Collins, 62, has one year left on a four-year deal, but has told management he won’t return in that job. Collins’ possible return to the franchise in another role – perhaps in the front office – hasn’t been ruled out, a source said.
Ownership wanted him to return for the final season of a contract that would’ve paid him $4.5 million, one source said, but Collins informed owner Josh Harris of his decision to leave in recent days.
The news comes just hours after USA Today reported that John Langel, Collins’ agent, said: “[Doug is] the coach, and he’ll continue to be the coach.”
A summer trade for Andrew Bynum forced the Sixers to take apart the team that surprised with last season’s run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Andre Iguodala (Denver), Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless (Orlando) helped form the nucleus of what was expected to be one of the most promising young teams in the Eastern Conference before the blockbuster trade, which also involved the Magic sending Dwight Howard to the Lakers.
But Bynum missed the entire season with knee issues that ultimately required surgery. The Sixers season fizzled as well; they are ninth place in the East, leaving a frustrated Collins to try and pick up the pieces.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is the Miami Heat team general managers around the NBA hoped they’d never see.
LeBron James at the zenith of his basketball powers, Dwyane Wade doing his best to match LeBron play for jaw-dropping play and Chris Bosh ready at all times to take advantage of the attention being paid to those superstars. The supporting cast, led by Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and others appear to be settled in and braced for whatever comes their way between now and The Finals.
Sure, we’re still two months away from the end of the regular season. And anything can happen between now and The Finals. But you’re lying to yourself if you don’t admit that the Heat look like a team without a true equal in this league right now. Everyone else, even the mightiest of the mighty from the Western Conference, seem to be playing for second place.
The San Antonio Spurs looked like they were on a collision course for a while, but that was before Tony Parker went down with an injury and we learned he’d miss the next month with that sprained ankle.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have shown themselves to a worthy foe, but they don’t appear to be appreciably better than the team the Heat took apart in The Finals last year (when Wade and Bosh were playing injured). Plus, the Heat swept the regular-season series with them after a 4-1 victory in The Finals last season.
Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks waxed the Heat twice earlier this season and had them on the ropes early Sunday at Madison Square Garden before folding under the relentless pressure the Heat applied.
The Indiana Pacers believe themselves to be a worthy adversary for the reigning champs. And we’ll find out for sure Sunday night in Miami when these two play their final regular season game. But believing you are ready and actually being ready for the challenge of dethroning this Heat team are two different things.
If you don’t believe it, check with the Boston Celtics, who possess all the confidence needed but lack the raw materials to complete the task.
Kobe Bryant and the reconstructed Los Angeles Lakers were built to deal with any team, including the Heat. But we all know how that plan has worked out to date.
We’d even held out hope that the Los Angeles Clippers, as fresh a story as we’ve had in the league in years, could vault themselves into the conversation of elite teams that could contend with the Heat. But we’ve seen the separation between Chris Paul and his crew and the truly elite outfits in some of their recent head-to-head matchups.
Have the Heat reached that point when they no longer need to look over their shoulder to see where the rest of the pack is in relation to them? Are they racing against history and their own dreams of a dynasty as opposed to the other teams with title dreams?
If the answer to those questions is yes, the Heat can point to one crucial change in their chemistry and makeup that has led them to their current dominant state of being (they’re going for a franchise-record 15th straight win tonight at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV).
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has found the perfect mix to surround James with. Spoelstra has a system that allows the most dynamic and dominant force in the game today the freedoms to not only assert himself when need be (as he did in the fourth quarters in weekend wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Knicks), but also to play his game without the need to conform to anyone else’s notion of what a superstar of his caliber in this situation should be.
For everyone else who insists that Heat president Pat Riley is vital to James’ future, make no mistake: Staying with coach Erik Spoelstra will mean even more to James’ future.
Spoelstra’s been tough enough to stand firm with a mercurial star, and innovative enough to expand the Heat’s offense and defense to deepen James’ impact on winning and losing.
Before Miami, James could be so easily distracted in the 24-7 news cycle of minutiae. These days, ESPN analysts are baiting him with a $1 million offer to participate in the dunk contest on All-Star weekend. This isn’t the 1980s and early ’90s, when even superstars needed All-Star weekend to market themselves.
Those days are over, and James has come to understand that with him, less is more. Once, the contest was necessary for Michael Jordan, but today’s stars – least of all James – don’t need it.
“Right now, it doesn’t stand anywhere,” James said Sunday. “Right now, I’m focused on what we’re doing as a team.”
