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.
Last night, the Suns’ Markieff Morris was ejected for picking up his second technical foul after being fouled on his way to the basket by the Knicks’ J.R. Smith.
It was a bad call, and it led to a rare NBA happenstance: with the free throw shooter ejected, the opposing team gets to nominate one of his teammates to replace him at the line.
With the game taking place at Madison Square Garden, the home crowd (forever witty and attentive) made the most of the moment, rising in laughter and anticipation as public address announcer Mike Wolcheski (also among the league’s best) explained the situation.
Mike Woodson could not hide his grin as he nominated unknown second year player Viacheslav “Slava” Kravtsov to remove his sweat suit and head to the line, to the ironic cheers of the highly-amused Knicks fans.
The 1990 Draft is one of the least revisited in NBA history. It was relatively weak in terms of impact players, but full of interesting case studies.
It produced one Hall of Famer (Gary Payton), a 3-time champ (Toni Kukoc), a hugely talented disappointment (Derrick Coleman), a 48th pick who made the All-Star team (Cedric Ceballos), a professional boxer (Kendall Gill), and a Tourette’s syndrome sufferer who refused to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf).
Here are the top 10 picks and their profiles, re-ordered with the benefit of hindsight:
1) Gary Payton (picked No. 2 by Seattle)
1,335 games, 35.3 minutes, 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 46.6% FGs, 18.9 PER.
Best season: 1999/00 – 82 games, 24.2 points, 8.9 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 44.8% FGs, 23.6 PER, 45-37 record, All-NBA 1st team, All-Defense 1st team.
Last year’s Lakers were full of bad fits even before they suffered a slew of injuries:
- Two back-to-the-basket centers who need the ball in the low post (Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol).
- Two ageing, ball-dominant guards allergic to playing defense (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash).
- A designated outside shooter and perimeter defender who has shot 39% from the field over the last three years and can no longer run or jump (Metta World Peace).
- A slow, un-athletic bench to back up an ageing starting lineup (Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks).
- A run-and-gun coach to coach them all (Mike D’Antoni).
Alas, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were able to put together a “super team” but lacked the foresight to manufacture a contending team, much less a championship team.
They then lost their so-called future “face of the franchise” for nothing, as Dwight bolted for Houston. What now? Most predictions are grim, with many expecting the 2013/14 Lakers to miss the playoffs and one columnist even claiming that a 37-45 record would be too generous a prediction.