NBA @ 2: Wizards “Flip” Saunders, Coach Out
The Washington Wizards have fired head coach Flip Saunders, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Assistant coach Randy Wittman is expected to take over on an interim basis.
The Wizards have been undeniably awful this season. After finally getting their second win, Washington had lost their next three games and are in last place with a 2-15 record on the season.
So far, Washington is winless in seven attempts on the road. Through 17 games, they’ve been outscored by 10.6 points while averaging just 88.6 points a game.
To be fair, it’s not like Saunders was necessarily given a lot to work with on the floor, but he was never really able to get the most out of players like John Wall, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, at least not as a group.
Wittman does have two coaching stints under his belt, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1999 to 2001 and the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2007 to 2009.
As far as a winning pedigree, Randy had a 38-105 record in Minnesota and went 62-102 in Cleveland. Sadly, his 32.6 percent career percentage would be an improvement for the Wizards who are currently at 11.8 percent.
Saunders previously coached the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves. While he has multiple Conference Finals appearances as a coach, it was clear from the start of the season that the Wizards were simply tuning him out as a coach.
Flip wasn’t the lone problem in Washington and Whitman will have a difficult challenge ahead of him, but it was clearly time for a change.
The only clear positive for the Wizards is that the 2012 NBA Draft will be loaded with talent.
Washington, with Wittman in place, will host the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Reggie Evans a Fan-Favorite in Los Angeles
Fourteen games in and the Los Angeles Clippers have a strong 9-5 record despite playing stretches without Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Caron Butler and Brian Cook.
Los Angeles has won eight of 10 at home, with their most recent loss coming in spectacular fashion on a Kevin Love buzzer-beating three.
Where the team has yet to prove its worth is on the road where the Clippers have played only four games, the fewest in the NBA.
In Los Angeles, one player has quickly emerged as the fan favorite. Naturally the home crowd adores the stars like Blake Griffin, Paul and the like but newcomer Reggie Evans has made a very quick impression.
For a team initially desperate for rebounding (still 27th in the league), the Clippers added arguably the best per minute board-man in Evans. Reggie, despite a solid year in Toronto, signed with the Clippers for the league minimum.
Joining the team a bit late after battling an ankle issue, Evans has averaged 2.6 offensive boards a game and 5.8 overall in just 17.6 minutes.
The way he fights to provide extra possessions for the Clippers has inspired the STAPLES Center crowd to regularly chant “Reg-gie, Reg-gie,” throughout games.
“I guess they just like hard work, really,” said Evans recently. “That’s what it’s telling me. We’re just having fun.”
Teammate Paul recognizes just what the 6’8″ power forward brings to the Clippers.
“When Reggie comes in the game and guys see how hard he is playing, it becomes contagious,” said Paul. “You have no choice but to play hard when you see Reggie diving all over the court.”
Evans is now in the tenth year of his career, which is remarkable for an undrafted player with limited offensive ability. While he’s shooting a strong 55.6 percent from the field, Reggie has taken just nine shot attempts through nine games. At the free throw line, he’s shooting just 35.0 percent.
The Clippers didn’t get Evans for his offense and while they’d like to see the free throw percentage climb, he’s a valuable role player on a team loaded with scorers.
Reggie’s gift is securing additional possessions for the Clippers. His presence has rubbed off on young starter DeAndre Jordan, who has been more of a shot-blocker than rebounder through his career.
“[I'm] just trying to set an example, going out there and trying to do what it means is the best of it, kind of be contagious,” said Evans. “It’s really starting to be contagious and DJ is starting to go off the glass and stuff like that. We’re able to stay home too with our big men, we don’t have to do a lot of helping and so we get to stay home and get rebounds and go with it.”
Los Angeles has five double-figure scorers, which leaves plenty of room on the floor for Evans to operate.
“What I bring to the table, it’s easy to make everything kind of adapt,” said Reggie. “It ain’t like they got to find ways to get open or find shots for me. I’ve got my own lane, so I stay in my lane. It’s real simple getting into the flow of it.”
The Clippers make up for their home-heavy schedule with a difficult February that features nine of 14 games on the road. Evans is looking forward to the challenge.
“It is what it is, sometimes it’s how the dice roll, so you just got to be ready,” said Reggie. “It’s cool.”
The Clippers will visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
Shannon Brown Finding Role in Phoenix
Shooting guard Shannon Brown joined the Phoenix Suns as a free agent this summer, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers after playing an important part of their back-to-back championships.
The Suns started the season slowly but are improving as they search for their place in the Western Conference standings. At 6-10, Phoenix will host three of their next four at home before a brutal, road-heavy schedule.
“[We're] trying to build the camaraderie that we really couldn’t get with the shortened season,” said Brown. “For the most part, I feel good about what’s going on.”
After years playing with Kobe Bryant, and before that LeBron James in Cleveland, this is Brown’s first opportunity to see regular minutes with a point guard like Steve Nash.
“He’s amazing to watch him out there pass that ball,” said Brown. “I guess you could call him a true point guard, a point guard that sets people up and looks for the pass first. He could be at the basket with a wide open layup and see somebody open and pass it to him. That’s how unselfish he is and so this is definitely the first time that I’ve played with a real, true point guard.”
Brown is averaging 9.7 points per game for the Suns for the season, and 11.7 over the last 10 games.
After almost three seasons with the Lakers, it was time for Shannon to look for opportunities elsewhere. The Suns just felt like the right fit.
“No disrespect to no other team or whatever the case is, but it was just the best situation for me, my family and my basketball career at the time,” said Brown. “At the end of the day, Phoenix was the team that had the most attractive offer.”
Shannon signed a $3.5 million deal with the Suns, but will be a free agent once again this summer.
Brown is still close with his former Laker teammates.
“I talk to Kobe [Bryant] a little bit. I talk to Matt [Barnes] a little bit. I talk to them,” said Shannon. “I follow them. I still watch to keep up with what’s going on.”
Brown will always be fond of the Lakers, who gave him his first regular minutes in the league.
“I’m very appreciative,” said Shannon. “When I came here, I immediately was able to come in and try to make an impact on what was going on, everybody welcomed me with open arms … two championships later, I’m just grateful and thankful.”
As far as Phoenix, Brown said he’s curious about the hot summers although he won’t be spending his offseason in Arizona.
“I’m based in Atlanta right now. Wife out there,” said Brown of recording artist spouse Monica. “So, that’s where I’m at, that’s where I spend most of my summer.”
The Suns host the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
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