NBA PM: Gregg Popovich is Coach of the Year
Popovich takes home second Red Auerbach Award
For the second time in his career, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been selected as the NBA’s Coach of the Year.
Popovich received a total of 77 first-place votes from the 119 sportswriters and broadcasters that ultimately decide the winner.
The 16-year NBA coaching veteran led the Spurs to a .758 winning percentage (50-16) this season thanks to a league-best 108.5 offensive efficiency rating. San Antonio also ranked sixth in rebounding rate, third in turnover rate and first and second in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage respectively.
What’s most impressive about Popovich’s performance in 2011-2012 is the way he subsidized the production of his aging stars with younger, less-heralded players.
Tony Parker led the Spurs in scoring this season at just 18.3 points per game, but since guys like Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Richard Jefferson, Daniel Green and Kawhi Leonard all average eight points or more, the team never suffered for scoring.
In fact, the Spurs got scoring from nearly everyone this season. The bench was the top-scoring second unit in the NBA (41.9 points per game), and Popovich’s bench only got deeper with the late-season additions of Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw.
Popovich also found ways to rest his veterans throughout the season. Veteran Tim Duncan missed one game per month through March and then sat five times in April, which could explain why his scoring jumped from 13.4 ppg last season to 15.4 ppg this year. Duncan’s Player Efficiency Rating actually went up from 21.94 to 22.60 this season, which is very rare for a 36-year-old.
Popovich actually won “Coach of the Month” three times this season as his team won 38 of its last 45 games.
The last time Popovich won the award, 2002-2003, the Spurs went on to beat the New Jersey Nets, 4-2, in the NBA Finals. This season the top-seeded Spurs have 9/2 odds of winning the NBA Title for the fifth time, according to Bovada. All of the franchise’s four titles have come with Popovich as coach and Duncan on the roster.
Popovich joins Hubie Brown, Bill Fitch, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Gene Shue as the only coaches to have won the award twice. Pat Riley and Don Nelson have three Red Auerbach trophies apiece.
Last year’s winner, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau was second in the voting with 27 first-place votes, followed by Indiana’s Frank Vogel, Memphis Lionel Hollins, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks.
Where do the Knicks go from here?
As mentioned in the NBA AM, Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire punctuated Monday’s 10-point loss to the Miami Heat by punching the glass enclosure of a fire extinguisher in the visiting locker room, lacerating his left hand and providing back-page fodder for all of the New York tabloids.
But before the New York Daily News and New York Post can name Stoudemire their “Man of the Year,” the basketball world needs to find out what the extent of the damage is.
Now that information seems to be trickling in.
Several outlets had already suggested as much, but now HOOPSWORLD NBA writer Alex Kennedy’s sources believe that “Stoudemire’s injured hand will sideline him for the rest of the series.”
So, for everyone’s benefit, let’s go over all the obstacles facing the Knicks:
- Stoudemire is likely done for the season.
- The team currently trails the Miami HEAT, 2-0, in the best-of-seven playoff series.
- Tyson Chandler is still dealing with a flu that limited him to zero points and three rebounds in Game 1 (a contest in which he turned the ball over seven times and committed four fouls in 21 minutes), and 13 points and seven rebounds in Game 2.
- Iman Shumpert’s rookie season has already come to an end after he tore the ACL in his left knee in Game 1. And without Shumpert in the lineup in Game 2, Dwyane Wade easily scored 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting for the Heat.
- Jeremy Lin is still out following his April 2nd knee surgery. The Knicks’ breakout star hopes to be ready for Game 4, but that still seems like a big risk, considering he tore a meniscus in his left knee at the end of March.
- Lin’s replacement, Baron Davis, is being betrayed by his entire body. The veteran’s back limited him to just 17 minutes in Game 1, and he’s also dealing with hamstring and knee problems.
- Davis’s backup, Mike Bibby, is healthy, but at 33 has been reduce to a shell of his former self. He has three points in 42 minutes so far this series, but has seven rebounds, which is a surprise for a player that is generously listed as being 6-2 (I’m 6-1 and he has to look up at me).
- Steve Novak has made just three field goals over the first two games. Considering the Heat defend the 3-pointer poorly (only the Denver Nuggets allowed more 3-pointers during the regular season).
- Jared Jeffries, Chandler’s top replacement and one of the team’s top three defenders, has a sore knee that limited him to four minutes in Game 2.
- The Heat bench, which isn’t exactly the top second unit in the league, outscored the Knick bench 24-19 in Game 2. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but interim coach Mike Woodson has stressed the importance of bench scoring and he isn’t seeing the desired results.
So what can the Knicks do to cut the Heat’s lead in half in Game 3? The good news is, Carmelo Anthony won April’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month award without the benefit of playing next to Stoudemire.
Without STAT clogging the lane, Anthony was able to switch to power forward, where his speed simply overmatched opponents. The results were a surprising to say the least. Melo averaged 29.8 PPG in April on a 49.5% mark from the field and a 46% mark from 3-point range, not to mention a respectable average of 7.3 rebounds per game. New York went 9-4 over the last month, including wins over the Magic, Bulls, Bucks, Celtics, Hawks and Clippers.
If the Knicks are going to have any success in this series, they have to return to their early April form. Spread out around Anthony and let your best scorer go to work.
Will Gerald Wallace stay with the Nets?
Everyone is wondering if the Nets will be able to keep Deron Williams, but recently acquired Gerald Wallace could potentially opt out of his deal as well—something GM Billy King expects—and from there he could re-sign with Brooklyn or seek employment elsewhere.
“Obviously he’s a big part of it and his reality being 30 years old, this is probably going to be one his last chances to get a big contract before he gets beyond that,” King said, as quoted by the Daily News’ Stefan Bondy. “So our goal is try to get him where he’s comfortable with the numbers, we’re comfortable with the numbers, and we keep him in the fold.”
Wallace has a one-year option worth $9.5 million that needs to be settled by June 15th.
And, as Bondy pointed out, if he does leave the Nets, the team would have surrendered a lottery pick (top three-protected) for 16 games of Wallace.
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