The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

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Archive for the month “May, 2015”

The Orlando Magic Underwhelm With The Hire Of Scott Skiles As Their New Head Coach

Scott Skiles is now the head coach of the franchise he used to play for. But this may not be the best decision made for the team. (photo courtesy of www.wn.com)

Scott Skiles is now the head coach of the franchise he used to play for. But this may not be the best decision made for the team. (photo courtesy of http://www.wn.com)

The Orlando Magic started last season looking for progress from third-year coach Jacque Vaughn and his young team. Although they were young, they were a talented squad that some could see making it to the playoffs potentially if they were to reach their ultimate level. Unfortunately, the Magic were the same team they were last year and it seemed like no progress was made. So the organization decided to part ways with Vaughn halfway through the season. The team with so much talent just did not come together under Vaughn’s leadership. The season ended for them mercifully in April and then the search for a new coach began. There were names mentioned like former Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau as the next coach of the Magic. But for Orlando, they decided to not hire these coaches in favor of one of the franchise favorites. Scott Skiles was a hard-working player when he played in the NBA. He did not have any skills that were extraordinary, but he was a smart, heady player that left it all on the court. And he can famously be remembered for being an irritant to second-year center Shaquille O’Neal when they were in Orlando together as well as his record of 30 assists in one game in 1990. Well, Skiles will now be returning to where he had his best success as a player. Skiles was officially named the new head coach of the Orlando Magic on this past Friday. And with that, the new era of Magic basketball has begun. But how long will this era last is the question many have.

Skiles has been in the NBA a long time as a coach and has had a few stops. In Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee he helped make those teams better and he has a 51% winning percentage in the NBA as a coach. It is undeniable how much he squeezed out of those teams when many did not see the type of things he did. And with most of them, there was not much to work with. But the things that he accomplished with the teams he coached came with a price. Skiles was as demanding as a coach as he was a player. He was tough on players and sometimes overstepped his bounds as a coach. He knew tough love as a coach and some players needed that. But he never knew when to throttle it down on the sideline or at practice. The result of his propensity to continue to push his teams was him ultimately getting fired from two coaching jobs and him resigning from the Milwaukee job. The reason he was fired from two of his coaching jobs he was is because he wore on those teams. Eventually, the players tired of listening to him rant at them about things. His act wore thin and he was jettisoned. In Milwaukee, his resigning was due to him not being very fond of the ownership at the time and who can blame him? At that time ownership was very bad. But the team probably would have fired him there as well if he did not resign due to his abrasive coaching style. In the end, he is a guy that gets results but wears thin on people, including management. In the short-term, he can get some results. But in the long-term, he is not the answer for any team. He is merely a stopgap.

For Orlando, they had a chance to bring back a former player they loved, but they also had a chance to bring in someone that would make a difference in the long run. And by taking a look at Skiles and his coaching career, long-term is something that should never be attached to his name. The Magic have a ton of youth on their team and those players will need some tough love along with some encouragement along the way. Skiles has proven that he is incapable of the encouragement portion and would rather coach NBA players like he is their taskmaster. As time goes on, he will become the frustrating irritant that he was when he played with Shaq in Orlando. And that will eventually drive the Orlando players crazy. The NBA is a player’s league and very seldom do coaches win out over players. In a year or two, the Magic will go from just a young team to a team that could potentially make some noise in the East with guards Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo along with big man Nikola Vucevic. Skiles will drive them to success at first, but he will eventually become the one that drives them towards talking to management about getting rid of him. His burnout factor on his players will help usher in a coach that will benefit from what he is trying to build. Honestly, it is amazing that he continues to keep getting jobs despite everyone knowing his history on the sidelines. These young players don’t need a taskmaster like Skiles at the helm. They need a coach that can get the best out of them while knowing how to balance personalities on a team. There is a reason teams Skiles coaches take a drastic dip in his last year coaching them and it’s definitely not the players. Add Orlando to the list of teams that will tire of him eventually and jettison him.

This experiment is one that will not work for the Orlando Magic. They fired Jacque Vaughn and had a chance to bring in better coaches with more success. But instead they fumbled this coaching hire like they have fumbled this franchise for the last four years and hired a guy that has no business even being on a sideline as a head coach again. Congratulations on your head coaching job Scott Skiles. And good luck when you are fired in two or three years and have worn out your welcome.

Fred Hoiberg To The Chicago Bulls Could Have Great Results Or Bad Implications

Could Fred Hoiberg be the coach to get the Bulls over the hump? ( Photo courtesy of Charlie Neibergall)

Could Fred Hoiberg be the coach to get the Bulls over the hump? ( Photo courtesy of Charlie Neibergall)

The Chicago Bulls finally made a decision on what they were going to do with head coach Tom Thibodeau. The official press release was less than flattering in regards to their now departed coach and the organization had security escort Thibodeau out of the building. The success over the past five years was not as important as the way he and management bumped heads. And from all accounts, that was the reason the Bulls parted ways with the successful head coach. But Thibodeau will not be walking out empty-handed. The Bulls will be paying him the remaining $9 million he had left on his two-year contract. Chicago now moves forward and there are a few coach’s names that have been mentioned as potential replacements for Thibodeau. Names like Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry and currently ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy have been mentioned, but it seems as if one name has stood above the rest. Former NBA player and current Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has caught the attention of the Chicago Bulls. And according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the Bulls even had a five year, $25 million deal in place for Hoiberg to be head coach of the team before officially firing Thibodeau. The Bulls and Hoiberg have not said much, but Hoiberg will more than likely be the head coach in Chicago when the 2015-2016 season starts. With that being said, a new era of NBA basketball will begin in Chicago. But what can be expected under with him at the helm?

What Hoiberg brings to the table as the head coach of the Bulls will be something that creates some questions among basketball fans. There is some thought that he will be a good head coach in the NBA. He has a couple things going for him in regards to the Bulls head coaching job. Unlike Thibs, Hoiberg actually is good friends with some of the Bulls brass already. He is a former Bull actually and management holds him in high regard. Management has said that they seek a place where everyone works together as a team from management on down and it seems that they are comfortable working with Hoiberg because of his relationship with general manager Gar Foreman. But along with being friends with some in management in Chicago, Hoiberg is also a former front-office guy himself. He actually worked in the front office with the Minnesota Timberwolves before heading to Aimes, Iowa to coach his alma mater Iowa State. And even though he does not have prior coaching experience, he is used to making decisions on the professional level. And the last coach that came previously worked in an NBA front office and took a head coaching job with his next opportunity is doing pretty well in his own right. In fact, he has his team in the NBA Finals. His name is Steve Kerr. The Bulls may not get that type of success in Hoiberg, but they appear to be sold on what Hoiberg could potentially do for their team and organization.

But along with the good things that Hoiberg could bring, there is also a flipside to this equation. Hoiberg comes from Iowa State just like another former Chicago Bulls coach. Back in 1998, the Bulls hired Tim Floyd away from Iowa State. Floyd was stepping into an awful situation. He was receiving a Bulls team that had been dismantled after winning a third straight championship. With Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson as coach gone, the team was gutted and had no identity. But he wanted to coach the team and his friend, general manager Jerry Krause, was there to help him along, or so he thought. The team had been depleted and was a work in progress. But with that being said, usually a team shows some type of progress when trying to rebuild. Under Floyd it seemed like the team regressed each year. Ultimately, he was let go and there was no prettiness to it. He, like Thibodeau, did not get along with management in the end and was relieved of his duties. Hoiberg is not Floyd, but the same scenario is playing out with the relationship between Foreman and Hoiberg and the fact that he is also still the coach at Iowa State. The parallels are there and they could undoubtedly play out the same way for Hoiberg. Another issue has to be the health of Hoiberg. When he was playing in Minnesota, he had to call it a career after he had some heart issues. That is what led to him being in the front office with the Timberwolves. And recently, Hoiberg had open heart surgery for the second time. The clearance of his doctors is seemingly the only thing keeping him from accepting the head coaching job with the Bulls. This has to be something that weighs on the Bulls’ minds heavily going into the reported pact that they have. No matter how good or bad a coach he is, there could always be that thought in the back of management’s minds that he could end his coaching career at any point due to a reoccurring issue with his health. Hopefully the Bulls are smart enough to make provisions in his contract in regards to the health issues because there is always the possibility that his coaching stay in Chicago could be short.

In the end, the Thibs era is over and a new one will be started whether some fans like it or not. This could go good or bad depending on what you think about this situation. But Hoiberg is the guy that is up next for the Bulls head coaching position. And with his hire, there will potentially be some changes to the roster to suit what he wants. All eyes will be on Chicago going into next year because when a successful head coach is fired, there is always a watchful eye by NBA fans to see if they made the right decision.

Alvin Gentry May Not Be The Answer For The New Orleans Pelicans

Alvin Gentry gets another chance as a head coach, but this may not be the right place for him. (photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com)

Alvin Gentry gets another chance as a head coach, but this may not be the right place for him. (photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

The New Orleans Pelicans have made a choice on a new head coach. There were plenty coaches that were considered including Jeff Van Gundy, Vinny Del Negro and even Tom Thibodeau was rumored to be on their list. But in the end, the choice was made to go in a different direction than any of those candidates. The Pelicans decided to name Golden State Warriors assistant head coach Alvin Gentry as the new head coach of the team. He will take over as soon as he finishes coaching in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no doubt that Alvin Gentry is one of the best assistant coaches out there right now. And he has experience as a head coach as well over the years. He inherits a young team that is making its first playoff appearance. The good thing for him is he got to see them up close and personal when he coached against them in the 1st round of the playoffs. And there is little doubt that he is qualified for the position. The Pelicans needed a stronger voice to get them where they wanted to go and they believe Gentry is the guy to do so. But will he bring them what they need?

Gentry is definitely no stranger to being a head coach in the NBA. His experience as a coach with the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns. You would think that someone with as three official head coaching stops (was only an interim head coach in Miami) would have done better as a coach over his time in the NBA. But looking at his record and his teams he has coached, it shows that he has not been that great as a head coach. He has a 335-370 coaching record along with being fired two times during the season (Detroit and Los Angeles) along with missing the playoffs in the seasons he finished 7 seasons he has been a head coach. In all honestly, he may not have been as qualified as the coaches that he was going against for the job. Even Vinny Del Negro can sport a better winning percentage than Gentry and has made the playoffs more than he has missed them as a coach. But the one thing that Gentry has over at least Thibodeau and Del Negro is that he went to the conference finals once as a head coach of the Phoenix Suns. But that is essentially the highlight of his career as a head coach and that is not a great thing. The experience he has helps with a young team, but it has been proven time and time again that he cannot help grow a team over time either. And with a young team that needs help and growth, he may not have been the right answer for them at all.

Gentry is a good assistant and he has made offenses better wherever he has gone. And he will help make the offense better in New Orleans. With the guards that they have, he can do some of the same types of things he did in Golden State provided the players stay healthy. Sure the players in New Orleans are not the same as in Golden State and the guards he has are not as talented as Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, but Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon are still talented enough to make the offensive scheme work. But unfortunately for Gentry, the Pelicans need work on both ends of the court. Gentry is inheriting a team that gives up any and everything when opponents attack the paint. And that is something that will get you beat and have them missing the playoffs next season. For Gentry, his best bet will be to hire a good defensive coordinator like Ron Adams from Golden State. If he is able to get a good defensive coordinator, then he can focus on making the Pelicans offense dynamic. If he cannot, then it could be a long year in 2015-2016. And that certainly will not sit well with the star of the team, power forward Anthony Davis. If the star is not happy, then Gentry could have some problems and then the team could be put in a position to choose either Gentry or Davis and we know how that one will eventually end up.

The Pelicans may have their new head coach, but it may not have been the best fit for this team. Gentry is a good coach and can make offenses better wherever he goes provided he has the pieces. But in this instance, it is another situation where the head coach is better as an assistant than the head man in charge. Honestly, Thibodeau may not have been a bad option here even though he may have driven the players into the ground with the minutes he plays them. And that may have driven Anthony Davis to more injuries. And in regards to Van Gundy, he would have given them the defense they needed but not the offense they desired. And we all saw what happens when Del Negro is on the bench and how he looks hopeless at times. In the end, Gentry was the chosen out of the available choices there. But with a team that needed defense, the offensive selection may not get it done. Gentry has been a good assistant coach over his career, but a subpar head coach. Only time will tell, but it’s Gentry’s show now and he has some talented young pieces to work with going forward.

Dwyane Wade, The Miami Heat And The Summer Of 2015

Dwyane Wade is potentially going to be n the market. But does he really leave Miami? (photo courtesy of www.halestormsports.com)

Dwyane Wade is potentially going to be n the market. But does he really leave Miami? (photo courtesy of http://www.halestormsports.com)

Dwyane Wade has been a staple of Miami Heat basketball ever since he was drafted there back in 2003. Back when he was selected 5th overall in the infamous 2003 draft, some thought he wondered how good he would be. Well, a few years later, he has churned out a Hall Of Fame career and is closing in on retirement with each passing day. He has also been able to do something that many have not been able to do in their careers: stay in one place. Through the years, he has been very visible on the court for the Heat along with part of their community. The dynamic shooting guard has also been very unselfish as well, taking less money to help the team over the last five seasons. And to his credit, the team was able to bring in superstar forward LeBron James and perennial All-Star Chris Bosh to help make the team better. The results were four NBA Finals appearances in the first four years and two more NBA championships for Wade, adding to the title he won with Shaquille O’Neal in Miami in 2006. But after the fourth year and a disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, Wade, James and Bosh all decided to opt out of their current deals for new ones. In the summer of 2014, Wade agreed to a new deal worth $31.1 million over two years with a player option for the second year. Being that Wade had two years and $42 million left on his deal, Wade took a $5 million per year paycut to stay in Miami. And although LeBron James decided to go back home to Cleveland after four years in Miami, the Heat still had money to re-sign Chris Bosh to a max deal (5 years and $118 million) and LeBron James’ replacement, Luol Deng (2 years and $20 million with a player option for the second season). Unfortunately, taking less money did not work out for him or the team this time. Wade and the Heat missed the playoffs and were not as successful as some thought they would be. Of course, the absence of Bosh due to blood clots in his lungs for the second half of the season was a costly injury to their success, but the Heat were still fighting uphill to make the playoffs with him. During the season, the Heat traded for point guard Goran Dragic even though he was expected to be a free agent this offseason. And many though that he would be the one person to watch with this team this summer. Would they sign him or would he take a deal form another team? Well, all that talk about Dragic has been silenced by one Dwyane Tyrone Wade, Jr.

Recently, word began to matriculate out that Wade may opt out of his current deal with the Miami Heat. There are rumors out there that he wants to get paid more money in a longer-term deal. Well, apparently the Heat do not have the same feelings and in some circles, there are people that think the threat of Wade leaving Miami is real. Honestly, this would be something that many would not have seen coming. It was thought that he would retire a member of the Miami Heat and potentially land a job with the team in the front office. But this isn’t about loyalty this time. This is about business. Wade is 33 years old now. He is a veteran that knows time is limited in the NBA. Whether he values more money, winning or both are things that have yet to be answered by him at this point in his career, but it can be assumed he would like to win and get paid more at the same time. So, the question now falls on the Miami Heat and what they are willing to do. Do they pay him more money or do they let him walk? On one hand, they cannot let him walk. Like mentioned earlier, he is the face of Miami basketball and has made many sacrifices for the team over the years. The Heat could take a public relations hit if they let Wade walk considering all he has done. And if he walks, Dragic could potentially leave with him. That would leave the Heat with Chris Bosh and a bunch of players that are not prepared to step up in Wade and Dragic’s absence. And at that point, the Heat would probably either get players one-year deals in hopes of attracting Kevin Durant in the 2016 free agency class or they could take their shots at some free agents out there on the market this offseason. Either way, there is some decisions that Miami has to make and this season, they all hinge on the decision of Dwyane Wade and not LeBron James as it did last summer.

If Wade is to opt out and seriously go somewhere else, where would he go and get the money he wants? There are only a select few teams that have the deep pockets to pay him what he wants. One team that does have money to spend are the Los Angeles Lakers. But the thing that would hinder him going there would be one Kobe Bean Bryant. Wade and Bryant both play the same position and both are getting up there in age in their careers. This would be the most unlikely of scenarios for the Lakers and something that isn’t what they would want to begin with. The other team that has cap space this summer would be the New York Knicks. Of course that would mean he would leave to go play with Carmelo Anthony in New York. That combination and the Triangle offense would not necessarily be a good fit at all either. Melo is a scorer and needs the ball in his hands. Wade has gotten better playing off the ball, but that pairing would be mean that the Knicks are giving up on Tim Hardaway Jr. and that they are not going to take that money and sign a point guard and big man they need more than another shooting guard. There are surely other teams out there, but these two can offer Wade the most money to finish off his career. And for those that are thinking it already, there is little to no chance that the Cavaliers can bring Wade to Cleveland, pairing him with one of his best friends, LeBron James. The team is already over the cap for this season and they have their own decision to wait on from Kevin Love amongst other things to figure out in their offseason. And there is also the chance that LeBron James could opt out of his deal as well, making him a free agent again. The situation with James is unlikely being that the cap goes up in the summer of 2016 and that would position him to be paid in the neighborhood of $30 million per season, but there were many that thought he would never leave Cleveland in the summer of 2010 and that happened. Many things are on the table for Wade at this time, but thinking that he will get more money from another team this summer is something that is not very realistic when looking at the entire picture.

