Over the weekend the New Orleans Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry to be their new head coach. They made the right choice.
This is the second bold move in the space of two weeks for GM Dell Demps, whose decision to fire Monty Williams was one that should have been more loudly applauded. It would have been easy to keep the affable Monty in place following a feel-good postseason berth, but the Pelicans are right to have aspirations that match the transcendent ability of star player Anthony Davis.
With Davis embarking on what could eventually go down as one of the greatest careers of all time, it was essential that the Pelicans chose the right man to lead him. That man, despite his once throwing up on the bench during one of the most important games of his coaching career, is Gentry.
Certainly on the face of it he is an unglamorous hire – a re-tread assistant coach who has won just two playoff series as a head coach in four different stops. Au contraire, Gentry is an offensive mastermind and great communicator with a knack for getting the best out of talented young stars in non-ideal situations. As an assistant he has made colossal contributions and as a head coach he has generally met or exceeded expectations whilst never being blessed with a proposition as promising as New Orleans’ until now.
With a quarter of the regular season in the books, NBA All-Star balloting began in earnest yesterday.
Of course I took the first available opportunity to vote for my ten most deserving starters – three frontcourt players and two guards from each conference:
FC: Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
25.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 32.9 PER, 10-11 record
After twelve games, Anthony Davis is averaging 26.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.2 steals on 58% shooting. He has led a deeply flawed New Orleans Pelicans roster to a 7-5 record and become a one-man League Pass wrecking crew. At just 21 years old, Davis is must-watch television, the best player at his position and without any doubt a future MVP of the league.
Since I started following the NBA religiously in 1996, only two other 21-year-olds have had the same air about them: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Both will go down among the top ten or twelve players of all time by the end of their respective careers. It is no exaggeration to state that Davis could join them some day. The opportunity to witness his development is to be cherished.
AD is an athletic freak, a once-in-a-generation force of nature on both ends who is just scratching the surface of his potential. He is a player whose stats will never tell the full story of his impact, yet he is a threat to put up one of the most ridiculous statistical résumés we have ever seen all the same.
The season is in its infant stages, but it is never too early to celebrate a player who is putting up 27.7 points, 7.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds and playing some impressive defense. That player is not LeBron James. It is the Warriors’ new and improved Stephen Curry.
Coming into the season, Curry was 40/1 to be named MVP – the 11th favorite to win the award. Based on A) the news that Kevin Durant would miss 8 weeks through injury and B) my firm belief that the Warriors would be much improved under Steve Kerr, I wagered a harmless pound on him. At this stage I wish I had wagered £100.
With KD out and LeBron having a sluggish-by-his-standards start to the season and Cleveland playing .500 ball, the MVP race is, for now, wide open – making those odds look laughably long.
Whilst Anthony Davis is a once-in-a-generation force of nature who is doing unseemly things on the defensive end, the unwritten rule is that the MVP must win a bare minimum of 50 games. AD’s Pelicans may not even make the postseason. Besides, he is only 21 and has plenty of time to win several MVPs before he is done.
The time is now for Steph.
Kyle Lowry, Arron Aflalo, Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson each had a better case to make the All-Star Game than Joe Johnson, who was voted in as a reserve this week by NBA coaches. His inclusion must go down as the most baffling in modern All-Star memory.
At this stage in Johnson’s career, he is a one-dimensional scorer who is not particularly good at that one dimension. At 15.7 points per game, he is 53rd on the league’s leading scorers list – just slightly ahead of Gerald Henderson, Carlos Boozer and Dion Waiters – and ranks just 141st in PER.
The starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game were announced last week. As usual, the fans got it wrong: Kobe Bryant (6 games, 13.8 PPG) and Kyrie Irving (42.8% shooting, 16-29 record in the putrid Eastern Conference) have no business being in the starting lineups.
Tonight, the reserves will be announced. Who should be selected?
Let us ignore the East – with all due respect to the likes of Paul Millsap, Arron Afflalo and Kyle Lowry – and skip straight to the ultra-loaded and more meaningful West, where there are far more deserving candidates than there are available All-Star roster spots.
After much deliberation, here are the seven players – three frontcourt, two backcourt and two wild cards – who should join Kobe, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin on the squad: