Let’s play make believe.
You’re a standout free agent who has played 10 years in the league. Let’s say you’re 29 years old and seeking a maximum contract.
You get the meeting you coveted with the team of your dreams and have an opportunity to ask the owner one question before you sign on the dotted line and commit yourself to spending the next four years with this franchise.
What do you ask?
My question would be simple.
Do you value winning a championship more than your bottom line?
I wonder if Kevin Durant asked general manager Sam Presti that question and I wonder if he was able to pose it to Clay Bennett.
And if they told him that winning was the most important thing, I wonder how they can look at him with a straight face as the team seemingly repeats their James Harden history with Reggie Jackson.
So, I ask you, winning, or greenbacks?
Players are posed with this dilemma all the time, thanks to the NBA’s new (albeit soon expiring) economic model that encourages them to accept less than their market value so that their team, in theory, can spend elsewhere in pursuit of championship glory.
If the Thunder followed that edict, they would have re-signed Harden when they had the opportunity and be poised to overthrow the San Antonio Spurs this year (if they hadn’t, by this point).
Instead, as I have been told, the Thunder drew a line in the sand with Harden, putting their budget above keeping one of the three players responsible for the team winning the Western Conference in 2012. Just imagine, four months after having what appeared to be one of basketball’s upstart, homegrown, potential dynasties, the Thunder willingly broke it up because they were not willing to pay Harden the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.
Some may call it business. I’ll call it dumb.
The Thunder traded Harden and received a package centered around Kevin Martin. Martin played 77 games for the team in 2012-13 before being signed-and-traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a maneuver that saw the Thunder take back no immediate salary on its ledger.
As part of the Martin trade, the Thunder also received future draft picks, one of which became Steven Adams. Already, we know that Adams is talented enough to be a starter in this league and he is just another of the many bright spots for the Thunder’s scouting department.
All that appears to mean, though, is that there will be yet another youngster with whom the Thunder must decide to either invest or divest.
After the Harden fiasco, can someone please explain what in the world are they doing with Reggie Jackson?
As it stands, the Thunder have until October 31 to reach an extension agreement with him, otherwise, the team can make him a restricted free agent in July 2015. With Jackson’s emergence since the team traded Harden and his admirable performance during the 2013 playoffs where he started in the absence of Russell Westbrook, the bottom line is this: a team that wishes to win a championship in today’s NBA simply cannot afford to continue to allow young talent to walk out through the door.
Granted, there may be some long-term concerns over how well Jackson and Westbrook would mesh in the backcourt for the Thunder, especially as full-time starters. There are also concerns about whether or not, like Harden, Jackson is content with willingly taking on a permanent, third-fiddle role behind Westbrook and Durant.
But, like Harden, if the Thunder open up their checkbook, they could have a player that they seem to need, and one whom they especially need now due to the extended absence of Durant.
In all likelihood, you will see Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie before you see Durant on an NBA floor once again, only furthering the apparent need to re-sign Jackson.
Yet still, here we are, Jackson is unsigned, just like Harden was.
It’s deja-vu, all over again.
Odds are, if you own an NBA franchise, it is because you are an astute businessman and understand simple concepts such as risk-reward and return on investment. Invariably, front offices and NBA players and agents will have financial arguments and disagreements—it comes with the territory. However, what we do often see in this league is the success of a front office causing hubris.
Case in point: deep down inside, the reason why the Thunder are willing to play hard ball with Jackson is probably because they see him as a career sixth man who effectively plays both ends of the floor. They probably see him as an important part of their team’s culture and identity, but they probably do not see him as a diamond in the rough. They do not see him as irreplaceable.
Just like they didn’t see that in James Harden. Whether they were correct or not still remains to be seen, but they certainly have not achieved as highly since Harden was dealt to Houston.
As for the front office in Oklahoma City, when you become good at something—scouting and drafting players in this case—your confidence may eventually get the better of you. If you are Presti and the Thunder, your drafting acumen may have you believe that, deep down inside, you can scour the ranks and find another player to play the role of Jackson. If you did feel that way, you wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect. Logic would be on your side considering the Thunder have consistently scored with their draft picks. Aside from the obvious Durant and Westbrook selections, we can immediately cite Harden, Jackson, Adams and Serge Ibaka as positive statistics.
