he’s doing these days in Detroit, where the Pistons have nothing in common with Van Gundy’s 2009 Finalist Magic team and where he shoulders an even greater burden with dual responsibilities on the sideline and in the front office. On the day they dropped to 3-11 by losing to Milwaukee Tuesday, Van Gundy spoke to Detroit News writer Vince Goodwill and others about the difficult conversations he and owner Tom Gores have been having as they try to balance the development of a young team with the urgency to compete every night:

Van Gundy, after a chunk of games that has his team at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, paying an early deposit with the 76ers for a good seat at next May’s draft lottery, has begun to realize that balance is probably more delicate than his dual titles as coach and president of basketball operations.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be overnight,” Van Gundy said. “I’d like it to be. Tom would like it to be, but I don’t think it’s gonna be an overnight thing.”

“[Monday] night it was an hour and a half, just talking about our roster and where we’re headed and the whole thing. What I feel good about, what I don’t like. It was two days of texts.”

Whether it’s a 90-minute conversation or the usual text communication that happens 4-5 times during the week, much of the focus is on where things stand currently, as this wasn’t the start either envisioned.

“We talk once a week or so. [Monday] night for a long time,” Van Gundy said. “I think that we’re very much aware of what his thinking is and feeling and he is of mine and we’re on the same page. I don’t think somebody in my position can have much closer communication with an owner than I do. I can’t imagine that.”

The urgency is the conversations is certainly a point of emphasis, but Van Gundy said “I don’t think anyone’s on the ledge right now.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: NBA commissioner Adam Silver met with Milwaukee community leaders to discuss the need and timetable for a new downtown arena. … First you get the $4.85 million to spend, in the form of a disabled player exception for veteran guard Steve Nash. Then you have to find someone on whom to spend it. The Lakers can look for help but can they find it? … Even spotting the Pelicans 37 points when they were missing Rudy Gay (right Achilles strain) and Darren Collison (left quadriceps), the Kings were 10 points better in New Orleans. … If by “We’re not a 3-11 team” Kobe Bryant means the Lakers aren’t likely to sputter at that pace to an 18-64 record, he might be right. But they are bad, especially on defense.

 

 

Report: Van Gundy to coach, run Pistons’ front office

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Stan Van Gundy to coach Pistons and run the front office

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Stan Van Gundy the basketball coach is a proven commodity, with five 50-win seasons on his resume and not one losing season. Stan Van Gundy the team president, however, is a rookie with no front-office experience to speak of.

The Detroit Pistons reportedly have tabbed Van Gundy to fill both positions, reaching an agreement in principle with the former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach, according to multiple reports and confirmed by TNT’s David Aldridge.  ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was the first report the deal.

The deal is reported to be worth an estimated $35 million over five years. The official announcement could come as soon as Wednesday.

Van Gundy joins a short list of elite coaches who also serve as the personnel bosses for their franchises. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers also have final say on player personnel.

Popovich and Rivers, of course, have won championships. And they both have their teams playing in the Western Conference semifinals right now. Van Gundy’s teams did rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in five of his seven full season as coach. Van Gundy, who was also being pursued by the Golden State Warriors, is taking over a Pistons franchise whose basketball operations were in shambles at season’s end.

Hall of Famer Joe Dumars stepped down as team president, and interim coach John Loyer — who replaced the fired Maurice Cheeks andlasted just 50 games on the job this season — was obviously not considered as a permanent replacement.

Van Gundy will have his work cut out for him. The Pistons have a talented but uneven roster, including young big man Andre Drummond as a building block for the future. They also have Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a part of the current core.

But there’s no telling what direction Van Gundy will go this summer in putting his own imprint on this team and franchise. He’s spent the past two seasons as a broadcaster and spending time with his family. While he’s been candid about missing the competition and adrenaline rush that comes with coaching in the league, he said last week on an Orlando radio show that he would need a “great situation” to consider getting back into the mix somewhere.

