Sunday, June 29, 2014

Who Should Replace Jason Kidd as Nets Coach?

With reports surfacing that Jason Kidd is on his way out, and heading to Milwaukee to serve as a GM of the Bucks, the Nets are again searching for a new head coach.

While losing Kidd, initially might look like a big time blow to the Nets, as free agency is about to kick off in a couple days, there are some more than capable replacements out there. Lets' take a look a few:

Mark Jackson: Former head coach of the Golden State Warriors, who turned that franchise around, taking them to the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Jackson has New York roots, was a former Nets broadcaster and would bring instant credibility to the table. Plus, he would be a draw to a lot of young players because of his passion for the game, and for the fact that he played the sport not too long ago. I could defiantly see someone like Deron Williams getting along well with Jackson.

George Karl: At 63-years old it's fair to ask if Karl wants to coach again, but he is one of the more successful head coaches in the NBA by far. His .599 winning percentage aside, Karl made winners out of the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and Denver Nuggets. He coached stars like Gary Payton and Carmelo Anthony, and he'll be a calming force to this transition. The only issue is the fact that he hasn't coached in two plus years.

Lionel Hollins: It is shocking that this guy hasn't gotten a job since leaving the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Hollins not only turned around the woeful Grizzlies into a winner, he was there when the team made the transition from playing in Vancouver to Memphis. The Grizzlies were a solid playoff competitor the last three years he was on the job. He even guided them to the West Finals in 2013. This guy should get a job, it's a crime he hasn't yet.

Jeff VanGundy: Because I want to make this article a little longer. Not likely to come out of his TV gig with ESPN, but VanGundy was successful in guiding the Knicks to the Finals way back in 1999. It has been a long time since he last coached in Houston. You have a better chance winning the Mega Millions.

Lawrence Frank: Talk about irony. Frank was all but fired by Kidd in December when the two of them got into a spat over philosophy. The Nets are still paying him a lot of money to sit at home and write "reports," so why not? But in all seriousness, the guy did guide the Nets not too long ago, took them to the playoffs a few times and was moderately successful. But, I think the Nets are looking at bigger fish in this pond.

Jason Kidd Likely on Way Out in Brooklyn

Well, that marriage didn't last long did it?

A year ago at this time the Nets made a precarious move when they inked their former superstar Jason Kidd as head coach, just weeks after the former point guard retired from playing. The move was received with a mixed reaction, but at the end of the day Kidd had to prove that he was worthy of being an NBA head coach with no previous coaching experience.

It looked like the experiment would become a disaster, by the end of December the Nets were 10-21 and heading south fast. Suddenly Kidd changed his ways, learned from his mistakes and the Nets put together a very solid second half to get themselves not only over .500 but into the postseason, where they won a round against the Toronto Raptors.

It looked like Kidd had made the transition with success. He went from vilified buffoon to a Coach of the Year candidate. Even Phil Jackson took notice when he tabbed Derek Fisher to coach the Knicks just days after his own retirement a few weeks ago.

Now it appears that the Nets and Kidd are heading for divorce court.

According to multiple sources, Kidd tried to coax Nets ownership into giving him more personnel duties, and the front office rebuffed. Now the Milwaukee Bucks are rumored to be potential suitors for Kidd.

The Bucks have a strong interest in making Kidd their President of Basketball Operations, and have already contacted the Nets about sending him over. Reports are that the Nets and Bucks are currently working on a compensation package for Kidd, which means that this thing could get done within hours, if not days.

It is unclear whether those duties would include coaching the Bucks.

If Kidd bolts the Nets to run the Bucks from a cozy front office seat it is both A) surprising because of the timing, and B) ultimately not surprising because Kidd was eventually going to want out from the drudgery of coaching on a daily basis.

First the timing couldn't be worse for the Nets. Free agency is about to begin, and the team wanted to re-sign veterans Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston. If Kidd leaves that could change a lot of thinking by interested free agents.

However, lets be real, Kidd is like most ex-star players. He got used to being a super star player playing in a glamorous sport and a glamorous position. He didn't have to worry about long hours, managing practices, managing player schedules, hotel and flight accommodations,  game tape analysis, coaching meetings, player-to-coach meetings, teaching, all of the things that go into coaching at a high level.

Being a head coach in the NBA is a grueling, time consuming process, and it was eventually going to eat at Kidd. To sit here and expect Kidd to be a head coach for 10+ years would have been silly. But only 1 year, and he is finished? That is insane.

According to the same reports, there are even rumors that Kidd was never really on par with GM Billy King, who "suggested a coaching change in December as the Nets were in the midst of a 10-21 start to the season." Ownership rebuffed King; Kidd got the chance to finish the year. Now Kidd wants out.