The problem with that approach, however, is two-fold.
The first and most basic is time. The clock is ticking on both Durant and Westbrook. Because they rose up as contenders at such an early age, it is difficult to believe that Durant and Westbrook are only each about 26 years old. Health permitting (which is a whole different story, all together), the two should have a long period of time with which they can compete for championships. However, as the Thunder have seen first hand, injuries can have a way of disturbing that.
In the NBA, tomorrow is not promised.
If a team has the goods and the personnel, the best course of action is to lock up the pieces that you have, put your chips in the middle of the table and go for it.
It is true, in the grand scheme of things, Jackson may be a replaceable player—it may not be too difficult to draft a player who has his virtues with a mid-to-late first round pick.
However, seldom do we see NBA players walk into the league and light it up from the very beginning. There have been exceptions to this rule, but even Durant himself took a few years to come into his own. Kobe Bryant spent the first two years of his career coming off the bench, mind you.
In other words, if you are the Thunder and you are depending on finding the third (or fourth) cog of your championship dreams to come to you via the draft, odds are, you will be waiting for him to mature as a professional, for at least a few years.
Do Durant and Westbrook have the time? Do they have that patience? Could they stomach losing Jackson after also losing Harden? Seeing a talented teammate walk away is a gut-punch to any NBA superstar who hopes to win a championship. Players know when their teams have taken a step back and losing Harden, for the Thunder, was a major step back. Two years later, they are still looking to replicate their success.
The second issue is alpha-male syndrome.
One striking similarity between both Harden and Jackson is that they both want to be starters in the NBA, and they both have the talent to be starters. Asking a young player to sacrifice himself, his livelihood, his legacy and his personal goals is a difficult thing, and it is especially difficult for a player who is entering the league to fulfill what he believes is (or can be) his destiny. From the day a player is drafted, he is thinking about life after his rookie contract. The dream and goal for most players entering the league is to secure a five-year, maximum extension when they are eligible.
Being drafted to a team like the Thunder or Spurs gives you zero chance at fulfilling that. Some young players who think that highly of themselves and their potential may have trouble accepting that and putting their team first. It may cause locker room disharmony; it has in the past.
For a youngster coming into the league—one who is playing for his family’s financial security and is in a career with a finite time limit—asking him to subjugate his personal want to be great is a big ask and drafting him, even if he has the talent, is a big risk. In fact, the elevated talent makes him an elevated risk.
In the end, finding a player that has both the personality-type and the necessary talent level to both play that third fiddle role but simultaneously be good enough to be the third best player for a championship team—that is quite difficult.
The Thunder found that player in Harden, who was willing to remain in Oklahoma City, and they seem to have found another in Jackson. The prevailing belief amongst their front office is probably that they can continue to find those players.
Maybe they are correct, but thinking so is a gamble and frankly, it’s a gamble that the Thunder need not and would be wise to not make.
Even as the Thunder enter the 2014-15 season with Durant on the sidelines and LeBron James back in Cleveland, an opportunity at a championship awaits. The Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors are amongst the teams out West that will attempt to topple the San Antonio Spurs. Doing so will be no easy task, but doing so will require a hefty investment in terms of acquiring and retaining talent. If you want to win in this increasingly competitive league—especially as a Western Conference team—you’ve simply gotta open up your checkbook.
The NBA is full of young players who are either getting paid (Chandler Parsons comes to mind), soon to be getting paid (think of Kyrie Irving) or will be getting paid (Damian Lillard).
Jackson may not be of their caliber, but he is certainly a keeper.
Unfortunately, as some teams become more successful, they attempt to cut costs while maintaining the same level of success. The Miami HEAT did just that by amnestying Mike Miller and effectively replacing the traded Joel Anthony with Greg Oden. How’d that work out?
The two aforementioned players could have potentially been the difference between the HEAT accomplishing the three-peat and James opting to return for his final year in Miami.