Apparently, he found exactly that in Detroit.

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 10


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pistons’ Gores has more decisions ahead | Clippers soar in Paul’s return | World Peace has advice for Smart | No change in Kobe’s plans; another setback for Nash

No. 1: Pistons owner Gores has more work to do fix Motor City mess Tom Gores took the first step in attempting to fix the mess that is the Detroit Pistons by firing his head coach, Maurice Cheeks. That’s only the beginning of the heavy lifting he’ll have to do to fix what ails the once-proud Pistons, according to Terry Foster of the Detroit News., who reiterates what our Steve Aschburner said in the immediate aftermath of Cheeks being fired. And the list is long and starts with Pistons president Joe Dumars and includes several players who should all be in the crosshairs for a franchise that expected so much more from this season:

Gores owns this shipwreck and he probably doesn’t know what to do with it. Let me give him some advice:

He’s already issued his playoff-or-else edict for the season and can’t back down now. However, he can’t ignore long-term goals — that should be his most pressing concern.

Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva have been dangled as trade bait. The Pistons could go one of two ways. They could trade these pieces and try to get a small forward that could help them win now. Or they could trade these guys to free up cap space and retain their draft pick by slumping to one of the eight worst records in the league.

Option No. 2 means the Pistons would miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season. I am OK with that as long as they have one of the league’s eight-worst records so they can keep their pick in this talent-heavy draft.

The Pistons are a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Pistons made the playoffs as an eight seed was 2009. They were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How did that experience work out? The Pistons are 132-226 since.

The Pistons likely would play the Pacers as an eight seed or the two-time defending champion Heat as a seventh seed. Both teams would sweep the Pistons. So what is the point?

The Pistons are a young team and playoff experience is an important learning experience. However, the Pistons might get drummed out before they can get their notebooks out.

“I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up,” Gores said.

Speaking of players, black marks on Cheeks’ record undoubtedly were the run-ins he had with Josh Smith and Will Bynum — which continue a trend of Pistons players having too much say. Does anyone remember the John Kuester mutiny?

Gores has to provide direction to this franchise. He has to establish a vision. If he doesn’t the Pistons will continue to play in front of a lot of empty seats.


VIDEO: Detroit became the first team to fire its coach this season

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No. 2: Lob City was alive and well in Chris Paul’s return to the Clippers – Life without Chris Paul for the Los Angeles Clippers was certainly manageable. In fact, Blake Griffin ripped it up in Paul’s absence. But it’s good to have their All-Star point guard and floor leader back, as the world saw Sunday in the Clippers’ rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a welcome back party, of sorts, that signals a second-half charge for the Clippers that should include a rise up the Western Conference food chain. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times recounts the return of Paul in the biggest (literally) win in franchise history:

It was Showtime at Staples Center on Sunday night, starring the return of Chris Paul, the comeback of Blake Griffin from an injury scare and the rest of the Clippers playing their roles.

Playing in his first game since he separated his right shoulder Jan. 3 at Dallas, Paul had seven points and eight assists in the Clippers’ show-stopping and franchise-record-setting 123-78 victory over the overmatched Philadelphia 76ers.

With Griffin overcoming a bruised left shin suffered in the first quarter to score 26 points, grab 11 rebounds and hand out six assists, the Clippers set a franchise record for biggest margin of victory.

The Clippers held the 76ers to an opponent franchise-low 27% (27 for 100) shooting. The Clippers set a franchise record for biggest lead at the half when they opened a 69-30 lead after two quarters.

They built a lead as big as 56 points, their largest of the season. So after missing the last 18 games recovering from his injury, this is what Paul came back to.

“It felt great to play,” said Paul, who played 22 minutes 44 seconds. “It’s one of those things you never know what it’s going to be like until you actually get out there and compete and play. It just felt good.”

Griffin went down late in the first quarter after Tony Wroten slipped while driving and stumbled into Griffin.

