Marc Stein: Washington Wizards

East MVP of the First Trimester

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
Kyle Lowry and John WallGetty ImagesKyle Lowry and John Wall are pointing the Raptors and Wizards in the right direction early in 2014-15.

East MVP of the First Trimester: Kyle Lowry, Toronto

The numbers, as Adam Sandler might say this time of year, are really not too shabby.

Averages of 25.4 points, 7.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game wrapped in a PER of 25.4 that still ranks No. 1 among every single basketball player whose address can be found on the Eastern half of the conference divide?

I wish I were slipping in my old age like LeBron James.

But you know by now how we operate at First Trimester time. Although LeBron could easily (and justifiably) serve as our selection here, it's true that we tend to favor candidates at this stage whose chances of figuring in the real-life MVP race come April are on the long-shot side.

Just to show them a little love that likely won't be forthcoming later.

Allow us, then, to slight King James for a trimester and focus on two lead guards playing the best ball of their lives. Ask us to pinpoint the most impactful player in the poor Leastern Conference so far and we find ourselves flip-flopping between Kyle Lowry and John Wall.


Might as well flip a coin.

If you were forced to choose one to build around in drafting mode, Wall would naturally have the edge as a certifiable max guy known for playing at top gear. He awoke Friday morning averaging a robust 18.0 points, 10.5 assists and 4.7 boards, good for a PER of 21.3 as the high-speed force behind Washington's 20-8 start despite being forced to play without backcourt sidekick Bradley Beal for the season's first nine games.

Statistically, though, Lowry has the edge for now. Narrowly.

With All-Star backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan missing the entire month through injury, Lowry is shooting .407 on 3-pointers in December while hiking his PER into the NBA's top 10 at a heady 24.0. Lowry is basically a 20-8-and-5 guy now and has nudged Toronto all the way up to No. 2 in the league in offensive efficiency (111.7 points per 100 possessions) as well as No. 2 in average nightly point margin at a healthy plus-8.1.

I'm guessing King James will understand, with his Cavs off to such an uneven start, once he reads those last two paragraphs again.
Curry/CousinsGarrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesCurry's Warriors and Cousins' Kings are off to red-hot starts. How long can they keep it up?
As we inch closer to another Power Rankings Monday, your faithful committee (of one) is already starting its computing.

And it sure helps when your Sunday brunch includes a surprise heads-up from a research-minded pal like's Adam Reisinger, who has helpfully passed along a handy list that puts some of the good (and bad) starts we've seen into some historical perspective.

Entering Sunday's play:

The highs

Golden State Warriors: 5-0 start is the Warriors' best since they went 5-0 in 1994-95. They finished 26-56 that season.

Memphis Grizzlies: 6-1 start is the Grizzlies' best in team history.

Houston Rockets: 6-1 is the Rockets' best start since a 6-1 launch in 2007-08, when they went 55-27 and reeled off an unforgettable 22 straight wins in one stretch.

Toronto Raptors: 5-1 start is the best in franchise history.

Sacramento Kings: 5-1 start is the Kings' best since they opened up at 9-1 in 1999-2000, when they ultimately faded to 44-38.

Washington Wizards: 5-2 start is the Wizards' best since they went 5-1 in 2005-06, when they finished 42-40.

Chicago Bulls: 5-2 start is the Bulls' best since a 7-1 start in 2011-12. They finished 50-16 in that lockout-shortened season.

The lows

Denver Nuggets: It's actually the Nuggets' second straight 1-4 start.

Oklahoma City Thunder: 1-5 is the Thunder's worst start since they went 1-14 in 2008-09 in the club's first season in OKC.

New York Knicks: 2-5 is the Knicks' worst start since a 1-9 start in 2009-10 that set the tone for a 29-53 season.

Indiana Pacers: 1-6 is the Pacers' worst start since they went 1-6 in 1993-94, when they rallied to post a 47-35 mark.

Los Angeles Lakers: 0-5 is the Lakers' worst start in Los Angeles and their worst since they went 0-7 in 1957-58 in Minneapolis.

