NBA Coach talk...and playoff update
Well lets start at the top.
Luke Walton- I hate this hire. I mentioned it on fb when it happened and here is why. Luke has been a Warriors assistant for now his second season. Last season they won the championship basically uncontested. I don't believe they went to any Game 7's and cruised through the regular season and the playoffs. This year Kerr was out with health problems and Walton somehow was elevated to head coach. He has this amazing record while Kerr is gone and almost breaks the consecutive wins record. Kerr comes back and the transition is seamless, they win the most games in NBA history and appear to be cruising through the playoffs again. So back to Walton. Lets say Joe Nobody took over for Kerr when he had health problems. Kerr runs every practice, Kerr is at every game, back in the locker room. Kerr gives the game plan and the substituting patterns to Joe Nobody and really the only thing he has to do in game is talk during timeouts, and make subs when some type of foul trouble happens. What record does Joe Nobody have? 10 losses? Based on the talent on the Warriors team they can just go out and win many of those games. So I'll give Walton more credit than he deserves and say that he won 6 more games than someone off the street. Does that translate into a great coach? Does that translate into a fit for the Lakers?
Here is why it doesn't. Luke Walton hasn't faced ANY adversity as a coach. He has done nothing but win. What will happen when the Lakers hit a 5 game losing streak? He has never experienced that as a coach. How will he know how to face that challenge when he has never faced it before? Thats why people always want experience in any field, in anything in life. Because it prepares you for everything that comes your way. What happens when Nick Young mouths off to him? What happens when D'Angelo Russell shows up hung over to shoot around on game day? These are things he hasn't had to deal with. He has been with the perfect team. The most unselfish team, the most talented team, and the most hungry team in the league. Now he heads to the polar opposite. What happens when Nick Young ball hogs and says he is playing for a new contract because they aren't going the win anyway? Luke hasn't coached a team that isn't contending for a title. Thats a completely different animal when the goal is not to win the title. Because then personal goals and selfish goals become more prevalent. What the Lakers need is a disciplinarian. The Lakers need an older, more well respected coach who brings automatic credibility to the locker room. Someone who speaks and the players will listen because they respect what that coach has done. Most, if not all of the players on the Lakers were better than Luke ever was, and many of them played against Luke. Luke didn't retire because be got old, he retired because no one wanted him any more. Players know this and players know they were better than him. And when you are a new coach, its probably hard to get the respect of a locker room of guys who saw you play and were better than you. This is why I love the Timberwolves hire of Tom Thibideau. He is a guy who walks in the room and gets respect.
Tom Thibideau- I'll keep this one shorter. I love this hire. The Timberwolves were known for being a great offensive team and not playing any defense. Thibs will have a great opportunity to make a difference with this team. I consider him one of the top five or top three coaches in the NBA and has a roster that he can really mold. How does Chicago feel now after getting rid of him? He took a team that was riddled with injuries every year and consistently had them in the top 4 of the Eastern Conference. I think this is the best hire that has been made and I was hoping against hope he would go to the Lakers. The only real problem for the Wolves is the West. Let's say he maximizes the potential of all the guys and the team and they exceed everyone's expectations. Will they be better than the Warriors? Spurs? OKC if they stay together? The Clippers? The depth of the West is incredible and he can do the best job possible and still never be able to be better than the 5 seed.
Doc Rivers- Still the most overrated coach in the NBA. I don't know why he gets all this credit for doing utterly nothing. He coached Orlando for 4 years and 11 games making the playoffs twice and never making it out of the first round. Then 11 games into his fifth season sitting at 1-10 he was fired. The following year he goes to Boston where he misses the playoffs the first two years, the second year winning 24 games. Then Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen fall into his lap and he wins the NBA Championship. Now all of a sudden he is some great coach. He took 3 first ballot Hall of Fame players, who were in their prime, and won 1 championship and got to the Finals only twice. They continued to get worse and he goes to the Clippers who were a perpetual second round exit team. They had young players like Blake Griffin and D'Andre Jordan who were up and comers and a veteran like Chris Paul and they brought in Doc because they didn't feel that Vinny Del Negro could get them over that hump. Doc has been with the Clippers for 3 seasons and has gotten the prime years of Blake and D'Andre and have one of the best pgs in the league. He had also added a ton of depth and I would argue they have the second most depth in the NBA behind Golden State. And what have they done with all of that? EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Out in the first or second round every year including one of the worst losses to Houston after being up 3-1 in the series. So what does he actually do???? I would argue to the death that his teams are far and away better than the teams Del Negro had and not once have they gone any further in the playoffs. And now this year, they are struggling against Portland, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get hurt, and now all of a sudden Doc gets a free pass for losing. Why because they played hard? Because he has traded away good players to give his son more minutes? Please try and convince me that Doc is not biased for his son. Somehow no other team wanted him, no other team played him, and he goes to play for his dad and all of a sudden he is good? All of a sudden he is the best defender on the team as Doc had said? I don't think so. And that is beside the point. I don't care if you lose Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, that roster is still better than Portland's roster. This is a team who's window is now and you look at Doc and think you have the guy who can take you over the top but you don't.