After he limped to the locker room with head athletic trainer Jasen Powell, Griffin checked back into the game with 7:31 left in the second quarter.

In case anyone was wondering if Griffin was fine and that he and Paul were on the same page, they got their answer twice in the second quarter.

Paul had a breakaway layup, but threw the ball off the backboard, allowing Griffin to catch it and throw down a windmill dunk.

Then later in the second quarter, Griffin dribbled up court, made a behind-the-back pass with his left hand to Paul, who threw a lob that Griffin dunked, bringing the crowd to its feet again.

So, Griffin was asked after the game, how hard was it play with Paul again?

“It was tough, but we managed,” Griffin deadpanned, laughing along with the media.


VIDEO: Who didn’t get dunked on Sunday? The Top 10 plays includes plenty from the Clippers

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No. 3: World Peace has words of wisdom for Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart – If there is any one man on the planet who knows what Oklahoma State Marcus Smart is feeling in the aftermath of the fan-shoving incident he was in the middle of Saturday night, it’s veteran New York Knicks forward Metta World Peace. He, as Ron Artest then, was at the epicenter of the infamous Malice at the Palace of Auburn Hills. World Peace insists there are plenty of lessons to be learned from what Smart is going through now and will during and after his three-game suspension:

World Peace said Smart — who is projected to be a high NBA draft pick — might benefit from learning how to deal with obnoxious fans at age 19, before he becomes a pro and millions of dollars are on the line.

“Just in general, I heard the kid is pretty good and a potential pro,” World Peace said Sunday before his game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “So those types of challenges on the court when you’re playing and fans are rooting against you — that was a great lesson learned, so that hopefully when he does become a pro, he’ll be able to kind of withstand the fans that are rooting against him on the road.”

World Peace also said Smart needs to learn to control his energy.

“I think that emotion and that fire could be directed towards winning on the court instead of directed other ways,” he said.

World Peace said given the chance, he would advise Smart to be aware of the big picture when making decisions.

At 19 years old, when I came out of St. John’s, I was fresh out the ‘hood. I was fresh out of Queensbridge,” he said. “So my mentality was still struggle, defensive and things like that. I wasn’t really conscious. I’m 34 years old now. So he’s a young kid. I wish I would have listened when I was a kid to my elders or people who had my best interests at heart, and then I wish I would have been more conscious at that age also. Those are two things that, if you were to reach out to a kid like Marcus — a talented kid, future leader in the community — you would tell him those things.”

World Peace said more guidelines should be in place for college fans because college players don’t get paid. He said fans should have more leeway at NBA games.

“As far as the pros, people pay to come and see us, and I appreciate it because I’m able to take care of my family,” he said. “So I don’t really judge fans about what they say, good or bad.”

***

No. 4: No change for Kobe’s return and another injury scare for Nash — For all of us who think we know what’s best for Kobe Bryant, save the advice. Bryant isn’t making any changes to his comeback plans for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. He told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin as much over the weekend:

Despite continuing to be sidelined with a left knee injury and seeing his team continue to fall further out of the playoff picture, Kobe Bryant remains steadfast in his intention to return to the court this season.

“My plan hasn’t changed,” Bryant said Sunday at an event to promote his newest signature sneaker, the Nike Kobe 9 Elite Masterpiece. “I’m just going about it every single day just trying to get better. That’s my job. My job is to get my butt back out there on the court when I’m healthy enough to play and that hasn’t changed.”

Bryant, out since Dec. 17 with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee and averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 42.5 percent shooting this season, has missed the Lakers’ last 26 games. He missed the Lakers’ first 19 games this season because of a torn Achilles in his left leg.

The 18-year veteran is scheduled to be re-evaluated after the All-Star Game next week, but wouldn’t venture a guess as to when he could actually return to game action.

“That I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It’s completely out of my control. I really got to sit here and just wait until this thing heals up and then go out there and do what I do.”

