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NBA@2: Wizards Blowing It Up?
Posted By Bill Ingram On January 25, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
These are trying times for fans of the Washington Wizards. First there was the Gilbert Arenas/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison era, which seemed to carry championship potential. Instead, injuries became the story, and those injuries were so pervasive that ownership finally traded those pieces away in favor of a complete rebuild.
Flip Saunders was chosen to lead the Wizards into a new era, built around talents like John Wall, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, but that part of the story came to an end yesterday, when Saunders was relieved of his duties. The team is off to a league-worst 2-15 start, and the reality is that it’s going to take more than a coaching change to turn things around. It’s going to take some bold roster moves, moves team owner Ted Leonosis says he is prepared to make. He offered up his take on the state of the team in his blog:
We know we have to implement a system that complements the talent we have – you heard yesterday talk about “tempo and pace”; and “length, and depth and athleticism”.
I also think it is important for the team to internalize its own strengths and weaknesses; play to its strength and mitigate much of the lack of experience we have as a very young team. This falls under the category of ” keeping it simpler and more efficient as to game plans”.
We are continuing to rebuild; I am sure our roster will be changing as we monitor and assess where we are; I am sure that we will add to our team and subtract from our team via trades- via the next draft – via free agency – via buy outs. We will use all the tools available to us to improve.
We have much work to do. Short term and long term.
I am committed to this process; we will work hard to build a team and a franchise that is world class and is as good as our fan base. Thank you for listening.
A new head coach is one step, and we’ve all seen the impact a mid-season coaching change can have. Last season the Indiana Pacers fired Jim O’Brien and his replacement – Frank Vogel – not only lead the team to the playoffs but won the right to coach the team going forward. Now they’re one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, just one calendar year after looking like lottery fodder. Of course, the Pacers have veteran leadership and a franchise player in Danny Granger, which is something the Wizards lack. Washington’s future could look more like that of the Sacramento Kings, who fired Paul Westphal, but left Keith Smart with a lot of work to do in a crazy, lockout-compacted season.
The question Leonosis and his team have to ponder between now and the trade deadline is which pieces really fit and what can they get for cashing in the ones that don’t. They have already been actively shopping Andray Blatche, easily the squeakiest wheel on the rickety cart, but the interest has been decidedly underwhelming. The keepers would seem to be Wall, Nick Young, McGee and Crawford, but those are also the pieces who would attract the most interest in trade. Nick Young, in particular, would likely be of interest to teams like the Pacers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are actively looking for help at the two. Rashard Lewis could certainly help a playoff team, as well, though his price tag is daunting.
The Wizards have already fired their head coach, and barring a dramatic turnaround they may start to make aggressive roster moves before the deadline, as well. They have their work cut out for them, as does interim head coach Randy Wittman.
Up Close: Michael Redd
Phoenix Suns guard Michael Redd talks with HOOPSWORLD about his miraculous return from two knee surgeries, the trials of uprooting his family from Milwaukee to Phoenix, the state of the NBA post-lockout, the immediate future for the Suns and more in this exclusive interview!
Normally when NBA coaches talk about their coach on the floor they talk about their point guard, but in the case of the Sacramento Kings and head coach Keith Smart, the coach on the floor is not who you’d expect.
“Chuck Hayes – he’s just so far ahead,” Smart tells HOOPSWORLD. “He’s been with good programs, he’s a student of the game, he’s studying the game. The guy went down when we got ready to start, went through a conference, our divisions. I don’t know many guys who can go through the whole divisions and talk about where they were and what they were doing, so he pays attention to what’s going around in the league, where we are, what’s happening. What you’d like is to have your point guard get to that level and Tyreke is starting to do some of those things. He’s communicating on the floor. I’ll step back from a play I’m going to call and wait, see if he has something. Just see if it registers what he wants to run and then he’ll make a call and that’s what I want him to start doing. With Chuck knowing the situations of the game, having a veteran on your bench who has been around only helps, and hopefully we can grow and get other veterans like that and that’s going to help our team.”
The young Kings may not completely understand the gravity of their situation just yet, but Hayes takes heart from the fact that they do seem to be listening when he talks.
