Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Next Head Coaching Change

David Fizdale became the first head coach of the 2019/20 NBA season to be fired when he was let go by the Knicks last Friday. The move didn’t come as a huge surprise, having been telegraphed last month when executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry held an impromptu press conference to express disappointment with the club’s slow start.

However, Fizdale is unlikely to be the only head coach replaced prior to the spring. As we detailed last fall, nearly every NBA season over the last decade or so has featured multiple in-season coaching changes. In 2018/19, three coaches – Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers), Fred Hoiberg (Bulls), and Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves) – had been dismissed by the time the All-Star break rolled around.

While Fizdale had been on the hot seat for much of the season, there aren’t a lot of other head coaches in similar situations. Many of the teams off to disappointing starts either have accomplished coaches whom they believe in, such as Gregg Popovich in San Antonio or Terry Stotts in Portland, or have new-ish coaches that they’re willing to be patient with, like John Beilein in Cleveland and Lloyd Pierce in Atlanta.

Still, there are a handful of head coaches whose seats might be heating up. Here are a few:

  • Alvin Gentry (Pelicans): Multiple recent reports have suggested that the Pelicans like Gentry and are willing to be patient with him, but the team was hoping for much better than a 6-18 start, even without Zion Williamson.
  • Jim Boylen (Bulls): John Hollinger and Sam Amick of The Athletic suggested this week that Boylen is still well-liked by Bulls management, but not so much by Bulls players. Chicago entered the season with playoff aspirations but has struggled in the early going, with an 8-17 record.
  • Scott Brooks (Wizards): The Wizards brought in Brooks in 2016 to coach a potential contender. With a new general manager taking over during the offseason and Washington embarking on a rebuild, it was unclear whether the franchise still envisioned Brooks as its coach of the future. He has done well so far though developing some of the Wizards’ young players.
  • Mike D’Antoni (Rockets): The 15-8 Rockets have been solid, but D’Antoni’s failed extension negotiations with team ownership in the offseason cast a cloud over his future with the team. A source told Hollinger and Amick that D’Antoni probably won’t remain in Houston beyond 2019/20. If the Rockets have a prolonged slump at all this season, it’s possible the team will consider making a change even before next spring.

What do you think? Will all of the coaches listed above – and the rest of the NBA’s head coaches – make it through the 2019/20 season? Or will at least one more team follow the Knicks’ lead and make an in-season change?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your two cents!

Community Shootaround: Knicks Chaos

Tonight, the Knicks suffered their second consecutive blowout defeat (and eighth straight loss overall), falling 129-92 to the Nuggets. Head coach David Fizdale‘s job appears to be in jeopardy.

In a postgame presser, Fizdale called the loss “sickening,” according to the New York Post’s Stefan Bondy. Soon after the loss, USA Today’s Chris Iseman and Newsday’s Steve Popper both commented on Fizdale’s increasingly shaky vocational security in separate pieces. Fizdale’s record as the Knicks’ head coach is 21-83.

But how much blame should really be allocated to Fizdale for the team’s lackluster 4-18 start to this 2019/20 season? Rookie RJ Barrett and second-year big man Mitchell Robinson have flashed significant promise under his tutelage. Fizdale remains respected across the league thanks to his time as an assistant coach on Erik Spoelstra‘s championship-winning Heat staff.

This summer, the Knicks whiffed on adding future Hall of Famers Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who opted to join New York’s crosstown rivals, the upstart Nets. Instead, the team issued a public apology and signed four replacement-level power forwards to exorbitant-but-short contracts, by the front office twosome of Scott Perry and Steve Mills. Yes, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis can play some center, and yes, Marcus Morris can log some time as a small forward, but ultimately, all three players are best served at the four, as is their fellow free agent addition Julius Randle.

Perry and Mills also traded All-Star center Kristaps Porzingis in a package to the Mavericks for disappointing point guard Dennis Smith Jr., a few middling months of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews, and an underwhelming pair of future first-round picks that ought to be well clear of the lottery.