He reiterated his confidence that he would not miss the rest of the 2013-14 season, however.

When asked what his best-case scenario would be upon a return this season, Bryant replied: “Play like me. That’s it.”

The news on Steve Nash isn’t quite as positive. He didn’t finish Sunday’s game against the Bulls, exiting with a nerve irritation in his left leg. He’s scheduled to be evaluated today. But things don’t look good for the NBA’s elder statesman:

Nash received contact to his left leg from Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich as he turned the ball over with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. The contact was near the same spot where he suffered a fracture in the leg last season. He stayed in the game until there was 5:00 remaining in the quarter and went straight to the locker room.

“I just took a knee to the spot where I broke my leg,” Nash said. “Ever since I did that I’ve had a lot of nerve issues there and it just really flared up on me. I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing at all. Hopefully it’s something that can just settle down this week, hopefully by Tuesday.”

The Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

“[Once] that nerve flared up and I started to compensate, I wasn’t going to be very effective … and I also was going to risk going back on all that work I did to get back on the court,” Nash said.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Nash’s back started to tighten up from the nerve issues, causing the veteran point guard to limp on the court.

Nash, who turned 40 on Friday, had played in three of the Lakers’ last four games after missing nearly three months of game action because of nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings.

“It wasn’t like I broke it again,” Nash said. “I just kind of irritated the nerve and I’m hopeful that all the stuff that I’ve been doing will be able to overcome that little bit of irritation. It’s kind of transient and hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel better.”


VIDEO: See how easy Kevin Durant makes it look in the Nightly Notable

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: You’ll have to forgive the Magic for acting like they won a championship when they knocked off the Pacers but every win, especially against an elite team, matters when they come as sparingly as they do in Orlando … Acting Cavs GM David Griffin says they are buying at the trade deadline in Cleveland … Thunder star Russell Westbrook is gearing up for his return after the All-Star breakRick Carlisle couldn’t resist the inevitable Dirk Nowitzki-Larry Bird comparisons over the weekend in Boston …

ICYMI of the Night: The Clippers went to town in their rout of the Sixers and no one had more fun in the blowout than the Clippers’ All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, who shows off a bit with one of his many dunks …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin goes off the glass, courtesy of Chris Paul

Surprise: Dumars Fires Yet Another Coach


VIDEO: Cheeks is out at Detroit after only eight months

Mo Cheeks, the eighth coach to serve during Joe Dumars‘ run as president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, lasted eight months before, as multiple media outlets reported and the team eventually confirmed Sunday, getting the ax.

Dumars is in his 14th season, six years removed from Detroit’s last .500-or-better season. And the Pistons’ lone championship on Dumars’ watch (2004) came so long ago, Yao Ming, Latrell Sprewell and Seattle still were in the league and Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and the Charlotte Bobcats weren’t.

That math no longer adds up.

In fact, with the clamor for advanced analytics to measure and dictate every motion and inclination of every player associated with an NBA team’s success or failure, the league is overdue for a concrete rating system for front-office executives. They’re the guys, after all, who are lauded or ripped by a new generation of sportswriter/analyst, depending on how avidly they embrace or eschew such calculations.

Or how ’bout this? A simple ceiling on the number of coaches a GM can hire or fire before it is his head on the chopping block.

Three would seem to be plenty, though four might be a reasonable number as well. If you spot the boss one for clearing the deck after he takes the job – the way Dumars did in 2001, replacing George Irvine with Rick Carlisle – two or three more ought to be enough, after which the scrutiny needs to shift from the sideline to the executive suite.

That would have only gotten Dumars to about the halfway mark in presiding over his personal coaches’ Boot Hill.

After Irvine and Carlisle, Dumars and the Pistons turned to Larry Brown, who did precisely what everyone expected him to do: he got Detroit to The Finals in his first season, steered its ensemble cast to the 2004 championship, then won another 54 games before his AWOL DNA kicked in and he was on the move.

