HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – From 2006 through the London Olympics, the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team went 43-1 (62-1 if you count exhibitions) under coach Mike Krzyzewski. And Sunday’s gold-medal-game victory over Spain was its 36th straight win (50 if you count exhibitions) since losing to Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship.
So Krzyzewski, who has said that he’s done coaching the National Team, is going out on top, with two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship. The coach that replaces him has some big shoes to fill, as well as plenty of pressure to keep the U.S.A. on top of the basketball world.
Even if you’re a Duke hater, you have to respect what Krzyzewski has done over the last seven years. He’s a college coach, but managed to connect with and motivate five different squads of NBA stars. And after that ’06 loss to Greece, he clearly made it a priority to learn more about the international teams and players his team was facing.
While most fans and pundits focus on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a new coach needs to be selected well before then. The U.S. will look to defend its World Championship at the renamed FIBA Basketball World Cup, which takes place from Aug. 31-Sept. 14, 2014 in Spain.
So who should USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo select as the next coach? Here are six candidates… (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not everyone in South Florida is ready to roll out the red carpet for LeBron James and serve as the subjects of his new kingdom.
There is at least one voice, drowned out by a sea of others still giddy over the arrival of James (along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, of course), begging for folks in and around Miami to ease up on the love affair with James.
As exciting and promising as it is to have The Big Three in Miami, it might be wise to dial back the adoration a bit on The Chosen One. He craves it a little too much. He practically screamed it with a self-indulgent ESPN special centered on his choice of NBA suitors, a TV special that would have turned stomachs in South Florida for its pretentiousness if James had said anything other than “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”
Instead, it was sweet music, a majestic pronouncement, something on the order of Michelangelo saying “I’m going to take my talents to the Sistine Chapel.” LeBron, the modern master, could have done the whole thing simpler, but simple doesn’t suit him.
So far we’ve seen him handpicking teammates on the Heat, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas secured, Mike Miller apparently on the way and maybe more to come. We’ve heard him elicit an ear-splitting Beatles concert reaction, too, by telling an AmericanAirlines Arena crowd that he didn’t come to Miami to win one NBA title, but five, six, seven, however many it takes to keep everybody happy.
If not for Dwyane Wade, who on Wednesday acknowledged the Lakers as the favorites to repeat in 2011, I would be worried, but even Wade is going to have to work hard to keep this Heat circus on schedule all the way to the NBA Finals.
Should there be a problem with who gets the last shot in a close game, it likely will be LeBron who gets his feelings hurt and Dwayne who will smooth things over. Wade, remember, came off the bench for the 2008 Olympic Redeem Team and led the U.S. in scoring despite playing just 18 minutes per game.
If there is grumbling over the inexperience or the ineptitude of Miami’s head coach, it will be LeBron who does it. He never even spoke to Tom Izzo during the Cavs’ lengthy courtship with the Michigan State icon. Wade, on the other hand, is perfectly comfortable with Erik Spoelstra and can be counted upon to mediate all grievances.
And if LeBron needs to learn about deferring to Dwyane in some situations, and vice versa, forget about Pat Riley coming to the rescue. That’s something the two stars will have to work out between themselves when the team hits an occasional bumpy patch.
Wade, who signed for less money than LeBron or Chris Bosh, has shown he can compromise in return for a championship. He also has proven the ability to take charge and personally make a championship happen when all else fails. With LeBron, we still have to see on that.
George raise some great points about this new partnership in Miami.
Everyone has been so caught up in the move itself that few people have raised critical questions about the dynamics of it all and who will make it work.
While we’re not nearly as worried about James and his ability to check his ego on the boat dock, it’s a conversation worth having, especially for the folks in Miami.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sifting through the wreckage that was “The Decision,” the 60-minute ESPN spectacle that saw LeBron James declare his intentions to join the All-Star party in Miami, has left us with very few real winners but oh so many losers.
Sure, the Heat vault to the top of the list of title contenders in the Eastern Conference on star power alone, sending their fans and folks in and around south Florida into their own hoop dream that ends with parades up and down Ocean Drive. And James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all checking their ring sizes in anticipation of the hardware they will chase for the next five seasons, and possibly beyond.
But there is little else to celebrate today, with frayed feelings everywhere else.
Their rage remains palpable, not only with James but with any and everyone that doesn’t share their anger about the way this all went down.
Still, the Hang Time crew had been charged with handing out awards for the winners and demerits for the losers. And no matter what, we have to do the job. So without further ado:
WINNERS — Miami, South Beach and business owners all over South Florida
Every single restaurant, club, condo and boutique hotel and shop owner in Miami should start planning to clear out more space and expand their facilities, because if James’ arrival there has a similar impact to what he had in Cleveland, business is about to get really, really good. Already one of the world’s finest party hot-spots, Miami and South Beach get the added boost of being the epicenter of the NBA universe for at least the next year. And if the Heat actually lives up to the immense hype that surrounds this groundbreaking compilation of stars, Will Smith might want to find his way to the studio for his 1997 hit, beinvenido a Miami!
