I am writing this letter to you to apologize for my excessive criticism when I rushed to judgement.
I am writing this letter to you to apologize for my excessive criticism when I rushed to judgement.
There are three NBA teams with new coaches for the start of the 2012-13 season, and no one is expecting any of them to work miracles.
In fact, ownership and management appear to be expecting just the opposite. The Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic both are undergoing massive rebuilding projects and don’t seem overly concerned with winning.
Both teams have hired inexperienced coaches with strong backgrounds in player development, which means they also have strong backgrounds in patience. It remains to be seen whether their bosses have similarly strong backgrounds in that latter category.
This isn’t high school or even college basketball, where coaching can make a dramatic difference in a team’s fortunes. The NBA has always been a players’ league, where the talent on the court almost always determines the outcome.
On Tuesday, we will take a look at a different trio of coaches who were hired during last season and will be running their first training camps with their respective teams. Below, we have an in-depth look at the three men who have more thorough introductions to make when camps open next week.
MIKE DUNLAP, CHARLOTTE: There were more than a few folks whose response was “Who?” when owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho decided to hire Dunlap ahead of more established names such as Jerry Sloan and Nate McMillan or a long-time assistant such as Brian Shaw. But none of those bigger names appeared totally committed to the huge climb back to respectability that Charlotte is facing. The Bobcats were a laughingstock last season (let’s not forget they are beginning this season with a 23-game losing streak and have a roster with plenty of promise but no idea how to win.
Maybe that makes Dunlap a good choice for this group, which has eight players 26 or younger. Virtually all of his background is in the college game, save for a two-year stint as a player development assistant with Denver from 2006-08. And his only Division I experience as a head coach came last year, when he replaced cancer-stricken Steve Lavin at St. John’s midway through the season.
Dunlap has an older hand on his staff in Brian Winters, who has been an NBA head coach with Vancouver and Golden State and a WNBA head coach with Indiana. He has been scouting the last four years. The rest of the staff is younger assistants Rick Brunson and Stephen Silas and Dan Leibovitz, a long-time college coach who is at the NBA level for the first time.
IMMEDIATE GOAL: Nov. 2 vs. Indiana, Nov. 3 at Dallas, Nov. 7 vs. Phoenix, Nov. 9 at New Orleans. Those are the first four games for the Bobcats, who have to win one of the above games to avoid breaking the record for the longest losing streak in NBA history. (Cleveland lost 26 straight in the 2010-11 season.) Dunlap will repeatedly say last season is last season, when Charlotte finished 7-59, the worst winning percentage ever. But the losing streak will be a constant reminder of last season — until it ends.
LONG-TERM GOAL: Dunlap needs to prove he is an NBA head coach – for his sake and for Jordan’s, who has the awful Leonard Hamilton hiring on his record and will be similarly raked over the coals if this one turns out badly. After that, it’s development, development, development. Over the next two years, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor have to play until they foul out or drop from exhaustion. The Bobcats have three first-round picks in the next two years and get huge cap relief in the summer of 2014. If Dunlap can have Charlotte up to 30 wins by then, the plan will be working.
TERRY STOTTS, PORTLAND: Smart hire or retread? Stotts has a fantastic resume as an assistant, riding shotgun on George Karl’s strong squads in Seattle and Milwaukee and Rick Carlisle’s championship in Dallas. But when given the reins in Atlanta and Milwaukee, he hasn’t fared well (115-168). It seems like he’s been around forever, but at 54 he is actually younger than Dunlap.
Late in the interview process, Stotts was brought in by new GM Neil Olshey. Stotts was chosen over interim Kaleb Canales, who appeared to be the favorite at that point. He certainly was the favorite of owner Paul Allen and alpha dog LaMarcus Aldridge, and keeping Canales as part of Stotts’ staff (along with Jay Triano, Kim Hughes and David Vanterpool) may have been done to appease Allen and Aldridge while maintaining some continuity.
IMMEDIATE GOAL: Here’s why Stotts is a better choice than Canales. The Blazers don’t have a single player over 30 and five rookies on their roster, which has very limited postseason experience. This team needs to learn how to win and took a step back last season, missing the playoffs after three straight appearances. Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard are rookies who likely will be starting at the two most important positions. Stotts has been around the block and should provide some emotional stability to a potentially excitable group.
LONG-TERM GOAL: This one’s tricky, because Stotts has to find the balance between player development and staying competitive enough to keep himself employed and to keep Aldridge in Portland. Aldridge is his seventh season, and he still has three years left on his deal. But he has labored in a level of obscurity and has yet to get out of the first round while the team is being retooled around him. Stotts has to have Portland back in the postseason no later than 2014.
JACQUE VAUGHN, ORLANDO: Vaughn spent 12 years as a backup point guard, a position that often provides a direct path into coaching. He played for NBA Finals teams in Utah and San Antonio. Some of the guys he played behind include John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Tony Parker. Some of the coaches he played for include Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich. He spent three seasons as a player and two as an assistant in San Antonio, where his approach left an impression on Rob Hennigan, then a member of the Spurs’ front office and now the Magic’s GM.