The battle between Wade and the Miami Heat has begun. One wants more and the other wants to keep building towards contention. In this battle of the face of the team versus the team, it should be interesting to see who comes out on top. But be for sure Dwyane Wade saw the contract extension Kobe signed with the Lakers for two years and $48.5 million. He envisions himself as second to Kobe at the shooting guard position, so we can guess he feels he should get something near that amount of money. Which side blinks first on this one will be something to watch going forward.

A Closer Look At Jeff Van Gundy Potentially Coaching The New Orleans Pelicans

Jeff Van Gundy is on the list of coaches New Orleans is looking at to coach. So, what would he look like as the Pelicans coach? (photo courtesy of www.lakernation.com)

Jeff Van Gundy is on the list of coaches New Orleans is looking at to coach. So, what would he look like as the Pelicans coach? (photo courtesy of http://www.lakernation.com)

The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for a new head coach in the wake of their surprise firing of head coach Monty Williams. Many figured that he would get a chance to compete next season with a healthy roster coming off a playoff appearance. But that was not what New Orleans had in mind. The search for a new head coach has had a few interesting names mentioned. One of the most mentioned names out there has been former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The recently fired head man in Chicago and the front office have been at odds for a while now and their divorce was finally announced on Thursday. He will get an interview there in New Orleans if he wants one, but he is not the only coach they are checking out at this time. And with the draft quickly approaching, the Pelicans have to make a decision on a new head coach. With that in mind, the Pelicans have looked everywhere for the next head coach of their organization. Their search has led them to the broadcast booth to potentially bring in their new head coach. Former Rockets and Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy reportedly met with the Pelicans brass in regards to their head coaching position. Van Gundy is seemingly so intrigued by the idea of coaching budding superstar Anthony Davis that he is considering ending his hiatus from coaching. But what can you expect from Van Gundy should he step back into the coaching arena?

The New Orleans Pelicans are a young team with talent everywhere. But this season they had some health issues and that led to an inconsistent performance from them all season. But they were able to pull it together enough and get to the playoffs. While in the playoffs, the Pelicans had one of their glaring weaknesses exposed. The Warriors were going to the basket at will against the Pelicans, even with the presence of shot-blocker Anthony Davis. And as a result, the Warriors dispatched of the Pelicans rather easily in four games. Going forward, the Pelicans have to be tougher in the paint. They were one of the worst paint defending teams in the NBA and Van Gundy could be the perfect guy to change that for them. Throughout his coaching career, Van Gundy has had stout defenses. When he was in New York, he had a veteran team that was tough and physical. And with that team he made them a factor in the Eastern Conference virtual every year he was there. And when he went to Houston, he made them a tough team and also a team that could compete in the West. But unfortunately for him, injuries, mainly to Yao Ming, caused them to not achieve the heights they could have achieved. From Patrick Ewing to Yao Ming, Van Gundy always had a cornerstone inside that was able to be the backbone of his defense. And although Anthony Davis is not a center, he could definitely be the cornerstone of that defense. With New Orleans, Van Gundy would have a team that is as athletic as he has had, but also as inexperienced as he has had also. But the thing he would also have is a team that is younger than he had in New York and Houston that could run on teams as opposed to grinding it out on the offensive end. The possibilities of what Van Gundy could bring to this team would be endless on the defensive end and that could make this team a perennial playoff participant.

Van Gundy has had success everywhere he has been, but there has always been one criticism he has always had. The teams he had were always competitive and in every game, but the offenses he trotted out there were very hard on the eyes. Who can forget the grind-it-out teams he had in New York all those years? With those teams, it always seemed he could not squeak out 85-90 points consistently. And in the end, the lack of offense always ended up being the downfall of his teams. Not only was the lack of offense the biggest downfall of him, it was the biggest criticism that fans of his teams always had. With the Pelicans considering bringing him in, that could be something they have to look forward to. New Orleans already is an offense that has some issues as we saw in the playoffs. They didn’t know what to do down the stretch of games to win and they had some horrible possessions. By bringing in Van Gundy, it would almost guarantee their offense would lose what little bit of creativity that it had under former coach Monty Williams. New Orleans would be better defensively, but the offense would make the fans of the Pelicans boo uncontrollably and cry for offense. If Van Gundy is to be hired and bring in someone to run his offense, then he could potentially be ok. But Van Gundy changing his style of play this late in the game is like asking a person to take on a different personality than who they are. The fact is Van Gundy is a defensive guy with little to no offensive imagination. And that could spell doom for the Pelicans as Anthony Davis potentially enters the free agency after this season (provided he does not sign the extension the Pelicans are supposedly laying out for him).

There are plenty of candidates for this job and there is no certainty that Van Gundy will get this job. But if he does, the Pelicans would be rolling the dice that this new coaching hire would be enough to convince Anthony Davis that New Orleans is the place to achieve even higher levels of success. In the end, it will be interesting to see if he is able to morph this Pelicans team into a tough defensive unit, should he get the opportunity to coach them, while making a creative and effective offense in the process.