LOSERS — Jim Gray, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert
Both James and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will spend plenty of time as punching bags for folks that don’t agree with how they have handled themselves during this process, and rightfully so. The entire broadcast was a classic example of how not to handle something like this, as both Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and Buzz Bissinger of Vanity Fair made abundantly clear in these must-read accounts of what went down Thursday night. But the man we’d most like to bounce on his head here at the hideout is Jim Gray. Not only did he drive us wacky playing 21 questions (fine, he asked 18 before getting to the only one anyone cared about), he did it in such a smug manner that even James appeared to be annoyed with the silly banter. Even worse is the news that Gray was possibly behind this entire debacle, per CNBC’s sports business guru Darren Rovell. We waited 30 minutes for James to give us what we came for and we’re putting that last 30 on Gray and his useless interviewing scheme. This wasn’t fair to the fans in Cleveland or anywhere else to drag out the decision the way they did.
WINNERS — Dennis Scott and the rest of the media working the story
LOSERS — Mike Brown and Danny Ferry, the ousted brain trust
Former coach Mike Brown and former GM Danny Ferry were both ushered out of town in the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ playoff flame out last season. Brown was fired, while Ferry chose to depart rather than spend his time dealing with the foolishness that he must have known was in store in free agency. Both men were scapegoats for failures that deserves to spread out among many more, including James and Gilbert. Brown departed as the most successful coach in franchise history and really a pawn in a game far more sinister than he probably imagined. Ferry got out ahead of the craziness. And good for him. They’ll both resurface elsewhere and the hideout crew wishes them the best.
WINNER — Tom Izzo, the Cavs-coach-that-wasn’t
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew better than to dip his toes into the NBA waters in Cleveland, whether LeBron James was on board or not. Kudos to Izzo for smelling the stench ahead of time and avoiding being a casualty in this high-stakes hoops-opera that would only have served to tarnish his legacy as one of college basketball’s best coaches. Izzo resisted the intense and lucrative recruiting pitch of another MSU Spartan, Gilbert, who clearly isn’t ready to turn the operation over to anyone else, not even Izzo. If he watched Thursday night’s show, and there was no reason for Izzo to bother, we bet he was relieved that he hadn’t jumped at Gilbert’s offer when he heard the words “South” and “Beach” roll of James’ lips.
LOSERS — Cavs coach Byron Scott and the team and fans James left behind
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott remains a fantastic choice to lead the Cavaliers into this most uncertain future. But he could have kept his analyst job with ESPN if he’d known he would be coaching a team with Mo Williams as its first option. Scott was rumored to be the next in line for the Los Angeles Lakers if Phil Jackson left, he didn’t. So you go from almost coaching a team led by Kobe Bryant to almost coaching led by James to coaching a team led by Anderson Varejao? That’s just not right. We’re rooting for the Cavs, who still have some room to maneuver and add star power of some sort with nearly $12 million in available cap space, once they renounce their rights to James. But Scott will have to work some magic to save this season for the Cavaliers and a fan base that’s been cut to the bone by yet another disappointing sports moment.
WINNERS — The team that upends the Miami 3 on their way to a title
LOSERS — All the teams that didn’t land James, Wade or Bosh
James never did name a runner-up for his services or a pecking order for the six teams he considered. So we’ll throw them all in here since the Heat snagged the top three free agents on the market. The Knicks, however, lead the pack of the biggest losers. After spending the last two years doing whatever they could to create hype for James coming to Madison Square Garden and saving a basketball-mad city, so losing out to former Knicks coach Riley has to sting for the Knick faithful, yes that includes you Spike Lee. Amar’e Stoudemire is not an adequate consolation prize, we don’t care how many different ways the Knicks try to sell it. Waiting another year for Carmelo Anthony or some other member of the free agent class of 2011 isn’t going to cut it either. The Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers and even the Clippers have foundations to work with. Meanwhile, the Knicks are back to chasing ghosts.
(Before the NBA’s tampering police start handing out fines, it was purely a coincidence that one of the biggest free agent players this summer was sitting in front of one of the biggest free agent players this summer.)
The only folks missing from this party were LeBron James, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and the rest of the players invited to the on-again/off-again Free Agent Summit.
Lucky for you we’ve got news on all of the above:
JAMES 100 PERCENT BEHIND POTENTIAL IZZO HIRE
Just so we understand this correctly, James is all for Izzo being hired in Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean he’s committed to returning? That’s the way Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer details it here:
According to a high-level source, James would endorse the Cavs’ hiring Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said last week that James is not involved in the search for a replacement for Mike Brown, but sources have indicated James approves of the highly-respected Izzo. James also said in an interview with Larry King that he doesn’t want to be heavily involved with selecting his next coach.
But James “100 percent” would endorse Izzo’s hiring, the source said.
Izzo, meanwhile, is still pondering the Cavs job. On Sunday, Izzo told several Michigan-based reporters via text messages that he was “still gathering” in regards to the Cavs’ offer. Gathering facts and opinions, it is assumed. Perhaps even attempting to gather information from James’ himself.
Lansing (Mich.) television station WLNS reported on Sunday that Izzo is waiting to speak directly with James, which the station reported had not happened as of Sunday night.
Nonetheless, James isn’t believed to be giving anyone a hint to what his personal plans will be once he hits free agency on July 1. That seems to be the greatest issue Izzo is considering. Izzo has consulted numerous friends and acquaintances looking for an opinion of what James’ intentions might be and what the Cavs may be able to do if they re-sign him or if they do not.
While he ponders and hopes to speak with James, though, Michigan State is trying to leverage its hometown edge. Several grassroots campaigns have been organized to appeal to Izzo to turn down the Cleveland offer.