That would be focused on steamrolling the competition and running away from the pack, two things that have come into clear focus in recent weeks.
When they were introduced to the public, the Heat stars predicted they’d win multiple titles during their time together. Well, we’re not ready to hand over any hardware before it’s time … but surely you can understand why they’d be confident right now.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That cold wind that blew through Boston for the second straight weekend — courtesy of a deflating development with one of the city’s beloved professional teams — was actually felt all over the NBA world.
With the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, any and every NBA GM who has Celtics boss Danny Ainge on speed dial is looking over their own assets as they prepare to call him and gauge his mood. Instead of taking his time and surveying the landscape as he attempts to rebuild the Celtics around Rondo, an All-Star starter for the first time in his career this season, Ainge now has to decide if it’s time to start over in Boston.
With all due respect to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a longtime HT fave, the time to write that obit on these Celtics is upon us. This idea that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of this inconsistent Celtics crew is anything other than a first-round out (provided they make the playoffs, of course) seems a bit far-fetched.
They were struggling with Rondo, their best player. To assume they’ll do anything other than that without him … again, far-fetched.
Ainge has never been shy about taking risks before, so we can’t imagine he’d go conservative this time around. Rondo will return from this setback and he should remain one of the cornerstones of the franchise’s rebuilding project. Ainge has to decide if Pierce, a Celtic his entire career, and Garnett stick around or not.
The Big 3 era in Boston ended last season when the Heat pushed past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, so there is no need for some burial ceremony for these guys. This is strictly a business situation for Ainge. Find the best possible scenario to deal either Pierce or Garnett (one but not both) and whatever periphery pieces that need to be included to facilitate a deal, and then patch up the rest for the future.
The list of younger players available on the trade deadline market seems to increase by the day. Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Josh Smith are all talented players who could be available by the Feb. 21 deadline. Add one or two of those impact players to a young core that includes Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and a healthy Rondo (whenever he returns) and you’re talking about a nucleus capable of keeping the Celtics in the playoff mix and beyond.
Assembling a championship-caliber team, however, will require Ainge to be much more ambitious. It also requires a more intricate long-term plan, with whatever Ainge does next just a small piece of that larger puzzle.
“In our situation, you can’t just philosophically say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ ” Ainge told Yahoo! Sports. “You have to tell me what it is. You have to tell me what opportunities we have.”
“Here’s the thing: If I wanted to say, ‘Hey, let’s play for the future,’ that’s hard to do. And if I play only for the ‘here and now,’ that’s hard to do.”
Those kinds of trades are hard to do, Ainge meant.
“I’m going to look and see what opportunities are there, like any other year,” Ainge said. “Last year, I was close to making a change that I felt would give us a better chance in the here and now, and in the future. And those are hard to do.”
When Ainge goes looking to see what opportunities are out there, the rest of the league’s executives need to keep eyes on their phones, because something big is bound to happen.
The ball is in Ainge’s court now and the rest of the NBA world is on alert!
It depends on the circumstances. And for folks in New Orleans, those circumstances will change dramatically in the next 24 hours as the team they’ve known as the Hornets will become the Pelicans. The Hornets have scheduled a Thursday news conference to unveil their new logo, mascot and colors, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
What’s in a nickname?
For Hornets (… er, soon-to-be Pelicans) owner Tom Benson, apparently everything.
The owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, Benson owned the rights to the Pelicans nickname before he bought the Hornets in April. The Pelicans date back to 1887 in New Orleans, giving them roots in the city dating back to before Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball (in 1891). The former minor league New Orleans Pelicans boast a rich baseball history and lineage, according to a Wikipedia entry:
Notable Pelicans included Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jimmy Dygert, Henry “Cotton” Knaupp, Bill Lindsay, Zeke Bonura, Gene Freese, and Hall of Famers Dazzy Vance, Joe Sewell, Bob Lemon and Earl Weaver. In Jackson’s only season with New Orleans (1910), he hit .354 to win the league batting title and led the team to the pennant with an 87–53 record. The following year, he would hit .408 with the American League’s Cleveland Naps.
In the 1950s, the team was associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was managed by Danny Murtaugh. Other notable Pelican managers included Larry Gilbert and Abner Powell, with the latter credited with introducing the “rain check” in 1889.
The Pelicans’ name briefly resurfaced during the 1977 season when oilman A. Ray Smith moved his Triple-A Tulsa Oilers to New Orleans to play in the Superdome. Tony La Russa was the starting shortstop for the team. After a single season, the team then moved toSpringfield, Illinois, and were renamed the Redbirds.