As a player, Vaughn was a consummate professional. As an assistant, he was said to be very detail-oriented and committed to player development, a quality the Magic will need greatly over the next couple of years.
Vaughn outlasted fellow finalists Michael Curry and Lindsey Hunter in an exhaustive multi-interview process that was not completed until free agency was well under way. He actually was hired while Dwight Howard was still on the roster, but his hiring was clearly a move toward a future without the superstar. This is Vaughn’s his first head coaching job, and he is making somewhat of a leap as he was several rungs down on Popovich’s staff, behind Mike Budenholzer and Don Newman.
IMMEDIATE GOAL: Vaughn shouldn’t have any problems getting the roster’s attention; eight players have been around long enough to have actually played against him – and therein lies the problem. The Magic clearly have started rebuilding. However, they do not have the ideal roster for a rebuild as there are a handful of veterans who are expecting to play. Vaughn has to figure out what his rotation is, likely with some input from Hennigan.
For example, how much does Al Harrington play ahead of rookie Moe Harkless? Right now, the question is moot as both forwards are expected to miss training camp due to injuries – Harrington with a knee and Harkless with a sports hernia. Other youngsters who could have their playing time and learning curves compromised are rookie Andrew Nicholson (by Glen Davis), youngster E’Twaun Moore (by Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick) and point guard Ish Smith (by Jameer Nelson).
Vaughn’s ability to effectively game-plan, work matchups and draw up late-game plays also will be under scrutiny as he has never done this before. There will be times where he will have to rely on his youngish staff of Wes Unseld Jr., James Borrego and Brett Gunning. The Magic might have been better served with one older, experienced assistant.
LONG-TERM GOAL: Expectations aren’t very high for the Magic this season – or next season, because the extra first-round picks acquired for Howard don’t start showing up until 2014. Vaughn needs to capitalize on those low expectations and use every available moment to develop a new team identity in the post-Dwight Howard Era, one that demands a no-nonsense approach, attention to detail and patience.
TOMORROW: Coaches conducting their first training camps with their teams.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard will not be ready for the team’s preseason opener due to ongoing issues with his surgically repaired back.
On Thursday night, the team confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Howard – the prize acquisition of the NBA offseason – is not expected to be ready when the Lakers open camp Oct. 2 or when they play their preseason opener five days later vs. Golden State at Fresno.
The timetable is actually more optimistic than one laid out by Howard, who last month said he may not be available for the regular season opener Oct. 30 vs. Dallas.
Howard had surgery in April to repair a herniated disk in his back. He spent the summer in Los Angeles undergoing rehabilitation while the Orlando Magic explored trade options for their disenchanted superstar.
The Magic saw potential blockbuster trades with Brooklyn, Houston and LA scuttled before putting together a four-team deal that sent Howard to the Lakers, who sent Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, who sent Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets.
The Magic received a collection of young players and draft picks from all three teams, and new GM Rob Hennigan was criticized for not getting enough in return for the game’s most impactful defensive presence and a top-five player.
Now the Lakers may be wondering what they got in the deal. Having already acquired All-Star point guard Steve Nash, the acquisition of Howard alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol immediately put the Lakers back in the championship conversation, with some folks predicting a 70-win season.
Without Howard, LA’s options at center include the 7-foot Gasol, 6-10 Jordan Hill and 7-foot rookie Robert Sacre.
Let’s face it: Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan got fleeced in the Dwight Howard trade. Put over a barrel by the demands of a petulant, wishy-washy superstar, he was the only executive who did not acquire an All-Star in the four-team blockbuster.
Hennigan’s net take for Howard and some extra parts was Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, three highly protected future first-round picks and two second-round picks.
Unless Hennigan does some more wheeling and dealing this summer, his roster is the above players plus Jameer Nelson, Big Baby Davis, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Gustavo Ayon, Justin Harper and rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn.
With a rookie coach in Jacque Vaughn, that squad is in the netherworld between contending and rebuilding, destined for 50-55 losses and virtually no chance at the high draft pick it needs to truly start over.
The Magic will be tough to watch this season. But during timeouts, the group of fine upstanding young women pictured above will be much easier on the eyes. These 20 ladies are the Orlando Magic Dancers for the 2012-13 season, announced Monday.
Perhaps they are smiling because they don’t follow basketball.
The blockbuster went down today, and Dwight Howard is going to the Lakers.