A Web site has been formed to collect messages from fans and several groups have formed rallies and gatherings to make signs. There are now hundreds of signs supporting Izzo throughout East Lansing and the route from Izzo’s home to the Breslin Center, the Spartans’ arena, is littered with signs.
Izzo will likely have to drive past them on Monday when he’s scheduled to host the start of a youth basketball camp that bears his name.
Though there has been an expectation that Izzo would make up his mind over the weekend, there were no indications on Sunday that Izzo planned an announcement on Monday.
HT’s TAKE: Take your time Tom, the rest of us don’t have lives or anything to get on with. There’s only Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the draft, a little thing called free agency (think recruiting season in your world) and summer leagues to tend to. Again, take your time buddy! Shoot, why don’t you and LeBron announce your intentions on the same day, that way we can go another month like this, speculating about your every move, every single day. You won’t get sick of it, we promise.
WADE WANTS TO BE IN MIAMI?
Seriously, D. Wade wants to stay in Miami. That’s probably not news to the other members of the FA Class of 2010. After all, they’ve had clandestine communications going on for weeks now, per one member of the group. But Wade made that point emphatically clear to ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande after Game 5 Sunday night:
As the July 1 opening of the NBA’s free-agent shopping spree draws near, Dwyane Wade says he will start off by looking for the best player to join him with the Miami Heat, rather than searching for the franchise where he would best fit.
“It’s going to be fit with me first,” Wade said. “I’ve made that very clear. Do I want to leave? Nope. Mmm-hmm. I want to be in Miami. That’s where it starts.”
Wade attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Boston with his two sons, because at ages 8 and 3 they have no memories of their father’s run to the championship with the Heat in 2006 — and because the recollections are beginning to get hazy for Wade himself after failing to get past the first round of the playoffs in the past four seasons.
While he has said he will talk to other players and got the NBA world buzzing with his concept of a “free-agent summit” he said, “I don’t do recruiting. Not now, anyway.”
“I don’t look at it as recruiting. I’ll gauge and see if guys want to be [in Miami], who wants to be with me.
“It’s about who can come to Miami, it’s about who do you trust, who can fit the organization, who best fits you as a player, things of that nature.”
HT’s TAKE: You know Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wishes LeBron was talking like this. Of all the teams hunting free agents this summer, we’re willing to say right now that the Heat will definitely come away with what they want. As long as Wade is their best advocate for enticing others to join him, they have a leg up on the competition.
Clearly Atlanta believes LD offers something distinct from Woody. The Hawks hired him after rejecting not just Woody but his entire program. Promoting his lead assistant means they don’t think LD got much of a chance to put his stamp on that program. And the Hawks are telling you that not only do they expect LD’s way to be better than Woody’s way, but that he’s the guy to guide them to the next level even though he’s never been in the head coach’s seat before.
Anybody making snap judgments about the legitimacy of those views is just guessing. Sund and ASG made their choice. LD gets his shot to win over skeptics. At some point it will become clear if he’s the right choice.
I talked to some players this weekend, and all of them said they expect LD’s approach to be different than Woody’s. Drew often ran the second-team offense in practice and was said to deploy creative sets, with one player describing them as a “fun” departures from the isolations. Another player said when things went badly for the Hawks, LD tended to be more of an “encourager” than a “screamer” and focused his energy on laying out a detailed plan for how the Hawks can get better.
The players have better insight into LD than the rest of us, and so it’s significant that he enjoys wide support among them. But they can’t be sure how Drew the assistant will work out as Drew the head coach. His relationships with players will be tested. Now LD has the final say on how the run the team, including playing time and touches, and players inevitably aren’t going to like some of his decisions.
It’s probably not much different than most real-life workplaces when your direct boss becomes the “big boss.” It happened to me at a previous job. I knew that when my supervisor became the department’s boss our relationship would necessarily change. Where once he would go into his boss’s office as my advocate, and sometimes privately agree with my gripes, suddenly I was griping to someone else about his decisions. We talked every day when he was my direct supervisor; when he became the department head and had wider responsibilities, sometimes the explanations came down through the chain of command, and sometimes not at all.
I knew that when he was promoted my boss had to put some of that “command distance” between us. I’m not saying I always liked it but I accepted the circumstances and did my job. It’s not an exact analogy, I know, but Hawks players now have to do much the same with Drew. It’s part of being a professional.
HT’s TAKE: What he said!
WELCOME TO THE KOBE CHRONICLES
While most of the free world marveled at Kobe Bryant‘s monster showcase in Game 5 (38 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor), there’s a trio of Los Angeles area columnists that weren’t particularly impressed with what they saw from Bryant or the Lakers, in one case. In fact, they know that it was Bryant reverting back to some nasty old habits of his:
Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register: As if transported to 2006 and 2007, the BP (Before Pau) period in recent Lakers history, Bryant was forced to be Hal Holbrook or James Whitmore, the one-man show in Kobe Bryant Tonight.
The fact that he could do such a thing, could go 7 for 9 with three 3-pointers in the third quarter of Game 4 against the one team best-equipped to impede him, might be the one shred of value the Lakers can take home from Boston.
If any other Laker had decided to crawl onto the stage with Kobe, maybe the club could have swiped this game, as undeserving as they were. That did not happen, the Celtics won, 92-86, and the Lakers trail 3-2 with Games 6-7 at home.
“We were waiting for him to do that,” Phil Jackson said, after Bryant went 13 for 27 and drilled 38 points, even getting to the foul line nine times.