Whether or not the that history resonates in the city and with fans throughout the state and beyond, however, remains to be seen. As Spears noted, it wasn’t exactly met with fireworks from locals when word spread that a change was coming:
The name “Pelicans” has received a lot of criticism from Hornets fans and NBA followers. During the news conference, a video is expected to be shown explaining the history behind the nickname and what it means to New Orleans and the state. There was similar resistance when the Seattle SuperSonics changed their nickname to Thunder when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, but now the nickname is widely accepted.
The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002. Some fans are hoping the Charlotte Bobcats change their name back to the Hornets, considering the change in New Orleans. A source said the Bobcats will do their due diligence in considering a switch back to the Hornets, but nothing is imminent.
All that said, the Pelican is the state bird, on the state flag, on license plates various other official entities in the … wait for it … Pelican State.
But again, what’s in a nickname?
For fans of the Saints, Hornets and all things New Orleans who have come along since the baseball Pelicans, it’s all about the look of the new logo, mascot and colors.
“I believe people will like that it’s a state pride thing,” said Carl Blouin Jr., whose roots run generations deep in the Crescent City. “It really depends on what the logo looks like. If it’s a goofy Pelican with a long neck and a knot in his throat, no. If it’s a tough Pelican diving into Black Bay to catch a shad, looking fierce, then maybe so. But if it looks like a cartoon character … we’re going to have a major problem. It’s all going to depend on the logo.”
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what it looks like then. In the meantime, we need your input …
The Feb. 21 trade deadline is fast approaching and guess whose name is at the top of the list, just like last season? That’s right, Dwight Howard. The formerly disgruntled Orlando Magic star has apparently been replaced by Dwight Howard, the disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers star. The Magic’s Dwightmare of a year ago now becomes the Lakers’ burden this time around.
These latest developments thrust other teams into the thick of the Howard sweepstakes, with prospective summer free-agent players Dallas and Atlanta joining the usual suspects (the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets) in the conversation. The Lakers’ pitiful season is what has reignited the Dwightmare dilemma … plus the fact that Brooklyn was his preferred destination all along.
And depending on who you listen to and what you read, there’s a dizzying array of possibilities being considered by the different sides in this saga.
“Obviously, this isn’t working,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports after the Chicago loss.
“I’ve tried to go out of my way to get (Howard) the ball. Sometimes I end up looking like an idiot, because I get up in the air, I’ve got a shot, but I try to find him. But he thinks I’m going to shoot, so his back is turned. I’m trying to think about getting him the ball a lot — take care of him as much as I possibly can. It takes me out of rhythm a little bit, but I’m fine with that. If that’s going to help our team, I’m more than willing to do that.
“I’ve constantly tried to help him out, tried to talk to him,” Bryant continued. “Two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning. Texting him. Sharing reading materials. Anything to try and help him.
“He’s coming off a major surgery in a market where it’s just merciless; where there’s demands and responsibilities of athletes. It’s been tough on him.”
The blame in L.A. has been widespread, with both Howard and Gasol facing criticism for not battling through these tough times with the needed resolve. D’Antoni getting second-guessed with rising volume for not tweaking his spread-the-floor system to accommodate his marquee players and Bryant critiquing himself this week for missing too many shots on an 0-2 road trip that has spiraled into six straight losses away from Staples Center and three straight losses overall heading into Thursday’s game at Memphis.
If Lakers fans have to pick a side, Howard might as well start packing his bags now. In the past, they’ve chosen Kobe in landslides over former big man Shaquille O’Neal and ex-coach Phil Jackson, among others. Howard doesn’t stand a chance in winning over the fan base, the franchise and perhaps most importantly, the locker room.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The name on the front of the jerseys will reportedly remain the same. The NBA franchise in New Orleans is not going anywhere.
But the same can’t be said for the nickname that the franchise brought to town from Charlotte. The Hornets could soon become the Pelicans … that’s right, the state bird (technically it’s the brown pelican) is set for global stardom as the new nickname of the franchise with new ownership in charge.
If it happens as planned, the change in New Orleans could trigger not only a mascot and color scheme change in the Pelican State, but also some changes back in Charlotte, where Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said the Hornets nickname would be welcomed if available:
“It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”
The Hornets also considered the nicknames Krewe (groups of costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans) and Brass.
Louisiana is the Pelican State. The brown pelican is the state bird and appears on the state flag and seal, and official state painting. Moreover, the Pelicans played minor league baseball in New Orleans in all but nine seasons from 1887-1959 and in 1977.
