NBA @ 2: First NBA Head Coach Fired?
With the start of a new NBA season comes a great deal of anticipation, including which head coach will be the first casualty of the expectations that a new season can bring. A number of outlets are calculating the odds for which coach gets fired first, so let’s take a look at the most likely candidates cited in the poll. Normally we would be talking about whichever coach was in charge of the Chicago Bulls at this time of year, but with the right man finally at the helm the Bulls look to be under the guidance of Tom Thibodeau for the foreseeable future.
The first name on the list is, naturally, New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. New York has more media than they know what to do with, and every time the Knicks lose a game one of those outlets is bound to call for D’Antoni’s head. Frankly, the expectations for the Knicks are so high this season that it’s easy to see D’Antoni becoming the scapegoat if and when the team fails to live up to those expectations. Keep in mind we’re talking about a team that hired a head coach who has never spent much time on defense, and then handed him two star players who have never had much interest in the concept, either. With Tyson Chandler in the paint and defensive specialist Mike Woodson on the coaching staff the Knicks have fewer excuses, and if they stumble out of the gate it could spell the end for D’Antoni.
The Sacramento Kings took the lowest bidder in their most recent coaching search, and as a result they are getting lowest bidder results. Not that Paul Westphal isn’t a capable coach, but when you have a team full of young players badly in need of discipline and guidance, it would have been wise to spend a little money to accelerate the process. The Kings have all the talent in the world, but if they are going to inspire ticket sales and keep fan interest high, they have to start putting wins on the board. That might not happen under Westphal.
Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy’s name is on this list, though the blame for the Magic’s demise really rests on the shoulders of team GM Otis Smith. We all know how this goes, though. The head coach takes the brunt of the blame for mounting losses, and Van Gundy is almost certain to be a casualty in the fallout of Dwight Howard’s inevitable departure. Frankly, many were surprised when he wasn’t fired at the end of last season, when the Magic lost in the first round of the playoffs.
It may not be fair to put Flip Saunders’ name on this list just yet, but some are already calling for his firing in Washington. Granted, the Wizards are in the middle of a massive rebuild, but the team actually won fewer games in Saunders’ second season (23) than they did in his first (26). It makes sense to give Saunders sufficient time to establish his culture with the young Wizards, but he needs to start putting some games in the win column sooner rather than later.
The final name on our list is another head coach who is very much at the mercy of management. If Paul Silas is fired it will have little to do with the failure of the Charlotte Bobcats as a team on the basketball court and more to do with the way owner Michael Jordan has gutted a playoff team in favor of a complete overhaul. Still, whatever the reason, the Bobcats look poised to lose a lot of games in 2011-12, particularly because they are an extremely young team with very little time to prepare or practice due to the lockout and a compressed schedule. Harrison Barnes would look very good in a Charlotte jersey, and it’s only fair to let Silas be there to see it happen . . .he is certainly taking one for the team by coaching the Bobcats this season.
Happy Ending For Chuck Hayes
One of the most disturbing NBA news stories from last week was that former Houston Rockets big man Chuck Hayes had his contract with the Sacramento Kings voided because he had a heart abnormality that might interfere with his ability to play professional basketball. It was a disturbingly ironic diagnosis, as Hayes’ heart has been the driving force behind his unlikely success in the NBA. Despite being just 6’5″, Hayes repeatedly beat out more traditional centers to start in the middle for the Houston Rockets during the injury-plagued Yao Ming era.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
Hayes sought a second opinion on the initial diagnosis and was cleared to play basketball.
“He’s scheduled to come back to Sacramento tomorrow,” Kings head coach Paul Westphal told reporters on Thursday. “We’re just so overwhelmingly happy that the second opinions are so positive. Primarily we’re happy for Chuck, but we’re also happy for his family and ourselves.”
“I’m just very thankful and blessed with the team of doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and the power of prayer,” Hayes said in a statement released by BDA Sports. “I am happy to say I have a healthy heart and have been cleared to play immediately. I look forward to getting back on the court as soon as possible.”
The addition of Hayes promises to be a multifaceted benefit to the Kings, who get the benefit of his hard-nosed defensive play as well as the veteran leadership he can provide to an otherwise very young team. DeMarcus Cousins, in particular, could benefit from spending a great deal of time with Hayes.
Rough Night for the Young Bobcats
For a rookie in the NBA it’s not your first game that matters, but rather your second that tells you where you stand. Before your first game teams don’t have any NBA video to watch as they prepare to defend against you, but the more you play the better prepared the defense will be and the harder you’ll have to work to be effective.
It’s a lesson that Charlotte Bobcats rookie point guard Kemba Walker learned the hard way on Thursday night, when he looked to follow up his 18-point debut with an equally inspiring game. Facing an Atlanta Hawks team that was minus both its starter in Kirk Hinrich and his replacement in Jeff Teague (or vice versa), Walker found the going a little rougher the second time around, managing just eight points on 4-for-11 shooting in 19 minutes of action.
Highly-anticipated rookie Bismack Biyombo made his NBA debut on Thursday night, and was also less than impressive. Foreign big men often struggle to adjust to the NBA game initially, and it doesn’t look like Biyombo will be breaking that mold. He racked up four turnovers and three fouls in 16 minutes. He failed to even attempt a shot, but did have a couple of nice blocks. Biyombo, like most of this Charlotte team, is a work in progress.
The only Bobcat who was even remotely impressive in the team’s 75-92 loss to the Hawks was veteran swingman Corey Maggette . . .and that’s not a good sign for Charlotte. If the young players have trouble in preseason they’re really going to struggle once the game start counting next week.
In Related: The Bobcats opted not to match the Memphis Grizzlies’ offer sheet to forward Dante Cunningham, who is expected to help the Grizzlies fill the void left by the injury to Darrell Arthur.
Also Related: The Grizzlies have also withdrawn their qualifying offer to Hamed Haddadi, who has been unable to secure a visa to return to the US from his native Iran.
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