Philadelphia 76ers: 0-6 is the Sixers' worst start since a 0-15 start in 1972-73 ... which, of course, was Philly's 9-73 season.

The Washington Wizards will acquire veteran forward DeJuan Blair in a sign-and-trade deal with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, according to sources close to the process.

A trade call with the league is scheduled for later Wednesday, sources said, with Dallas not looking for anything back beyond the nominal draft considerations required to make such a deal official.

Blair posted a tweet referencing his new NBA home Wednesday afternoon. reported Sunday that the Wizards and Mavericks were in advanced talks on a sign-and-trade deal that would land Blair alongside Paul Pierce and Kris Humphries as new additions to Washington's up-and-coming roster.

Click here for the full story
WizardsShea SerranoDo the Wizards have anything on their summer shopping list? Marc Stein has the latest intel.

Five burning questions and answers about the immediate future of the Washington Wizards in the wake of their season-ending home loss Thursday night to the Indiana Pacers:

1. How long will the Wizards be haunted by the chances they squandered in the Indiana series?

Charles Barkley's favorite Eastern Conference team definitely did squander a slew of opportunities against the vulnerable Pacers. The Wizards could have won the first two games of the series on the road. You could make a strong case that Washington should have taken a 3-1 series lead back to Indy for Game 5. The Wizards still haven't won a second-round game in their own building going all the way back to 1979 ... and yet they still managed to make the East's top seed look almost as iffy as it did against eighth-seeded Atlanta.

So ...

We have to give the Wizards some time to grieve. They, too, got sucked into the hype proclaiming the Eastern Conference finals to really be within reach.

With time, though, The Chuckster's darlings will slowly but surely realize they're a lot like the Trail Blazers out West: Pretty worthy of props even though they exited Round 2 in more disappointing fashion than they imagined.

With time, Washingtonians and their Wizards will remember that this was the season that they halted a five-season playoff drought, watched John Wall locate a jump shot to break through as an All-Star in Year 1 of his new $80 million max deal, savored the sight of Wall and Bradley Beal emerging as the league's Backcourt of the Future in the eyes of many ... and finally took a substantial step out of the shadow of L'Affaire Gilbert Arenas.

Tough to give them too much grief for their failure to force a Game 7 when you remember, furthermore, that only eight teams in league history -- out of 220 -- have managed to win a seven-game series after falling behind 3-1. We haven't seen anyone do it since Steve Nash's Suns rallied past Kobe Bryant's Lakers in 2006.

2. What did this playoff run do for Randy Wittman's job prospects?

Toronto's Dwane Casey and Portland's Terry Stotts both got new contracts the day after their respective seasons ends.

Can't say for sure it'll be that fast in Wittman's case, but all signs point to him joining that list in the near future.

There were undeniable rumbles going into the playoffs that a first-round exit, even against the higher-seeded gritmeisters from Chicago, would cost Wittman his post. Talk of a run at the veteran likes of George Karl or Alvin Gentry has been circulating in coaching circles for far longer.

Yet there were strong signals Thursday night that Wittman will be back next season alongside longtime Wizards front-office chief Ernie Grunfeld.

The bigger mystery would appear to be contract length. The Washington Post's Mike Wise recently revealed that Grunfeld's presumed expiring contract has already been quietly extended through next season by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. Which inevitably makes you wonder: Will Leonsis offer a mere one-season extension to keep Wittman on the same terms as his GM ... or might he actually extend the coach's deal beyond his top executive's?

3. Can the Wizards hang onto top free agents Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza?

My Grantland colleague Zach Lowe did his usual textbook job earlier this week A) covering many of the pressing issues facing the Wizards going forward and B) raising another very pertinent question when it comes Washington's starting center and small forward.

Should the Wizards try to re-sign both Gortat and Ariza to keep this season's core intact?

Or should they roll the dice, let both go and try to get in the game for one of this summer's marquee free agents?

Tantalizing questions. All of them.

The early word is the Wizards will try to retain both of their top free agents as opposed to letting them go to make some sort of fantasy run at the likes of Baltimore's own Carmelo Anthony or seemingly gettable restricted free agent Greg Monroe.

Yet there are legit fears that signing both might prove too expensive for the Wizards, who have to keep in the mind the sort of money Beal will command when it's his turn for an extension.

4. If the Wiz have to choose between Gortat and Ariza in free agency, who stays?


The Polish Hammer is undoubtedly the priority.

The Wiz, remember, surrendered a first-round pick to Phoenix mere days before the start of the season to acquire Gortat from the Suns in what was seen a desperate move by a playoff-starved franchise.

But Gortat justified Washington's faith with the way he partnered with Nene on the front line and is sure to generate plenty of interest in free agency entering a summer with no shortage of cap-space teams. The Wiz know it, expect it and still give off the vibe that they won't allow Gortat to be pilfered.

It's a vow, though, that they can't make as readily when it comes to Ariza.

The presence of Martell Webster on the roster -- even though he's coming off a sub-par season and can't do all the things Ariza can do -- gives the Wiz some semblance of Ariza insurance if the offers he gets are deemed too steep.

No such luxury when it comes to the center spot.

5. We know that the Wiz have to inject their bench with some much-needed youth, but Andre Miller fans want to know: Is he staying or going?

According to the latest rumbles, Washington is leaning toward bringing back Miller next season.

The 38-year-old holds an non-guaranteed salary of $4.6 million for 2014-15, so it's not a lock that the Wizards will consent to deploy a backup point guard making close to mid-level exception money.

But Miller's impact after arriving at midseason via trade from Denver was such that they'd sure like to have him back if the finances aren't prohibitive. Washington's bench definitely does need some young blood, but a floor leader with Miller's veteran know-how working in conjunction with the 23-year-old Wall and the 20-year-old Beal adds up wisely.

The weekend that was

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
With a hearty hat tip to our friends at ESPN Stats & Info, here are eight standout statistical tidbits from an eight-game opening weekend in the NBA playoffs:

• It bears repeating even though I'm guessing you've probably already heard this one a few times by now: This was the first time in the history of the 16-team playoff format, introduced in 1983-84, that five road teams won Game 1.

• Indy's Game 1 defeat at home to Atlanta might be an even more worrisome omen than the Pacers fear. The last two No. 1 seeds to drop the opener to the No. 8 both ended up losing the series: San Antonio in 2011 to Memphis and Dallas in 2007 to Golden State.

• The Bulls have quietly lost five consecutive playoff games. And after erasing a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, Washington is just the second team to crack triple-digits in Chicago since the All-Star break.

• It wasn't by accident that Memphis faced the biggest halftime deficit in its playoff history Saturday night at OKC. The Grizzlies missed their first 18 shots outside the paint.

• The Clippers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, were 33-0 at home this season in games in which they led at any point during the fourth quarter until Saturday's disheartening loss to Golden State. No other team was undefeated in that situation during the regular season.

• Another Elias gem: LaMarcus Aldridge is the first player with at least 46 points and 18 rebounds in a postseason road win since (whoa) Elgin Baylor in Game 5 of the 1962 Finals. Baylor had 61 points and 22 rebounds in the Lakers' triumph at Boston.

• The Blazers showed up for the postseason with 114 games of combined playoff experience, which accounts for the lowest cumulative total in these playoffs.

• The next shot Roy Hibbert converts outside of the paint will be his first since April 4.
A few dribbles of chatter from the NBA's coaching and GM grapevine:

A new coach isn't the only significant hire Phil Jackson is expected to make as he starts to revamp the team and organization that operates out of the renovated Madison Square Garden.

The consistent word in league circles is that Jackson is looking to make at least one significant addition to the front office to assist him and Steve Mills, who has been retained as Knicks GM (for now) to work under the new president of New York.

Said one source close to the situation: "Phil knows he needs a good, young executive in there who can make deals and really knows the [salary cap]."