Flip Saunders was brought in and did even better, in terms of victories, going 176-70 in three seasons. But he never had full control of the Pistons’ veteran-laden locker room – thanks, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton – though Saunders’ non-confrontational style was well-established before Dumars ever hired him. The core of that Detroit team was in decline, anyway, so when Saunders was dumped in 2008, so was its trips to the Eastern Conference finals and, for that matter, days sniffing air above .500.

Saunders at least holds the distinction of lasting longest under Dumars. After him, Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank — and now Cheeks — have followed in rather rapid succession, each staying two years or less.

The Cheeks firing borders on Kim & Kris eye-blink brief, with the added touch that Pistons players apparently learned the news Sunday through media and fan postings on Twitter. Sure, they’re the ones allegedly responsible, underperforming at a 21-29 pace that most experts felt should have been flipped to 29-21 by now. But class is as class does, and while Dumars – always classy as a Hall of Fame player in Detroit – can’t be held responsible for every leak, it does add to the impression that there’s chaos and scapegoating going on in the Motor City.

The Pistons have been in or near the league’s bottom third both offensively and defensively. As of Sunday morning, they were ninth, out of the playoff picture, despite an East standings that from No. 3 down ought to be a land of opportunity. Detroit has been OK within its conference actually (18-14) but a 3-15 mark vs. the West has been killer, as was the Pistons’ 7-15 mark at home halfway through the schedule.

The inability to meld the work of big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, some reported rancor among the players over the rotation and the confrontation/aftermatch between the coach and guard Will Bynum – that’s all on Cheeks. The question, though, of whether 50 games was enough to decide his fate – after successive two-years-and-out terms of Frank and Kuester – was answered by Dumars and owner Tom Gores.

“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” Gores said in a team statement. “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress.

“The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach.”

Pinpointing where that approach begins or ends, that’s the challenge. And that’s the area – made up top in jest but maybe a real void in need of filling – to be addressed. There’s got to be a more concrete way of capturing Dumars’ successes and failures.

The talent of which Gores spoke is largely of the individual variety; there’s no one even casually familiar with the NBA who didn’t stack up as many or more “cons” on the right side of Brandon Jennings‘ and Josh Smith‘s ledgers as “pros” on the left. It was, in a sense, a higher risk/reward gamble on “me first” guys than Dumars had perpetrated in 2009 when he splurged on free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to little positive effect.

The Pistons constantly tout their youth – their starting lineup ranks as the NBA’s most tender (23 years and change) – and the fact that their record is best among the league’s four youngest teams. But if that’s something to overcome in the short term, the W-L mark that the kids cobble together seems an odd thing to hold against Cheeks. He didn’t wave a wand and make them young.

More Dumars: Rodney Stuckey was going to be the Pistons’ future until he wasn’t, and only lately has done better in his new zero-expectations world. Then there was the Darko Milicic gaffe, a blown No. 2 pick in 2003 from which the franchise still hasn’t recovered. All while the No. 1 (LeBron James), 3 (Carmelo Anthony), 4 (Chris Bosh) and 5 (Dwyane Wade) picks will be at All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Gores’ arrival as owner apparently was a reset button for Dumars, because new bosses need basketball people they trust the same as chaotic, distracted owners (the previous Pistons regime). But eight coaches in 14 years and, with whoever takes over on the sideline now, six in eight seasons goes beyond fickle toward feeble.

Even if, in formulating an analytic to apply to the GMs, some allowance gets made for the length of the exec’s reign, Dumars would seem to have exceeded an acceptable average for pink slips. The next one he hands out, he needs to be standing in front of a mirror.

Or better yet, he needs to take over as coach himself and demonstrate that his GM/president knows what he’s doing.

Morning Shootaround — April 16

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.

