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NBA AM: Is It The End For Mark Jackson?

Is this the end of the line for Mark Jackson and the Warriors?… Houston isn’t planning for anything major, but will be ready… Some Sleepers emerging in the 2014 NBA Draft class.

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The Jackson Reaction:  When the Memphis Grizzlies decided to part ways with former head coach Lionel Hollins after a run to the Western Conference Finals last season, the move was met with disdain from almost everyone. How could the franchise justify dumping the coach that had turned the franchise from laughing stock into a contender?

The Golden State Warriors are looking at a similar situation with their head coach Mark Jackson. After logging back-to-back postseason runs and the first 50-win season since 1993, Jackson enters the offseason with rumors swirling that he will be out at some point.

Why would Golden State consider dumping Jackson? It starts with owner Joe Lacob. He was part of the Boston Celtics organization as a minority owner before partnering to buy the Warriors back in 2010. Lacob was part of the Celtics NBA Finals runs in 2008 and 2010, and rightly or wrongly, believes he knows what a championship team is supposed to look like. Lacob often comments on his time with the Celtics when talking about how he wants to build the Warriors.

This brings us back to Jackson. When the Warriors hired Jackson it was a bit of a head scratcher. Jackson had no head coaching experience and was fresh out of the broadcasting booth. It was a dare-to-be-great hire and surely Lacob was hoping to get the next Doc Rivers when he signed off on hiring Jackson.

While Jackson was a great motivator from the start, and his players responded well to him, there has been a lot of behind the scenes tensions. Jackson was involved in a blackmail scandal after his first year – a scandal that almost cost him his job then. He had run-ins with assistant coaches and staffers; while his team played well on the court, there was discord brewing off the court.

»In Related:Predicting The NBA’s Post-Season – 2nd Round

This season there was the much publicized mutiny involving assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, which lead to stories about issues on last season’s staff including celebrated assistant Mike Malone, now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

As the Warriors begin their offseason, there is a belief that ownership and many in the front office no longer view Jackson as that future Doc Rivers-type of coach. While Jackson has had some success, the manner in which he has run things in Golden State is not lining up with what ownership wants in terms of a blueprint.

Much like Memphis did last year, the Warriors seem like they may be headed towards a change at head coach, not because the coach is necessarily a bad coach, simply a bad fit for the bigger picture for the organization.

This is not uncommon in the NBA. Coaches are the easiest part of a team to change and we have seen historically that some great coaches get fired all the time, only to land somewhere else that may be a better fit and have success.

Rick Carlisle struggled to find his groove until he landed in Dallas. Terry Stotts had a couple of chances before finding success in Portland.

It’s easy to forget that Vinny Del Negro went to the playoffs every year of his four year coaching career and was let go by both teams he worked for and is not coaching today.

»In Related:Is The NBA Becoming Too Soft?

On court success isn’t always about the coach and in most of the situations mentioned, the teams got better after finding a better fitting coach. That’s where the Warriors find themselves today. Jackson is not a bad coach, but is he the coach that gets the Warriors to the NBA Finals with the talent the Warriors have?

Those are the questions that are being asked in the Bay Area and ultimately if Jackson is let go, it will be because the team doesn’t feel he can lead them to the promised land and that’s not necessarily all on Jackson. It just means he’s not the fit they had hoped he be when they dared to be great with him.

Rockets Holding Firm?:  Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey isn’t happy that his team’s season came to an abrupt end this weekend, but at the same time he likes what he has to work with going forward and says while his team will be aggressive, he is not expecting any major trades or changes.

In a wide ranging Q&A with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Morey says he still has a lot of decisions to make, but will start making them after things settle down after an emotional postseason.

“Very disappointing we weren’t able to advance,” Morey said. “We continued growing as a team, getting more experience. I felt the West this year, really anybody could win it. That makes it sting a little more. That said, we took a big leap forward. I think we can take a big step forward again next year and put ourselves in even better position and with a better team. Obviously, there is a lot of work for myself, for the players, for everybody, to win the West.”

The Rockets have been linked to several free agents including New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland’s Luol Deng. Morey said he expects to be aggressive but isn’t sure anything major is going to happen.

»In Related: The NBA’s Best Postseason Duo.

“We’re always aggressive. We’ll always explore aggressive scenarios,” Morey said. “But I feel confident if those don’t emerge, we’re not far off. We need to get (the win total) into the high 50s if we’re going to be as good as we want to be. We need to improve our defense primarily. We were the youngest team in the league (in the postseason, fourth youngest and second least experienced in the regular season) and improving, so an addition or two are key. I feel confident we can make that step forward that we need to make.

“We made a big leap forward with the addition of Dwight (Howard) and the growth of our young players to get to the mid-50 range. I think we’ve got to take one more step forward. But I think the average NBA title team won 57 games, so we’re not far off.”

The Rockets have $56.98 million in salary commitments against what’s expected to be a $63 million salary cap in July. Morey says he feels like his team has options, especially if a max-level All-Star type of guy comes their way.