Terry Stotts- He might be the best coach you never heard of. Until Monday night. And who knows if it is his fault or if his players didn't execute a game plan. Portland loses 4 starters last year and they don't miss a beat. Lamarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Nicholas Batum all leave and the team is just as good as last year. Those guys are all perennial starters and guys who are close, if not, household names. And they reload with a bunch of guys who didn't really make it yet or were looking for another chance to resurrect a career. And they have been incredible. They exceeded all expectations including their own I'm sure. I know Portland is at the forefront of analytics, but the way they are able to maximize what they have has been awesome.
The problem I have with Monday is how they didn't get out to shooters late in the game. At the end of regulation and overtime, there were some switches where the defender switched but didn't jump out to the level of the ball. The most blatant one was by Damian Lillard where he got switched out on Curry. And instead of jumping out on Steph he just kind of stood there and Steph made the 3. Another play in overtime was where Steph pump faked and passed to the high post and ran 3 steps left, got the ball back and hit another 3. The defender paused after he passed it, and the other defender was late jumping out and again he is burned. Also, with about 40 seconds left in regulation Portland was up by 3. Steph drove baseline and again it was Lillard who fell asleep and left Harrison Barnes wide open to tie up the game. Thats where I don't know if you blame the coach for not having them prepped properly or if the players didn't execute the game plan. Anyway, in my opinion, when up 3 in that situation you stay home on shooters and let Steph take that two pointer. Then you still have the lead with the ball with about 2 possessions left in the game.
Pop- I don't usually question him but they have looked sloppy down the stretch of games. Also Tim Duncan shouldn't be on the floor at all. And he was like barely ok yesterday and so Pop put him back in at the end which was a horrific decision.
Billy Donnovan- This is really interesting and the narrative on what I would write is in the process of changing. Or is it? As they were down 2-1 and losing on their home floor you look at Westbrook and Durant and that roster and you wonder what Billy Donnovan's effect is. Its the same roster if not better. Its 2 of the top 5 players in the NBA on one team. Its two Hall of Famers on the same team, and they can't beat the old Spurs. And whats worse, they are the exact same team as last year. Scott Brooks was on his way to having a great "I told you so" moment just like Tom Thibideau did all year. You see the turnovers and see the bad shots and see the lack of ball movement on offense and wonder why no coach can make these guys run offense. Why is it that only the Spurs and Warriors can play team basketball? Why can't the Thunder? Does Westbrook just say sorry I'm not gonna do that and then do his own thing? But now, just a couple days later, OKC have a chance to knock out the Spurs in Oklahoma and take down one of the major favorites for the Championship.
I talk to many people about basketball and so many of them picked the Spurs to win it all. And I didn't understand it and I still don't. Sure they had a nice easy round in the first round, but then having to go through OKC in their prime, then Golden State who obliterated them during the regular season, and then Cleveland who beat them pretty badly earlier in the year as well. And you can talk all you want about how many games the Spurs won in the regular season, but they are the kings of beating the bad teams. And I totally understand you still have to go out and win games, but when you look at how they did against the best teams in the NBA, its a different story. They went 2-1 vs the Clippers, with the loss being a 20 point blowout. They went 1-1 vs Cleveland winning by 5 at home and getting destroyed in Cleveland. They went 2-2 vs OKC with one of those wins being in overtime, and they went 1-3 vs Golden State with that laugher of a game the first time they played and their only win coming when Igudala and Bogut didn't play and on the back end of a back to back. So I consider those other 4 teams to be the best other 4 in the NBA although I don't think the Clippers are on the same level, and the Spurs record was 6-7 in those games. And they were 1-1 vs Toronto if you want to add one more East team into that. And the difference between the regular season and the playoffs is you don't get those gimmie games. You don't get those teams coming off back to backs where you can just use your experience and depth to win games. And when you face off against a hungry OKC team who you struggled with during the regular season, I don't think its this massive shock that OKC might be a little better.