Gayle Benson, [Tom] Benson’s wife, told Fox Sports New Orleans recently her preference for new team colors was navy blue, red and gold.
The Hornets came to New Orleans in 2002 from Charlotte. New Orleans has also had an NBA team called the Jazz, which moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.
Since the fine folks in Utah have no intention of parting ways with the Jazz nickname, the Bensons had to come up with something. And for the people of the state of Louisiana, the Pelicans is a much more representative moniker than the Hornets. It’s a state-pride thing.
We’re all for region-appropriate nicknames and everything; the Oklahoma City Thunder — who moved from Seattle and left the name “SuperSonics” behind — is a spot-on name. But some nicknames need to be left alone for eternity.
The Los Angeles Lakers are named for the lakes of Minnesota, where the franchise began as the Minneapolis Lakers. That nickname is off limits.
“We lost to a very … let me choose my words … not a very talented team but well coached,” Paul said. “I watch them play every game that they play. One thing about [coach] Monty [Williams] is they’re going to play hard. If you watch their games, they been to a couple of overtimes and they’ve only been in a couple of blowouts, which were against Denver and Oklahoma City. They’re going to play hard. … With those guys playing like that and us waiting until the fourth quarter to turn it on, it’s going to be tough.”
Paul’s praise for his former coach, Williams, was seen as a direct shot at Del Negro.
The return of the Clippers’ most prominent leader not named Paul, however, could be the infusion of positive energy needed to get this team back on track.
Of course, Billups hasn’t played since he tore his left Achilles tendon last Feb. 6. Before that injury he was playing a critical role alongside Paul, averaging 15 points and four assists, in one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.
Now he joins not only Paul, but his replacement, Willie Green, and bench stars Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, in what has to be one of the deepest and most explosive backcourt rotations in all of basketball.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Contract extension talk between the Oklahoma City Thunder and reigning KIA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden took a wrong turn somewhere. How else to explain tonight’s shocking news, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, that Harden has been traded to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, rookie shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, two first-round Draft picks and a second-round Draft pick?
The Thunder will also send Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Rockets to complete the deal.
This shakes up not only the Western Conference playoff chase but also the entire landscape of the league, what with the Thunder losing one of the most explosive scorers in the league as he enters the prime of his career. The Los Angeles Lakers remade their roster over the summer, adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a nucleus of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. And the Thunder needed to keep the core of a team that had home court in The Finals last season intact if they intended to hold off challenges from the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs for the Western Conference crown.
“I told Steve [Nash], ‘I think I’m going to be a little nervous out there the first time,’” Howard told reporters after the Lakers practiced Thursday. “He said he’d help me through it. But this is a new team, new city, and I think everybody is expecting a lot out of me, so I have to make sure I keep all that out of my mind when I play in front of the home crowd.”
Howard had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back in April and didn’t start running until just before the start of training camp. The only real action he’s seen on the court has been against teammates in practice, including scrimmages.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ten or 20 years from now, when someone talks about 2012, it will be remembered as the breakthrough year for LeBron James. He won his first title, a third MVP and a second gold medal.
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will be in the footnotes. He was there for almost all of the biggest moments, battling James and the Miami Heat in The Finals and joining forces with him on the gold medal ride in the London Olympics while making a statement of his own along the way.
But history won’t sugarcoat the fact that Durant broke out but didn’t break through that year.
That’s why Durant heads into the end of the summer with 2012-13 on his mind. He’s had enough of watching someone else hoist the hardware (Larry O’Brien) that he covets, even if it is his good friend and rival James.
Durant, even at 23, is keenly aware that the NBA clock waits for no man, that opportunity knocks for only so long before it moves on to the next one. There are no guarantees that you’ll get back to the big stage during the NBA season. There are too many men chasing that glory and far too many variables outside of one superstar’s control to make it a reality on a consistent basis.
With his focus on an Olympic gold medal at the time of that trade, Durant initially declined to discuss how the Lakers’ moves could affect the Thunder’s hopes of returning to the NBA Finals next season. But now that he’s back home with a gold medal in hand, Durant says the “confident” Thunder are looking forward to the challenge posed by the new-look Lakers next season.
“People outside, fans, media, of course they are going to say [the Lakers are the favorites] because on paper they have the best lineup in the league. But you still got to play the games. We respect everybody. We are going to go through the league respecting everybody as well.
“We already view ourselves as an elite team, but we have to prove it again. Last year is over with.”