There are a handful of teams that have built towards a window of title contention that they hope to see pay off this postseason. When expectations are high, failure can motivate ownership and management to make drastic moves to a team’s roster or coaching staff. Teams have gone from planning for the Finals to pressing the panic button before, and it’s possible again this year.
While big changes could be coming to a lot of this year’s playoff teams, some of that depends more on the players’ free agency decisions than any philosophical shifts from the team. For instance, the Heat could lose LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh in free agency, but that wouldn’t be because of a lack of commitment from Miami’s front office to their big three. We’ll focus on some of the teams that would have to incite a truly drastic change from the front office, specifically those that have been more active in both the market and rumor mill:
Pacers. Indiana barely held onto the one seed in the East, going 15-13 down the stretch. The moves that resulted in the loss of Danny Granger and the addition of Evan Turner, Andrew Bynum, and Lavoy Allen have not paid off thus far. Lance Stephenson has cooled off after his breakout start to the season, and will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Frank Vogel has seemed like one of the more untouchable coaches in the last couple years, but a total collapse could put even his job in jeopardy.
Warriors. Coach Mark Jackson might have the most riding on this postseason of any NBA professional. Loud rumblings and staff turnover have clouded Jackson’s status with a team that expected to become a contender by adding Andre Iguodala last summer. Harrison Barnes has been extremely inconsistent, and his name surfaced in trade deadline rumors. David Lee‘s contract is considered essentially untradeable, but if the Warriors wanted to radically shake things up, Klay Thompson‘s rookie deal would be a highly valued trade asset.
Clippers. Los Angeles has bolstered its roster under the direction of Doc Rivers, adding rotation pieces like Granger, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, and Jared Dudley to the core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Any blockbuster moves would likely center around the frontcourt if the front office became convinced that the Griffin/Jordan pairing can’t hold up against the league’s best interior players.
Nets. First-year coach Jason Kidd and the Hall-of-Fame-heavy roster struggled mightily early in the year before turning things around and earning the sixth seed in the East. The Nets have very limited flexibility after ballooning their salary sheet and relinquishing trade assets in a slew of splashy moves since owner Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team. Brook Lopez has frequently been the subject of trade rumors, and the team took off when Lopez was sidelined with his latest injury. There isn’t much speculation in Brooklyn at the moment, but we know Prokhorov isn’t afraid to swing for the fences.
What do you think? Which of these teams is most likely to disappoint in the playoffs, and then react with radical front office moves?
Thaddeus Young is confident that the Sixers would meet any demands he makes on the organization, as he told reporters, including Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. Young indicated that he might use the possibility of declining or exercising his player option for 2015/16 as leverage, and he also raised the possibility that he’ll ask for a trade, as we noted last night.
Former NBA player Terrence Williams has signed a deal to play in Puerto Rico with Brujos de Guayama, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The details and length of the deal haven’t been announced. The NBA veteran has struggled to earn a roster spot and playing time since showing some flashes in 78 games as a rookie with the Nets in 2009/10. His last NBA stint was during the 2012/13 season when he appeared in 24 games with the Celtics.
Williams has played two games in Turkey with Turk Telekom Ankara and averaged 4.0 PPG this season. He also played in the NBA D-League with Los Angeles D-Fenders scoring 20.6 PPG with 5.1 RPG and 6.3 APG in 34 games.
In parts of four NBA seasons, Williams’ career numbers with the Nets, Rockets, Kings, and Celtics are 7.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 2.4 APG in 19.1 minutes per game.
Paul Pierce can envision playing for the Celtics again, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge can see Pierce returning to Boston, too, if the price and circumstances are right, as Ainge said this morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, tweets Ben Rohrbach of WEEI. The 36-year-old Pierce becomes a free agent in the summer, though the Nets would like to re-sign him, too.
Pierce spent all 15 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics before they traded him to the Nets this past summer. He talked teammate Kevin Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to help facilitate the move, but Pierce was emotional upon his return to Boston to play against the Celtics this season, and said he never wanted to leave. Much of Pierce’s decision this summer might come down to whether Garnett, who has one more year left on his contract, retires at the end of this season.
The Nets have Pierce’s full Bird rights, though it’s almost certain that he’ll have to take a pay cut from his current salary of more than $15.3MM. The Celtics have about $45MM in commitments for next season, though that doesn’t include the rookie salary for Boston’s lottery pick and a $3.8MM player option for Joel Anthony that he’s almost certain to exercise. Anthony and the rookie would give the Celtics nine players and roughly $10MM worth of cap flexibility, plus some form of the mid-level exception, so there’s probably a path back to Boston for Pierce if both sides are motivated enough to get a deal done.