News of the morning

Noah, Gibson could be on playoff minutes limit | Lawson finding his rhythm | OKC continues to impress | Gores wants accountability for Dumars, Frank | Report: Bobcats name change a ways off

Bulls win, but bigs could be on minutes limit As they’ve done all season, the Bulls continue to stay in the thick of the race for the No. 5 seed in the East — a spot that won’t be decided until likely the season’s final night. Last night’s easy win over the hapless Orlando Magic provided a good sign for the Bulls in that injured big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both got in some playing time after missing games with injuries. But K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Noah and Gibson could see a tight minutes limit come playoff time:

A season filled with uncertainty will close with this dose of clarity: The Bulls won’t know their first-round playoff opponent until Wednesday’s season finale.

That’s because the Bulls defeated the hapless Magic 102-84 on Monday night as both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned to test their recoveries from injury and coach Tom Thibodeau said it’s “a possibility” both players will be on minutes limits at the start of the posteason.

Noah, who had missed 12 of the previous 13 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, finished with six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 14 minutes, 21 seconds off the bench. Gibson, who had missed 17 games recently in two separate bouts with a sprained MCL in his left knee, contributed 12 points and two blocks in 21:13.

“I knew there was a setback right away last time,” Noah said after his last attempt to return April 7 in Detroit. “I feel pretty good right now. I’m just happy my foot held up.”

Noah admitted his wind wasn’t “great” but vowed it would “get better quick.”

Gibson wore the large brace he said he disliked.

“The brace is real protective, but I just have to get used to it,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of heavy. But the knee felt great. The main thing I wanted to do was play some defense because our defense was really awful the last couple games.”

…”We have to be at our best in a short amount of time,” Thibodeau said. “We’re a well-rested team. The question I have is are we a sharp team? We have guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes lately that are going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly.”

Lawson getting back to his old selfShortly after their 15-game win streak ended, the Nuggets were dealt a serious blow to their hopes of a long playoff run when Ty Lawson went down with a foot injury on March 27. Although he missed just five games as he got better, the Nuggets were concerned how much their point guard could play and whether or not he’d be the game-changing playmaker they were used to. Last night’s win in Milwaukee went a long way in proving Lawson is speedily returning to form, though, writes Christopher Dempsy of The Denver Post:

With 14.2 seconds to go and down one at Milwaukee, a game the Nuggets had to have to lock up a top four spot in the Western Conference, Ty Lawson surveyed the court and lofted the ball to Wilson Chandler. Chandler handed the ball back off to Lawson who drove the lane, crossed over the defender, Monta Ellis, rose up and hit a shot that was arguably the most important jumper any Nugget has hit in the last three weeks.

Lawson is back.

His heel is not all the way healed, but that shot suggested his game is.

The degree of difficulty won’t go down as calculus level stuff. It was a 10-ish-foot jumper. But Lawson’s speed and quickness, which was in full display on the play, got him free for an open look. And in the process wiped away – or should have – any of the doubt about what he is and can be in the playoffs.

Initially, Karl said if Lawson could give 20-25 minutes when he returned that he could work with that. And yet Lawson, since returning late last week, has given him so much more.

His arc, since playing on April 12 has looked like this: 13 points; 12 points and 10 assists; and now 26 points and seven assists. After Sunday’s game against Portland, Karl was already gushing: “I couldn’t have asked for a better script these last two games,” he said of his point guard.

Tonight’s game should have erased any other doubts.

Lawson has averaged 17 points, 6.6 assists and 1.6 steals in the three games he’s been back. He’s shot 56 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line. Monday night’s game brought back another encouraging sign – his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls.

In the last two weeks there has been enough bad news for the Nuggets, who are just trying to get their roster to survive the remainder of the regular season to get to the playoffs. First, Lawson’s status was in doubt. Then Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season. Then Kenneth Faried went down and can only hope to be close to 100 percent for the start of the playoffs.

It was time for some good news.

