Steve Kerr on Coaching
With Phil Jackson headed to the New York front office, the next big rumor for the Knicks has involved the potential hiring of Steve Kerr as the new head coach sometime during the offseason. Kerr has been pretty respectful of Mike Woodson and the coaching staff in place by generically commenting that he’d enjoy an opportunity to coach somewhere in the NBA, but didn’t want to talk out of turn about a position that was already currently filled.
“I understand the speculation,” Kerr told Justin Terranova of the New York Post at a NCAA Tournament press conference this week. “I’ve said I wanted to coach at some point in my life, I know Phil, I played for him. People are sort of connecting the dots, but it’s very uncomfortable commenting on speculation, especially when it comes to someone else’s jobs.”
Back in November, however, Kerr, in a conference call to promote the new NBA 2K14 video game, spoke more at length about why he’d like to return to the NBA as a coach rather than an executive, despite the fact that he only has experience doing the latter.
“I have a lot of thoughts about coaching,” Kerr said. “If I get back in, I think it will be on the coaching side. My favorite part of the GM role in terms of my relationships was just dealing with players down on the court. I’d go to practice every day, and I’d let the coaches coach, but just getting to know the players and dealing with them and talking strategy, that really appealed to me. I think if I get back, which I anticipate, it would be on the coaching side.”
Kerr has never coached basketball on any level, but there are former players-turned-coaches in the NBA today seeing some success as first-time coaches, the most notable being Golden State’s Mark Jackson. Jason Kidd has received mixed reviews in Brooklyn, and Vinny Del Negro had a couple of high-profile opportunities in Chicago and L.A. before hanging up his coach’s whistle (for now, at least). In other words, this sort of thing is far from unprecedented.
What Kerr has over those guys is that he’s worked in a position of leadership with an NBA team before. His tenure as GM in Phoenix was definitely mixed, but he saw his fair share of successes. He drafted Goran Dragic, brought in Channing Frye and Grant Hill, and smartly extended Steve Nash when it wasn’t a popular decision to do so.
However, he also was responsible for the failed Shaquille O’Neal trade(s) and tried to force Mike D’Antoni into being a more defense-oriented coach, but his Phoenix teams were far from awful, and there’s a reasonable possibility that his experiences in the front office could translate to a successful job on the sidelines.
“The GM role is really exciting when it comes to player acquisitions,” Kerr said on the 2K Sports conference call. “When you get to acquire a player that you’ve had your eye on—whether you get him in the draft or you make a trade—it’s an electric feeling in that room… It’s accomplishing something, getting a player you really like, and actually seeing it come through on the floor in terms of winning and having success as a team. That’s one thing I do miss as a broadcaster.”
Kerr wouldn’t have that same power with Phil Jackson actually running the team, but he would be able to use the personnel the way he envisioned rather than projecting a philosophy onto another coach and then trying to enforce it from the executive’s chair.
It’s a high-profile job, but Kerr seems more suited than an inexperienced coaching candidate would typically be. He wants in, somehow, somewhere, and Jackson’s new role with the Knicks may allow for it. Of course, Jackson’s consultation in hiring a new coach in Detroit didn’t go so well over the summer, but Mo Cheeks wasn’t his choice alone. Kerr, if hired, would be, and such a risky hire as one of his first moves as Knicks exec could go a long way towards determining Jackson’s legacy in that role—either for good, or for bad.
Pat Croce Spills the Beans on Old Philadelphia Drama
Younger fans of the NBA might not remember former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce, but before there was Mark Cuban, Croce was that animated, outspoken member of a team’s ownership group that cameras just couldn’t get enough of. He was a truly interesting member of the NBA community while he was still a part of it, and apparently very little has changed with him in the decade-and-change since he left the Sixers.
Croce recently spoke with Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report about some of the discord between Allen Iverson and Larry Brown when the one played for the other back around the turn of the century. At the time (1999-2001), Iverson was among the league’s best players and Brown was among the league’s best coaches, and it was a partnership that would ultimately lead to an NBA Finals appearance for Philadelphia in 2001.
It didn’t all happen organically, though, as there were times that Iverson and Brown were about as volatile a pairing as the NBA has ever seen.
“It was difficult because they were at each other’s throats, and there was the one time when Larry Brown called me and Iverson called me because (Brown) sat him on the bench in Detroit—I wasn’t there—and I got a call that night because I saw that he sat him. And I heard there was a blast on the bus and Larry Brown wanted him traded the next day. And Iverson called me, which was rare, and he wanted him fired,” Croce told Bleacher Report.
“So I said, ‘We’ll meet in the conference room at the practice facility.’ And all the team is waiting outside the glass with the assistant coaches, and inside the room was Larry Brown on one side of the table, Allen Iverson and me on the other side and Billy King toward the end of the table. And I think Tony DiLeo, our scouting director, was also there.
“It was really ugly, like really,” Croce added. “Allen came in ready to kill someone. I’ve never seen him in such a foul mood. He wanted no part with this coach, none. This was my fourth year and (Brown’s) third year. It got really ugly, and I remember saying—to this day, I don’t think Larry Brown likes me because of this, because I made him sit down in this meeting, but it was the catalyst that turned our whole world around—‘You two, I’m not going to trade him, Larry, and I’m not going to fire you. There’s no way.’ I said, ‘You guys don’t understand. You both are so talented, the best of what you do in your business. You’re so headstrong. If you were to look in the mirror, you’d see each other. You both have a common goal; you just go about it in different ways.’”
Croce had to mediate between the two, explaining that Brown didn’t like the sullen vulgarities Iverson would spew every time he was removed from a game, and Iverson didn’t like being told when he could and could not play, despite being a perennial MVP candidate at that point in his career. It was, put bluntly, a bit of a mess.
“Then they started to talk,” Croce said. “And Allen got up, walked all the way around the table and hugged him. I remember it to this day. That was the beginning; that was the real turnaround, I’ll tell you. That year we did real well. We lost to the Indiana Pacers in the second round (in 2000), and then the next year it was a really, really good year, starting off 10-0 and Allen was co-captain. But it was really, really ugly and scary at that time.”
These are the things we wish we could read about as they are happening, but it’s much easier to discuss when the principles are no longer in the league and the franchise faces no negative PR repercussions in the wake of the story.
Still, it’s a fascinating look into a tenuous relationship that did ultimately result in quite a bit of success for both men. Croce was just a member of the ownership group, but he apparently had a big role in keeping the peace. Imagine if Brown or Iverson had been jettisoned in 2000; how different would both men’s legacies be?
We’ll never truly know, but most of us probably don’t want to, anyway.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
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 Celtics.com.
“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.
Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”
Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.
The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.
Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.
With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.
One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.
“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”
Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.
“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”
In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.
“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”
Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.
Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.
“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”
The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.
Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.
“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”
Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.
NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.
The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.
Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.
Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.
There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.
Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.
In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.
Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.
Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.
This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?
There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.
Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.
Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.
The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.
There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.