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NBA PM: Davis, Lillard Were Nearly Teammates
Posted By Alex Kennedy On January 3, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In All,NBA | Comments Disabled
Thirty games into the 2012-13 NBA season, two rookies have separated themselves from the pack and emerged as the stars of this year’s draft class. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers have been difference makers for their respective teams and by far the most productive rookies to take the court this season.
Lillard has been the best first-year guard, leading all rookies in scoring, assists and steals. Meanwhile, Davis has been the most dominant big man in the class, leading his peers in rebounds, blocks and double-doubles. While Davis and Lillard will challenge one another for this season’s Rookie of the Year award, they were nearly teammates rather than competitors.
During the pre-draft process, the New Orleans Hornets had zeroed in on Davis and Lillard, hoping to draft both and make them the cornerstones of the franchise. This was a realistic scenario and likely would’ve happened if Lillard’s stock hadn’t significantly increased in the weeks leading up to the draft.
The Hornets won the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery and landed the tenth overall pick as well. Selecting Davis first overall was a foregone conclusion, but nobody was sure what they would do with the second lottery pick. Would they draft a guard, select another big man or trade the pick?
New Orleans’ top option was to draft Lillard. They believed he had star potential and loved the idea of building around Davis and Lillard going forward. At the time, Lillard was being projected as a late-lottery pick since he came from a small school in Weber State where he was primarily a scorer. There were some in NBA circles who wondered if he could be a facilitator and play point guard in the NBA. Keep in mind, Lillard entered his final collegiate season projected as a second-round pick, but then had an outstanding year which lead to his meteoric rise. The idea of the Hornets drafting him tenth wasn’t as absurd as it seems now. In fact, many early mock drafts had Davis and Lillard going to the Hornets.
The Hornets’ front office worked out many players, but it was clear that Davis and Lillard were their two primary targets. New Orleans hoped that Lillard wouldn’t climb into the top ten because they loved the idea of having their point guard and big man of the future. They thought that Davis and Lillard complemented one another nicely. Davis was arguably the class’ best defensive player and he could use a great floor general to set him up on offense. Lillard was arguably the class’ best offensive player and he had thrived in the pick-and-roll in college. The only problem was that the Hornets weren’t the only team that had fallen in love with Lillard during the pre-draft process.
Lillard was one of the most impressive players during individual workouts and his decision to participate in the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Chicago further elevated his stock. As the draft got closer, the Hornets realized there was no way Lillard would be available when they were on the clock for the second time.
That’s when they started to look at their other options. Big men such as Meyers Leonard and Tyler Zeller were considered because some within the organization liked the idea of pairing Davis with another young big man to form a Twin Towers.
However, Austin Rivers had also left a lasting impression on many members of the front office. Rivers, like Davis, was still a teenager and had enormous potential. He exuded confidence and the Hornets brass was impressed with his game, particularly Hornets assistant general manager Tim Connelly. Hornets head coach Monty Williams’ relationship with the Rivers family also factored into the decision. Williams played with Doc Rivers in New York and San Antonio and was coached by him in Orlando. The two remained friends over the years, and Williams first met Austin when he was wearing diapers. He was also familiar with Austin’s game, having watched him at every step of his development.
After Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick in the draft, the Hornets picked Rivers at ten. Even though the Hornets’ dream scenario didn’t pan out, they still landed a talented young guard who they can pair with Davis for many years to come. While a one-two punch of Davis and Lillard would’ve been a lot of fun to watch and very scary for the rest of the league, fans will have to settle for watching these two possibly team up during the Rising Stars Challenge or in future All-Star Games.
Nets Waiting Until Offseason to Hire Coach?
The Brooklyn Nets may have to wait until the offseason to land a big-name head coach.
While the organization continues to show interest in Phil Jackson and would love to bring him in midseason, several of the candidates appear hesitant to accept the job this far along into the season and while P.J. Carlesimo is in place as the interim head coach, according to sources close to the situation.
It’s not easy to assemble a coaching staff in the middle of the season, when most coaches are already employed. An incoming coach would also have little to no control over to the team’s personnel, since Brooklyn has little flexibility. Whoever takes over the Nets won’t be able to bring in new players to fit their system, but rather will have to adjust to make things work with the personnel in place.