Mike Woodson has had little contact with Knicks president Phil Jackson, and a source close to the coach believes he knows he’ll be fired, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Woodson’s assistants have been given no assurances of their future, and if Woodson is fired, all but Herb Williams seem certain to lose their jobs, too, Isola adds. With a coaching change seemingly on the horizon, here’s more on the Knicks and their Atlantic Division rivals:
The Raptors are so deep into plans to move forward with soon-to-be free agent Kyle Lowry on the roster next season that Lowry would be “derailing the train” if he were to sign elsewhere, writes Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail.
Shaun Livingston, also set to hit free agency, will be a priority for the Nets this summer, and he hasn’t been disappointed with his experience in Brooklyn, as Dave D’Alessandro of NJ.com notes. “I like where I’m at, let’s put it that way,” Livingston said. “This year’s been everything I could have asked for.”
The general consensus among several NBA executives is that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will presumably re-sign with the Heat, says Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio. As for Carmelo Anthony, most executives reportedly believe that the seven-time All-Star will re-up with the Knicks (Twitterlinks).
Unfortunately, the Knicks reported today that an MRI revealed a small tear in Anthony’s right labrum; however, no surgery is needed and he’ll be re-evaluated in a month (Twitterlinks via the official Knicks PR account). Depending on how one looks at it, it may be considered a blessing that the star forward will not risk aggravating the injury by trying to play through pain had New York made the playoffs this year. Al Iannazzone of Newsday (via Twitter) notes that Anthony decided to continue playing on a torn labrum in his left shoulder at the end of last season.
Here’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:
Thaddeus Young isn’t sure if his time with the 76ers is running out, but the veteran forward tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he’ll remain with the team as long as they want him and he’s under contract. Young is still on the books for 2014/15; however, the Sixers could look to deal him this summer if they feel that he’ll eventually choose to turn down his $9.8MM player option for 2015/16, adds Pompey.
Soon-to-be restricted free agents Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez are “immensely open” to re-signing with the Raptors on long-term deals this summer, according to Shams Charania of RealGM. Charania also hears from DeMar DeRozan, who says he never thought about trying to push for an early escape from his four-year extension when the team was struggling early this season.
Nets GM Billy King is exploring all of the team’s options in the NBDL right now, relays Tim Bontemps of the New York Post (via Twitter). King added that an announcement will be made as soon as a decision is reached.
Toney Douglas considers himself to be in a more advantageous position heading into free agency this summer after making the most of his chance to revive his career with the Heat this season, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
APRIL 15TH: The deal has been officially announced (Twitter link; hat tip to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com), giving the Pistons a one-to-one D-League affiliate for next season and leaving the Nets without one, for now.
MARCH 26TH: The Pistons won’t have to share a D-League team next season, as they’ll have a one-to-one affiliation in 2014/15 with the Springfield Armor, who are moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan, as MLive’s David Mayo reports. The Armor are in the final season of their contract as the direct affiliate of the Nets. It’s unclear what sort of D-League affiliate the Nets will have next year.
Michigan-based ownership will take over the Armor, though the Pistons themselves won’t own the club. Instead, the arrangement will be a hybrid partnership in which independent owners run the business side of the organization while the Pistons run the basketball operations and pay the salaries of the coaches and players.
Detroit is currently affiliated with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, a D-League team it shares with five other NBA clubs. The Pistons have made just four D-League assignments this season, sending rookies Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell to Fort Wayne two times each. The plan for a one-to-one affiliation in close geographic proximity to Detroit indicates that the Pistons intend to make significantly more frequent assignments next season.
Mayo suggests that all NBA teams want to have one-to-one affiliations with a D-League teams within the next three years. However, the Blazers recently ended their arrangement with the Idaho Stampede and will share a D-League affiliate next season, believing that player development is best performed at the NBA level. Still, a growing number of NBA teams have been aligning directly with D-League teams in the past few years, and this year only three of the 17 teams in the D-League are without one-to-one NBA partners.
The Spurs have signed forward Damion James for the remainder of the season, the team announced via press release. James was originally signed by the team to a 10-day contract on April 3rd. He has appeared in three games for the Spurs and is averaging 1.0 RPG in 3.3 minutes a night.
Prior to joining the team, James played in the NBA D-League for the Texas Legends and Bakersfield Jam. In 85 career D-League contests, James averaged 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.04 BPG in 31.8 minutes per game.
James was originally drafted 24th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Hawks. He was then sent to the Nets in a draft-night trade. In three seasons with the Nets, in 34 games James averaged 4.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 16.9 minutes a night.
As we approach the end of the NBA regular season, it’s the time of year when the annual coaching carousel begins to spin and a slew of faces will end up in brand new places. Heading into the 2013/14 season there were a total of 13 coaching changes, which if you’re keeping score at home, is the most ever in a single offseason.
We won’t know for sure just how many teams will be making a change on their bench until the playoffs are over. Normally you would think a playoff spot would ensure job security, but Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, and Larry Drew all weren’t retained after reaching the playoffs last year. So the exact number of vacancies are up in the air, but we know there will be some.