The Kevin Love/ Tristian Thompson Dilemma Is Quickly Approaching For The Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love's decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of www.nbatitlechase.com)

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love’s decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of http://www.nbatitlechase.com)

Thoughts of the Cleveland postseason going up in flames immediately came to mind when the injury to forward Kevin Love happened. It was announced heading into the Chicago series that Love would be out the rest of the playoffs when Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk yanked on Love’s arm in the decisive Game 4 in Boston causing a shoulder separation and some other damage as well. Many wondered what adjustment would be made from Cleveland head coach David Blatt in this regard. Would he move LeBron James to the power forward position permanently and slide guard JR Smith back into the starting lineup? Or would Blatt make a move that many would not expect? Well, Blatt opted for the unexpected when he slid seldom-used Mike Miller into the starting lineup alongside James and Timofey Mozgov in the frontcourt. Miller was ineffective for the few minutes he saw on the court and then Blatt made the move that he should have made from the beginning. Blatt brought in bruising big man Tristian Thompson to give them some life like he always does. The Cleveland Cavaliers did not come back to win that game, but it did cement Thompson in the starting lineup for the rest of the postseason. And with him in the starting lineup this postseason, the Cavs are now headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 when the Cavaliers faced the San Antonio Spurs. But with a decision looming in regards to Thompson and Love, the team now has some things to think about.

Love is the first part of this equation in Cleveland at the power forward spot. In Minnesota, Love was the answer as he stretched the floor with his shooting for the Timberwolves and ate the glass as well as a rebounder. So naturally when the thought was that he would fit in nicely with LeBron as a younger version of Chris Bosh with a better shooting stroke when the Cavaliers acquired him. But the acquisition of Love came at a price, as the Cavs gave up 2014 1st round pick (and #1 overall pick) and eventual 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. There were some that said the Cavaliers should have waited until next season to do this when Love could opt out of his deal. But the choice was made that the Cavs needed Love now and were willing to give up a future great NBA player to do so. Love was and still is a very good shooter for his size and that can give problems to a team that is not used to seeing that type of play from a power forward. But even though some believed he would be a seamless fit, he has actually had more problems adjusting there than some anticipated. Love was always the main focus in Minnesota, but in Cleveland he was just a third wheel. Being third in the pecking order behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving seemed to cause problems in Love fitting in on this team. He did not get the shots that he thought he should get and it seemed like the team just ran inconsistently when he was on the court. And on the defensive end, the comparisons of Love to former LeBron teammate Chris Bosh immediately ended. Love was giving up any and everything on the defensive end and he was not rebounding on the defensive end either. That led the Cavs to being a middle of the road defensive team. The team began to find its rhythm when they traded for Timofey Mozgov and guards Iman Shumpert and JR Smith and Love began to fit in better, but all that momentum with the new starting five they had quickly halted with Love’s injury. Heading into the summer, Love has to examine the sample size of how he fit this Cleveland team and what he could make on the open market. Love has a $16.7 million player option available for him next season. That could keep him paid and in Cleveland to give it one more run as he tries to stay healthy and fit into the team. But if he feels he can make it somewhere else and wants to be the man a little bit more, he could take his chances on the open market as a free agent. If he does that, then he could get a deal that could potentially pay him somewhere close to what he would make in 2015, but he could also be sacrificing winning with the best player in the NBA for the ability to make a payday. All in all, it falls on what Kevin Love values most: the money and status or winning and playing his role.

Love’s decision to stay or go could not only have an effect on him and his career, but on the career of Tristian Thompson as well in Cleveland. The former 2011 4th overall pick out of Texas was slated to be the starting power forward this season. And after rejecting a four-year, $52 million extension with the Cavaliers, Thompson was betting on himself to be more valuable than the deal he was offered by Cleveland. That decision to reject the extension looked to be the wrong one at first glance because the Cavaliers would gain the services of Kevin Love via trade and that meant Thompson would be going to the bench. Some would have sulked at the situation and lamented not signing the deal that was offered. But Thompson took a different approach. Instead of becoming a malcontent, he became the hype man off their bench. Thompson came in with energy and passion everytime he stepped on the court. And the best thing he did when he stepped out there was rebound. Thompson, while coming in off the bench, was the best rebounder for the Cavs all season long and he even finished games this season ahead of Kevin Love because of his rebounding along with his defensive presence. And when Love went down for the season in the playoffs, Thompson got his chance to make some things happen as a starter. And as a result, Thompson has added some toughness and grit to the Cavaliers starting lineup and has also helped make them better defensively than they ever were with Love. With every passing game, it seems like Love is less and less mentioned and Thompson has become the guy that Cleveland fans are thinking more about wanting to stay. Thompson may not have the prettiest numbers, but he can definitely change the game with the things that he can do. And he has proved that he was worth more than what the Cavaliers though he is worth at first. But the thing is now, the Cavs are at the mercy of Kevin Love. If he signs to stay in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will either have to find someone to take on the new extension they gave big man Anderson Varejao during the season or they will be losing Thompson to free agency even though he is restricted. And that would be sad for Cleveland fans being that Thompson has come of age in Cleveland this season under the tutelage of LeBron James. It’s unfortunate because he will more than likely want to stay in Cleveland, but the reality is there are numbers that have to match up in regards to the salary cap and the numbers more than likely will not if Love stays.

Kevin Love was supposed to be an important piece on the run to the title for Cleveland. But heading into this offseason, it seems like he could be the biggest issue this offseason. If he stays, then the likelihood of Tristian Thompson leaving becomes reality. But if he decides to leave, then Thompson will be the starting power forward for Cleveland next season. All in all, the ball is in Kevin Love’s court and what he chooses to do will cause the dominoes to fall even quicker in Cleveland. But one thing is for sure in regards to all these decisions: Thompson and Love will not be donning a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey again after this season as teammates.