“I would always take a third All-Star guy, either from one of our guys improving or addition,” Morey said. “There’s no negative to adding an All-Star-level player. That said, I don’t feel it’s necessary. I do feel it’s my job to explore those things. I think (we’ll be helped by) our group playing more together after only a season together, plus a lot of young players that can take a step forward and improve. Plus we’ve got financial flexibility this year. We’re not limited to minimum-player additions.

“We have all our draft picks going forward to execute trades if necessary. We’ve got a lot of flexibility to improve. It’s my job to get that done and the players’ job to work on their games over the summer. The coaches are taking another look at our strategies and deciding what we’re going to do different next year to improve.”

There has been speculation that trading center Omer Asik or guard Jeremy Lin is something the Rockets would need to do this summer, however Morey said he doubted that was in the cards.

“I don’t expect something bigger like that to happen,” Morey said. “I could see where you would look to that if something bigger were to happen, but I don’t anticipate that.”

The Rockets have an interesting situation with forward Chandler Parson brewing. Parsons has a player option for next season worth $964,000. If the Rockets decline the option Parson he could become a restricted free agent. The question becomes do the Rockets exercise their option and risk Parson’s hitting unrestricted free agency in 2015 to preserve cap space for free agency this year, or do they go the restricted route this summer and lock him up going forward?

“We won’t know everything we need to know when we have to make a decision on Chandler’s (contract) option,” Morey said. “We have to make the best decision at the time we have to make it (June 29).”

The timing of Parsons’ option will occur before the Rockets have a chance to woo potential free agents, however most around the league are expecting Parson to have his option declined and the Rockets playing the restricted free agent game with Parson while also trying to make moves in the free agent market.

The Rockets are sitting on what is expected to be the 25th and 42nd picks in the 2014 NBA Draft and they should have some breathing room under the salary cap without making a lot salary dump type moves.

Five Lottery Sleepers:  The 2014 NBA Draft is roughly 52 days away, and with more and more teams ending their seasons, and the annual NBA Draft Combine set to kick off in Chicago next week, several player names are starting to surface in the discussions for those teams just outside the expected Top Six.

»In Related: Full 2014 NBA Mock Draft.

For months names like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum and Julius Randle have dominated the draft discussion, but there are a few names much lower on the Top 100 list, that are getting some love and attention as players that could climb significantly in the first round. Here are a few of them:

James Young – Kentucky – SG/SF – 6’7″

From the start of the NBA season, NBA executives gushed over Young’s potential at the next level and with teams starting to clamor to get him in for workouts, it’s becoming clear that Young could go significantly higher than most are projecting him and that a lottery level pick is not out of the question.

Young has been training out in LA with renowned trainer Rob McClanaghan, who has worked with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love.

NBA teams are allowed to conduct up to 18 personal interviews at the Draft Combine and word is Young may have an extremely full dance card as teams want to get a look.

They say it takes two interested teams to get a player drafted, when half the league wants to get after a player that usually means his stock is on the rise.

Kyle Anderson – UCLA – SF – 6’8″

Anderson’s mix of point guard skills and his length are making him attractive at the next level. He may not sneak into the lottery like James Young, but Anderson may not be around outside the Top 20. Word is a number of teams in the teens to 20s have Anderson high on their draft board and assuming he can back that up in workouts and interviews the 10-20 range seems likely.

The common thought on Anderson from NBA scouts and talent evaluators is that there has not been a prospect in some time that has Anderson’s mix of passing, shooting and rebounding and his athleticism looks to translate nicely at the next level.

Anderson looks like he’ll have a full dance card for interviews and workouts.

Adreian Payne – Michigan State – PF – 6’9″

Payne may not climb into the lottery, but he does look like a strong candidate to get drafted in the 20’s. His age is something of a limiting factor as teams tend to steer clear of older players, opting for young talent. However with Payne, a team gets a ready-to-play big man. Given how strong his season was, he has some admirers.

Payne’s name comes up a lot when you talk to teams in the playoff hunt that hold first round draft picks, the question is does someone a little higher up with multiple picks like a Chicago, opt for a guy that can play today over a guy that may need development time.

Rodney Hood – Duke – SF – 6’8″

Hood’s season at Duke was marred with up and down performances, however his trainers at IMG Academy say he’s one of the best pure shooters they have had on campus and that says a lot when you think about the likes of Kevin Martin, Jimmy Butler and Chauncey Billups having trained there.

As the workout process gets started, there is no doubt that a strong showing shooting the ball could boost Hood’s draft stock, simply because of the premium outside shooting demands in the draft process. Hood’s draft range could be anywhere from 12 to 25, meaning he’ll likely be in to see a number of teams in this process.

Cleanthony Early – Wichita State – SF – 6’8″

Every year there is a player that shows up big in the NCAA Tournament that gets a lot of love. Early is one of those guys this year. Most teams did not scout him as thoroughly as some of the other named guys in the draft process, so Early will have a chance to showcase a little in this process.

Several NBA teams have him on their draft board, so it will be up to him to show up big in this process. If he can live up to his hype, he could go a bit higher than expected.

Looking for more on the 2014 NBA Draft? Check out the In-Depth video breakdowns from our friends at Draft Express and the most recent Top 100 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings.

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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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