NBA RUMOR MILL – Was It Really Riley?
THE END OF VAN GUNDY
Most of the basketball world was stunned yesterday when news broke yesterday of a morning press conference in Miami, where head coach Stan Van Gundy was rumored to be announcing his re-signing – afterall the HEAT had just gotten Shaquille O’Neal back from injury, they played a gutsy game into overtime and won. Not exactly the kind of environment that prompts a coach to be fired, or more importantly quit – but that’s exactly what Stan Van Gundy did… the real question becomes why? Sure Van Gundy made an emotional plea to protect his long time friend Pat Riley, saying it was his decision alone, and that Riley tried to persuade him to stay, all of which is believable, here is some back story that surfaced yesterday as HEAT insiders felt it was now acceptable to tell, which paints four very motivating factors why Big Stan made the decision to step down… ¿0a
THE SHADOW OF RILEY No matter how good Stan was, no matter how much accomplished, he was always in the shadow of Pat Riley, for Stan this was not an issue, after all he’d spent 14 years being Riley’s right hand man. It was when the comparison came into the locker room that Stan struggled; when the media refused to let Stan be Stan – each loss brought questions about his ability to lead, and each outburst with a star player, lead to back room discussions about Stan’s future. This summer’s pronouncement that Pat Riley may want to coach only made it worse, and with each passing day of the season the weight of Pat Riley became a distraction both inside the team and outside the team – for Stan, he had an amazing run with the HEAT, and if a team with a young core is looking to get better fast – Stan becomes the best candidate on the market, and will finally have a chance to get out from under Riley’s shadow.¿0a
THE EXPECATIONS Despite one of biggest roster shake ups in the league, the Heat had the highest expectations of any team in the league – the pressure of living up to those expectations had its own identity – it was an animal the HEAT faced all year, every game – Can you get to the Finals? That pressure alone would have made lesser coaches crumble, add that to the Ghost of Pat Riley walking the halls – and most coaches would have quit too.¿0a
THE POOL For Stan, I’m sure the rumors of a “Pool” among the players on how many games he’d last didn’t help the days pass… there had been rumor and speculation that Stan was on the Hot Seat, and as soon as players view a coach as a Lame Duck, they tend to do their own thing, and I’m sure Stan saw that from his guys, especially his veteran guys who wanted a change – if they won’t go to war, why fight the fight?¿0a
THE DIESEL And lastly Shaquille – for months I was told, Shaq was in Stan’s corner – Shaq was the reason Stan was still the coach and Riley on the sidelines, that was the story being force fed to everyone with a pen… The reality is Shaq may have been the driving force for the change – a well placed HEAT source says Shaq was the one that pushed for a coaching change this summer, hence the rumors of Stan coming out and Riley coming back – it was suggested that Shaq may have made it a requirement for re-signing (although that’s highly unlikely) – that’s backed up by stories of Shaq cursing at Stan in practice, openly questioning Stan’s methods in the locker room in front of the team, often comparing him to Phil Jackson to his face. Its incredibly plausible that Stan had enough of Shaq – he wouldn’t be the first coach to say that, despite what Shaquille brings to the floor as a player.¿0a
Did Pat Riley force Stan Van Gundy out? No, I genuinely believe that… but it was all of the other things that made Stan think about spending time with his family… there are some fights worth fighting, and when you stack up all the obstacles, Stan was never going to get a chance to be Stan, so it was better to hand the team off to Riley and worry about this summer… a summer where the Kings, Hawks and Raptors will all jockey for Stan’s affections, and will shower tons of cash on him, far more than he’s have ever gotten from the HEAT, and he’ll get a chance to build his own legacy, much as his brother Jeff has done getting out of New York – because after all, your first job is very rarely your best job.
THE CHRONICLES OF RON
So the Pacers got together and agreed… enough is enough, they will explore trades for Ron Artest… No surprise, after everything the Pacers have endured because of Ron, massive fines, a lost season, a tarnished image – they have every right to send Ron Artest to basketball Siberia, and according to sources that might be exactly where he ends up. The Pacers have opened the phone lines on Ron Artest and word is the asking price is two young players and a draft pick – The Pacers want some youth and flexibility, and the team offer the best combo of young guys can get Ron tomorrow. The Pacers notified Ron he did not need to come to practice any longer, that they did not want the distraction, they will keep him active, and play him as the coaching staff see fit. Donnie Walsh, the CEO of The Pacers said he’s spoken with Ron and understand were Ron would like to be traded, but made it clear they would not look at options based on Ron’s desires, rather what’s best for the Pacers. It expected the Pacers will reach a deal in the coming days, and its been said they would not look to take on a large contract unless it meant they could offload a contract in the transaction. The Knicks are a suitor, and its been said the Pacers would be agreeable to a deal involving one of the Knick rookies – Channing Frye is the 1st choice, but a birdie in New York said Quentin Richardson, David Lee and a future number 1, could be had from the Knicks for Artest, although Isiah Thomas has not spoken to the Pacers as of yesterday. The Kings have long been rumored to be interested in a Ron Artest deal, and they are sitting on a promising gunner in Kevin Martin, and rookie Francisco Garcia – but the Kings profess a desire to keep them, but adding Artest to the roster they have now, could get them into the playoffs this year, but leave them without young guys going forward. Two teams who have denied interest privately are the Raptors and the Hawks, although both have the players and the future space to take a gamble on Artest. One thing is for sure – with Ron Artest you get a hell of a basketball player, but you also get a head full of rocks – but that’s been the Chronicles Of Ron since he came into the league, and that’s why some many teams passed on him in the draft, and likely why so many teams will pass on him now.¿0a