Far less obvious at this juncture, though, is the list of candidates Jackson plans to choose from.

The most qualified executive from Jackson's very small circle of NBA pals is former Phoenix Suns personnel boss Steve Kerr, but Kerr has made it clear he wants to coach in the NBA, as opposed to GM-ing, if he decides to leave television. That's one of the reasons NBA coaching sources have maintained for weeks that the Knicks coaching job is essentially Kerr's to accept or reject, should Jackson oust Mike Woodson at season's end, as widely expected.

And it's a struggle, beyond Kerr, to manufacture names that make sense … unless Jackson makes it known that he's prepared to go outside of that small circle and open up a broader search.

Jackson maintained a healthy distance from the various personnel men he worked with during his two stints with the Lakers, which is why there are no L.A. execs of recent vintage who strike you as an instant nominee. Ex-Lakers official and current Suns scout Ronnie Lester has been mentioned, but Lester and Jackson don't have anything resembling the sort of bond that the Zen Master has with the likes of Kurt Rambis, Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper and the still-active Derek Fisher. The reality, though, is that those four Phil disciples don't possess the sort of experience and/or proven front-office versatility that Jackson could surely use to lean on.

So …

One of the latest theories in circulation, among rivals coaches and executives, suggests that Jackson will lean on Kerr for guidance if Kerr indeed winds up replacing Woodson. And that would presumably thrust a longtime Kerr associate, such as Cleveland Cavaliers acting general manager David Griffin, into the mix.

Yet, it's also widely believed that Jackson wants to put off any searching, even for a new right-hand man in the executive suite, until after this season plays out. The Knicks, after all, badly want to snag the East's No. 8 seed if they can manage it. And Jackson would presumably prefer not to create anything resembling a distraction that the Knicks could point to as an excuse if they start backsliding again.

The Houston Rockets, according to sources familiar with the team's thinking, recently began looking at the point guard market -- domestically and abroad -- just in case they need a late-season replacement for defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley.

To the Rockets' relief, though, Beverley is vowing to play again this season after finding out that the torn meniscus in his right knee suffered late last month will not require surgery. So Houston, at the moment, is leaning against bringing in anyone new.

But sources said that Rockets officials indeed reached out to Bayern Munich point guard Malcolm Delaney to see if prying him away from the German champions at this late-in-the-season date was feasible. Delaney has yet to play in the NBA since leaving Virginia Tech in 2011 but has turned heads with a strong season in the Euroleague.

The Rockets, of course, also continue to hold out hope that they'll someday be able to bring Real Madrid guard Sergio Llull over, having acquired the coveted Spaniard's NBA rights on draft day in 2009 once Llull was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 34th overall pick that year.

Llull is a big and internationally seasoned guard whom the Rockets, I'm told, believe is a definite NBA rotation player. But negotiating an in-season buyout for Llull with Real Madrid, even had Beverley been lost for the season, was never a possibility. Impossibility is more like it.

Plus, Llull himself has consistently been publicly lukewarm on the idea of leaving the Spanish ACB for the NBA. Real Madrid signed Llull, 26, to a monster contract extension in 2012 that runs through 2017-18.

One of the more interesting (but untold) stories of the Washington Wizards' return to the playoffs after a five-season absence is the presence of assistant coach Ryan Saunders on Randy Wittman's bench.

Saunders made his way to Washington as an assistant for his father, Flip, and became a coaching free agent last summer after a season and a half under Wittman.

But, instead of following Flip to Minnesota, where the elder Saunders became the Timberwolves' new team president and part owner last May, Ryan was retained by the Wizards, who didn't want to surrender the contributions he makes on the scouting and analytics side as well as his presence on the floor as one of Wittman's aides alongside veterans Don Newman, Sam Cassell and Don Zierden.

So the Wiz signed Saunders to a new deal entering this season that kept him next to Wittman, who unexpectedly has Washington in the mix for the fifth seed in the East after a playoff drought stretching to Gilbert Arenas' D.C. heyday in 2007-08.