What may have only been a few million dollars now could have led to many more millions later, not to mention the potential championship(s) and ensuing glory.
Had the Thunder bitten the bullet and given Harden what he wanted, they may have been champions by now.
Instead, back in 2012, fresh off the an appearance in the NBA Finals, the Thunder made an abrupt decision to irreversibly alter their core and they did it to protect their bottom line.
Now, four years later, as the clock ticks down on Jackie’s extension expiration date and the potential for him to hit the restricted free agency market in July becomes more realistic, history may very well be repeating itself.
It just happens to be the type of history that wiser men would learn from, not allow to repeat.
NBA Daily: A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors made some bold moves this off-season, but will those moves be the beginning of something new or the beginning of the end of Raptors run in the East?
A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors were clearly at a crossroads after being swept unceremoniously by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May. It was a microcosm of their situation – good enough to win the East in the regular season, but not good enough to win in big playoff games.
The Raptors went on to fire Dwane Casey as head coach, despite him ultimately being named Coach of The Year. The idea behind the firing wasn’t an emotional reaction to the swept; it was the acceptance of the reality that Casey wasn’t going to evolve as a coach, at least not the way management had hoped.
Casey’s ouster wasn’t the only change; the Raptors also traded away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan in a “dare to be great” trade with San Antonio for forward Kawhi Leonard.
From a pure talent standpoint, Leonard is an upgrade in almost every way to DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star in his own right. The problem with Leonard isn’t what he is as a player, its what he’s become as a person. No one saw the divorce in San Antonio coming, nor the lengths his camp would go to force an exit and leave countless millions on the table for a new start.
The problem for Toronto is the new start Leonard was seeking never included them. So, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did a year ago with Paul George, the Raptors are hopeful that a long and successful courtship of Leonard could win him over and into a new long-term deal. If that sounds like a pipe dream, it probably is.
Let’s be real about a few things.
Toronto is a beautiful and passionate basketball city, but is that enough to sway a kid from Southern California to stay? The Raptor faithful will point to DeRozan as an example of yes; he did exactly that when he signed his current deal. But is the situation ideal for Leonard, again the answer might be yes, especially if he is fully recovered from the quad injury that sidelined him for most of last season.
There is no doubting that the Raptors are built to win right now. They won 59 games with arguably the same roster and will enter an Eastern Conference that no longer has LeBron James in Cleveland.
Sure, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are formidable challengers for supremacy in the East and let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers, who could be in that same pack of teams vying for the top spot. But are any of them far and away better than the Raptors in terms of proven in their prime players?
The script seems to be written for the Raptors to either explode and cement themselves at the top of the East or implode on their own decisions.
New Raptors coach Nick Nurse is as a good as they come from the assistant ranks. He is a bright basketball mind, and he knows his players and has relationships with most of them. The question is will he be as good as advertised? If he not, this dance could be over before it starts.
Leonard has so much to prove after orchestrating his exit from San Antonio. If he gets back to MVP form in Toronto how can the Raptors not be considered the front-runner for the East? Yes, Boston is going to be really good too, but if you were betting on two players – MVP version of Kyrie Irving or MVP version of Leonard, who are you taking?
The problem for the Raptors is what if Leonard isn’t that guy again? What if all the negativity becomes too much? What if not being coddled and sheltered by the Spurs is a problem? No, Leonard isn’t a baby that needs mothering, but if you have followed anything about Leonard, he’s not this rock of a person that can handle anything. It’s a real question only he can answer with his play on the floor.
Equally, what if the quad isn’t fully healed or he goes Isaiah Thomas and tries to come back on to make it worse and needs surgery?
These are not easy questions to answer.
If the Raptors come out on top of most of these decisions – Nurse and Leonard are what people hope them to be — then things could swing in a very interesting direction for the Raptor franchise.
That’s what makes the “dare to be great” move interesting.
Thunder GM Sam Presti made news when he was quoted in Paul George’s ESPN docu-series, saying one of his favorite Lyrics was from Tribe Called Quest – “Scared money don’t make none” — in rationalizing his all-in approach to George.
