Connect with us


NBA AM: Coaches On The Hot Seat

We may not see many coaches fired mid-season, but there are a few NBA head coaches that may be coaching for the future this season… Boston wants to keep Rajon Rondo, but won’t rule out a trade.

Steve Kyler



On The Hot Seat:  The 2014-15 NBA season gets started in less than a week with the opening of training camps and there are a few coaches who will begin this season with high expectations and likely a low tolerance for struggles. The only NBA coaches to have been in their current position for more than three years are Tom Thibodeau, Rick Carlisle, Kevin McHale, Frank Vogel, Erik Spoelstra, Monty Williams, Gregg Popovich, Dwane Casey, Scott Brooks and Randy Wittman. That means 20 of the NBA’s 30 teams have changed coaches in the last two years; some have been replaced after just one season. So, turnover in the NBA is becoming all too common, even if it’s not always the smartest move.

As training camps open, some teams may have coaches on a very short leash. These are a few of the names to watch.

Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder

Two things have to be said at the top:  Scott Brooks is an excellent coach whose team and players adore him. That said, the clock is ticking. There is no question that the Thunder are on the clock, especially with star forward Kevin Durant inching closer to free agency in the summer of 2016. The Thunder have preached a message of continuity and instituted a strong development program, and that has paid dividends in OKC, but failing to reach the NBA Finals again before Durant’s free agency could spell disaster for the Thunder as the outside voices creep into the discussion and try to lure Durant out of OKC.

Fair or not, coaches are hired to ultimately be fired and if things don’t go where they are expected, its going to be harder and harder for the Thunder to hang on to Brooks, even though he’s the most successful coach in franchise history.

Brooks has come under fire a lot over the last two seasons, so if the Thunder regress or start to struggle expect his job status to become a topic, even if no one in Oklahoma City wants to think about it.

Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards

Like Brooks, Wittman has done a stellar job turning the Wizards around, but regression could force a change even though he just inked a three-year contract extension with the Wizards this summer – a testament to just how much pressure there is on NBA coaches to keep their job. Wittman has never been viewed as the sexy coaching candidate, but he has survived in Washington because his team has played well and the young guys have improved. If that continues, then Wittman’s job is hardly in jeopardy, but if things regress and the team isn’t competing at a high level, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has proven that he’s not afraid to make a change. Like Brooks, there isn’t a lot of room for error in Washington. As a team they expect to be back in the hunt in the East and if that starts to fall apart, expect Wittman talk to increase.

Jacque Vaughn, Orlando Magic

Vaughn was given a long leash in Orlando to help the front office sort out the roster they inherited, but this season the Magic expect to compete. There is an expectation of improvement not just from the roster but from all phases of the team operations. Vaughn has drawn a ton of criticism from the fan base and if this season looks like the last two, Vaughn’s future could become shaky at best. The one thing in Vaughn’s favor is that there really is cohesiveness between the front office and the coaching staff, so if things go bad Vaughn won’t be shoved on an island. But if the team continues to struggle, looking at change next summer won’t be out of the question as it was this past summer. This is Vaughn’s year to prove himself as a coach as for the first time in his tenure in Orlando, there are real expectations.

Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans

Like Brooks and Wittman, Williams is a heck of a basketball coach. His players in New Orleans and those who he’s worked with for USA Basketball like him. He has built a solid culture in New Orleans and his teams, for the most part, play incredibly hard defensively. The problem for Williams is his teams have been decimated by injuries and they are not a very dynamic offensive group, despite having some dynamic offensive talents. The window for Williams isn’t as big as it once was. New ownership wants playoff games in New Orleans and they have allowed the team to trade and spend their way into a roster that should be better than their record. Williams is certainly on the clock in New Orleans. Fair or not, he needs things to break his way this year. One of the things Williams has talked about recently was allowing his guys more freedom offensively, something he learned with his time with Team USA in Spain. If the Pelicans can get out to a strong start, things should calm down on the Williams front, but if this season plays out like the last two seasons, ownership may look to make a change.

Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers

Vogel was under fire last season, but ownership and management stood by him amidst the team’s second-half slump. The injury to star forward Paul George and the departure of Lance Stephenson in free agency may lessen the pressure in Indiana and give Vogel more of a runway to get the team sorted out. Given the outright collapse late last season, Vogel will be scrutinized more closely, even with expectations being lower. If his team doesn’t compete, he could find himself out. There isn’t an expectation of challenging for a title this year, but with the roster Vogel still has to work with the Pacers are expecting to compete; failing to do that could spell the end of the line for Vogel.

Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets

The Rockets took some major steps backwards this summer not only losing Chandler Parsons in free agency and getting nothing in return but also trading away depth in Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. The Rockets don’t have a huge runway. Dwight Howard is eligible for free agency again in July of 2016 and being a middle of the pack playoff team isn’t going to help their cause in keeping him. Some of that’s going to fall on McHale. If the Rockets cannot get back to at least where they were a season ago McHale’s future becomes cloudy at best. If the Rockets fall backwards or struggle early McHale could be the coach most likely to be fired mid-season. The problem with expectations is that when you don’t meet them, someone pays the price.

It is highly unlikely any of these coaches are fired mid-season, unless there is utter collapse. What’s more likely is that each is scrutinized more closely than is maybe fair, but as they say, changing coaches is easier than changing rosters and coaches are hired to ultimately be fired.

As Rondo Turns:  Celtics president Danny Ainge again went on record saying his intentions regarding guard Rajon Rondo is not to trade the mercurial guard, however he did admit that moving Rondo wasn’t completely off the table.

“I love Rondo,” Ainge said to Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram. “He’s a fun kid to be around. I’ve seen a lot of growth in him as a person and maturity through the years.

“The truthful answer is I really don’t know. I have no intention. I’m not trying to trade Rondo, but because he’s a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We’d love to keep him in Boston.”

Ainge admitted that no player was untouchable, but he didn’t expect a deal for his guard anytime soon.

“The possibility of a trade is not out of the question,” Ainge said. “Nobody is untradeable, but I don’t see that happening.”

The Celtics will open training camp next week, and while Ainge said he expects improvement from his young team, he is not delusional about where there are as a program.

“I don’t think our team is in contention for a championship,” Ainge said. “We are a young team and we’re in the development stages.

“It’s hard for me to put goals on our team. I want to hear what they want to do. I want to hear what their goals are and what they believe they can accomplish this year.”

The Celtics were 25-57 last season and one of the worst road teams in the NBA.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.




  1. Pingback: Wednesday Bolts – 9.24.14 | Daily

  2. Pingback: Where Does OKC Thunder Turn If Scott Brooks Can’t Get Job Done This Season? | Sports Wonks

  3. Pingback: Where Does OKC Thunder Turn If Scott Brooks Can't Get Job Done This Season? | Sports Wonks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

Continue Reading

The Strictly Speaking Podcast


Trending Now