Sources: Wizards eye Drew Gooden

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
Drew Gooden has been waiting all season to get another look from an NBA team.

The Washington Wizards' loss of Nene for the next six weeks appears to have created Gooden's opening.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told that Gooden, 32, is "likely" to receive a 10-day deal from the Wizards to get the first crack at trying to help Washington deal with the loss of their frontcourt anchor to a sprained MCL.

Gooden has been training on his own for months to stay ready for the phone to ring after the Milwaukee Bucks released him last July via the one-time amnesty provision.

The Wizards feared they might have lost Nene for the season Sunday night when he took a shot to the left knee in Washington's 96-83 victory at Cleveland. They gratefully announced Monday, after an MRI, that the bruising Brazilian had only suffered a sprain.

Nene is averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game this season as part of an effective partnership up front with first-year Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Gooden appeared in just 16 games last season before the Bucks used the amnesty clause to wipe the remainder of his five-year contract worth in excess of $30 million off the books.
Here are the latest dribbles of NBA personnel chatter as Thursday's 3 p.m. Trade deadline draws near:

Knicks still chasing Nuggets' Faried

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
Two trade rumbles involving the New York Knicks were circulating Tuesday as we inch to within a week of the NBA's annual trade deadline.

Rumble No. 1: The Knicks, I'm told, are trying to re-engage Denver in what has become a season-long crusade to convince the Nuggets to consent to a trade that essentially swaps Iman Shumpert for Kenneth Faried.

One source close to the situation said the most likely trade scenario -- if it ever progresses to a serious stage -- would package Shumpert and Beno Udrih to Denver for Faried and Jordan Hamilton. But that's the issue; New York simply hasn't been able to get Denver to seriously consider the idea.

Faried is earning only $1.4 million this season as he heads into a summer where he's eligible for a contract extension. A salary that low obviously makes it tricky for the Nuggets to get something resembling equal value for Faried when he's still on his rookie-scale contract.

That would quickly lead you to presume that Denver would insist on adding a long-term contract it wants to shed to any deal if it's going to consent to parting with Faried before next Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. The Knicks are wary of taking on any long-term money for short-term gain -- no matter how short-handed they are in the frontcourt with Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin -- since they're determined to maintain financial flexibility for the summer of 2015 in hopes of getting a re-signed (by then) Carmelo Anthony more quality help.

Add it all up and you'll quickly conclude, like us, that the Knicks' chances of changing the Nuggets' minds don't look great.

Rumble No. 2: Washington's determination to acquire a new backup point guard to replace the ineffectual Eric Maynor before the Feb. 20 trade buzzer is widely considered one of the certainties of this trade season. And the Wiz, I'm told, have Knicks guard Beno Udrih high on their list, since Udrih's modest expiring contract -- even with a 15-percent trade kicker -- is relatively easy for Washington to digest in a season where it has an eye firmly on the luxury-tax threshold.

As Grantland's Zach Lowe reported earlier Tuesday, Washington does have certifiable interest in Denver's very available Andre Miller. I'm told that the Wiz, though, have thus far been unable to sell the Nuggets on a deal both sides can stomach.

The Washington Wizards, given their druthers, would love to prevent starting center Marcin Gortat from getting to free agency in July.

According to the latest whispers out of the nation's capital, Gortat has been presented with the option of signing a contract extension between now and June 30 by the Wizards, who acquired the Polish big man from Phoenix just days before the season started in late October.

The Wizards, though, are apparently resigned to the idea that Gortat will become a free agent July 1 after playing out the final season of his current contract, which is valued at $7.27 million.

The reality is that Gortat -- who on Friday night makes his return to Phoenix for the first time to take on the Suns -- will almost certainly score more favorable contract terms if he waits until the offseason.

But Washington, I'm told, is determined to fend off the competition this summer and regards re-signing Gortat as a top priority. He's averaging 12.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the Wizards as one of the key cogs, along with the rise of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal and his frontcourt partnership with the bruising Nene, that has thrust the Wiz into the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs in the downtrodden Eastern Conference.