If Kidd goes, don't expect him to coach. Expect him to sit up in the owners box watching the Bucks play for a few years before he gives up on that toy for another one and another and maybe another, because, ultimately, that is what stars who have trouble replacing their glory days try to do.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guts but No Glory, Rangers Denied as Kings Win Cup

KINGS 3
RANGERS 2
Double-OT
Kings Win Series 4-1

The Rangers gave everything they had on Friday night in Los Angeles. They left their hearts and souls on the ice as they tried with all their might to force a Game 6 back in New York City, a Game 6 that will never take place after the Kings' Alec Martinez skipped the puck past Henrik Lundqvist 14:43 into the second overtime, sending LA to their second Stanley Cup title in three years.

It wasn't like the Rangers didn't try.

From shots that hit the posts, to shots that bounced off the gloves of Jonathan Quick, and shots that almost went in, only to spin out, the Rangers had their chances. Game 5 will forever be remembered as the battle between two of the games best goaltenders in Quick and Lundqvist, both of whom wouldn't give up an inch.

After struggling for much of the series, Lundqvist probably outplayed Quick on this night. He defended 51 shots on goal over the course of five periods, and only gave up three. He was spectacular. The Kings couldn't figure him out, and its unfortunate that the Ranger offense couldn't find net to make the effort stand up. While he came up on the short end, Lundqvist showed everyone why he's the best in the game right now.

However the Rangers were just snake bit all series long by bad luck. Like in Games 1 and 2, the Rangers had a lead only to lose both it and the game in overtime. Three times in this series, the Rangers had the game in overtime; three times they lost. While the final stats say the Kings won this series in five games, it was five of the most brutal, drag em out hockey games played in these playoffs. One could argue a shot here and there, and it would be the Rangers not the Kings hoisting the cup.

Trailing 1-0, the Rangers stormed back late in the second period with goals by Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle to take a 2-1 advantage after two periods. The Rangers held onto that lead midway through the third period when the ex-Ranger Marion Gabroik scored the tying goal on a power play.

From that point on the game became a battle of the wills between both goaltenders. Both the Rangers and Kings were making one desperate charge on goal after another and neither Lundqvist nor Quick blinked, like two old cowboys in a draw.

While dropping the series stings, it is a series that the Rangers cannot be ashamed of. They gave everything they had against a red hot Kings team that had won three Game 7s this postseason. Many thought the Rangers would get blown out, they never did.

Until next year Rangers, thank you for a great season.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Carmelo Antohny Leans to Opting Out, First Challenge for Derek Fisher

Even with Phil Jackson running the show atop a Madison Square Garden office/suite, and even with a new coach in Derek Fisher it is not enough to persuade Carmelo Anthony from opting out of his contract with the New York Knicks.

Sources confirm that even with the Knicks best offices to keep Anthony in New York for another year, it may not be enough. Anthony wants to test the free agent waters and see how much he could make.

It would be an unsurprising turn of events if Anthony decides to leave New York for greener pastors. While he would lose out on making $23 million if he remains in his contract this season, and could potentially lose out on a more lucrative deal if he resigns a major contract with the Knicks, he could end up in a better situation to win a championship at this stage of his career.

The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavareicks, Miami Heat, and even the Houston Rockets are all in better position to win now as compared to the Knicks. The Mavs can offer Anthony the opportunity to play with Dirk Nowitizki, the Bulls can give him Derrik Rose, Jokim Noah and Carlos Boozer, and the Rockets could give him Dwight Howard and, yes, Jeremy Lin. However the Heat might be the more intriguing play.

With Miami down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, and the Big Three they signed four years ago about to hit free agency again, the Heat are more likely to rebuild their team around LeBron James. While James will likely test the waters himself, it is not likely he will make the same mistake he did four years ago. He is going to want stability at this point in his career, and nothing is more stable for LeBron than South Beach. If LeBron stays put, why wouldn't Anthony go there and replace D-Wade as Miami's Robin to James' Batman?

It would make sense.

If Anthony does leave New York it would be perceived as big strike against Jackson and Fisher. Fisher is trying to establish himself as a first time coach the way Jason Kidd did so successfully in Brooklyn. He needs to have star power to make it work.

Fisher would love to have Anthony around; he would make his job easier. It will be hard enough for Fisher to run a team on the court where Phil Jackson will get the credit for every victory by a silly media. 

At the same time, lets remember that Anthony hasn't exactly been Dr. Clutch the past few years for the Knicks. While he has been the catalyst that kept a bad Knicks team alive this year, he wasn't the sole reason for any postseason success before.

Losing Anthony won't be the worst thing, as painful as it sounds now, because losing his salary would give the Knicks some flexibility to go out and get players that fit the Phil Jackson brand.

So if Anthony and the Knicks move on, as painful as it would seem, it could be the best for both sides. We'll wait and see how this saga plays out. Remember Anthony has until June 23 to tell the Knicks yes or no.