So were the Celtics, even though Ray Allen and Tony Allen do not seem reluctant to crowd Bryant, slapping at his dribble, making him extend, staying down while he goes through his fakes. On one first-half shot Bryant faked up and faked up and finally shot, but R. Allen was still there, and the result was a hard rebound.
But then Bryant got his ankle re-taped and tried to take the Lakers on his magic carpet, although they wouldn’t ride. It was a diva against an orchestra.
“It’s amazing what that does to your team,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We said, look, it’s only two points when he scores, it’s not 10. But it makes you question your defense because he was terrific.
“He’s the best shotmaker in the game. In that stretch I kept turning to Tibs (assistant coach Tom Thibodeau) and Armond (Hill) and saying, those are tough shots. You’ve just got to live with it, play through it.”
The Celtics played, all right. They humiliated one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, shooting 56.3 percent overall and whipping the Lakers in the paint, 46-32.
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: I just love Our Ball Hog when he puts on a one-man show like this, after all, this is only Sunday night entertainment unless you somehow think your life changes whether the Lakers win or not.
He scored 23 straight points between the second and third quarters, many of them dancing off one leg and falling backward, the other guys on his team just running around and letting the Celtics score so he might shoot again.
This was superstar basketball, almost a made-for-TV movie, one against five in a dramatic shootout.
He scored the first 19 points in the third quarter for the Lakers, the Lakers down by 11 when he started ignoring the rest of his teammates and down by 11 when he had finished.
Over the years it doesn’t always mean the Lakers are going to win when Our Ball Hog loses sight of everyone else, but you’ve got to admit it’s the best in basketball entertainment.
In addition to scoring, he’s also going to give dirty looks to any teammate who doesn’t get him the ball, which is good for a chuckle if you’re watching. And tell me you didn’t grin or laugh when TV caught him coaching, pointing to himself and insisting he be the one to cover Paul Pierce.
Later, I heard he wanted to fly the plane home, too.
Sickly green, bulging with elbows, dripping with sweat, a solid sheet of basketball will.
So this is how the Lakers look with backs flattened against it.
Kobe Bryant screaming, Ron Artest bricking, Pau Gasol disappearing, Andrew Bynum limping, Lamar Odom smiling?
“We’ll respond,” he said.
You will? How? If the Lakers’ answer is anything like it was on this steamroller of a Sunday night at TD Garden, they will soon end their season with a loud and pronounced cry of uncle.
Ouch! they moaned when the Boston Celtics’ tiny Rajon Rondo soared over Odom and Bryant for a key fourth-quarter tip-in.
Aww! they wept when Paul Pierce took an inbounds pass, shrugged off Derek Fisher and found Rondo running past Artest for a key uncontested four-quarter layup.
Oh no! they whined when the Celtics grabbed so many loose balls and shoved so many purple bodies, former and current New England Patriots heroes Tedy Bruschi and Wes Welker stood up in the stands and roared as if their team had just punched in a touchdown.
This is no longer a series, it is a stereotype, the resilient Celtics boxing around the retreating Lakers, 92-86, Sunday at TD Garden to take a three-games-to-two lead.
The Finals return to the comfort of Staples Center for Game 6 on Tuesday, with a possible Game 7 there on Thursday, but don’t be fooled. If home is where the heart is, the Lakers need to conduct an all-out search once they arrive.
At this point, the better team is not the better team. The biggest is not the strongest. Style is getting whacked by substance. Talent is getting whacked by tough.
Said Bynum: “We’ve got to get into it.”
Said the Celtics’ Tony Allen: “We’re way into it.”
That pretty much said it all on a night when a biology class turned into a history lesson. Less than two weeks after the Lakers began the series showing their 2010 guts, they have reverted to their 2008 softness.
HT’s Take: Game 5 did have an eerie 2008 feel to it for all the reasons these guys have mentioned. But more than anything, Bryant’s insistence that he do it alone is what sticks out about Game 5 to us. Surely, Kobe knows by now that this approach will not work.
BOSTON – That LeBron James parade staged by Los Angeles Clippers fans was cute and all, but if you want real recruiting you have to go bigger than walking the streets outside of the Staples Center.
You have to go with another superstar making clear why a top free agent would want to come play in a certain city.
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, himself a member of the celebrated free agent Class of 2010, is already on the case.
Wade has already come up with a five-point list of why someone (James, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, etc.) should join in Miami, courtesy of Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel:
5. The media is fair. Imagine that. Someone with something good to say about the media.
“I think it’s very fair here for the most part,” he said.
And that’s important?
“With Facebook and Twitter and all the social media out there, it’s nuts,” he said. “So you look around and want some responsible [media] on how you’re covered. It’s fair here.”
4. South Beach is your backyard. “For other people, this might be really more enticing,” he said. “But for [ NBA] players it’s not really like that. During the season, you don’t go out all the time, no matter what you hear.
“If you’re talking the off-season, now, I’ll say it’s a bigger deal.”
Don’t people leave here in the summer?
“I can think of a couple people who like it,” he said, smiling. “I’m in Chicago a lot in the off-season. But some of the [players] are here a lot.”
3. February becomes an enjoyable month. “Everyone loves the sun here,” Wade said.
There’s no serious competition if the Los Angeles Clippers don’t enter the discussion. Cold-weather cities like Chicago, Cleveland and New York seem all the colder when teams visit the Heat in February.