Ty Lawson provided it. And with it, may have renewed at least some of the belief that these Nuggets are still headed for a healthy playoff run.

OKC wraps up No. 1 in WestIt is easy to take for granted the success the Thunder have enjoyed all-so-quickly since moving from Seattle before the 2008-09 season. Although the first campaign in Oklahoma saw the Thunder go 23-59, since then it has been nothing but a steady climb for the youthful contenders. Last night, they achieved perhaps their greatest feat since the move, winning their 60th game and wrapping up the top spot in the West. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has more on the Thunder’s rise to the top of the conference:

Not only did the Thunder clinch the top spot in the conference, but OKC also won for the 60th time this season, marking the first 60-win season in Oklahoma City’s brief basketball history.

“It’s shows that we’re improving every year,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “It’s a big number. There’s not a lot of teams that can do it, and to be part of that group and just to get to that number is big.”

With a win in the season finale Wednesday against Milwaukee, the Thunder can finish with a .744 winning percentage. Win or lose, though, the Thunder will have increased its winning percentage in each of its first five seasons, from .280 in 2008-09, to .610 in 2009-10, to .671 in 2010-11, to .712 last year. Even with a loss Wednesday, the Thunder would finish with a .732 winning percentage.

“It feels good, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Durant of winning 60 games. “We’ve never done it here before so it’s new to us. But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.”

Gores wants accountability for Dumars, FrankWe haven’t seen or heard much from Tom Gores since he took over ownership of the Pistons in 2011 from the Davidson family. While he has been mostly a quiet owner of the team, he has no doubt been unhappy with the fifth straight season of sub-.500 basketball, the youthful-but-mistake-prone efforts and the roster that is a bit of a mishmash of parts. Gores spoke to the media before the Pistons’ home finale against Philly and was none to pleased with his team, GM Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Speaking with the news media briefly before Monday night’s home finale against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gores said he was serious when he said last season he expected to make the playoffs and is disappointed the franchise didn’t come close.

“I will say I expected better results,” Gores said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence (Sunday) and I let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”

The Pistons moved to 29-52 on the season following Monday night’s 109-101 victory. The season concludes Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets, and then the season postmortem will begin.

For Gores, it’s all about accountability. He plans to meet with both Frank and Dumars in the coming days. The Pistons are 54-93 under Frank in two seasons.

“I think both of them, including ownership, has to be accountable for the year,” Gores said. “We have to be accountable for the results of this year. We have a great core of young players, but we have to be accountable.”

“Now I’m very excited about what we have going,” Gores said. “We have a lot of (cap) room. We’ve set ourselves up financially, and basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I’m very excited about the future.

“But I’m not content about how we performed this year.”

Through a series of transactions the last 10 months, the Pistons will have roughly $25 million to spend this summer on free agency or trades. He said the Pistons “are prepared to spend.”

“It’s always important, but it’s magnified this year because we’ve really put ourselves in position to really make moves,” Gores said. We want to win a championship. We want to get into the playoffs and all of things.

“I tell you, Lawrence is a tremendous guy. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple and he’s tremendous, but I really have to think about what the best thing is.”

Report: Bobcats name change a ways offOn Jan. 24, the New Orleans Hornets officially announced they would be changing their name, colors and logo to that of the Pelicans for next season. It was a move to closer bind the franchise to the New Orleans community and leaves the Hornets moniker, which dates to the franchise’s days in Charlotte, back in the NBA’s hands. Shortly thereafter, chatter (or buzz, if you will) began around the Web and the Charlotte community that the current team there — the Bobcats — should look to reclaim the nickname that was once theirs. A website called BringBackTheBuzz.com is spearheading the charge on the Internet, but the hopes of that group and others who want the Bobcats renamed for next season are looking unlikely. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on what it would take to change from the Bobcats to something else:

If the Charlotte Bobcats ask the NBA for a name change, it would be at least 18 months before such a request was implemented.

NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver met with the Observer and other print media outlets Monday during a visit to Charlotte. Much of his 20-minute interview addressed the possibility the Bobcats might switch their nickname to “Hornets” now that the New Orleans Hornets are switching to “Pelicans.”

The Bobcats have done some market research but have yet to make a request with the NBA. Silver said he is fine with whatever the Bobcats decide, but that the team’s deliberate approach is the right course.

Silver said this would be a “very expensive process for the team,” so it’s “a weighty process, not just what ‘X’ amount of fans say in an opinion poll.”

Rather, it’s about whether a rebranding would be lucrative enough to justify spending millions on new uniforms, logos and signage.

Since the NBA owns the name “Charlotte Hornets,” plus the teal-and-purple color scheme the team wore in Charlotte and New Orleans, Silver was asked how quickly a new brand could be implemented.

Even with all that working for it, a change from Bobcats to Hornets would take a minimum of 18 months, the deputy commissioner said.

Silver also was asked whether the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans, still controls the Hornets nickname. Silver replied that the Bobcats wouldn’t owe the Pelicans compensation if they took on that name.

ICYMI of the night: Derrick Williams might be the best player in the league at finishing off crazy alley-oops. Here’s another one to add to his stockade of such plays:

Rating The Coaching Picks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Spend 20 minutes talking basketball with Lawrence Frank and I promise you, it’s impossible not to be both impressed with his knowledge of the game and won over by his straight-shooter personality.

Spend the same amount of time with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson and I guarantee you’d come away feeling the same way. When the Detroit Pistons’ coaching search came down to Frank and Woodson as their final two candidates, there was no way they could lose, right?

Try telling that to Pistons fans (I’m Michigan born and bred, so I’ve got more than a few Pistons diehards dangling from the family tree), who from what we could gather didn’t seem particularly enthused about any of the options they were presented.

Still, for a franchise in need of a strong personality in that head coach’s chair, after several years of misses, Frank offers offer the qualities needed to deal with a young roster that needs shaping.

His selection over Woodson, an offer is coming soon as first reported by Yahoo! Sports, signals more than just an apparent shift in philosophy — the Pistons’ last three coaches have all had some connection to the organization, either player or assistant coach, prior to taking over the top bench job. It’s also a sign of the influence the new ownership group is placing in the hands of Dave Checketts, hired as a consultant by new owner Tom Gores to advise and assist alongside Pistons president Joe Dumars.

Franchises wish the process was as simple the brain trust coming together and choosing between two worthy candidates that also happen to be ideal fits.

But we all know that the only thing tougher than lucking into a transcendent talent at the top of a draft is finding the right coach for the right team at just the right time.

(more…)

Pistons Add Ewing To List

The Detroit Pistons have expanded their head coaching search by interviewing Orlando Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing, according to league sources.

Ewing, 49, has long desired to be a head coach, and has decried what he viewed as pigeonholing him as a “big man” assistant, a role he has undertaken while an assistant coach in Houston with Yao Ming and in Orlando with Dwight Howard. Ewing has said that he does a lot more than just work with bigs and is ready to run a team. He badly wanted to get a shot with the Knicks, the team for whom he became a superstar after being taken first overall in the 1985 Draft.

“It’s disappointing that I haven’t moved to the next step to getting a head coaching job, but all I can do is keep working hard and keep on preparing myself for whenever that opportunity arises,” Ewing told the New York Daily News earlier this month. “A lot of people try to pigeonhole me into just a big man’s coach and I’m just not a big man’s coach. I’m a coach.”

He is the fifth known candidate to replace John Kuester, joining former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, former Nets and current Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, former WNBA coach and current Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer and current Bucks assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, a former college coach at Indiana and Oklahoma. Each has interviewed once with team president Joe Dumars. It is not known if second interviews will be conducted with the Pistons’ new majority owner, Tom Gores.