NBA Sunday: Calipari Back to NBA?
Calipari Wants to Coach NBA Again
Hours after Kentucky’s loss the UConn in the NCAA semifinals, the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence is reporting that UK head coach John Calipari is interested in returning to an NBA bench sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Lawrence cites a source claiming that Calipari "wants back in," and considering the fact that a strong majority of Coach Cal’s most positive coaching assets are that he continues to bring hoards of NBA talent to college programs. Why coach kids like Derrick Rose, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Brandon Knight for a single year on the college level when he could potentially end up with one of those guys much longer-term in the NBA?
Calipari’s most recent recruiting class includes four of the top 25 prospects in the nation—all of whom were McDonald’s All-Americans this year—and three of those four are rated in the top ten. One particular player—Chicago native Anthony Davis—already is considered a candidate for 2012′s top overall draft pick.
The problem with Calipari’s desire to return to the pros isn’t that he can’t coach NBA talent; it’s that he’s accustomed to coaching NBA talent when it’s still young and responds to his particular abrasive style. Part of the reason he was fired by the New Jersey Nets 20 games into the 1999 season was that players weren’t responding to him anymore.
Before Saturday night’s Bulls game at the United Center, media were asking Derrick Rose questions about whether or not he was rooting for the University of Kentucky and his old coach John Calipari to win against Connecticut, and Rose got to reminiscing about how tough Coach Cal was on his players.
"No joke, he would chase you up the sideline to yell at you," Rose said laughing, which inspired one reporter to relay a story about when Calipari coached the New Jersey Nets. In a game against Michael Jordan’s Bulls, Cal got particular vehement at his players—so much so that at one point Jordan ran by the Nets bench and asked the players, "Why do you take that from him?"
Will today’s everyday NBA player any different from those in 1999? Has Calipari learned enough in twelve years since leaving the League to come back and have a second, more successful go at it?
Considering the shortage of qualified NBA coaches, it’s not unreasonable to think he’d get a shot, maybe even coaching Cousins in Sacramento/Anaheim. The difference this time around is that it would be Cal calling for the NBA, not the other way around, and who knows if any team will find it worth the big money to take so big a risk.
It’s just one of many questions surrounding whether Coach Cal could return to an NBA sideline in the next couple years. In the meantime, he’ll have plenty of talent to play with next college season, and knowing the way he recruits, there will be plenty of talent the year after that, too—if he’s still in Lexington, that is.
Bulls Expecting Playoff Expectations
In his first three years in the league, Derrick Rose has never missed the playoffs, but the difference between those first two postseason experiences, in which the Bulls were never higher than a 7 seed, and this year is that Rose and his team have high expectations. They haven’t had those since Jordan was still in uniform, and Rose has already shown that he understands how much different things will be this time around.
"Our focus will have to be even stronger. We’re really going to have to sacrifice and dedicate ourselves to each series," Rose said. "Guys are going to have to get a lot of rest, and people are going to have to put in a lot of work."
Second-year forward Taj Gibson, who was part of the eight-seeded Bulls team that lost to LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers a year ago, shares Rose’s concern for how other teams view them heading into the 2011 playoffs.
"You’ve got a lot of teams out there gunning for you," Gibson explained. "A lot of teams would feel disrespected knowing that they’ve got to play against us, and you can see that in the last couple losses against the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers. They’re no slouch teams, and it’s kind of scary because you know we’re right around the corner from having every possession count. We can’t have any letdowns, and after being in the playoffs last year I understand that. When you get that book of plays on the other team, you have to know every play, because any small thing could beat you."
That, of course, is what Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau has been preaching all year, and at least from his perspective, that’s not something that will need to change when the postseason beings in a couple weeks.
"I don’t think we have to change at all," Thibodeau said. "When you get to the playoffs you have to concentrate and minimize your errors. We’ve already established our style of play. We’re not going to change when we get to the playoffs."
Luol Deng—the only Bulls player to have participated in each of Chicago’s post-Jordan playoff appearances, essentially agreed with Thibodeau, adding, "Whoever our opponent is in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter whether they’re one or eight. That’s the mindset that we’ve had before, and that’s going to be the mindset again this year. Whoever we end up playing, we want to be at our best."
"As a team, as individuals, we’ve had high expectations all season," Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer added. "Now, as the season comes to an end, we still have a lot of doubters, but we go out there and every time we step on the court we expect to win. We’re going to have a 1, 2, or 3 seed, and people around the country, and even some of the media, are starting to buy into it as well."
While it’s clear from just about every player and coach in the Bulls locker room that they don’t want to change what they’ve been doing all season long just because the stakes will get higher, Deng explained that there is a stronger air of confidence this season, and that could positively affect how well the Bulls end up performing.
"We have a better team, and it showed throughout the season," Deng said. "We have a lot of guys who showed that they don’t care about anything but winning, and it’s been great to be a part of that."
In just a couple weeks, Chicago will get their opportunity to officially join the league’s elite teams. To get accepted into the club, however, they’ve got to live up to the expectations that wil be placed upon them. The Bulls themselves think they can.
HEAT Could Add Curry for Playoffs
Back when teams were scrambling to finish buyouts in time to make sure players had the opportunity to join and contribute on playoff teams, word got out that former New York Knick could latch on with the Miami HEAT. Curry was traded to Minnesota at this season’s hectic deadline as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal and waived about a week later.
Rumors spread that he was interested in joining Miami, but those were taken with a grain of salt because who wasn’t interested in joining Miami, for one, and secondly, Eddy Curry hasn’t been a contributing member of a professional basketball team in three seasons. He would’ve had to get into much better shape and prove that he was something more than six fouls to burn in the postseason.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, however, the HEAT are getting closer to signing Curry, as team president Pat Riley went to Chicago last week to watch Curry work out and has invited Curry to Miami for another look.
While one source said the chances Curry signs is "better than 50-50," Wojnarowski points out that Curry likely still weighs over 350 pounds, obviously a concern for a team looking for real help in the post.
Curry has spent the last month working out with trainer Tim Grover—the same guy that got Michael Jordan into tip-top playing shape at the peak of his career—and reportedly has dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 pounds. It could all be moot because there’s no telling if Curry would even be on the active roster for the playoffs even if he was signed.
However, a stamp of approval from Pat Riley and another summer’s worth of hard work (and perhaps longer, depending on how things pan out with the potential lockout) could find Curry in a situation where he’s able to sign on with a team that would actually have minutes for him.
None of us ever thought we’d see Curry back in the league, but it looks as though he may get his chance. The really crazy thing is that he could even get a championship ring out of it.