It seems like Raptor president Masai Ujiri may have stolen a play from the Thunder playbook, because the franchise is now all the way in on the make or break moves of this off-season.
This could be the beginning of a new chapter for the Raptors, or it could end being the moves that cratered something special.
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NBA Daily: Why Teams Should Think Twice Before Tanking
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry, writes Spencer Davies.
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry affair.
If it happens, ownership and management have to choose between two options.
1) Attempt to stay competitive
2) Blow everything up and go for a high draft pick
The second choice seems to be the favorite path for executives to take as of late. After all, just look at the job the Philadelphia 76ers have done with perfecting the art of the aptly named process, “tanking.”
Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s three ultra-quotable words have turned NBA fans on to see the bigger picture. Who cares if a team has to suffer through multiple seasons of losing? If it takes a couple of years, so be it. In the end, we’ll reset with younger talent to build around. Trust The Process.
Philadelphia lost a lot of games between the 2013 and 2017 seasons. It was flat out brutal to watch. With that said, it did give the organization the opportunity to draft the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and acquire a young international talent like Dario Saric.
They were extremely patient throughout this whole operation. Brett Brown remained the head coach through thick and thin. Players swore on buying into what was being preached.
Last season was a breakthrough for the Sixers. They won 52 games and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Two of the guys they drafted turned into recognizable names with their play and have sky-high potential to break through in this upcoming season.
But is this really what it takes to achieve relevancy and perpetual competition in the NBA now? Do you really have to wipe the slate clean entirely and put out an unacceptable product year-in and year-out for half a decade so that there’s a possibility of one day becoming a winning franchise?
It’s obvious that Philadelphia did its homework, but who’s to say that other front offices can function like that? The Sacramento Kings have been in the doldrums for 12 years. The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and the New York Knicks haven’t made an appearance in five.
What it comes down to is hitting on draft picks, plain and simple. You don’t hear often about the missteps of the process. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a key piece of the Sixers core, as was Jahlil Okafor. Both of those players were top six selections in their respective drafts.
In order to acquire Noel (along with New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick), Philadelphia sent Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson and the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to the newly branded New Orleans Pelicans.
In hindsight, this was an awful move—no bones about it. Holiday had been coming off an All-Star season. He stood a head above the rest on a roster mixed with veterans and middle-of-their-career players. Most impressive of all, it was only his third year in the league.
The Sixers picked a gamble that did not return the results they were hoping for. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and Noel had his moments, but there’s no way it was worth losing a player the caliber of Holiday. But they had to abide by the process by any means necessary, right?
Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship, yet they’re heading in the right direction. They were able to overcome those bumps in the road. The three teams in Sacramento, Orlando and New York to this point have not.
Tanking may not be the wrong answer. It’s not always the right one, though. It all depends on timing. Take a different approach of re-tooling in lieu of rebuilding.
A prime example of this viewpoint is the Utah Jazz last season. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, many pundits stuck a dead duck label on the Utah Jazz. Those people said that in spite of the fact that the organization was on the rise with a brilliant head coach and an up-and-coming center bordering on best defensive player in the league status.
General manager Dennis Lindsey made a few moves here or there, but did not even think about giving up on the overall progress the Jazz had attained. He kept Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert, drafted Donovan Mitchell and began a new chapter in the same book instead of writing a different novel.
Utah opened a ton of eyes last season, not only making the playoffs—competing until the very end. And even that was fluky when injuries came into the picture.
They never had to go into the gutter. In the four straight years the Jazz missed the playoffs, it wasn’t because of a set strategy to take a nosedive. They had the wrong coach the first two and were learning how to play winning basketball under the right leader the next two.
It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking that route instead of the usual cry to “blow it up.” This isn’t comparing the impact of losing Hayward to LeBron James. That would be irresponsible. But they’ve clearly formed a strategy for all of this and were much more prepared the second time around.
Their true plans were revealed on July 24 when Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension to stick around with the wine and gold. Confusion surfaced all around. Nearly everybody in the NBA world expected general manager Koby Altman to trade him and stock up on future assets. After all, the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick next season only conveys if they finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. If they do not, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks.