Jeff Van Gundy, one of the Nets’ top candidates, has already made it clear that he has no interest in the Brooklyn job as long as an interim coach is in place.
“I would never comment on a job that was filled,” Van Gundy told Yahoo! Sports. “I was an interim coach. I hope P.J. has great success there. He’s someone I respect greatly.”
Van Gundy isn’t the only coach who feels this way. Coaches are very close and nobody wants to be on the fraternity’s bad side. When Mike D’Antoni took over for interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff in Los Angeles, the situation was a little bit different since Bickerstaff had no desire to finish the season as head coach. Carlesimo, on the other hand, would like the job and doesn’t see himself as a placeholder. He made this clear during a recent lunch with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
“I told Mikhail in no uncertain terms I don’t want him talking to anybody,” Carlesimo told HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Raskin.
While the Los Angeles Lakers’ situation was different, they have served as an excellent example of how difficult it is to make a coaching change in the middle of the season. The Lakers are still trying to get acclimated to their new coach and new system and that’s with D’Antoni taking over in November. Imagine how difficult it would be for a new coach to take over the Nets two months later?
Ideally, the offseason is the best time to bring in a new coach so that he has the entire summer to prepare and shape the roster, a full training camp and preseason to implement his system, and plenty of time to work out the kinks. The Nets want to hire a head coach now, but they may be forced to wait. And in the long run, that may be what’s best for the organization.
A Look at the 2013 Free Agent Class
With 2013 here, it’s the perfect time to look ahead and preview this summer’s free agent class.
This position-by-position list includes potential unrestricted free agents as well as restricted free agents (with the assumption that their respective team will extend a qualifying offer). The list also includes players who can choose to opt out and test free agency this summer as well as non-guaranteed players.
POINT GUARDS: Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Lowry, Tyreke Evans, Jeff Teague, Darren Collison, Jose Calderon, Rodney Stuckey, Mo Williams, Aaron Brooks, Mario Chalmers, Jarrett Jack, Devin Harris, Greivis Vasquez, D.J. Augustin, Isaiah Thomas, C.J. Watson, Eric Maynor, Nate Robinson, Jerryd Bayless, Daniel Gibson, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jamaal Tinsley, Sebastian Telfair, Royal Ivey, Donald Sloan, Darius Morris, Charles Jenkins, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis
SHOOTING GUARDS: Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Martin, Ray Allen, J.J. Redick, J.R. Smith, Tony Allen, Ben Gordon, Nick Young, Richard Hamilton, Randy Foye, Ronnie Brewer, Brandon Rush, Anthony Morrow, Gerald Henderson, Leandro Barbosa, Marco Belinelli, DeShawn Stevenson, Willie Green, Dominique Jones, Reggie Williams, Gary Neal, Martell Webster, Wes Johnson, Marquis Daniels, Shannon Brown, Carlos Delfino, Mike Dunleavy, Raja Bell, Michael Redd, Maurice Evans
SMALL FORWARDS: Andre Iguodala, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, Shawn Marion, Stephen Jackson, Trevor Ariza, Metta World Peace, Hedo Turkoglu, Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson, Al Harrington, Dorell Wright, Chandler Parsons, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Corey Maggette, C.J. Miles, Matt Barnes, Dominic McGuire, James Jones, Devin Ebanks, Omri Casspi, Linas Kleiza, Josh Childress, DeMarre Carroll, Sam Young, Alan Anderson, Luke Babbitt, Quentin Richardson
POWER FORWARDS: Josh Smith, David West, Paul Millsap, Carl Landry, J.J. Hickson, Elton Brand, Andray Blatche, Boris Diaw, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Tyler Hansbrough, Byron Mullens, Brandan Wright, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Josh McRoberts, Rashard Lewis, Lou Amundson, Chris Wilcox, Austin Daye, Jon Leuer, Ivan Johnson, Jason Maxiell, Earl Clark, Kenyon Martin
CENTERS: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, Samuel Dalembert, Timofey Mozgov, Tiago Splitter, Robin Lopez, Nazr Mohammed, Zaza Pachulia, Aaron Gray, Samardo Samuels, Joel Przybilla, Jermaine O’Neal, Darko Milicic, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Cole Aldrich, Earl Barron, Greg Oden
For the full list of free agents and further details, click here.
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