With the Knicks missing the playoffs for the first time in three years, the franchise is at a crucial point, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman weighs in on the most pressing issues facing the team this summer, and what he thinks needs to be done to improve the franchise.
More from the east:
Now that the Knicks season is ending, the hands-off approach by Phil Jackson will be ending as well, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday.
Speaking in general about the Celtics future, Rajon Rondo told Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that Boston’s fan base is a strength for the franchise. “I know that would be a big reason why you wouldn’t want to leave a city like Boston, because every night, even with the season we’re having, we’re probably still leading the league in attendance or at least up near the top.” said Rondo. “So you don’t take that for granted. I know I don’t.” Let’s round up the rest of the notes out of the Eastern Conference:
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets that the Magic are approaching the draft looking for the best talent available wherever they select, without prioritizing any one position or player.
Kyler adds that the Magic‘s draft decisions will overlap with extension talks with both Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic (Twitterlinks). Both are entering the final year of their rookie scale contracts, and play positions occupied by players projected at the top of the 2014 draft.
Al Jefferson didn’t expect a playoff berth in his first year with the Bobcats, but the center tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com that he now has his sights set on continued success in Charlotte. “If you ask me did I say when I signed that we would be where we are now, no I didn’t say that,” Jefferson said. “But I feel this is only the beginning. You go back to Oklahoma City when they were not a playoff team, then made the eighth seed, lost in their first round. The next year, went to the Western Conference finals and the following year they went to the Finals. They just kept going until they became a team that everybody had to respect. That’s where we at right now; we’re at the beginning stage. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far. But I believe in my heart, we’re going to accomplish so much more.”
Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun points out the irony of Andrew Wiggins‘ courtside presence in Toronto on the night the Raptors clinched the Atlantic Division title. When the season began, many had Toronto pegged as a team likely to tank, when phrases like “Riggin’ for Wiggins” were being thrown around.
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 Bobcats have signed DJ White for the remainder of the season, the team announced via press release. The second 10-day contract he’d signed with the team this year expired Wednesday night. Charlotte’s statement only mentions this season, so it doesn’t sound like the team has tacked an additional season onto White’s deal, as the Celtics did when they signed the power forward for the rest of 2012/13.
White saw action in just one game on each 10-day contract, totaling 10 minutes. Still, the organization is familiar with him from his time with the Bobcats in 2010/11 and 2011/12, when he was a part of the team’s rotation. Since then, the Jeff Wechsler client has played mostly in the Chinese league, and this year he averaged 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds for China’s Sichuan Blue Whales. He’s notched 5.9 PPG and 3.2 RPG in 15.3 minutes per contest over his NBA career, which spans six seasons.
The signing gives the Bobcats a full 15-man roster heading into the playoffs. They’d been one of a half-dozen teams with at least one open roster spot, as I noted earlier today. I’d expect more teams on that list to make additions in the days ahead.
Adam Silver tells Darren Rovell of ESPN.com that the NBA is willing to consider subsidizing costs for collegiate players’ career insurance and basic living necessities, as part of the league’s push to increase the age limit for the draft. “It does, in my mind, need to be a three-way conversation,” Silver said. “You heard college administrators at press conferences around the [NCAA] tournament say that it’s the NBA’s problem or the union is putting up resistance. It’s a more complex problem than that.” Here’s more from around the league:
Nuggets forward Jan Vesely has many fans among Denver’s brass, tweets Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post. Vesely, who came over to the Nuggets at the trade deadline, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders says that the Bobcats owe most of their dramatic turnaround to the addition of Al Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $40.5MM contract with Charlotte last summer. Kennedy argues that Jefferson’s impact has been worthy of MVP consideration.
Mike Woodson tells Al Iannazzonne of Newsday that he still hasn’t had a sit-down with Knicks president Phil Jackson, but insists he’s focused on the immediate future and trying to get New York into the playoffs. “I gather he’s kind of staying out of the way and letting me do my thing in terms of trying to get this team in the playoffs,” Woodson said. “That’s okay. I’m sure when the time comes he and I’ll have a chance to sit down and talk and see where we are.”
Woodson also responded to Larry Brown‘s recent comments, which were critical of the treatment Woodson has received from the Knicks. “Larry’s his own guy and I have a great deal of respect for Larry,” Woodson said. “But Mike Woodson’s his own guy as well. For me, it’s been a roller-coaster year — for all of us. I’ve never shied away from taking responsibility of this team. I’m the coach of this team and I take great pride in that.”
Ray Allen appears unlikely to return to the Heat next season, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. League insiders nonetheless believe that if the Heat’s trio of stars return, there’s a strong chance the team will try to re-sign Allen, too, so it seems his future is contingent on what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide to do. Indeed, those three will have much to say about what happens in free agency leaguewide, and Amico has more on the summer ahead and another member of the Heat as we highlight here:
Several teams are expected to court Heat forward Shane Battier for an executive job or a gig related to player development, Amico hears. Battier recently reiterated his plans to retire at season’s end.
The emergence of Brian Roberts has strengthened the belief around the league that the Pelicans will trade former lottery pick Austin Rivers this summer, according to Amico. Roberts is set to become a restricted free agent.