The Wizards had to part with the injured Emeka Okafor -- who also possesses an expiring contract valued at $14.5 million -- along with a top-12 protected pick in the June draft for Gortat.

Deadline day nears for 50 players

December, 27, 2013
It's not a festive season for everyone in the NBA.

We're actually entering a period of high anxiety for 50 players around the league whose seasons are about to reach a make-or-break point.

All non-guaranteed deals in the NBA become fully guaranteed for the rest of the 2013-14 season if the player in question is still on his current team's roster as of Jan. 10. It's a date that always leads to a handful of roster cuts once the calendar flips to 2014, as teams either look to save a few luxury-tax bucks or perhaps open up a roster spot to take advantage of the 10-day contracts they're allowed to start handing out Jan. 5.

When it comes to this season specifically, teams looking to waive players to prevent their contracts from becoming fully guaranteed must do so by 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, thus allowing sufficient time for the player to clear waivers before the magical Jan. 10 date.

The list of players technically at risk includes some who face zero chance of getting snipped; Andrew Bynum, Patrick Beverley and Michael Beasley jump off the page in terms of vets who have noting to fret about. Yet it's a generally nervy time for anyone possessing a non-guaranteed contract until Jan. 7 passes to assure safety.

One interesting certainty here, for the record, is Orlando's forthcoming divorce from veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu. The sides have spent the past several months discussing a buyout with no success, but the Magic have to either cut or trade Turkoglu by Jan. 7 or face the prospect of paying him a full $12 million for the entire season. Only $6 million of that salary is guaranteed, but it behooves Orlando to keep Turkoglu all the way to guarantee-date buzzer just in case a trade materializes where his expiring deal becomes handy.

Atlanta: Shelvin Mack, Cartier Martin, Mike Scott
Boston: None
Brooklyn: None
Charlotte: Jeff Adrien, Chris Douglas-Roberts
Chicago: D.J. Augustin, Eric Murphy
Cleveland: Andrew Bynum, Matt Dellavedova, C.J. Miles, Henry Sims
Dallas: None
Denver: Quincy Miller
Detroit: Josh Harrellson, Peyton Siva
Golden State: Hilton Armstrong, Kent Bazemore
Houston: Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith
Indiana: Rasual Butler
L.A. Clippers: Stephen Jackson, Maalik Wayns
L.A. Lakers: Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall, Shawne Williams
Memphis: Seth Curry, James Johnson
Miami: Michael Beasley, Roger Mason Jr.
Milwaukee: None
Minnesota: Robbie Hummel
New Orleans: Lou Amundson
New York: Cole Aldrich, Toure' Murry
Oklahoma City: Ryan Gomes, Hasheem Thabeet
Orlando: Solomon Jones, Hedo Turkoglu
Philadelphia: James Anderson, Lorenzo Brown, Brandon Davies, Daniel Orton, Hollis Thompson, Elliot Williams
Phoenix: Dionte Christmas
Portland: None
Sacramento: Hamady N'diaye
San Antonio: Malcolm Thomas
Toronto: Julyan Stone
Utah: Ian Clark, Diante Garrett, Mike Harris
Washington: None

P.S.: Even before the January rush, nine players on non-guaranteed contracts have already been waived since the regular season began. They are:

Charlotte: James Southerland
Chicago: Mike James
Golden State: Dewayne Dedmon
L.A. Lakers: Elias Harris
New Orleans: Josh Childress, Arinze Onuaku, Lance Thomas
Philadelphia: Darius Morris
Utah: Jamaal Tinsley

State of the Leastern Conference

December, 18, 2013

Marc Stein joins ESPN's George Karl, ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell and the New York Daily News' Frank Isola for an Outside The Lines panel discussion on the woeful state of the Eastern Conference.

Which coaches are really on the hot seat?

December, 17, 2013
Mike WoodsonElsa/Getty ImagesKnicks coach Mike Woodson can't feel all that comfortable about his job security after Monday's loss.
You'd like to think that one thing we're not going to see this season is a wave of in-season coaching changes.

