Tuesday, November 13, 2012
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: About 30 minutes after practice Monday, Kupchak walked to the window and looked down at dozens of media types scurrying, like ants at a picnic, in search of morsels of information from players and coaches about the day’s dramatic news. Mike D’Antoni, not Phil Jackson, will be the Lakers’ new coach replacing Mike Brown, who was fired Friday after just five games into his second season with the team. Brown’s firing was a decision Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called the basketball equivalent of the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear facility in the Ukraine. Spotting Kupchak at the window, a couple of vigilant reporters motioned to him to come down to the court so he could talk about a decision that is apt to have fallout for a long time in Southern California. Making eye contact with the reporters, Kupchak rolled his eyes, shook his head and retreated back to the safety of his office. A decision that demands an immediate explanation will have to wait, and it may be a few more days before anyone has a chance to grill Kupchak. Or any of the other decision makers who appear to have left Jackson in the lurch.
- Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: Maybe the guy who started out coaching in Milan thought New York was going to be his last great stage in basketball. It turns out to be Los Angeles instead. D'Antoni is 61 years old. He has had some basketball life, sometimes in seven seconds or less. Sometimes that is all it takes to change your basketball life again. He gets a call. He gets Kobe and Dwight and the Lakers. One last time he gets to hand the ball to Steve Nash. Good guy, good deal. For him and for the Lakers.
- Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: If those running the Lakers are concerned about perception, here's hoping they stopped reading and listening late Sunday night. Because, ever since then, the general perception is the Lakers messed up big time in hiring Mike D'Antoni and even bigger time in not hiring Phil Jackson. And, even if D'Antoni now succeeds, the perception will remain that this decision was based on something much deeper than basketball. Suspiciously, the deal to hire D'Antoni was completed in the middle of the night and after Jackson was thought to be the overwhelming first choice. The Lakers, Jackson says, even indicated that he had until Monday to decide if he wanted the job. If the timing of Mike Brown's firing was slightly strange, the timing of D'Anonti's hiring was totally suspect. It suggests this was something personal, perhaps a way for executive vice president Jim Buss, whose relationship with Jackson has been strained at best, to stick it to the Hall of Fame coach with the entire NBA watching.
- Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: And each time I heard the job was Jackson's if he wanted, an understanding that followed a marathon meeting Saturday between the Zen Master and Lakers vice president Jim Buss, my gut kept telling me the Lakers were about to make a monumental mistake. Knowing darn well D'Antoni was the superior choice. I guess by now it's pretty obvious how I feel about everything that unfolded between Sunday afternoon and the wee hours of Monday morning. Like everyone else, I went to sleep Sunday reluctantly accepting Jackson would be the new coach. Only to wake up to the news the Lakers executed a back-door pick and hired D'Antoni instead. They didn't just make the ensuing lay-up; they got hacked in the process for an "and-one" three-point play. The Lakers made the right call, for this season and the immediate and long-range future. … Think about how many times during his last go-around with the Lakers he'd contemplate retirement, the wear-and-tear of a grueling season taking its toll on him, the lure of his beloved Montana retreat beckoning? And then take a few weeks into the offseason to decide whether he'd return? That wasn't going to change this time around, and if anything the uncertainty would have been even more pronounced. Did the Lakers really want that indecision, and did they really want to be stuck in the same place next June, looking for a new coach, if Jackson decided he couldn't hack it anymore?
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Dwyane Wade said New Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will have to use a little extra “brain power” to make Steve Nash fit in with Kobe Bryant. D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense in Phoenix was perfect for Nash and helped the veteran point guard build a Hall of Fame career. Wade said it might not be so easy in Los Angeles, given that Kobe Bryant needs the ball in his hands more often than Nash and Dwight Howard. “When [D’Antoni] was in Phoenix, he gave Nash the ball … and put the right personnel around him, and Nash is one of the best pick-and-roll players of all time and he let him be that, so it’s going to be a little bit of a different dynamic right now. He’ll probably use a little bit more brain power to see how he can get Nash to be Nash with the other elements that he has in Kobe and the rest of those guys.”
- Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: Admit it. You miss Mike D’Antoni basketball as much as you miss Steve Nash bad-hair days. Both were sure-fire entertainment. This one stings. The D’Antoni-Nash reunion in Los Angeles harkens to a time when the pieces fit nicely in US Airways Center. Sure, we complained about defense and barked about early playoff exits, but at least we cared. Those teams were up-tempo. Exciting. Relevant. Heck, we would let Robert Horry knock Nash into the scorer’s table again if it meant having it all back. This is why the criticism out of Los Angeles is so head-scratching. Since when did advancing to the Western Conference finals twice equate to failure? Since when did putting together one of the more entertaining offenses the NBA has seen equate to a bad choice? The Lakers’ hiring of D’Antoni makes great sense.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: George Karl thought the Lakers would have actually been OK with the fired Mike Brown. Now, the surprise new Lakers coach is Mike D'Antoni. "He's a very good offensive coach, he's had a lot of success, so I think it's a good hire," Karl said. "The Lakers — being a veteran, talented team — the pieces are going to fit. I expected if they would have kept (Brown), they would have gotten it together and finished it out. The Lakers are going to be around, they're going to be a problem, they're going to be a nightmare, and come April, I'm sure they'll figure it out and be in the top echelon."
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Leandro Barbosa played his first five seasons with the Suns under coach Mike D’Antoni, who was named coach of the Lakers Monday. The organization apparently passed on 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson because D’Antoni was a better fit for an offense led by point guard Steve Nash, who likes D’Antoni’s uptempo style. Barbosa said D’Antoni’s system isn’t difficult. “It will be easy,” he said. “Coach Mike is a great coach and he really understands offenses. It’s easy. He likes a lot of pick-and-rolls. Him and Stevie, they know very well each other. I’m sure it will be really easy for them. It’s nothing complicated. It won’t be hard for them for sure.” Doc Rivers wasn’t as interested in the Lakers’ affairs but endorsed D’Antoni. “He’s a hell of a coach, it’s a good fit,” he said. “I think it’s a terrific fit. I heard all this stuff going on [in Los Angeles]. It’s not my team so I can care less but I don’t know anyone who could scoff at Mike D’Antoni being the head coach.”
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Thunder coach Scott Brooks was complimentary of newly named Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni when asked before the game about his thoughts on what is currently the hottest topic in the league. … In the next breath, Brooks said D'Antoni's hire is of no concern to the Thunder and its quest to return to the NBA Finals. “That doesn't change how we look at things at all,” Brooks said. “We focus on our team, our growth, our development, how we play. It has no bearing on us moving forward. We know that the Lakers are one of the best teams in basketball. That doesn't change. We still focus on how we play and approach every game the same.”
- Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News: Andrew Bynum is the biggest part of the Sixers' portion of the trade that sent Andre Iguodala to Denver. The Sixers knew what they were getting: perpetually damaged goods. As advertised, Bynum is hurt. He underwent blood-spinning therapy to fortify his knees in September, then suffered a mysterious bone bruise in his right knee soon thereafter. Bynum has yet to play a game in red, white and blue. Doctors say he needs a month before he can start practicing again. The team expects to wait as much as another month for Bynum to get into shape. There is no hurry. Not for Bynum. … After weeks of the soccer mom workout, he will soon begin running and jumping again. "Phase 2 will start next week," Bynum said. "That will tell me a lot." It will tell him he has done the right thing … so far. If he needs more time, he will take it; even if it means no Bynum until Valentine's Day. After all, when it comes to big men's knees, life's a box of chocolates: You never know what you're going to get.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Among the most troubling elements of these eventful past few days - the two-game suspensions of rookie Thomas Robinson and DeMarcus Cousins - is the ongoing silence of team basketballl president Geoff Petrie. It's not like Sacramento is a huge media market, with dozens of reporters making unreasonable demands or anything. Yet that fact continues to elude the Kings top bball people. Our beat writer, Jason Jones, left a message for Petrie on Sunday after Cousins' penalty for confronting Spurs analyst Sean Elliott was assessed, yet he never heard back. This is a one-newspaper town. How tough is that? (Petrie's voice wasn't heard on the Kings-Lakers telecast from the Staples Center a few hours later either, by the way). So, ok, we are admittedly Bee-centric. But after practice today, we again asked team publicists if Petrie would address the situation, and were told he was not available. Several of the local media types - from print, television, and bloggers - grumbled openly, and in fact mocked the organization's inability to confront issues, only further diminishing Petrie's reputation. Coach Keith Smart once again was left to answer all the tough questions, and for the first time, he appeared stressed and irritated. This, then, becomes the question: How can Petrie, as the longtime voice and face of the franchise, expect Robinson and Cousins and the other players to be held accountable when he refuses to … be held accountable? This is leadership?
- Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Dwyane Wade is to the point where he is beginning to cherish the Miami Heat records he still owns. One by one, his team achievements are starting to fall. Another of Wade’s marks came crashing down after teammate LeBron James scored 32 second-half points to lead the Heat to a thrilling 113-110 victory against the Houston Rockets Monday at Toyota Center. Wade had accomplished the feat twice in his career. Now, he has the share the honor after James finished with a game-high 38 points, including the winning basket with 18.6 seconds remaining. James on this night also surpassed Wade’s team record for most consecutive games scoring in double-figures. He has done it 149 straight times. “There’s going to be a lot of that a lot of times with my records around here,” Wade said, smiling.
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Jeff Green is still a nice guy, but he’s vowing to listen to Kevin Garnett’s request that he be more of a jerk when it comes to basketball. KG, who last night passed Allen Iverson for 17th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, liked what he saw from Green in Saturday’s win in Milwaukee, and he was quoted in Sunday’s Herald saying, “You know, Jeff’s a really, really nice guy, and some nights, you know, you’ve just got to be an (expletive). You’ve got to be … I can’t really say what I want to say, but he’s got to be that.” Green laughed yesterday at Garnett’s choice of words, but he gets the point. … It’s not as if Green hasn’t been told this before in his career, but, he acknowledged, “It’s one thing for somebody else to say it, but for it to come from Kevin Garnett, that’s different. “It’s just something I’ve got to do. I can’t really think about it. It’s got to be a part of how I play. You’ve just got to be aggressive, because if I’m aggressive it’ll open up things for everybody else.”
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau offered some promising news on Derrick Rose’s recovery from ACL surgery. Thibodeau said Rose began doing cuts on the court last week. He also expressed confidence Rose would play this season. Sometime after the all-star break in February seems to be a reasonable guess. “Everything is going according to plan,” Thibodeau said before Monday’s game. “He’s not ahead of schedule, he’s not behind schedule. He’s exactly where he should be. He’s doing great. You have to be patient with it. He’s been very diligent. He’s in every day. He’s moving along. He started cutting. He’s been shooting for a while now. He feels pretty good, so we just have to be patient.”
- Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: Al Jefferson is Al Jefferson’s biggest believer. He taught everybody everything they know about everything, including shooting 3-pointers. One week before he made his second career 3 to send the Jazz to overtime in an eventual 140-133 triple-overtime win over Toronto, Jefferson saw an opening to remind everyone of this fact. He sat at his locker in Memphis, and his ears perked when he heard Paul Millsap talking about the development of his own 3-point shot. "First of all," the ebullient Jefferson butted in, "I would be leading the team if I shot 3s myself. I’m a better 3-point shooter than this guy. I’ll prove it anytime." The two picked a strange time to stage a public 3-point shooting contest, but the Jazz (4-4) were the benefactors Monday night, earning their first road win of the season in front of an announced crowd of 18,230 at the Air Canada Centre.
- Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: If there is a criticism of general manager Bryan Colangelo’s construction of this team, it is the amount of money and space he had tied up at that position without any semblance of a sure-fire starter: Linas Kleiza is a bench player at best, while rookie Terrence Ross is not ready to log significant minutes on a team that has visions of playoff contention. Between Fields, Kleiza and Anderson the Raptors have almost $11-million (all currency U.S.) tied up; Ross’s contract is $2.56-million, and if you see a lot of him this season it means one of two things: he’s putting together a remarkable and, frankly, unforeseen rookie-of-the-year run, or the Raptors are playing for next season. And that’s something that Colangelo and head coach Dwane Casey are in no mood to do: play for next season. This Raptors team was not going to be a finished product this season but it does need to get into the playoffs. If it looks like the season is getting away from them – and remember, the Raptors are playing 15 of their first 22 games away from home – and if the playoffs really are important, Colangelo must make a deal. The fear now is that they rush back Lowry.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The injury-ravaged Timberwolves don't have walking wounded, they have riding wounded, and on Monday night in Dallas they collected yet another odds-defying victory and one more hurting passenger motored out of American Airlines Center on a cart. Minutes after his team beat the Mavericks 90-82 for its fifth victory in the first seven games, Wolves starting center Nikola Pekovic limped down on a long arena corridor on a sprained ankle that knocked him out of the game late in the third quarter. He looked back over his shoulder and saw sweat-suited teammates Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio climb aboard that cart -- Love in the front seat, Rubio sprawled in back -- for a ride to the team bus and asked, "Hey guys, what about me?" Love soon deferred, vacating the front seat for big Pek on a night when the Wolves lost a player to injury for the fourth consecutive game and won anyway, holding the NBA's highest scoring team through seven games to a season-low 82 points on 36 percent shooting. "It's just one of those things, I don't know when it's going to stop," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said of a formula that seems to be win a game, but lose a player every night.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The Mavericks couldn’t stop Minnesota, couldn’t rebound when they did and couldn’t make shots on Monday night. It was the third consecutive game they lost, this one 90-82 to Minnesota, which by the end was missing six of its eight best players. So Rick Carlisle, who has seen his team blow all the momentum that came with a 4-1 start, said the time has come to consider changes. “We got to look at it,” Carlisle said. “We’ve given this rotation a good, long look. And we may have to change it up. I’ll have to look at the film and see.” That’s what a miserable night at the gym does.
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Pistons' long-term plan to return to relevance will go up in smoke if Brandon Knight doesn't develop. There are many reasons why the Pistons have started the season 0-8 -- a first in franchise history -- but the play of Knight, a second-year point guard, is among the biggest. His uneven play was on display Monday night at the Palace after the team finally returned from the long six-game trip out west. To be clear, the start of the fourth quarter when the Thunder went with a small lineup to turn an 11-point deficit into a 92-90 final was the main reason for the Pistons loss. But Knight, who shot a woeful 2-for-13 and 2-for-8 from three-point line, made two questionable decisions that cost the Pistons in the closing minutes of a close game.
- John Jeansonne of Newsday: Being 4-0 and the NBA's only unbeaten team is not good material for talk radio, where the best thing for stirring up callers is a long losing streak. So the most the Knicks can do, in terms of generating fans' angst, is to consider a schedule that is sending them on their first multi-game road trip and won't give them two days off between games until the first week of December. "It's our schedule," coach Mike Woodson said Monday. "You know, we've had four good games and now we have to go see what we're made of on the road. Road wins are tough to get." In a league that equates going on the road to going down the rabbit hole, a daunting venture into the unknown, the Knicks play Tuesday night in Orlando, Thursday in San Antonio and Friday in Memphis. After a home game against Indiana on Sunday, they will be traveling again to New Orleans, Dallas and Houston. "We've only been on the road -- what? -- one game?" Woodson said. "I'm a big believer that you've got to do everything right on the road to win. We have been playing pretty good basketball; I like everything about the way we're playing. But the road's a different beast . Guys have to be committed and ready to go once you get out on the road."