Wow, that kinda took a left turn into Spurs land for a minute.
Houston/Sacramento- I know Dave Jaeger just took the Sacramento job, but we all know he just took it for the money. He hasn't been happy with his pay and he was willing to do anything to make the kind of money he thinks he deserves. And I don't blame him one bit. But he is walking into a shitstorm. I consider that job and the Houston job, and even the Knicks job to be terrible jobs for guys who want to do something as far as winning. If your a coach who wants an opportunity and wants a chance to make a name, I get it, but thats why no big names will go to those places. Maybe the Knicks because its the Knicks and the Garden, but the other two are horrible. In both situations you have a mega talented superstar with a mega problem. For Boogie Cousins its his attitude, and for James Harden its his lack of defense and concern for winning. I don't know which situation is worse. Its like both teams decided they wanted to take all the terrible guys in the NBA and pile them onto these like jailbird rosters. Does anyone think that James Harden will just start playing defense on not going one on one all the time with a new coach? Is Boogie Cousins going to respect the next coach they bring in after the first 6 he didn't? No. You can't change the stripes on a zebra, or a tiger, or another animal with stripes that have stripes that don't change throughout their life. Haha. I mean I'll take either one, and I won't ask the going price for NBA coaches, you know, a few thousand less, but I don't know who else wants it.
Tyronne Lou- Not sure if thats how his name is spelled but not worried about it. I think he has made some good adjustments since taking over and I think those adjustments have everything to do with playing Golden State. He is using these three rounds to hone the team in on how to match up with Golden State. What scares me is how well they are shooting the ball against bad defense. I have said this before but when you play guys who don't guard as well, and all of a sudden your shot is going in more, that does NOT mean they will keep going in against better competition and it does NOT mean you should shoot the same shots you would against the bad competition. That goes for the Cavs and people who play basketball with me at City Gym. I do like the way Cleveland is playing and it seems like its a fun style of basketball, but again, its usually fun when your 8-0. I don't care who they play in the East finals, but I know they will not sweep and I know both teams play a better brand of defense which should be good preparation for the finals.
On a side note I'd like to comment on a couple things that have been on my mind when it comes to the NBA.
1. Dwight said last night that Steph Curry scores better than Michael. And instantly Kenny and Charles talk about the rules and how you can't touch guys and how Jordan would average 45 if he played right now. First off you are allowed to touch, the game is very physical and I think that is just their go-to answer for everything. Second, and most important: HOW CAN ANY PLAYER EVER BE BETTER THAN JORDAN BASED ON THAT ARGUMENT???? They are never changing the rules back so until someone averages 45 which is impossible because the level of defense and scouting and coaching is at such a high level its just not gonna happen. So no one will ever be better than Jordan because based on the rules now, the older generation thinks that these guys don't have as hard of a time scoring. I just wish one time the older generation would go compare the sizes of all the players back then and now. Because its laughable.
2. I want Lebron to win because he is an all time great and I want him in the Jordan conversation, but according to old people, all that matters is rings. And he needs a couple more to get to Jordan's level. But I also want the Warriors to win for that exact reason. I think this team is historically great. And dumb ass old people don't even have them in the top 2 or 3 teams of all time. Yet they broke Jordan's Bull's record and are headed down the path to back to back titles. And they deserve to be put up there with those Bulls if not better. Yet either Lebron or the Warriors must lose. I don't see a scenario where they both can win the title this year. And that means one of them will have to fail. And those all time comparisons will be hurt. Lebron loses and he goes to 2-5 in the finals. The Warriors lose and they will never be compared to the 96 Bulls and their 73 wins mean nothing. Its very frustrating that both can't win.