NBA@2: Enter Larry Drew In Coach Of The Year Race
The 2012 Coach of the Year (COY) award, in this lockout shortened season, will carry more weight than it has in years past.
The award recipient will have had to thrive despite having to integrate new players into their respective system, with a shortened training camp, the ongoing limit on practice time throughout the season and overcoming injuries to key players.
As we enter the final stretch run of the season, the bigger names are naturally receiving the headlines to take home the top coach crown.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has done a phenomenal job leading his cast of veterans, thought to be too old at the beginning of the season, to one of the league’s best records. The Spurs are legitimate title favorites. Popovich won the award in 2003.
Likewise, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau deserves tons of credit for leading his team to the league’s best record despite playing without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for close to 35 percent of the season.
Thibodeau won the award last season.
And despite all of the flack Mike Brown, a Popovich protégé, receives on a daily basis he still has the Los Angeles Lakers positioned to make a deep playoff push this season. Brown won the award in 2009.
These guys, just to name a few, are the safe mainstream picks.
But a candidate flying below the radar who should be given much more consideration is Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew.
Drew isn’t the sexiest pick in the race, but his body of work during the 2012 campaign cannot be underestimated.
Here are some resume bullet points supporting Drew for COY honors:
Overcoming Injuries / Integrating New Faces:
At times this season the Hawks have resembled a mash unit.
Joe Johnson (6), Al Horford (47), Tracy McGrady (13), Marvin Williams (9), Kirk Hinrich (18), Jannero Pargo (15), Willie Green (11), Vladimir Radmanovic (16) and Zaza Pachulia (1) have all missed portions of the season with an assortment of injuries.
However it was the loss of Horford, a two-time All-Star center, after only 11 games which had many prematurely writing off the Hawks from ranking amongst the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
But with eight games remaining in the season the Hawks hold a 34-24 record and are in a three-way tie for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Drew has also had to integrate new faces such as McGrady, Pargo, Green, Radmanovic, Jerry Stackhouse and rookie Ivan Johnson into the team’s framework despite a shortened training camp and limited practice time throughout the year.
It’s also important to note each of these guys have been entrusted to play major minutes at various times of the season.
Maintaining Control Of The Locker Room:
Back in early February former two-time scoring champion Tracy McGrady publicly blasted Drew after logging only five minutes of court action in a loss versus the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I’m tired of this [bleep],” McGrady told Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time. “You can put that in the paper, I don’t give a [bleep].”
At the time McGrady was averaging 18 minutes per contest. With two weeks to go in the regular season, McGrady’s minutes are still trending downward and currently sit at 15 minutes per night.
If you remember McGrady was part of the Detroit Pistons’ 2011 squad in which there were numerous instances of the team’s veteran players being at odds with then head coach John Kuester.
Needless to say Kuester didn’t survive the turmoil during the offseason and is now an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The handling of McGrady’s situation is one of those behind the scene events that can make or break a locker room.
It goes without saying McGrady is a widely respected league veteran who has scored over 18,000 career points and a guy most of the younger Hawks grew up idolizing while watching him dominating the hardwood.
Fast forward almost two months and McGrady still isn’t the happiest camper regarding his playing time but it hasn’t derailed the team on or off the court.
The second item showing Drew’s leadership command is the handling of small forward Marvin Williams’ full-time transition into a reserve role.
Williams vented to HOOPSWORLD back in 2011 on his unhappiness with being taken out of the starting lineup by coach Drew, but in 2012 the forward hasn’t made any waves after recently being moved into the club’s sixth man role.
In a year that has seen former Blazers coach Nate McMillan lose his job because of locker room turmoil and Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy likely on the way out because of players turning against him it makes Drew’s performance away from the court shine even brighter.
Lastly, the continued development of power forward Josh Smith is a testament to Drew and his coaching staff.
No secret Smith possesses All-Star talent, but the question has always been whether the Hawks coaches could get him to consistently play at that clip.