You'd like to believe that the introduction of a record 13 new coaches coming into the season would be followed by a period of calm at a time that the bench business has seemingly never been more volatile.

You'd like to pretend that it's not surprising in the least that, with Christmas just a week away, we haven't seen a single coaching dismissal yet.

This, though, is the NBA.

So you are surprised.

You have to go back to 2006-07 for the last season that every coach in the league safely made it to Christmas Day, when the Memphis Grizzlies ousted Mike Fratello on Dec. 29 after a 6-24 start. You have to rewind all the way to 1994-95 for the last time it happened before Fratello's firing.

It's still too soon, then, for folks to really be breathing easy, since it’s only Dec. 17.

Yet you could mount a strong argument, based on the latest available evidence, that the only coach in the league who legitimately faces immediate peril is New York's Mike Woodson.

For added guidance, let's consult the latest First Coach Fired odds from our friends at, since bookmakers who lose money when their projections are faulty have more incentive than most to get their forecasts right.

Here is Bovada's list of coaches purportedly in trouble as of Monday morning, hours before Washington's Randy Wittman and Woodson squared off in the proverbial game that "both coaches needed to win":

Yet when you really give those names a good scan, it's difficult to see how any of them -- Woodson aside -- feel any immediate discomfort heading into the heart of the holiday season.

NBA coaching sources maintain that Woodson, in private, understands his job security is tenuous despite the recent vote of confidence he got from Madison Square Garden chairman Jim Dolan in Dolan's recent interview with The New York Post. But he's also hanging in there pretty gamely. If Woody can survive the nightmare ending witnessed Monday night at MSG, where a remedial defensive breakdown and a timeout snafu sealed a 102-101 loss to Wittman's Wizards, Woodson might get through what a lot of peers see as an unfair vigil given how much Tyson Chandler means to this team. Chandler, after all, is inching closer to a return from a fractured right fibula, which suggests that Woody and the Knicks have potentially seen the worst of their struggles. Potentially.

Two things team insiders say continue to work in Woodson's favor even after the disastrous finish against the Wiz: (1) He's only had the influential Chandler in the lineup for four games; (2) New York's limited options in terms of interim coaches (Herb Williams, Darrell Walker or the total coaching novice Allan Houston) add to Woodson's shelf life.

As for the rest of aforementioned coaches ...

Plugged-in sources have said for weeks that Kidd has maintained the support of his Russian bosses throughout Brooklyn's early nightmare, given that Kidd is making the virtually unprecedented jump straight from player to head coach and with too many injuries during the season's opening quarter to judge him fairly anyway.

The Wizards, while not quite living up to preseason expectations, have sufficiently rebounded from yet another slow start to the point that they're starting to look like what passes for a playoff team in the ugliest Leastern Conference in memory, which should get Wittman through the final year of his contract. Sources say, furthermore, that it's always been the preference of Wizards owner Ted Leonsis to complete the season without changing anything and then assess everything in the offseason with the deals of both Wittman and general manager Ernie Grunfeld expiring.

Casey and Corbin, like Wittman, are also in their final year of their contracts, but the fire sale clearly underway in Toronto and the youth movement undertaken in Utah mean those two really aren't being judged on wins and losses at the moment. It's likewise too early for Brown and Drew, both just months into their jobs with new teams, to be feeling any legit heat.

Since I started covering the NBA halfway through the 1993-94 season, there have amazingly been only three seasons without at least one coaching change by Christmas: 2006-07 and 1994-95 as mentioned and 1993-94.

We're looking at No. 4 in that two-decade span if Chandler’s looming return means Woody has weathered the Knicks' latest crisis.