“I hear about that all the time, how nice the weather is,” Wade said. “It’s a big deal.”
2. This organization knows how to win. Team president Pat Riley’s rings. Heat owner Micky Arison’s reputation. None of the other teams expected to be big free-agent players have won a title with the present cast of owner, architect and star player.
“Everyone thinks this is a first-class organization,” Wade said. “There are a handful of organizations you’d say that about, and this is one of them. It’s big for guys to see the track records of the people running the team.”
Wade didn’t mention what made headlines earlier this off-season about Michael Jordan not being part of the Chicago organization. For a contrast, there was Mourning to Wade’s left, signing autographs.
1.You’re guaranteed at least one other elite player on the roster. OK, he didn’t say this. I stated this for him. Wade isn’t re-signed yet. But all indications are he’ll be back with the Heat, right down to Saturday’s autograph session. Why embed yourself in a community you’re about to leave?
“Nothing’s signed,” Wade said.
Assuming he signs, he’s the Heat’s top selling point. His return would validate everything on the above list and give a player like James the kind of teammate he’s never had.
HT’s Take: We’re already wondering how big a fine the league is cooking up for Wade. Ha. Actually, if you’re trying to lure another top free agent, what better way to get your point across than with a player of Wade’s stature articulating it for you? If wade stays in Miami, which looks like a decent possibility at this point, he’s going to sway another of his Class of 2010 mates to rock with him on South Beach.
LARRY DREW’S INTERESTING RISE TO THE TOP
New Hawks coach Larry Drew is not his predecessor, no matter how closely they are linked throughout their careers. Drew’s style, approach, demeanor and personality all make him very different from Mike Woodson.
Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: As a Hawks assistant, Drew was a quiet presence. Never much of a screamer in practice, more of a teacher than a taskmaster, he must make the transition to the role of demanding rather than asking.
At Missouri, he won the Sparky Stalcup Award for inspired leadership, so that important quality has always been there.
Untested as a head coach, he has much to reveal about himself — and little time or wiggle room in which to do it. For he will be measured by the Hawks’ ability to progress past the second round of the playoffs, the point where they have stalled the past two seasons.
One fact that has made itself already known: Drew knows point guards.
He was one, for one. Drew may be one of the best players ever to come out of Kansas City, schooled by an older brother in the fundamentals of ball handling and court awareness.
“He may have been the most fundamentally sound seventh-grader I’ve ever seen,” said long-time Kansas City Star metro columnist Steve Penn, a middle-school teammate of Drew’s.
At Missouri, he had a 5-to-2 career assist-to-turnover ratio.
Drew counts among his best friends the all-time, mold-breaking guard, Magic Johnson.
His offseason camp — called Larry Drew Advance Guard Academy — caters to the position.
And he is actively passing along the point-guard gene. His oldest of three sons, Larry Drew II, just finished a tumultuous growing year playing point at North Carolina. His wife, Sharon, has been freely quoted as saying her son is much better at this stage than was her husband.
The couple maintains a home on the far left coast, where the other two teenage boys are California guard prodigies.
If he can develop second-year Hawks guard Jeff Teague, that will mark one of the more immediate departures from Woodson.
HT’s Take: Drew is an excellent choice for a Hawks team that needed a new coach and not just a name or a personality to handle a group that piled up the fifth-best season in franchise history. Drew”s not a self-promoter or a guy that’s ever hunted the headlines as an assistant coach. But he’s honed his craft over the years, working all over the league and with some of the best people in the business. Sure, he has plenty to prove as a head coach, but what first time boss doesn’t? Drew has the added advantage of having guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith (below) and Jamal Crawford in his corner.
THE IZZO LOVE AFFAIR HAS FOLKS IN CLEVELAND WORRIED
Sorry Dan Gilbert, but not everyone in Cleveland is enamored with idea of Tom Izzo coaching the Cavaliers. While the world waits for Izzo’s final decision, which could come as soon as this evening, others ponder the possibilities.
Gilbert swore James would not be consulted on the coaching hire. I didn’t believe him then. But I do now. Because if I’m James — and, just so you know, we have not been mistaken for one another lately due to my decision to let my hairline recede and erase my temporary Chosen One, Too tat — I’d tell Gilbert if he asked that Izzo’s stellar reputation as a college coach is at the very least mitigated by other factors.
Izzo would be the second rookie NBA head coach for James, though obviously he would walk into the Cavaliers locker room carrying a much bigger stick than Mike Brown did.
Izzo has been to six Final Fours in 12 seasons. Brown knew Gregg Popovich was spelled with two g’s. Brown, though, cut his teeth on the NBA sidelines, and James still lost faith in his strategies and in-game adjustments.
Next year is James’ eighth in the league, and Izzo would come with a NBA learning curve in tow.
One of the many thoughts sources attribute to James is that he’d like a former NBA player as head coach. (Stand down, Barkley, not you.) The Cavs under Izzo aren’t the only team that would fail to meet that standard. The same parameters would hurt the chances of some of James’ biggest suitors.
James could have that here with Byron Scott, who left New Orleans on good terms with James’ buddy, Chris Paul. But Scott, for some reason, looks like a Plan B to Izzo.
I’d rank them Jeff Van Gundy, Scott and then Izzo. But then again, I saw Olympic gold in Eddie the Eagle’s future, too.