Three Reasons The Atlanta Hawks Are About To Be Eliminated From The Eastern Conference Finals

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of www.ajc.com)

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of http://www.ajc.com)

The Atlanta Hawks were the top seed heading into their series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers but it did not seem like it. The Hawks had struggled to win series against the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, on the other hand, had an easy matchup versus the Boston Celtics and got a little push from the Chicago Bulls. And even without the services of Love since the first series, it seems like the Cavs have taken it to another level and have blown through the playoffs. Some expected a good battle between both teams. After all, Atlanta was nicknamed “Spurs East” due to their ball movement and their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, who was a longtime assistant in the Spurs organization. But there were others that looked at this team and were waiting on the Cavs to taken them apart like they did to the Celtics and Bulls. Well, at this point we are still waiting on any semblance of a series to show up. The Cavaliers have handled the Hawks pretty easily through the first three games on their way to a 3-0 series lead. It’s hard to believe that the #1 seed in the East could be getting swept so late in the postseason and so soundly. But there are three big reasons why this is happening to them and why Tuesday will more than likely be their last game in the playoffs.

Like was mentioned before, the Hawks are a team that moves the basketball a lot. The constant cutting, movement and passing has led to the Hawks being able to find high-percentage shots created by all the action going on offensively. And as a result, the Hawks averaged 102.5 points per game and were a difficult matchup for teams due to their multitude of players that can step away from the basket and shoot a three pointer. But in the playoffs, it seems as if the movement has gotten worse and worse. They had some ball movement versus the Nets and the Wizards, but it seems as if that motion has come to a halt. Part of that is the defense of Cleveland, which has been the best in the postseason. But the Atlanta Hawks have to take most of the blame in this one. They have become a stagnant offense in the playoffs and it seems like Budenholzer cannot get them out of their tailspin. Instead of the ball movement that was attributed to their offense, the Hawks have now become a more isolation-oriented offense. And with that type of style, the Hawks will never win, as evidence by this series. The best thing for them to do would be to stop looking at the matchups and where they may have the size advantage. By doing that, maybe it will bring some of the focus back to what made the Hawks so dangerous this season. Of course it will be a little bit harder for them to attempt to dig out of this hole, but it is something that would not be deemed impossible either.

Another thing that has helped them into their 3-0 is their lack of rebounding. The Hawks have not been considered a team that has been great rebounding this season. In fact, they were ranked in the bottom half of rebounding this season (ranked 28th in the NBA). Atlanta was successful in the regular season despite the lack of rebounding on both ends of the court. But as the postseason has gone on, they have definitely been exposed in the paint. They came into this series versus Cleveland ranked as the 11th worst rebounding team out of 16 teams. A successful playoff team should never be that low and when they are, they should know that it will catch up to them. Well it took a while, but the Cavaliers have been punishing the Hawks on the boards this series. As it stands before Game 4, the Hawks are a have been beat on the boards every game and are an astonishing -41 on the boards for the series. Tristian Thompson, LeBron James and Timofey Mozgov have been tearing it up on the boards while the Hawks have been missing shots and missing blockouts on the offensive end as well. As a result, the Cavaliers seem to get more shots each game and they also seem to be the tougher team. The Hawks never adjusted to the physicality of the Cavaliers and it is evident not only in the rebounding, but the games.

But the biggest reason the Hawks are down is they have no superstar or star guy that takes over when times get tough. Taking a look at the teams left in the playoffs, they all have a guy they can go to when the offense gets tough and stagnant. Steph Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and LeBron James (Cleveland) have been coming through for their respective teams and carrying them when it is evident their teams need someone to step up. All three of these guys make plays and can elevate the roles players around them to new levels of productivity. For the Hawks, they have some good players, but not one that can make other teams pay no matter what they do. It is commendable they have made it this far without one, but for the future, Atlanta will need that one guy to take over and make their offense go. Al Horford is a good post player, but he is not taking over when the going gets tough for them. All the Hawks have to do is look at their opponent to see how much a star player can help in tough times. The Cavaliers have been playing without Kevin Love since the Chicago Bulls series and have been missing Kyrie Irving the last two games. But despite those absences, the team still wins and it is all because of the LeBron James setting the table. He has not only scored when they needed it, but he has also made players like Matthew Dellavedova and veteran James Jones effective on the offensive end by setting the table for them. Having that star takeover has gotten them through the absences and the tough times and that is something a team trying to win a title needs. And unfortunately for Atlanta, they do not have that guy.

As it stands, it looks like the Hawks great season is going to go by the wayside in embarrassing fashion. They more than likely will lose the fourth game in this series and be going on vacation earlier than they though. But most of it is in their own doing. Sure, there have been some questionable calls and there may be some plays that bothered the Hawks and made tempers rise, but the Hawks cannot blame any of those on the execution of their offense and lack of rebounding. The star power search is up to the front office of their team. And even though there is one candidate in Jeff Teague that could be a star for them, he unfortunately has not reached the level they want him to just yet. The season has been a whirlwind for the Hawks, but the time has come for them to head to the offseason and the Cavs are going to take them there with a broom in hand.

The Houston Rockets Will Never Win Anything With Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of http://www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

The Houston Rockets staved off elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors Monday night. Many expect them to still lose this series after going down 3-0, but of course, many did not expect the Rockets to even be in this position. Down 3-1 in their series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets became only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Plenty started to believe in the Rockets again. They were powered by star guard James Harden and the role players on the team were playing well. But as they head out of the Toyota Center for potentially the last time, the joy has turned to concern and focus. The Rockets have been leaning heavy on the services of James Harden this series. And all except for Game 3, Harden has been there and shown up. But there is the matter of the other star of this team. Dwight Howard is as good of a physical specimen as there is in the NBA. His size, speed and leaping ability are things that athletes dream of. With the physical matchup he had going into this series, there was some thought he would have a chance to dominate the series. Well, that thought has quickly turned into what most thought it would be in the end: disappointment. And that is the ultimate problem when it comes to Dwight Howard.