Smith, who reportedly has been playing with a trade demand for the entire season, is not only playing at an All-Star level but could get some consideration for All-NBA honors at season’s end.
Whoever ultimately hoists the COY hardware at the end of the season will have earned it in such a mentally and physically draining campaign.
But whatever the case, at the very least, Drew’s name needs to be in the discussion and he should have some votes cast his way for keeping the Hawks relevant.
Bobcats’ Reggie Williams Playing Through Pain: The Charlotte Bobcats have been the worst team in the NBA this season by far, but they could have been a better team if not for a rash of injuries.
Veterans D.J. Augustin, Corey Maggette and Reggie Williams were all expected to play heavy minutes for the rebuilding Bobcats this season but all of them have missed significant time due to the injury bug.
Williams was signed to a two-year deal by Charlotte this past offseason but missed the first part of the year after undergoing knee surgery.
The third year player has now played in 30 games this season but is shooting a career low percentage from the field.
It’s clear to everyone watching Williams on the court this season that he isn’t close to 100 percent yet and is still suffering from knee pain.
“I hurt my knee in Spain,” Williams told HOOPSWORLD. “I went overseas for the lockout. When I went over there I got hurt and when I came back to the states I had the surgery. I am gutting out some of the pain. The knee is swollen, still swollen and will probably be swollen until I can get adequate rest. I’m just playing through it.”
“I definitely don’t feel as quick as I once did as far as getting to the basket. I try not to use any excuses. I’m playing through it.”
Williams burst on the scene in 2010 with the Golden State Warriors after going undrafted, averaging 15.2 points per game.
In 2011 Williams’ role with the Warriors diminished, but he still hovered near double-digits in scoring and shot over 42 percent from three-point range.
Once the lockout was lifted Williams, a free agent before this season began, was optimistic about returning to Golden State until he got a call from their front office.
“I knew I wasn’t going back [to Golden State], when I was at my old high school at a basketball game,” Williams said. “I got a call from Larry Riley the general manager of the Warriors. He said they had rescinded my [contract] offer because they were going after [Clippers center] DeAndre Jordan. So when they did that I kind of had a feeling I wasn’t going to go back there.”
“But I’m not mad at anybody in Golden State or Riley. I know it’s part of the business and the guy they were trying to get they had to make those kinds of moves. They have Andrew Bogut now. But man I still got love for the Bay without a doubt. The bay area is a beautiful place. I like Charlotte as well being that I’m from Virginia. Charlotte and Richmond are kind of similar so I feel like I’m at home anyway. Man, I have no complaints at all.”
The season for the Bobcats has been one to forget, but Williams sees growth in his teammates and their goal is to win all of their remaining games to end the campaign on a positive note while building momentum for 2013.
“Obviously it’s been tough for me and my teammates,” Williams said of all the losing this season. “It’s been a rough season. But you know mentally I just try to stay positive go out every night and play hard and try to make the best of the season. We’re trying to get double-digit wins right now and not even just double-digit wins, we’re trying to win every game left we play.”
The Bobcats are currently 7-50 on the year.
Six of their remaining nine games are against teams jockeying for playoff position (Miami, Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Orlando and New York).
According to Williams, the Bobcats are looking to play the role of spoiler.
Tom Benson, New Owner Of New Orleans Hornets: New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is expected to be announced as the new owner of the New Orleans Saints sometime today.
The league and Benson reached a tentative financial agreement on the purchase early Friday.
Benson will own 100 percent of the team.
According to sources the purchase price will be $338 million.
The NBA purchased the Hornets for $318 million last year.
Benson is said to have beat out an investment team led by businessman Raj Bhatal, former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. and former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest.
More on the story to come as it develops.
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NBA Chats: There was one NBA chat today with Yannis Koutroupis who dropped his weekly chat at 11am EST. Yannis serves as a Senior NBA Writer and the College Basketball Editor for HOOPSWORLD. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats or if you are looking for a chat that already completed try here: Previous NBA Chats