While that’s a true statement, nothing is guaranteed. Anything that happens in a season can be unpredictable. Anything that goes on in a draft is unpredictable.
In one timeline, Cleveland could be as bad of a team as some are predicting with Love. In another, they could make the playoffs and shock their doubters.
We don’t know what Collin Sexton will be in this league yet. We do know that experience is irreplaceable. Why not surround the young man with talent for him to breed confidence in himself and others? It’s better than losing a ton of games because the front office is waiting for the next guy to pair him with, right?
The Cavaliers are keeping their head coach. They’re acquiring players aching for an opportunity. They’re altering their direction, but keeping the same focus.
With LeBron James, Cleveland made four straight NBA Finals. In doing so, they’ve set a standard for the organization. Even with The King going west, why would it make any sense to change that message?
Considering the talent this league already has and the “super teams” that are being built among them, there is a difference between a ball club that wins 20 games and one that wins 35. They both miss out on the postseason and have a lottery pick, however, Team A silently creates losing habits while Team B tries to instill a culture of winning.
There is no perfect method for filling a void left by losing a superstar player. Nobody is a psychic.
Maybe it’s naïve to criticize “The Process” for not wanting to be in NBA purgatory—usually somewhere stuck between a seven seed in the playoffs and the 10th team in the conference standings—but tanking is a tricky game. Precision is necessary to pull it off. If it isn’t there, you’ll be in a world of hurt.
At least when you’re in NBA purgatory, you can add to what you have or try a different coach. Championship or bust is a dangerous mentality in the current landscape of sports.
Of course, that’s always the goal, but very few understand what it takes to get to that point. It all starts with a winning attitude, a quality of most teams that have tanked do not possess.
NBA Daily: The Summer’s Most Impactful Coaching Hires
There have been a lot of coaching swaps this offseason, but there are only a select few that should impact what happens next year.
Building a successful team is like cooking a meal. The players serve as the ingredients, while the coach serves as the cook who stirs the ingredients. A championship team requires the right ingredients just as much as it requires an adept cook.
Take the Warriors for example. Mark Jackson played an important role in putting Golden State back on the map in 2013. However, after it was clear that he wasn’t capable of pushing them much further the following year, they replaced him with Steve Kerr.
That made all the difference. The Dubs went from pseudo-contender to legitimate contender, thanks to their new coach revolutionizing the team’s offense. The team went from the league’s 12th-ranked offense in the league the previous season (107.5 points per 100 possessions) to its second (111.6). Stephen Curry’s evolution into a basketball supernova led the way of course, but it was Kerr’s revisions to the team that pushed them to another level.
It all started with how he handled his rotation. Making Draymond Green a full-time starter while also transitioning Andre Iguodala into the sixth man made the Dubs all the more lethal as a team. The final touch was forming the “Death Lineup”, which consisted of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, that made Golden State nearly impossible to stop.
Golden State had a roster built for a title. All they needed was a coach who could get them the best results. Kerr was the man for the job.
That goes to show how vital a coach is to a franchise that has high aspirations.
Because of success stories like Golden State, we saw quite a few coaching changes this summer from teams hoping to have a Hollywood ending much like the Warriors.
Milwaukee Bucks – Mike Budenholzer
Poor Coach Bud. It’s not his fault that the Hawks team that he guided to 60 wins in 2015 slowly disintegrated over the last three years. Luckily he got out of there to avoid having to take on a rebuild. So now, he gets a fresh start in Wisconsin.
Budenholzer’s stock has gone down considerably since winning the Coach of the Year three years ago. That being said, he’s shown that when he has lemons, he can make lemonade. Now that he is running the show in Milwaukee, he is coaching one of the more unique situations in the league. Coach Bud now has a superstar at his arsenal in Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is something he never had in Atlanta.
It’s true that Milwaukee has been one of the league’s frequent underachievers since they kicked the tires of the Greek Freek era, but their talent cannot be understated. Remember that Coach Bud once made the likes of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver All-Stars, statuses that they’ve never come close to regaining since. If he can do that with guys like Teague and Korver, imagine what he can do with Giannis and Co.