We’ll take it team-by team:
LOS ANGELES LAKERS — They are replacing the best center in the Western Conference with the best center in the Eastern Conference. And let there be no doubt — Dwight is twice the player that ‘Drew is. Howard has 41 career 20-20 games (scoring at least 20 points and grabbing at least 20 rebounds), with his last one coming in what will likely end up as his last game played for the Magic — April 7 at Philadelphia when he had 20 points and 22 rebounds before shutting his season down for back surgery. Bynum has two career 20-20 games, both coming last season. Howard (26) is older than Bynum (24), but until last season he had missed only seven games over his first seven seasons. In Bynum’s seven NBA seasons, he has played 46, 82, 35, 50, 65, 54 and 60 (of a possible 66). That’s 166 games missed due to injury and/or suspension. The Lakers also get Earl Clark and Chris Duhon, bringing their roster size to 13 and their payroll to just under $100 million. Clark will be buried behind Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison, and Duhon will vie with Steve Blake for the backup minutes behind Steve Nash. Is the luxury tax going to sting? You betcha. Can the Lakers afford it? Uh, yup. Check out how much revenue they are about to start bringing in through their new TV deal.
This is the Lakers’ new depth chart:
C – Howard, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre (R)
PF – Gasol, Jamison, Clark
SF — Metta World Peace, Darius Johnson-Odom (R), Devin Ebanks.
SG — Bryant, Andrew Goudelock, Jodie Meeks
PG — Nash, Blake, Duhon
VERDICT: WINNER (HUGE) The Lakers have a chance to be a 70-win team, and we can all go to bed now and wake up in the first week of June when the Lakers and Miami Heat met for the NBA championship. Remember that Committee on Bad Trades that San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich suggested be created after the Lakers’ acquisition of Pau Gasol? Popovich is probably thinking the same thing today.
ORLANDO MAGIC – They had a chance to get Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and four (!) first-round draft picks, three of which would have been unprotected coming from Brooklyn. They also had a chance to acquire a bevy of young players and unprotected draft picks from the Houston Rockets, as detailed here and here. But Rob Hennigan only acquired one first-round pick from each of the other three teams (the Lakers can only trade a 2017 first-round pick, as their 2013 and 2015 picks were shipped to Phoenix in the Nash sign-and-trade), he is getting killed in this deal. The Magic will receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, rookie swingman Moe Harkless, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, three first-round draft picks and a 2013 second-round pick from the Nuggets (by way of Golden State), an additional second-round pick. Somehow, the idea of rebuilding around a 24-year-old center, Bynum, did not appeal to them.
Here is a look at what the Magic’s depth chart looks like:
C – Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon.
PF- Glen Davis, Justin Harper, Harrington, McRoberts, Kyle O’Quinn (R), Andrew Nicholson (R), Harkless (R).
SF: Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Eyenga.
SG: Afflalo, J.J. Redick.
PG: Jameer Nelson.
VERDICT: LOSER (Train Wreck). They will be better than the Bobcats, and that’s about the best thing you can say about them. Good luck, Jacque Vaughn. You’ve got your work cut out for you. Somewhere, Stan Van Gundy is laughing at his former employer.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – Yes, they are probably going to have to sweat out Bynum becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, even though they can offer him a three-year extension worth $60 million. The reason? Bynum can become unrestricted and get a five-year, $100 million deal from the Sixers, who will have his Bird rights. It’s the same reason why Deron Williams refused to sign an extension last year, and the reason why Howard will not sign an extension with the Lakers. Philadelphia has been shopping Andre Iguodala for years, and they will finally get rid of the $30.6 million Iggy is owed over the next two seasons. Bynum and Spencer Hawes are about as good of a center tandem as there is anywhere in the NBA, but additional moves are going to have to be made over the next 24 months to get this team to a place where it can compete with the Miami Heat and some of the other top teams in the East. The decision to amnesty Elton Brand will help speed that process.
The Sixers depth chart:
C – Bynum, Hawes, Kwame Brown.
PF – Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie.
SF – Dorell Wright.
SG – Evan Turner, Nick Young, Jason Richardson.
PG – Jrue Holiday, Royal Ivey.
VERDICT: The jury is out. Let’s see what they can turn Hawes into after he becomes trade-eligible on Dec. 15. But getting a player of Bynum’s caliber in exchange for Iguodala and Harkless is a pretty nice deal.
DENVER NUGGETS – They must have a very high opinion of Iguodala, because Afflalo, Harrington, a future No. 1 and a future No. 2 is an awful lot to give up for a player who has been on the trading block since Carmelo Anthony was still a part of this team — especially since the Nuggets are already loaded at the small forward position. Makes you wonder whether there will be a post-Howard domino effect over the next few weeks, which there almost certainly will be. Harrington is owed $21.3 million over the next three seasons, so Denver would be out from under that contract and would have some additional cap flexibility in 2015-16. So from that aspect, there is a positive. They will almost certainly be a playoff team.
The Nuggets’ post-trade depth chart:
C – JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos.
PF – Kenneth Faried, Anthony Randolph.
SF – Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller (R).
SG – Corey Brewer, Evan Fournier (R).
PG – Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Julyan Stone.
VERDICT: WINNER. If they stand pat and use Iguodala or Chandler as the starting 2-guard, they are not a bad looking team. If the draft pick they are surrendering is one of their own, it is worth bearing in mind that they still own the lesser of their own or the Knicks’ No. 1 pick in 2014, and New York’s in 2016. They also preserve the $13 million trade exception from the Nene deal with Washington.
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