Owner James Dolan has stirred the pot plenty himself, rotating through a seemingly endless series of coaches (12, and counting) and front office heads (nine) since taking over the team in 1999. There’s no need to get into the bevy of on- and off-court disasters logged by Dolan and his Knicks associates in the intervening 20 years, but let’s just say… it’s not pretty.

Ultimately, the buck stops with Dolan. His conduct as Knicks owner has led to Durant noting that the Knicks have lost their cache in a recent interview with Hot 97’s Ebro Darden. “I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players [to view the Knicks the same way] who, in their lifetime, don’t remember the Knicks being good,” Durant told Darden.

The onus for the league’s first $4 billion team losing its sheen falls squarely at Dolan’s feet, in this writer’s opinion. Coaches and front office management may come and go, but until Dolan sells his team, basketball in the Mecca will remain a mess.

What do you think? Who should bear the brunt of the blame for this lost season — the players, Fizdale, management, or Dolan? Or just all of the above?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Community Shootaround: Biggest Early-Season Disappointments

After praising some of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises of the 2019/20 season so far on Thursday, we’re headed to the other end of the spectrum today. For every team that has exceeded its expectations early on in ’19/20, there’s one that has failed to meet expectations — in some cases, in dramatic fashion.

In the Western Conference, for instance, the Trail Blazers and Spurs entered the season viewed as good bets to make the playoffs. That could certainly still happen, but each team has dug itself an early hole over the last several weeks — Portland is 7-12, while San Antonio is just 6-13. The Blazers can at least blame injuries to some extent, as they’re missing two key big men, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, but neither team can be pleased with its results so far.

Elsewhere in the West, it’s been a disappointing 20 games in Golden State, though that can blamed more on bad luck than poor play. Already missing Klay Thompson, the Warriors have been without Stephen Curry and Kevon Looney for virtually all of the season, with D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green also missing time due to injuries. The Dubs didn’t look great even when the roster was mostly healthy, but their injury woes have made them the NBA’s worst team, at 4-16.

In the East, the Sixers and Nets have had their ups and downs, but are still 13-6 and 10-9, respectively, so it’s hard to view their seasons as disappointments. The same can’t be said for the 6-13 Bulls and Pistons. Neither team is all that far off the playoff pace in the East, considering the 8-12 Hornets hold the No. 8 seed, but Chicago and Detroit hoped to push for records of .500 or better this season. That seems like a long shot now.

Things have been even uglier for the Knicks, who made win-now moves in the offseason in the hopes of getting into the playoff mix. It hasn’t worked out that way so far, as New York sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with a 4-15 mark and has shown few reasons to believe a postseason push is around the corner.

Outside of this season’s underachievers, there have been plenty of injury-related disappointments. We still haven’t seen much-hyped No. 1 pick Zion Williamson make his NBA regular-season debut, and stars like Curry, Gordon Hayward, and De’Aaron Fox have joined the likes of Thompson and Kevin Durant on the long-term injury list. A shoulder injury also prevented Kyrie Irving from making his return to Boston this week, which was undoubtedly a disappointment for the Celtics fans who bought tickets hoping to… uh, welcome Kyrie back.

We want to hear your thoughts. Which teams, players, or injuries have you been most disappointed by so far this season? Do you expect some of those underachieving clubs to turn things around, or should most of them prepare for more of the same?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Community Shootaround: NBA’s Most Pleasant Surprises

Over the first five-plus weeks of the 2019/20 season, a handful of teams from each conference have been among the NBA’s most pleasant surprises, outperforming preseason expectations. Since it’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, it only seems right for tonight’s Community Shootaround discussion to focus on those teams – and players – that fans should be most thankful for so far this season.