Before Howard came to Houston, the Rockets were a franchise trying to make it back to the level they were in the mid-1990’s with Rudy Tomjanovich as coach and Hakeem Olajuwon as the centerpiece of their team. While they did not quite make it there, the team made it back to the playoffs in 2013 while being led by Harden and a miscellaneous crew of players. When Dwight came to town, he was hailed as the missing piece to take the Rockets to the next level. Howard is a former Defensive Player of the Year, so naturally he was expected to help take their defense to the next level. But on the offensive end, he was expected to have an effect as well. Howard was to be working with Olajuwon, who still lives in the Houston area, on his post moves. And he was going to get his wish to get more opportunities on the block. Well, that happened and that proved to expose Howard more than anything. Howard may be a good athlete, but he is not the greatest when it comes to post play. Throwing it down to Dwight is always an adventure and has been so since he has been in the NBA. You would think at this point in his career he would have some sort of consistent post moves besides catching alley-oops and offensive rebound putbacks. But unfortunately he either does not have that down or is lacking in confidence in making those moves. Well, whatever the case, he is not dependable there. And when he gets in position, he can be fouled, which leads Dwight going to the free throw line, and that is not a win for Howard either.

Along with Howard’s play on the court, he also came to Houston to be a leader in the locker room. Dwight Howard mistakenly gets credit for leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-2009 season. But in all actuality, it was the versatility of point forward Hedu Tukoglu that led them to the Finals. But make no mistake that he was a presence though, averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds. But how quickly some forget that the Magic were outclassed in that NBA Finals and Dwight did not have quite the effect he was thought to the entire game. His leadership was not evident there at that point when they were down. Fast forward to now and the Dwight Howard experience has not gone as planned for the Rockets. He is there, but last year they were bounced earlier than they thought and this season he missed half the games with knee issues. But even when he was on the floor, it seemed like he was not the same athletic Dwight we are used to seeing and it also seemed like he was not in any way a part of the leadership there. It is officially Harden’s team now and also when they huddles are going on, notice that Howard does not say much at all. In fact, veteran guard Jason Terry is way more vocal than he is and he did not play for the Rockets last season. Howard is not a leader and will never be one. And if someone is following him as their leader, then they may want to understand that Howard has not shown that he can be a leader at any point and time of his career. And any leader that is seen laughing on the bench when their team is getting blown out and that does some things that are not the mark of a leader is someone you may not want to follow anyway.

The addition of Howard could have been good, but Howard did not recognize his gift and put in the work to become the big man that many thought he could. So instead of getting a guy that could help take them to the next level, the Rockets got a big man that is closing in on 30 years old and is not the dominant big man and leader they thought he would be. To best use Howard, he needs to be a rebounder, finisher and defender because his offense is not something that you can depend on to ever take you where you want to go. When Orlando went to the NBA Finals, it was almost like a needle being found in a haystack and being thrown back in, only to be missing again. That glimmer of Dwight being the man to take you to the Promiseland is something of a mystery. Dwight is going to lead the Rockets nowhere fast. And that is just the cold reality of his presence in Houston.

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog Presents The 2015 NBA Top 5 Draft Pick Predictions

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of www.insider.espn.go.com)

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of http://www.insider.espn.go.com)

Tomorrow’s superstars could potentially be in the 2015 NBA Draft. Many are excited over the many talents that are out there including the teams. But before anyone can pick, the NBA had their usual routine during the Conference Finals, the NBA Draft Lottery. In the lottery, the order in which teams pick is determined by their record and the bounce of a ping pong ball. The more you lost during the year, the more ping pong balls you had available to obtain the 1st overall pick. There were many teams that were hoping to obtain the 1st pick, but in the end, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up with the number one spot. They were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Philadelphia 76ers. The top five was completed by the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic. With that being set, many are starting to envision who will be wearing their favorite team’s jersey. Well, let’s take a second and check to see who could be landing where!

1st Overall pick (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jahlil Okafor, Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, to build around and now they have the 1st overall pick. With the team they currently have, they are more of a speed team. With players like Zach Levine and Wiggins filling the wings and point guard Ricky Rubio dishing assists, it would actually make more sense for them to select Towns to run with this team. But again, the Timberwolves do need someone they can throw the ball to in the post and get a basket. And with that notion, they may not want to wait and see what Towns becomes at the NBA level. So with the affinity that Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders has for Okafor, it is almost a no-brainer that he gets selected there. When the game slows down, the Timberwolves are hoping Okafor can be the guy to sustain their offense with his offensive footwork and soft touch. Of course the Timberwolves may suffer defensively with the young big man, but they will take their lumps there if the big man is able to produce for them.

2nd overall pick (Los Angeles Lakers): Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

One of the coveted big men in this draft is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Flip Saunders is still in love with Okafor, the second most-coveted big man is headed West. The Lakers are looking for yet another piece to help them in their rebuild. They selected power forward Julius Randle last season out of Kentucky and he was essentially hurt all year after he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. But even though they lost their top rookie, the Lakers still got great play from second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Now with Randle coming back next season, the Lakers can add a healthy but aged Kobe Bryant and versatile big man in Towns. The big man out of Kentucky will add rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility to the Lakers frontcourt and he will also be able to learn the Laker way under Kobe for what some think is Kobe’s last year in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to begin the rebuild with Towns, Randle and Clarkson and maybe another piece in free agency to add with Kobe Bryant. It may take a little time for Towns to show his skills. But once Towns settles in, the Lakers will be happy with the monster they end up drafting.

3rd overall pick (Philadelphia 76ers): Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Southern Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association)

The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to get multiple picks in the lottery. But with the way the ping pong balls dropped, they ended up with only one. However, the 76ers still ended up in great position with the 3rd overall pick. The last couple of years, the 76ers selected injured players and essentially redshirted them for their first season in the NBA. Well, this season will be something different. The 76ers have some nice complimentary pieces that would fit well on a team that had a star. But the team is void of star power currently as they stand. Nerlens Noel is a player the team is high on, but they also have a decision to make with how they can use he and Joel Embiid. They may try Noel at the power forward position, but they will be physical and rugged up front. The problem with this team is they do not have a point guard. Well, in this draft, they have their choice of which point guard they want. Some may want the services of D’Angelo Russell here, but the 76ers may have others ideas. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was the only general manager to fly to China to see Mudiay and that should tell you right there the way he is leaning. The 6’5” point guard, who many don’t know a ton about, will be the 76ers international man of mystery this year and he will be one that will have Philly fans excited because of his size, speed and athletic ability.

