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NBA AM: Trades May Come Down To The Wire

There may be a rush of deadline deals, but they may not take shape until the 11th hour… It is not always the coach’s fault.

Steve Kyler



Down To The Wire

With the NBA trade deadline 11 days away, things on the trade front are picking up. However, for those holding their breath on a deal before the All-Star break, you may not get much satisfaction.

In talking with team sources, the amount and frequency of talks is picking up, but there is still a sense that getting something done before the February 18 3 p.m. EST deadline may come down to the final hours.

Most teams are holding out that an offer will get better or that something new may surface and no one wants to trigger a deal today only to find themselves sitting out a bigger or better transaction closer to the deadline.

As one executive said it best, “We don’t do things in the NBA until there is a deadline.”

Last year saw a flurry of deals in the final hour on what was looking to be a dull day on the trade front; however, when all was said and done, there were 11 transactions involving 38 players or player rights changing hands at the deadline.

In the days leading up to the deadline last year, there were just two transactions in February before the All-Star break.

While no one is expecting as chaotic a deadline this year as last year, history has shown that the bulk of deals do not get moving until a day or so before the deadline – with a mad rush to consummate deals at the 11th hour.

So while it’s likely that a number of deals get done, as there are a number of teams looking at what’s best called roster and cap management type deals, the odds that something breaks before All-Star seems at this point fairly slim.

At Some Point It’s Not the Coach

There is a saying in professional sports: “Coaches are hired to be fired.” Every coach that signs a contract understands that in the very best of situations he may see the final year of that deal, but in most cases he knows he has a greater than average chance of being fired before his deal expires. That’s life as a coach in sports.

To put that in context of the 30 NBA coaching jobs, just seven have been on the job longer than three seasons (including this one). San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich is the most tenured coach in the NBA having been hired in 1996. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Dallas’ Rick Carlisle come in second and third, having been hired in 2008.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for coaching stability.

With the New York Knicks parting ways with Derek Fisher yesterday, he became the fifth coach fired this season and if the reports turn out to be true, Sacramento Kings coach George Karl could be the sixth.

The problem teams face in hiring and ultimately firing a coach is that there is no longer an accountability to the coach of a team. Outside a small handful of situations – San Antonio, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta and Boston – most players know that the coach is not the end-all authority. Coaches themselves know they have to play politics to get results and the ones that are really good at the political parts seem to stick around a little longer than those that challenge their roster.

So what ends up happening is that really good basketball coaches get ousted, because they cannot enforce principals. If they try and it’s not immediately successful, players tune the coach out and things spiral out of control.

That’s not to say that every fired coach did a good job, because as we are seeing play out in Sacramento, the fit of coach to roster isn’t always a good one and that too dooms the coach. Few teams are willing to re-structure their roster around their coach, because it’s easier to fire a coach and hire a new one than find a 26.8-point, 11.1-rebound per game big man.

The problem with that mindset is that eventually the players sour on the organization because of the self-inflicted chaos.

In Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins has had five coaches in his six NBA seasons. If Karl is indeed fired during the All-Star break, Corliss Williamson – the expected interim – would be a sixth coach in six seasons. Considering the Kings likely hire the seventh coach during the offseason, it’s hard to imagine Cousins remaining loyal to the franchise if seven becomes eight before his contract is up.

Firing a coach is sometimes necessary. Things had run their course last year in Orlando with Jacque Vaughn. Things may have run their course with Randy Wittman in Washington.

However, if you look at the history of success in the NBA, the teams that build around their coaches usually have more success than those that don’t. The franchises that empower their coach usually have greater stability and longevity and when it comes to signing and retaining free agents those same stable franchises have done well.

Firing a coach is part of the business. Coaches and teams know that when they make the hire. However, it’s not always the coaches fault when things don’t go right. Sometimes the organization has to shoulder the blame.

In the case of the New York Knicks, they have no one to blame but themselves for Derek Fisher. He did not have the experience, the resume or the mentality to be successful in New York. The Kings have no one to blame but themselves on hiring Karl to skipper a roster he clearly was not going to reach.

In both cases, the coaches were set up to fail by the teams that hired them. Neither were put in situations where they could have been truly successful, but both will get labeled with blame because they couldn’t make the unworkable, work.

Coaches are hired to be fired, that’s the sad reality of the profession, but it’s not always the coaches’ fault when the relationship needs to come to an end. Sometimes, it’s more on the team and management than it is the coach.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.


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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz



It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers



When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders



Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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