In the East, the Celtics and Raptors were expected to be among the conference’s strongest playoff contenders, but few expected them to be quite this good. With matching 13-4 records, Boston and Toronto are nearly on a 63-win pace in the early going. It seems unlikely that either team will maintain that pace, but they look like legit contenders. The Raptors, who have been missing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka due to injuries, have been especially impressive, relying on youngsters Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet en route to their fast start.

The Heat and Pacers are among the East’s other pleasant surprises so far. Led by Jimmy Butler and rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, Miami is 12-5 and has yet to lose at home. Meanwhile, things could have gone south for an Indiana team already missing Victor Oladipo after it dropped its first three games and Myles Turner went down with an injury, but the Pacers have won 11 of their last 14 since then, with Turner returning earlier this month.

Further down the standings, the Wizards (6-10) and Hornets (7-12) are outside the Eastern playoff picture, but not by much. They were expected to be among the league’s bottom-dwellers, but have been surprisingly competitive.

Out West, the Lakers were viewed as a probable contender, but their league-best 16-2 start has still raised some eyebrows. The LeBron James/Anthony Davis duo hasn’t exactly been suffering through any growing pains so far, and the supporting cast has done its part.

Thanks to a leap to superstardom by Luka Doncic (30.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 9.5 APG through 17 games), the 11-6 Mavericks are currently a top-five team in the West and look like a legit playoff team. The Timberwolves (10-8) and Suns (8-9) haven’t been quite as convincing as Dallas, but both Minnesota and Phoenix are currently in the top eight in the conference despite being viewed as near-locks for the lottery.

We want to know what you think. Which teams (and players) have you been most pleasantly surprised by so far in 2019/20? Which strong starts do you believe are sustainable? Are there any in particular that you’d like to see continue?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your two cents!

Community Shootaround: How Can The Spurs Save Their Season?

What is going on with the Spurs this season? LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t believe it’s any one thing that is causing the team to struggle.

“I can’t pinpoint a certain thing, movement, whatever. It’s just a unit, you know? We have to figure it out together. It’s about all five guys on the floor. We try to be better, try to figure it out, and we haven’t,” as the big man tells Tim Bontemps of

Three of the team’s top players (Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Dejounte Murray) are not strong long-range shooters, which has forced coach Gregg Popovich to play big men who can stretch the floor, such as Trey Lyles.

“They’re playing Lyles? Come on,” one rival scout told Bontemps. “Not in the West. Maybe you can play him and hope to get to ninth in the East or something.”

Bontemps mentions a possible DeRozan trade as something that could help the team improve by rebalancing the roster with shooters. However, the Spurs haven’t made an in-season trade in five years.

So that leads us to tonight’s topic: Should the Spurs make a deal to try and save their season? Which player should they ship away? Or should they stay pat without making meaningful improvements and potentially land a top-10 draft pick for the first time since 1997?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Potential NBA Schedule Changes

This morning, ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that serious discussions were transpiring between the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and their television partners about making dramatic changes to the NBA season.

Those modifications apparently include: a reduced regular season schedule (which seems savvy), a postseason play-in tournament for lower seeds (which sounds fun), a conference finalist reseeding (all 16 playoff teams should be reseeded, in this writer’s opinion), and a midseason playoff tournament (which feels pointless and desperate).

One of the big elements on the table is shortening the regular season game count from 82 to 78. Since the 1968/69 NBA season, the 82-game regular season has been the norm.

The league played as few as 60 or 61 games (it varied amongst the 11 teams) in its inaugural 1946/47 season. The game count gradually grew, reaching 72 by the 1953/54 season, the end of the George Mikan‘s Minnesota Lakers dynasty. In the 1959/60 season (year three of the Bill Russell-era Celtics reign), the tally expanded to 75 games. The next season, that number hit 79, before stabilizing at 80 from 1961/62-1966/67. For one lone season (1967/68), the NBA had an 81-game regular season before making the pivot to its current 82-game schedule when it expanded to 12 teams.