4th overall pick (New York Knicks): D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

The Knicks are going to have a lot of cap space this summer and plenty of Knicks fans were hoping the number one pick would be joining the players the Knicks are able to obtain with the money available in free agency. Well, everything did not pan out as well as the Knicks and their fans had planned. But all hope is not lost. Things could have been worse for them and they could have landed even further back. They will more than likely not get one of the coveted big men in this draft and that could have been something that would have helped Carmelo Anthony when he returns next season. But another thing they didn’t have last season was solid point guard play. The Knicks need a player that can be special with the basketball and bring some sizzle to the Garden. Russell is as talented an offensive player as there is in the draft. He has a nice stroke, good handles and can make the perfect pass in a tough situation and he is no slouch defensively either. He and Carmelo together and maybe a big man in free agency could be an interesting dynamic together. And the Knicks will finally have a point guard that could compete with the top point guards in the NBA potentially in a point guard driven NBA.

5th overall (Orlando Magic): Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

The Orlando Magic have been out of the spotlight since they traded away Dwight Howard. The team has not been close to being a playoff-caliber squad and that is quite bad considering they play in the Eastern Conference. But this team does have some young pieces they can build with. Victor Oladipo is starting to catch his stride in the NBA, starting point guard Elfrid Payton got better as the season went on and Nikola Vujevic was a machine inside. The Magic fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn, during the season and reports are that they are looking at current Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and are willing to do anything to get him there. If that happens, you can bet he will look to build his team identity through defense. And what better piece would fit his scheme than Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein? The athletic big man from Kentucky will remind some of current Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah with his game. He is not a scorer, but he is a guy that will defend, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor and give you putbacks. The passing is not the level of Noah, but he can have a great effect on a team that is trying to form an identity.

This NBA Draft could help a lot of teams, but these in the Top 5 need it the most. And if they draft correctly, these guys could make their teams better immediately if they are selected where they are. It should be interesting to see if these selections hold true to form or if trades happen to change up the selection. What are your thoughts on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog’s Top 5 NBA Draft Projections?

Conference Finals Preview With Chucky Brown

Chucky Brown in action blocking Spurs guard Avery Johnson's shot. (photo courtesy of www.beaumontenterprise.com)

Chucky Brown in action blocking Spurs guard Avery Johnson’s shot. (photo courtesy of http://www.beaumontenterprise.com)

The Conference Finals are finally upon us. In the West, we have the Golden State Warriors versus the Houston Rockets.  And in the East, we have the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Both pretty good matchups and both pitting the #1 seed versus the #2 seed. But how does it play out? Today I reached out to someone that is familiar with all these teams being that he played for them all. Former NBA player Chucky Brown gave me his thoughts on the conference finals along with his best memories from his playing days.

Mike Patton: Chucky, you played for a lot of teams in the NBA. What was the most memorable team you played on and why?

Chucky Brown: That would be the Houston Rockets team back in 1995. That was the year we won the title. Everyone knew their role, had the same goal and wanted to win the title together.

MP: What is your best professional basketball memory?

CB: Besides winning the title, I would say the best memories I have are all the guys that I met over my career. I’m still in contact with some of them to this day.

MP: Good to hear. Well, let’s get down to the playoff action. What have you thought about the playoffs so far?

CB: The playoffs have been pretty good. I hate it that Memphis and Chicago had injuries. I would have loved to have seen Cleveland at full strength, but injuries are a part of the game.

MP: As far as the conference finals matchups, which one intrigues you more?

CB: The Golden State/Houston matchup is one that intrigues me. Houston lost the season series to them, but now they have everyone back except for point guard Patrick Beverly and that could make things interesting. Houston has learned how to play without a point guard.

MP: What are some keys for the Houston Rockets/ Golden State Warriors series?

CB: For Golden State,  they must shoot well and defend so they can get out in transition. The Warriors must also protect the paint. In regards to the Rockets, they need to attack the paint but they also need to make the Warriors take the ball out. That will help keep them out of transition. And the Rockets also have to defend well in the halfcourt.

MP: Who is someone not on the marquee that you see playing really well in this series?

CB: For Golden State, that would be Harrison Barnes. He is a really good player that the Warriors don’t use as much. He started coming on in the Memphis series and could continue it in this one. As far as the Rockets, Josh Smith is the name that comes to mind. He has ben playing very well recently. If he continues that, he could make a difference.

MP: What are some keys for the Cleveland Cavaliers/Atlanta Hawks series?

CB: For the Cavs, their roles players are key. They could be the difference in this series if they play well. As for the Hawks, they cannot let the role players get going and make LeBron James have to do everything, being that he is a pass-first player. They also have to play good team defense as well.

MP: Who is someone not on the marquee that could have a big effect on this series?

CB:  The Cavs have a guy in Tristian Thompson that was a huge factor in the Chicago series on the boards. He could have that same type of effect on the boards in this series versus Atlanta.

MP: Who do you think win both series and in how many games?

CB: I think Cleveland will win in six games because of having the best player in the NBA, LeBron James, on their side. As far as in the Western Conference, I believe the Rockets will win the series in seven games. They showed extreme character in the Clippers series when faced with adversity and I think they can carry that over to this series.

MP: Who do you have winning it all?

CB: If the Rockets get there, then the Rockets. Regardless, the champion is coming out of the West.

Many thanks to Chucky Brown for his time and answers on the Conference Finals. What do you all think of what he said?

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