Sources tell Amico they wouldn’t be surprised if several teams aside from the Knicks try to convince Steve Kerr to run their basketball operations. Kerr has expressed a desire to coach, but it looks like the leaguewide interest in him is as an executive, the role he held with the Suns from 2007 to 2010.
The Bulls, Cavaliers and Bobcats will likely court Pau Gasol in free agency this summer, executives from around the league tell Chris Mannix of SI.com. The executives add that the Grizzlies will be in the mix, too, if Zach Randolph opts out, echoing a report from last month. The Arn Tellem client, who’ll turn 34 in July, has a decent chance to receive an offer worth $10MM a year, a front office official from an Eastern Conference team says to Mannix.
That Eastern exec suggests that there are two schools of thought regarding Gasol, with his most aggressive suitors believing that the environment in Los Angeles and the Lakers’ style of play have hindered Gasol the past two seasons, and that an escape could revive his career. Others insist that Gasol is past his prime, the unnamed exec tells Mannix.
Gasol has said he won’t rule out a return to the Lakers, and according to Mannix, the Lakers feel the same away about re-signing the 7-footer. Teammate and friend Kobe Bryant has said he believes there’s an 80% chance the Lakers will bring back Gasol, but Bryant and Gasol reportedly would like to see coach Mike D’Antonireplaced, and the Lakers appear to be leaning toward keeping D’Antoni. Gasol, who appears likely to miss the rest of the season with vertigo, tells Mannix that a team’s chances of winning will be paramount as he makes his decision.
“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”
The Bulls and Grizzlies appear to be closest to winning a championship among the suitors that Mannix lists. Executives have doubts about Charlotte’s ability to defend with Gasol and Al Jefferson as their primary rim protectors, as the SI.com scribe notes. The Cavs were deep in talks with the Lakers about acquiring Gasol via trade when Cleveland was shopping Andrew Bynum in January.
While the Heat are the only team in the Southeast Division more than three games above .500, the division is full of relative successes in a down year for the Eastern Conference. If the Hawks can hang on to the eighth seed, the division should send four teams to the postseason, and even the last-place Magic have improved upon their record from last year. More from the relatively strong division:
After shooting just 38% and struggling to stay on the floor without fouling in his first 55 games with the Bobcats, Cody Zeller has had more success in recent games. The fourth pick from the 2013 draft tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that he is adjusting to the speed of the game. “You’ve got to be really into the details. There was stuff I could get away with in college on athleticism or being stronger than the other guy. Here everybody is just that athletic and just that strong,” said Zeller.
Victor Oladipo tells John Denton of Magic.com that while he often wonders what might have been had the Cavs selected him first-overall in last year’s draft, he’s happy he landed with the Magic. “First off, I was happy for (Anthony Bennett) because that’s a great accomplishment for someone to say that they were picked No. 1,’’ Oladipo said. “At the same time, I was just wondering where I was going. Then, I ended up going here, so I didn’t have to wait too long. It was a pretty amazing feeling.”
In a separate Denton feature, Oladipo cautions incoming draftees that the NBA is tougher than they might think. “I don’t want to say that it was a rude awakening for me, but it definitely gave me a different perspective on the league. You have to be on your A-game in this league because you’re going against the best,” said Oladipo, who only gives his rookie season with the Magic a “D” grade.
After a frustratingly slow start to the season due to injury, Magic forward Tobias Harris is adjusting to his role off the bench, telling Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel he’s happy with his improved consistency. “That was my goal going into the year: just to be consistent game-in and game-out and just to get better every game,” Harris said. “I think that’s probably one of the biggest improvements I’ve made.”
The Bobcats have re-signed power forward DJ White to a second 10-day contract, the team announced via press release. White’s first 10-day deal with the team expired last night.
The team brought him aboard to shore up its depth inside, but the Bobcats have had little use for him so far, putting him in just one game for a total of four minutes. Still, the front office is familiar with his game, having had him during the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons. The Jeff Wechsler client has spent most of the season in China, where he averaged 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Sichuan Blue Whales.
Charlotte’s move fills the team’s final open roster spot once more. The Bobcats will have to decide whether to keep White for the rest of the season or part ways at the end of his second 10-day contract. Last year, Boston picked him up out of China and gave him a pair of 10-day contracts before keeping him for the season. The Celtics also included a non-guaranteed season for 2013/14 in his deal, but they traded him to the Nets, who waived him over the summer.
LeBron James‘ $19MM salary makes him the ninth highest paid player in the NBA, but the Heat superstar is admittedly a bit jealous of players in other professional sports leagues who aren’t bound by a salary cap, revealed an Associated Press report (via USA Today). “The best players in each sport should be rewarded,” James said. “It would be nice to sign a 10-year contract for $300MM. I would do it. I would do it for sure… I wish we didn’t have a salary cap.” Here’s more from around the Southeast:
Josh McRoberts has become a key piece for the Bobcats, and his former Magic teammate Jameer Nelson told Charlotte coach Steve Clifford that he’d be wise to keep McRoberts around, reports John Denton of NBA.com. McRoberts is averaging 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per contest this season.
The Wizards are looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2007/08, and offseason signee Al Harrington will provide a young Washington team with veteran leadership and playoff experience, writes Brandon Parker of the Washington Post. Harrington has appeared in six postseasons throughout his career.