Under the leadership of commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA has already taken steps to reduce the grind of the 82-game schedule. It shrank teams’ preseason commitments. It has taken pains to decrease back-to-back games. The NBA experimented with shortening game lengths from 48 minutes to 44 minutes.

Knowing what we know now about the “load management” era, where certain superstars opt to avoid playing in at least one game of a back-to-back tilt and teams liberally rest healthy players in advance of the playoffs, is reducing the full game tally the right move?

Business Insider’s Cork Gaines has noted that Bill Simmons of The Ringer has long advocated for a schedule reduction, arguing that modern NBA players actively try harder during the regular season than their predecessors in the 1980s and 1990s. Simmons also has been a proponent of a play-in tournament in the past.

How many games should the NBA season last? The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman proposed a radical shortening, to 58 games (so that every team players every other team exactly twice), after watching injuries befall several core Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

This writer votes for reverting back to the 72-game model, completely excising the preseason, and eliminating back-to-back games. The latter two items were not discussed in the Lowe-Wojnarowski report this morning, but I’m hoping they are given fair shrift during these upcoming negotiations.

If the season is condensed much beyond 72 games, the opportunity exists for this era’s players to make unfair statistical gains on prior player generations. A midseason tournament seems like a method to placate middling franchises with meaningless award hardware. Essentially, it would only yield the equivalent of a “Conference Finalist” banner for its “winning” team.

What do you think? How many games should the NBA season last? Would you eliminate back-to-backs and/or the preseason? Would you be interested in watching a midseason tournament?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Western Conference Playoff Picture

Entering the 2019/20 season, eight teams were widely considered the frontrunners to claim the playoff spots in the Western Conference. Through the season’s first month, five of those clubs have delivered on their promise — the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Nuggets, and Jazz look like pretty safe bets to make the postseason.

However, the other three clubs from that group have won just 13 games combined so far, and will have to dig themselves out of an early-season hole if they hope to make the playoffs.

With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out long-term due to injuries, and Draymond Green, D’Angelo Russell, and Kevon Looney also battling health issues, the Warriors‘ postseason chances appear all but dead. They have the worst record in the conference so far at 3-13, and there’s little reason to expect them to improve anytime soon.

The Trail Blazers and especially the Spurs haven’t been bitten by the injury bug to the same extent that Golden State has, but both clubs are off to disappointing starts too, with matching 5-10 records to date.

With those three presumed playoff teams near the bottom of the standings so far, the Mavericks (9-5), Suns (7-6), and Timberwolves (8-7) currently fill out the West’s top eight, and the Kings (6-7) are just one game out of the postseason picture. The Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans (all 5-9) aren’t entirely out of the mix yet either.

It’s still very early, so there’s time for teams like Portland and San Antonio to bounce back and make a run. And it remains to be seen if clubs like Phoenix and Minnesota can sustain their early success. But it suddenly looks like there could be a pretty wide-open race for the last couple playoff seeds in the West — or for the last three spots, if you’re not fully in on Luka Doncic and the Mavs, or one of the conference’s other top teams.

What do you think? After what you’ve seen over the last month, are you ready to make any predictions on which upstarts might make the playoffs in the West? Are the Mavs for real? How about the Suns and Timberwolves? Of the Blazers and Spurs, which club has the better chance to rebound?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Next Notable Veteran FA To Sign?

With Carmelo Anthony set to join the Trail Blazers, the NBA’s most notable veteran free agent is finally coming off the market. There aren’t many players still looking for work who have a résumé as decorated as Carmelo’s, which includes 10 All-Star appearances and six All-NBA nods, but there are still several intriguing veteran free agents available.

Longtime Sixth Man of the Year contender – and three-time winner – Jamal Crawford recently reiterated that he remains in the market for a new NBA home. Crawford is 39 years old, but he’s not ready to retire, and had a handful of big scoring nights in 2018/19, including a 51-point outburst in the final game of the season.