Milwaukee has also done a solid job building a team that fits Budenholzer’s emphasis on floor stretching. Adding Brook Lopez and bringing back Ersan Ilyasova should give a team that ranked 21st in three-point percentage more spacing. That’s quite impressive since Milwaukee had the ninth-best offensive rating in the league (109.8).
Milwaukee’s been trying to find their big break for a while now. They may have found theirs in Coach Bud.
Detroit Pistons – Dwane Casey
Nobody had a harder spring than Casey. Usually, winning Coach of the Year would be a moment worth treasuring, but in Casey’s case, it was far from it. Leading up to getting the award, Casey and the Raptors were swept by the Cavs for the second consecutive time, then he got fired shortly afterward. Casey getting Coach of the Year this season was pretty much like Dirk Nowitzki getting the MVP in 2007 after getting upset by the Warriors in the first round.
Thankfully, Casey’s illustrious resume was good enough for him to land on his feet just about anywhere. That anywhere happens to be Motown, where he’s replacing Stan Van Gundy as head coach. Detroit also has not had the most success since they’ve turned to Andre Drummond. That could be attributed to the unfortunate injuries that they’ve had to deal with in the last two years.
Despite having the persistent monkey on his back come playoff time, Casey has improved his craft in response to his failures. The Raptors saw improvement every year when Casey ran the show, and now Casey has the chance to show he can do the same in Detroit.
It will be an interesting transition going from the Raptors to the Pistons. Though not as talented as Toronto’s, Detroit’s strength should primarily come from their frontcourt. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be one of the league’s best frontcourt pairings on paper. Casey has a reputation for making things work, so now that they will have a full season together, they may shine more than they did last season.
One particular question that should be answered is if Toronto’s problem was Casey or his roster. That may be answered by how Detroit does this season. Oh hey, speaking of Toronto…
Toronto Raptors – Nick Nurse
There seems to be a fair amount of optimism surrounding Nurse. Supposedly, he was the reason why the Raptors’ offense improved so much last season. Casey executed it to perfection, but Nurse was the one who designed it. Now, he’s at the forefront on a team that is desperate for success now more than ever.
This is Nurse’s first gig as a head coach, and the pressure is going to be on. It’s not just that Toronto’s been trying to get past its playoff demons. Now that they have Kawhi Leonard, they have to do everything in their power to keep him around — tall order given he seems hellbent on going to L.A.
Still, Leonard is an upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. Acquiring him, along with promoting Nurse, shows that the Raptors aren’t playing around. Being the head coach for one of the league’s powerhouses is a big break for Nurse. This may be his only to chance to prove he deserves a spot in this league.
James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets
Another Popovich protegee moving up through the ranks! Borrego has had some head coaching experience, though it was with the Orlando Magic, who were not going anywhere, three years ago. Now he’s going to Charlotte, a team that’s in a pretty tough situation right now.
Right now, Charlotte is hard-capped on a roster that does not have much room for improvement. The team has not made the playoffs in two years, and it’s hard to imagine how they improve from where they currently are. However, that might be why they hired Borrego.
Instead of going for a known name like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Hornacek, they went with a guy who has learned under the NBA’s best coach for several years. Coach Bud became a great coach after learning from Pop, so perhaps Borrego may follow in his footsteps. This is a pivotal year for Charlotte since Kemba Walker’s bargain contract is expiring. If Borrego can help Charlotte return to the playoffs, then that could do wonders for them.
Note that David Fizdale, Lloyd Pierce, and Igor Kokoskov weren’t named. It isn’t fair to include them because the teams they are running are currently in the rebuilding phase with little expectation. They could be very impactful hires down the line. Just don’t expect a lot from them right away.
Same goes for J.B. Bickerstaff, but that’s because he already was the Grizzlies’ head coach. Now he’s full-time instead of interim. Call it cheating if you want to.
As for those who have been named, these hires should have a significant impact on what happens in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. One of these hires could very well put their team in the finals, while another could put them in the NBA lottery.