With the research help of’s Adam Reisinger and the Elias Sports Bureau, here’s a year-by-year breakdown of the in-season coaching changes seen in the NBA since 1993-94:

* In 1993-94, we made it all the way until March before the first and only coaching change. That was when the Los Angeles Lakers fired Randy Pfund after 64 games, installed the venerable Bill Bertka as the interim coach for two games and then had Magic Johnson finish out the season with a 5-11 stint before hiring eventual NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris to take over in 1994-95.
What has already been a robust marketplace, for those of you who love the NBA’s Transaction Game, is about to get robust-er.

OK, OK. Let's just say busier.

A league that has already witnessed three trades headlined by Marcin Gortat, Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay since training camps opened -- with Toronto trying hard as we speak to find a workable Kyle Lowry deal that makes it four -- will see more than 100 new trade chips put into play in less than 48 hours.

At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, no fewer than 114 players who signed new contracts since July will become trade-eligible, thanks to the league rule stipulating that recipients of new deals (in most cases) cannot be dealt until Dec. 15 or three months from the day their new contract is completed ... whichever of those dates falls later. So ...

Just as we would have in the Weekend Dime era, Stein Line Live serves up a list of all 114 of them -- along with a flurry of bonus lists -- to assist in your ESPN Trade Machine endeavors:

Players eligible to be traded as of Sunday


* -- Players with an asterisk next to their name possess additional trade restrictions in their respective contracts that earned them spots on Stein Line Live's All-No-Trade Team. Click here to get reacquainted with that group.

Bonus List No. 1

The following 20 players with new contracts aren't eligible to be traded Sunday because the three-month window since their respective signing dates extends beyond Dec. 15. Next to each player's name is the date he becomes trade-eligible:

Bonus List No. 2

The NBA, as part of its new labor agreement in 2011, restricts players possessing new contracts from being eligible to be traded before Jan. 15 when (1) the player's team is over the salary cap and (2) the first-year salary in the new deal exceeds the prior season's salary by more than 120 percent. There are seven players who fall under those restrictions this season:

Bonus List No. 3

Any player who signs a contract extension cannot be traded for six months if the total length of the contract (prior deal plus extension) is longer than three years or if the extension has annual increases in excess of 4.5 percent. Two big names, as a result, are thus ineligible to be traded until after their teams' respective 2013-14 seasons:

* -- Don't forget that Kobe, as covered in the Nov. 8 SLL post, is also one of four players in the league who possesses an outright no-trade clause in his contract along with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki.

Bonus List No. 4

There are only eight teams in the league, in case all of this trade-eligibility talk has made you curious, that aren't currently carrying a full 15-man roster. They are:

One-On-One ... To Five: Bradley Beal

November, 19, 2013
 Bradley Beal Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports
Five questions and answers with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal:

Q: What's different about Bradley Beal this season compared to last season?

A: I want to be able to create for myself as well as for my teammates. I'm putting the ball on the floor a lot more. Last year I was kind of one-dimensional. Just a catch-and-shoot guy, just strictly a shooter. But now I want to become more of a creator off the dribble, create for my guys and I'm doing a better job passing the ball, making better reads with the ball as well.

Q: How do you actually make that happen and add those things to your game?

A: A year under my belt really helps. I'm learning how people play me, learning how defenses [set], learning all the schemes and learning how to read the schemes. I just felt that I needed to help John [Wall] out. Last year he was really our only creator off the dribble. For my own benefit and the benefit of the team, I felt that was something I really needed to work on. ...

Q: A lot of people are talking about the step you've taken; Charles Barkley comes to mind. How much of that chatter are you hearing?

A: I really don't pay attention to it. Everybody has their own opinion about me, but I'm trying not to pay attention. All the outside stuff that goes on doesn't really matter.

Q: Beyond just you, though, when people talk about the Wizards, they're talking about the playoff drought or the pressure on Randy [Wittman] or the pressure on management. How much are you guys [in the locker room] feeling that?

A: It's something we put on ourselves. I think we pressure ourselves probably more than everybody else, because we know what we're capable of.

Q: The slow start doesn't ramp up the pressure?

A: It's not the start we wanted, but I know the caliber of team that we have. We have the pieces there. It's really just up to us players to put it together.