“I think they’re listening, I just think they want quicker results to believe in. It’s like Legos. You’ve got to put something together and it may not look right in the beginning. If you keep building forward, eventually it will be fine. I think the guys listen, they ask questions they just don’t like the results that they are getting because it’s always something, and that’s what we have to get. Yes, it’s always going to be something. This league is a game of adjustments. We still have time we just have to turn the corner sometime soon just to give ourselves a chance. Like our goal right now should be just to get to .500. If we can do that to be honest with you in a 66-game season at .500 might make you a contender to make the playoffs.”
Hayes has played for some of the best coaches in the NBA, from Jeff Van Gundy to Rick Adelman, and likes what he’s seeing early on from Keith Smart.
“I didn’t know too much of Keith in Golden State,” Hayes admits. “I mean, I knew the way his team played, and this team has a little bit of the resemblance, I think. I’ve been impressed so far with coach. He really breaks it down on what needs to be done and he breaks down film. To me, the best film coach is Jeff Van Gundy, but he’s almost up there with Jeff Van Gundy. He breaks it down and shows guys the film don’t lie. If he says you were here, well the film says you’re here, so you can’t dispute the camera. I think he’s a great coach. He breaks it down, he gets it, and I think the guys listen. They just want the quick turnaround and that’s not going to happen.”
In particular, Hayes has taken a special interest in troubled center DeMarcus Cousins, whom believes is far from being a lost cause.
“Yeah, he will listen. Since his somewhat suspension his attitude has changed,” says Hayes. “His attitude off the court has changed, his approach has changed. He’s a passionate player who wants to win. He tries hard so you can’t knock that. He gives you the effort, but it’s not about talent anymore at this level it’s about smarts and brains. Not to say he doesn’t have it because he is a bright kid, but it’s only his second year. It takes time, but last year was a learning process. This year we make steps and the next year and the next years after that. He’s a great player and we need him. He’s such a big part of this team.”
Hayes knew what he was getting into when he signed on with the Kings this season. He knew it had the potential to be a rough year, but he also sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward.
“Yeah, I knew what I was getting myself into before I came here. I knew what was ahead of me and I embraced it. I’ve seen these guys. I’ve played against these guys when I was in Houston and I know what they’re strengths are, what they can do to help. All we have to do is stick to our strengths and I think this team kind of shies away from that sometimes. If we stick to our strengths, I know what DeMarcus did that hurt us last year, I know what J.J. (Hickson), did I know what Tyreke (Evans) did. All we’ve got to do is keep doing it. You keep doing it, don’t shy away from it. Teams are going to try and take it away, and they may take it away for a quarter, but if you keep doing it they have to do it for three more quarters. It’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to it, and it didn’t get out to the best start that I would like personally, but last year in Houston we started off 3-10 and we finished with 43 wins so it can be a turnaround.”
With Keith Smart at the helm and Chuck Hayes working behind the scenes to help the Kings improve from within, that turnaround may not be too terribly far away.
The “Crazy Basketball Association” – book review by HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming
Remember Carson Cunningham? You can be forgiven if you do not, especially if you aren’t a fan of the Purdue Boilermakers or the Oregon State Beavers. Cunningham has now written a book about his experience in his final year in the Continental Basketball Association called Underbelly Hoops: Adventures in the Crazy Basketball Association.
Cunningham played his freshman season with the Beavers back in 1996-97, where the point guard was runner up for the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year award to Arizona’s Mike Bibby. That’s significant because one of Cunningham’s teammates was another freshman, Corey Benjamin, whom the Chicago Bulls chose in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft. After one season in Corvallis Cunningham transferred back home to Indiana to play for Purdue (a decision he talks about in the book). After college Cunningham played professionally in Australia and Estonia, plus three seasons in the CBA.
The book is a look, through the eyes of a player, at the CBA and all that it entails, from the travel to the personalities to hopes and dreams. In the book Cunningham does a good job bouncing back and forth between giving backgrounds of his teammates – names you know and remember, like Keith Closs, Ronnie Fields and Teddy Dupay – and detailing day-to-day life as a minor league basketball player. The book is well researched, providing much detailed background on the players and the league as a whole, and it’s colorful, giving the reader a chance to experience the daily grind the way Cunningham did.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Cunningham wrote a book as much a piece of history as it is the personal journey of a player coming to grips with the end of his career. Since retiring from basketball he has earned his Ph.D in history from Purdue and is studying for his MBA at DePaul, where he currently teaches history and coaches basketball. He has written two other books, one a well-reviewed history of USA Basketball called American Hoops: US Men’s Basketball From Berlin to Beijing, and the other about baseball – Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs Glory Years, 1870-1945.
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