Earlier today, UConn knocked off Florida to advance to the national championship game. Their coach, Kevin Ollie, is drawing lots of buzz as a potential NBA coach (he was the first guy Bobby Gonzalez mentioned as the next Brad Stevens), and their star point guard, Shabazz Napier, is looking like a future NBA player. But let’s not forget the ultimate cautionary tale of overvaluing success in the tournament: former LSU player Tyrus Thomas. Napier is an entirely different player, of course, but this tournament could go down in history as synonymous with his name, just like the 2006 edition was with Thomas (and George Mason’s Jai Lewis, but he was never an NBA prospect).
Napier is a great player: he’s a smart, heady point guard who basically runs an NBA offense already (thanks again, Kevin Ollie), and he could be an NBA rotation player. But if he jumps into the lottery, somebody’s probably paying too much attention to tournament games.
Now let’s get to the NBA’s latest news:
IRVING ANNOYED WITH MEDIA
“The barrage and little bit of attack that I saw, I’ve been getting it all season and I feel I definitely don’t deserve it,” Irving said before the Cavs, who are barely hanging on in the Eastern Conference playoff race, hosted the Charlotte Bobcats. “It’s one of those things where I can deal with it, but at a certain point, it’s gotten too much. It’s been like that the whole entire season.”
Following a disappointing loss in Atlanta on Friday, Irving went on Twitter to defend himself against a report that said he wants out of Cleveland. The Cavs can offer him a maximum contract extension this summer.
“Sick to my stomach with all these rumors and accusations,” Irving wrote in one of four tweets posted on his account. “Can I play without media guessing at my life.”
Before Saturday’s game, Irving, who recently missed eight games with a strained left biceps, said he’s tired of the negative publicity and speculation about his future.
“They’re writing reports, ‘Is he staying or is he going?'” Irving said. “I mean that’s the last of my worries right now. It’s portraying me in a light and it’s bringing negativity to the team that I don’t want. Our focus right now and my focus right now is winning and trying to finish out the season strong. That’s where my focus has been and where it’s going to stay.”
PHIL JACKSON IS LOOKING FOR TALENT
The troubled Odom, 34, is sitting out this season after being arrested over the summer on a DUI charge and spending some time in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. He played last season with the Clippers and met with them in November but never signed. He played five seasons for Jackson with the Lakers, winning two titles.
The Queens product also was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2011.
His agent is New York-based Jeff Schwartz, who also represents center Tyson Chandler.
Jackson has admitted to being on “a talent hunt’’ and could look at former players familiar with the triangle offense. Jackson met with Metta World Peace during halftime of the Knicks-Lakers game at Staples Center last week. The Post reported World Peace, who was released by the Knicks in February, has a lot of interest in a second stint in New York.
WARRIORS FIRE ANOTHER ASSISTANT
Tim Kawakami of the Contra Costa Times reports on the firing of Darren Erman for non-basketball reasons, and what it means about a Warriors setup that appears increasingly dysfunctional.
So, the firing of two assistants in the weeks leading up to a fairly important postseason for Jackson’s tenure and the franchise as a whole … well, that can only add fuel to the chatter that there are a lot of issues here and potentially a growing management-Jackson schism.
Recently — and into today — multiple team sources have acknowledged that things have gotten a little screwy, but it’s also something that I believe owner Joe Lacob is consciously doing:
He’s putting pressure on Jackson, pressure on everybody in the organization — he wants to see how they all handle it.
Everything everybody does is under intense scrutiny and so far the coaching staff seems to have gone a bit haywire, with only six games left before the playoffs.
Let’s put it this way: The San Antonio Spurs never dismiss key assistants on the eve of the playoffs. Seems to work out OK for them that way.
This all is a sign of violent instability, which usually is connected to a major problem between management and the coach, which usually only gets worse, not better, once it starts, and little things turn into big things turn into crisis mode all the time.
As today’s news was breaking, I was told by a Warriors source that circumstances of Erman’s dismissal are “very, very unfortunate” and made it sound like an isolated incident, but the source also didn’t argue that everything that happens now is against the backdrop of a lot of coach/management tension.
BULLS LOOKING FOR REINFORCEMENTS
After waiving rookie forward Erik Murphy, it’s even possible the Bulls will add three prorated veteran minimum contracts to bring the roster to 15.
James is a virtual certainty to return. Signing Brewer also is being considered as a way to reduce the workload of Jimmy Butler, whose 41.9 minutes per game in March was the NBA’s most.
Brewer was a key member of Chicago’s “Bench Mob” in 2010-12. After leaving the Bulls, he struggled to find a solid role with the Knicks, Thunder and Rockets, who waived him Feb. 22.
WHICH GENERAL MANAGERS COULD BE ON THE WAY OUT?
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders looks inside some of the NBA’s front offices, and provides some potential replacements. Definitely a good read.
The New Orleans Pelicans are a tough situation to read, mainly because new ownership doesn’t see the world like most NBA owners do, and that’s because of their history and success in the NFL. They are not exactly patient with the growing pains of the NBA, where it’s much harder to go from worst to first.
Pelicans general manager Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams were given multi-year contract extensions in 2012 that locked both into the organization through the 2015-16 season. That has not stopped the rumors of change from floating around the team, specifically as it relates to Williams’ future as the head coach.
Demps regrettably might be part of a top-down organizational change and that would be unfortunate. Demps has had some wins in his time in New Orleans, but with the team failing to meet expectations this year, and the question marks on the roster, will ownership stay the course or will they make a major change?
The Pelicans look like a team that needs one more season to come together. However with ownership somewhat impatient with the process and with fans clamoring for change, it’s unclear what the off-season will hold for Williams and in some regards Demps as well.
There is a scenario where Williams is out and Demps remains, but there are some that believe if one goes, the other won’t be far behind.
Dan Malone is currently in graduation limbo after finishing his journalism degree at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent last summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.