If your team is making a head coaching change, which would you prefer in your new hire? Do you want a veteran coach with years of experience to lead your team? One who has a proven track record, but also could be carrying baggage and bad habits picked up throughout the years. Or, would you prefer the energy and new ideas a first-time coach can provide? A new coach has more to prove, and might be more in touch with the pulse and culture of his players, but has no experience to rely on, and no track record to predict future performance.
Let’s look at how this year’s crop of new coaches fared as an example. First up, the ones with prior experience:
Doc Rivers (Clippers): The team is 55-24, first in the Pacific Division, and the third seed in the playoffs. Last year’s team went 56-26 under Vinny Del Negro, before Del Negro wasn’t retained and the team traded for Rivers.
Maurice Cheeks (Pistons): He was fired 50 games into the year with a record of 20-29. Detroit was 29-53 in 2012/13 under Lawrence Frank. After the team signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the off season, owner Tom Gores expected a much better record and for the team to make the playoffs.
Mike Brown (Cavaliers): The team sits at 32-47, which is good for tenth in the eastern conference. Last year under Byron Scott the team had a record of 24-58 and ended up with the first overall selection in the draft.
Larry Drew (Bucks): The Bucks sit at 14-64. which is good for the worst record in the league. In 2012/13 under Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan the team went 38-44.
Now for how the first-time coaches performed:
Jason Kidd (Nets): The Nets are at 43-35, which is good for the fifth overall playoff seed. Kidd replaced interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose team finished 2012/13 with a record of 49-33.
Brad Stevens (Celtics): Stevens, taking over for Doc Rivers, has gone 23-55, but has the re-building team heading in a positive direction. Last year’s team went 41-40.
Mike Budenholzer (Hawks): The Hawks have gone 35-43 and currently hold the final playoff spot in the east. Last year’s Larry Drew led squad went 44-38.
Steve Clifford (Bobcats): Clifford has led the Bobcats to a 40-38 record and the sixth seed in the east. Under Mike Dunlap the team went 21-61 during last year’s campaign.
Brian Shaw (Nuggets): The Nuggets have been hampered by injuries all season, and sit at 35-44. Shaw replaced coach of the year winner George Karl, who led the team to a record of 57-25.
David Joerger (Grizzlies): Joerger replaced Lionel Hollins and has guided the team to a record of 46-32, and has the team is one game out of the final playoff spot. Last year the team went 56-26.
Brett Brown (Sixers): Under Brown the Sixers have the second worst record in the league at 17-61, including a record-tying 26 game losing streak. Last season under Doug Collins, the team went 34-48.
Jeff Hornacek (Suns): The Suns are one of the most improved teams in the league with a record of 47-31, and hold the seventh seed in the western conference. Last year under Lindsey Hunter and Alvin Gentry the team went 25-57.
Mike Malone (Kings): Under Malone the Kings have gone 27-52. During the 2012/13 season under Keith Smart the team ended up 28-54.
This means that in their first seasons with their new teams, experienced coaches went 121-164 (.424), and the first-timers went 313-391 (.444). There are many different factors outside a coach’s control that contribute to the team’s final record, but the nature of the NBA is that the coach is the first one to take the heat.
Now it’s time to vote. If your team makes a coaching change this off season, do you want an experienced person hired, or would you prefer the team brings in a brand new face? Cast your vote below and feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Magic didn’t expect Al Harrington would be able to play for them last season after a staph infection in his knee, and they wouldn’t allow him to hang around his teammates, as Harrington alleges in a first-person account with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling.
“Orlando was more about rebuilding, but they could’ve been more professional about my situation,” Harrington wrote. “In fact, the general manager, Rob Hennigan, told my agent that I was done, saying I ‘cannot play.’ Those were his exact words. And I was like, ‘He has some nerve.’ He’s a 32-year-old young executive, and I’ve been in the league longer than him, I probably know more than him and he’s going to tell my agent I’m done, and not think my agent is going to tell me that. So, to me, it was like he told me that pretty much to my face.”
There’s more from the current Wizards forward among the latest from the Eastern Conference:
Harrington, a free agent at season’s end, isn’t sure he wants to continue playing, and writes in the same piece that he’d ideally re-sign with the Wizards next season after the All-Star break to save early-season wear and tear on his body. He’d like to remain with the Wizards either as a player, coach, or executive, and says he’s had conversations with the team about his future.
Rookie Peyton Siva is finally starting to see minutes for the Pistons, and though he doesn’t acknowledge the season’s final weeks as a de-facto audition, that’s exactly what it is, since his contract is non-guaranteed for 2014/15, writes MLive’s Brendan Savage.
Phil Jackson should up his workload and act more like the team president he is and less like a consultant, opines Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who thinks the Zen Master should take heed to the recent comments of former Knicks coach Larry Brown.