NBA At 2: The Lakers’ Next Coach?
Up until now, the word out of Los Angeles has been that Brian Shaw would most likely succeed Phil Jackson as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaw has the experience, having been a part of three Lakers championship teams as a player earlier in the decade and then two more as an assistant coach under Jackson. He also has the public endorsement of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, which is no small thing. In most cases, Shaw would be the obvious choice to succeed Jackson as head coach . . .but then, this is not most cases.
The Lakers aren’t just another NBA team; they’re one of the true gold standards of professional sports. They play in one of the largest sports markets in the world and have the payroll to match, and the expectation is that the Lakers will be contenders every year. No, not in the way that every team says their goal is to win a championship every year. The Lakers are really expected to win it all every single year. Their owner spends the money to make that happen, and they’ve been contenders so often that their fan base just doesn’t know what to do with itself when the Finals happen without the Lakers taking part.
As we saw last week, sometimes their players don’t know what to make of it, either.
The Lakers are no ordinary NBA team, where an assistant coach can simply ascend the throne. We’re talking about the most visible head coaching job in the NBA, and it’s not for the weak of heart or the untested.
A couple of names like the one the Lakers need have been floating around in recent months. Former Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown certainly has the experience, and no one has the respect and admiration of the coaching ranks like former Utah Jazz head man Jerry Sloan. Then there’s Jeff Van Gundy, who not only has Finals experience, but isn’t afraid to go to any length to keep his players’ head in the game . . .even if it means hitching a ride on the leg of Alonzo Mourning to prevent a fight. Any of these choices would make perfect sense for the Lakers, and easily win the approval of their ever-so-demanding fan base. This week, however, one name has emerged that rises above all others . . .that of former Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets head coach Rick Adelman.
Why does Adelman merit stronger consideration than the other strong candidates? Simply put, the Lakers need everything that Adelman brings to the table.
First and foremost, Adelman has an established reputation for getting the most out of his players. He kept a Rockets team with no superstars above .500 and in the playoff chase for the last two seasons, so imagine what he could do with a team of legit stars like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Adelman also has a long-standing relationship with Ron Artest, who has given Adelman his all in both Sacramento and Houston. Rick knows how to keep Artest’s attention and focus his energy, and those are absolutely musts for LA’s next head coach. Finally, Adelman has a way of turned role players into stars, and considering the Lakers’ lack of cap flexibility they’re going to need somewhat of a magician to make something out of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Luke Walton. That’s right up Adelman’s alley. After all, we’re talking about the coach who helped players like Kyle Lowry, Chuck Hayes and Chase Budinger into starters, something few believed they could be.
On the flip side, the appeal for Adelman is obvious. His Princeton offense is not unlike the triangle, so there would be a fairly smooth transition for both his coaching staff and the Lakers players. The Lakers are a team that’s still very much built to compete for a championship, which is something Adelman covets. He made it to the Finals twice with the Blazers and is itching for one more crack at the title before he hangs up his clipboard for good. Adelman is also looking for one more run, not a series of runs with different teams. He likes to settle in and get comfortable, and that Lakers are looking for a long-term leader.
There are certainly a lot of attractive coaching candidates on the market this summer, not the least of which is Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw. Mike Brown might look to get back into the game, Sloan hasn’t ruled out a return, Brown is actively seeking a position, and the list goes on. For the Lakers, though, one name stands above them all. One coach has the ability to win the immediate respect of veterans like Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest while also having the vision and the belief required to make the most of marginal role players. That coach is Rick Adelman . . .the best choice to lead the Lakers on one more stretch of championship runs before the Kobe Bryant era comes to an end.
Up Close: Alec Burks
This week HOOPSWORLD is kicking NBA Draft coverage into high gear, and in this segment you’ll meet Colorado Buffaloes guard Alec Burks. Burks is projected to be a lottery pick and could be top ten, according to today’s HOOPSWORLD Mock Draft 2.0. He talks with HOOPSWORLD about hard it was to leave school, what went into the decision, ignoring the hype, what he needs to show scouts in the draft process, working with Chauncey Billups and more:
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Atlanta’s Point Guard Future
According to Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew, his plan all along was to play reserve point guard Jeff Teague more minutes against Derrick Rose to see if he could match speed for speed. That was before veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich was lost for the series due to a groin injury suffered in the final game of the Hawks’ series against Orlando. Playing Teague more sounded good in theory, but didn’t seem like a winning strategy for Atlanta, given Teague’s lack of involvement in the regular season and the first round.
We’re talking about a player who, even with Mike Bibby struggling, wound up playing only 13.8 minutes per game in the 70 appearances he managed during the regular season. In the first round of the playoffs he was relegated to garbage minutes in just two games, with Jamal Crawford getting the lion’s share of the back-up point guard minutes, and especially in crunch time. When Hinrich crumpled to the floor it seemed he took any chance the Hawks had in the second round with him to the locker room.
Funny thing about sports, though. . .they seem to bring out the best of people at the most unlikely times.
That was certainly the case with Teague, who stepped out of the shadows and into the starting lineup and responded in a big way. Prior to injuring his ankle in Game 6, Teague was averaging 41.2 minutes per contest and giving the Hawks an impressive 17.0 points, 4.4 assists, and even 3.0 rebounds per game while committing just 1.0 turnovers and shooting 56% from the field, all while going head-to-head with the MVP of the league.
For the record, Teague’s second round numbers eclipse those of Bibby before the trade (9.4 points, 3.6 assists) and Hinrich after (10.2 points, 2.7 assists). The Hawks may be out of the playoffs, but on the bright side they may have found their point guard of the future. Considering they are likely to lose Jamal Crawford to free agency and have just one more year with Hinrich under contract, it seems Teague is coming on strong just in the nick of time.
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NBA Chats: There are two chats on our Friday schedule. First up is Yannis Koutroupis, taking your questions on the NCAA, NBA Playoffs and NBA Draft at 10:30 am EST. You can catch that chat here. Next up will be Steve Kyler at 1:30 pm EST. Steve has spent this weekend in Los Angeles and Las Vegas checking out draft prospects and will be open to your questions on them and the NBA at large. Drop him a question here! Oklahoma City Thunder expert Susan Bible holds her weekly chat on Saturday, and you can get a jump start on her chat by submitting your questions here!