HT’s Take: Without a commitment from James one way or another, the only thing Izzo can count on is a nice paycheck and the possibility that he’ll be on the hottest of hot coaching seats in all of basketball. If James were to return, the pressure to win a title would be off the charts. Without James, Izzo has to try to fashion a playoff team out of the supporting cast that’s been assembled around James by a general manager, Danny Ferry, that is no longer there. Glad Izzo has to make this decision and not me.
MARK JACKSON IS READY TO DANCE
ABC analyst and former star point guard Mark Jackson is ready for his chance to run a team. He was in the final three for the Hawks’ job and has had discussions elsewhere. But his best fit might be in his own backyard.
“I’m the girl on the dance floor just dancing to the music,” Jackson said in an interview Saturday with FanHouse when asked about the Clippers’ opening. “If somebody wants to dance with me, come on over.”
Jackson, a former NBA guard now serving as an ABC analyst during the Finals between Boston and the Lakers, was one of three finalists for the Atlanta job before it went Friday to Hawks assistant Larry Drew. Jackson and Dwane Casey, the other finalist not selected, are both expected to be candidates with the Clippers, apparently in no position to fill their opening.
“It’s a great job,” Jackson said. “It will play itself out.”
A source close to the situation has told FanHouse the Clippers might wait until after July 1 to hire a coach to perhaps help their chances of landing Cleveland star LeBron James, expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent that day.
Asked about Drew getting the Atlanta job, Jackson said, “I wish him all the best.” Jackson also spoke well of how Hawks general manager Rick Sund handled the search to replace Mike Woodson, let go May 14 after six seasons.
“Rick Sund did an outstanding job from top to bottom with the way he handled everything,” said Jackson, an NBA point guard from 1987-2004 who never has been a coach at any level but was known for his leadership as a player. “A class organization. I’ve got nothing but great words. He’s handled (the coaching search) the best that I’ve been a part of so far.”
HT’s Take: Jackson captivated the Hawks’ with his charisma and knowledge of the game, but they had the same concerns many of these teams do about hiring a guy that has no coaching experience. But is Jackson really any bigger risk than some of these other first time head coaches like Drew or Tom Thibodeau in Chicago? Jackson will get his shot and the Clippers, where he could connect with Baron Davis, might be the best fit.
WIZARDS OWNER SAYS ARENAS STAYS PUT
If John Wall is the new face of the franchise in Washington that means Gilbert Arenas has to go, right? Not according to new Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post: One day after assuming control of the Washington Wizards, majority owner Ted Leonsis reiterated his commitment to having Gilbert Arenas on the team next season, and to giving General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders a chance to turn around the struggling franchise.
Leonsis met with Arenas at the owner’s McLean home last month and has been in contact with the point guard via e-mail, exchanging notes with him as recently as Thursday.
“We had a great meeting,” Leonsis told a group of Washington Post reporters and editors Friday. “The conversation was about, ‘Here’s a line, and you can’t cross this line.’ The scrutiny around you has quadrupled. You need to internalize that. There are some things you can’t joke about anymore.”
Leonsis also dismissed recent reports that the Wizards are actively seeking to trade Arenas, whom the NBA suspended in January for the remainder of the 2009-10 season after he brought guns into the Verizon Center locker room.
“We’re not actively trading him,” Leonsis said. “But I would ask you to put yourself in another general manager’s shoes. He was injured for two years and suspended for a year and he’s a max [contract] player. If you were another team’s general manager, would you be trading for Gilbert Arenas right now?”
Leonsis also suggested that buying out Arenas, who is owed $80 million over the next four years, is not financially feasible. “You mean just write a $100 million check for him to go away?” Leonsis said with a laugh.
As for the future of Grunfeld and Saunders, Leonsis said he’s met with both in recent weeks and reiterated that they will be with the team next season.
The new owner compared Grunfeld to Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, whom he also inherited from the late Abe Pollin’s regime. Leonsis hinted that the Wizards will be run much like the Capitals: ownership will set the strategy, and the general manager will be given the space to execute that strategy.
“I’m not telling Ernie who to pick with the first [overall draft] pick, but told him, if you want to trade the pick, [then] you’re coming to talk to me about it,” Leonsis said. “Because that would be against the strategy that we laid out.
“I believe that Ernie is a very talented person and I believe that Flip is a very talented person. I’ve seen people be really successful executing one plan and unsuccessful doing another plan. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
HT’s Take: What else can the Wizards but hold on to Arenas? Now they could try to sell a sweet story to their fans. Few tales could top the dramatic saga of the rookie phenom (Wall) teaming up with the redemption-seeking former All-Star (Arenas) and making some positive noise in an Eastern Conference ripe for some new playoff blood, depending on what happens i free agency, of course. But Leonsis said it best when he laughed about writing a $100 million check to make Arenas “go away.” That, my friends, is not going to happen.
BOSTON – No practice today here at the NBA Finals.
That means we’ve got more time to snoop around and see what else is going on in the world of basketball, namely the continuing coaching carousel, the Draft and everybody’s favorite, the free-agent frenzy.
– First and foremost is this on-one-minute, gone-the-next free-agent summit. Hang Time sources have indicated that many of the central figures and even players that are not free agents this summer have been in contact with each other already regarding who does what come July 1.
They haven’t set up shop in a backroom at some restaurant or anything, but who needs to do that in this day and age of social networking?
Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony was at Game 2 of the Finals in Los Angeles and admitted that he was supposed to be meeting LeBron James there, only to have James back out at the last-minute, per Yahoo! Sports. Chris Bosh did show up that night, making the rounds around courtside and getting recruiting pitches from Lakers fans non-stop as he made his way around the court.
Free agents Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson have been in LA the past few days for a Brand Jordan photo shoot where they’ve mingled with (non-free agents) Chris Paul and Anthony, surely they’ve had some conversations about what will go on in a few weeks.
So it’s obvious these guys have been in constant contact with each other, making sure to stay on top of who is going to do what when the free agent alarm clock goes off in a few weeks.
And we didn’t even get to Amar’e Stoudemire yet:
SUNS REMAIN ‘PLAN A’ FOR STOUDEMIRE
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: Amar’e Stoudemire has wavered on favoring the Suns in this process, especially after another round of trade talks involving him. He was back to prioritizing the Suns on Thursday, a day after his agent, Happy Walters, met with Suns General Manager Steve Kerr for the first time since April. Stoudemire said no offer was made but “it sounds like the Suns definitely want to make an effort. I’m just not sure what type of effort. They’re definitely looking to keep me around. So we’ve just got to figure out what the proper math is.” They have until June 30 to agree to an extension or Stoudemire becomes an unrestricted free agent. He said they plan to meet again this month. “I’ve established great relationships around town,” Stoudemire said. “My family is now pretty much from here because all my kids were born and are being raised here. It’d be great to remain a Phoenix Sun for my whole career. “That’s my ultimate goal. And then to win a championship with the team. But we’ve just got to make sure that we can try to get that done sooner than later because we want to capitalize on the opportunity. We did a great job this season but we definitely want to have a better season and go further the next few years.” Even if he gets to free agency, Stoudemire said he would give the Suns a chance to counter any offer he would receive. “My loyalty is here with the Phoenix Suns,” he said. “Once free agency starts and teams are offering me X amount of dollars, then I would definitely say, ‘You know what, Phoenix? These guys are offering this much. So if you guys want to step up to the plate, we can hit a home run.’ If not, then I could settle for an inside-the-park home run. Just as long as I make it home.”
HT’s TAKE: Give Stoudemire credit for taking the proactive approach. It’s up to the Suns at this point. If they are willing to offer the max, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. But the Suns always seem to make the summer interesting. And no one loves the spotlight or the drama more than Stoudemire, so this saga is probably just getting started.
STILL NO DECISION FROM IZZO ON CLEVELAND
Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer: Tom Izzo came, he saw, he dined. What he’ll do next, however, remains uncertain. The Michigan State coach and his family spent all Thursday afternoon and evening with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, General Manager Chris Grant, and assistant general manager Lance Blanks. According to multiple sources, the visit went well and Izzo and his family were impressed with the Cavs’ facilities and the city. But Izzo left town after nearly nine hours without accepting Gilbert’s offer. After arriving on one of Dan Gilbert’s private jets around 1 p.m., Izzo and his family were ushered away in two black SUVs. He visited Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, met Cavs staff and then had dinner. As Izzo was spending the day in Cleveland, Spartans fans in East Lansing, Mich., held a rally at the university hoping the coach who has led the team to six Final Fours in the past 12 years would stay. When he got back home, Izzo declined to talk about what happened in Cleveland and told reporters he felt bad about the situation. “I feel bad about that, I feel bad about all that stuff,” Izzo said. “But I do feel good that I did what I had to do and I will, uh, apologize to everybody for not commenting.”
HT’s TAKE: Izzo won’t drag this out much longer. After speaking with one of Izzo’s closest confidants who is here in Boston for the Finals, it’s clear that Izzo wants to take the NBA leap. There are $30 million reasons for him to step into the void, whether the Cavaliers can retain James or not.
SCOTT IN THE CLEVELAND MIX, TOO
Sam Amick of Fanhouse: Byron Scott had an hour-long phone interview with Cleveland general manager Chris Grant and assistant general manager Lance Blanks today, according to his agent. Brian McInerney, who has represented Scott for more than 20 years, exclusively told FanHouse that the discussion focused on Scott’s championship pedigree and how it might fit with a Cavaliers organization that will continue to pursue a title with or without LeBron James. There were no future plans made for another interview or conversation, in part because of the looming issue of what Tom Izzo will do. The Michigan State coach was in Cleveland on Thursday to meet with Cavs officials and tour the team’s facility. While Izzo has reportedly been offered the job, it’s clear Cleveland is considering other options while it remains unclear what Izzo will do. McInerney said Izzo was not discussed. Scott’s appeal is simple, as he won three championships with the Lakers as a player and had much postseason success as a coach. His New Jersey Nets team went to the Finals in 2002 and 2003, and his New Orleans Hornets made a surprise run to the Western Conference semifinals in 2008. The winning history was the main topic discussed in the interview that was heavy on coaching philosophy, according to McInerney. “They asked him what his view was on championships, talked about his mentality that you either win or you come home on your shield trying,” McInerney said. “That being said, everything (information-wise) should go through the team.”
HT’s TAKE: Scott is by far the safer choice for the Cavaliers. He’s already won and won big in the NBA, even though he’s been fired everywhere he’s been. And if his hiring would give the Cavaliers the best chance of keeping James, the Cavs would be foolish to dismiss that. The Cavs are wise to carry on simultaneous discussions with he and Izzo, making sure to cover all bases.