J.R. Smith is free to sign with any team after being exiled by the Cavaliers last season. The 34-year-old hasn’t played in over a year, but isn’t far removed from knocking down 37.5% of his three-point attempts in 80 games in 2017/18.

Much was made of Joe Johnson‘s NBA comeback this fall after he lit up Ice Cube’s BIG3 league in the summer, but the 38-year-old was beaten out by Christian Wood for the Pistons‘ final roster spot and hasn’t caught on with a new team since then.

Joakim Noah (age 34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), and Jodie Meeks (32) are among the other 30-something free agents still out there. Marreese Speights (32), Amir Johnson (32), Dante Cunningham (32), Lance Thomas (31), Michael Beasley (30), and Jonathon Simmons (30) could be had as well. And as our list of current veteran free agents shows, there are several other options available for teams looking for reclamation projects.

What do you think? Are any of these unsigned veterans still capable of having a positive impact on an NBA playoff team this season? Which one(s) will be next to follow in Anthony’s footsteps and catch on with a new club?

Head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Community Shootaround: The Future of Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins, The Artist Formerly Known As “Maple Jordan”, has been playing out of his mind for the Timberwolves thus far in 2019/20. His shot profile has modernized as he has prioritized three-pointers over inefficient long two-pointers. His passing has enjoyed a remarkable early turnaround. The team, too, has outperformed early prognostications. The Wolves currently sit 7-5, good for the seventh seed in a brutal West.

Wiggins famously signed a five-year, $147.7MM contract with the Timberwolves in 2017. The level of the deal and his middling play after inking it apparently contributed to Jimmy Butler‘s trade demands early in the 2018/19 season.

The 6’7″ swingman out of Kansas has shown flashes of his potential in seasons past. Those flashes were so few and far between that Minnesota struggled to move his expensive contract this past offseason, albeit not for lack of trying.

Despite being in the midst of his sixth NBA season, Wiggins is just 24 years old. There could be time for him to permanently break the bad habits that seem to have curbed his growth. It remains an open question as to whether or not second-year coach Ryan Saunders will be able to keep Wiggins on his current upward trajectory.

And how high will that trajectory take Wiggins, exactly? Is Wiggins becoming the legitimate long-term cornerstone that the Wolves have long needed him to be, a great wing compliment to established All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns? Can Wiggins sustain this performance consistently enough to finally become an All-Star? At the very least, is Wiggins’ contract still an albatross or could he finally net Minnesota positive trade value if the team did eventually want to move him?

I have my doubts about Wiggins’ All-NBA potential, but one or two career All-Star appearances feel well within reach if he can maintain his excellent play of late.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

Community Shootaround: Carmelo In Portland

Many people were skeptical that another NBA team would take a chance on Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony and his representatives spoke openly about his desire to play again but it seemed as if he would be either forced into retirement or explore overseas options.

The call the longtime All-Star had been waiting for came from the Pacific Northwest. The Trail Blazers were suddenly thin at the power forward spot when Zach Collins suffered a shoulder injury that could sideline him the entire season. Barring a last-minute snag, Anthony is expected to sign with the Blazers this weekend and make his Portland debut next week.

Anthony struggled with the idea of being a role player last season with the Rockets and lasted just 10 games before a mutual parting. Now, he’s got another chance to show he can be an asset in the modern NBA game.

The fact that Anthony, 35, had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal reinforces the notion that this is likely his last chance to show he can blend in rather than being the star of the show.

The fact that journeyman Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja have taken turns replacing Collins with limited results means that Anthony could quickly jump into the lineup. Meshing his offensive skills with high-scoring guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will be a work in progress.

Whether Anthony can defend his position and switch out on younger, quicker players is an even bigger mystery. But there’s no denying Melo can score in bunches when he gets on a roll.

That brings us to our question of the day: Do you think Carmelo Anthony will last the whole season with Portland or will he flame out quickly as he did in Houston?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say.