WIZARDS TALKING JOHN WALL AT NO. 1
Michael Lee of the Washington Post: When asked on Thursday if the Wizards planned to take Kentucky point guard John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick, new owner Ted Leonsis said he was “not allowed to” make that announcement. “It’s good theater for the NBA to have people wondering what we’re going to do,” Leonsis said at his introductory press conference at Verizon Center. “I won’t make the pick, our General Manager Ernie Grunfeld, will make the pick.” Wonder no more. Although the Wizards have yet to saying anything official, Wall will be Grunfeld’s choice for the June 24 NBA draft. There was little mystery with the decision, but Wall is the only player the Wizards have scheduled for a workout for the top choice – and that will remain the case. David Falk, agent for Ohio State junior Evan Turner, said that his client would not work out for the Wizards. Falk and Turner were both in attendance at Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Boston. Falk said Turner would only work out for Philadelphia, which holds the No. 2 pick, on June 17 – the same day Wall will work out for the Wizards. Wall is currently scheduled to workout for the 76ers the day before.
HT’s TAKE: We’re still not sure this is even news. As soon as the Wizards snagged that No. 1 pick at the Draft lottery, Wall should have started house hunting in the D.C. area. The Wizards not only need a new face of the franchise, they need a potential superstar at his position. And by most estimates, Wall is the only player that fits that mold in this Draft.
HAWKS STILL COACHLESS
Jeff Schutlz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If general manager Rick Sund and owners were waiting on the conclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics’ series to talk to a coach, the wait would be understandable. But there’s no indication they’re waiting to talk to an assistant on either staff (Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau already has accepted the Chicago Bulls’ job). There’s the longest of long shots that former Hawks star Glenn “Doc” Rivers could be available. But Rivers has a year left on his contract. He is likely to either return to the Celtics for one more season or take a one-to-two-year break from coaching to spend more time with his wife in Orlando. What exactly is going on now? Nobody can be certain. Avery Johnson, the strongest of the four candidates, took the New Jersey job. That leaves Minnesota assistant Dwane Casey, Hawks assistant Larry Drew and ESPN commentator Mark Jackson as the known finalists. All have been interviewed. All are waiting. It had been expected that a decision would come by this week. The lack of a decision thus far has fueled speculation in the media and among fans that Sund and owners are not in complete agreement on a choice. For the record, this is generally how things work: Sund makes a recommendation and the owners take it from there. Sund has said that ownership has accepted his recommendation in the past, such as the decisions to give Woodson a two-year contract in 2008 and the one to let him go after this season. So what do you think? Are you concerned neither franchise has a coach yet?
HT’s TAKE: Multiple sources confirmed for us Friday morning that this is a Drew-Casey debate between the front office and the owners, not a dispute between the owners, as has been reported elsewhere. The owners are in the Drew camp while Sund and his staff are steadfast about Casey being the best choice to replace Mike Woodson. Expect a resolution by the end of the weekend and an announcement on the new coach as early as Monday morning, if not sooner. The minute Avery Johnson accepted the Nets’ offer (below), the Hawks were forced to adjust their plans.
PHOENIX – Within hours of the official announcement of Mike Brown‘s firing in Cleveland, former TNT analyst Doug Collins will be formally introduced as the new coach in Philadelphia.
It’s that time of year in the NBA, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.
But we’re still scratching our heads over this Cleveland deal, a firing that was first reported over a week ago by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix via Twitter (only to be dismissed hours later by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who said a decision had not been made). Of course, it had. And we all knew that the minute Brown became the scapegoat for the Cavaliers’ flameouts in the playoff in each of the past two seasons.
Somebody had to take the fall for the team with the best regular season record in each of the past two seasons coming up woefully short in the postseason. And you had to figure it would be Brown.
The bigger question, however, remains for the prospective replacements for Brown (and we’re not even getting into what kind of job this will be if LeBron James decides to continue his career elsewhere).
What does the next coach have to do NOT to get fired?
Clearly, it’s either a championship or a pink slip, right?
And that’s the case in Cleveland as well as other places around the league where the expectations have outgrown the reality of the situation.
There are only four active coaches that have won title, FOUR! So if you don’t have Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown or Doc Rivers coaching your team these days, isn’t it time to seriously consider making a change?
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be swigging Maalox by the gallon right now with his team on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, the victims of yet another surprising playoff flame-out after the franchise and its fans were dreaming of a return to the NBA Finals this time a week ago.
Brown won 60-plus games in back-to-back seasons, took the Cavs to their only NBA Finals appearance and ranks as the franchise’s top coach of all time based on his winning percentage and still woke up this morning unemployed.
And he’ll be joined in the coaching unemployment line by several other guys like himself, including Avery Johnson, Byron Scott and even former Hawks coach Mike Woodson (who guided the Hawks to the fifth best season in franchise history this year before being fired after Van Gundy’s Magic swept them out of the conference semifinals).
Talk about a tough job market. Try keeping a head coaching job in the NBA these days.
The speculation about Mike Brown’s replacement will center around huge names, Jackson’s name has already surfaced, and even stretch into the college ranks to guys like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s John Calipari, fine coaches in their own right but neither with a shred of either NBA experience (in Coach K’s case) or NBA success (in Calipari’s case) to speak of.
We’ll spare Michigan State fans the pain of lumping Tom Izzo‘s name in with those other two, but it will come up because Gilbert is a MSU alum and has a relationship with Izzo.
The chatter will continue until the job is filled.
It’s that time of year, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.