The Hornets have become the first team to fire a coach this year by booting Byron Scott just a year and a half after he was named NBA Coach of the Year. The team had limped out to a 3-6 start, and two of those win hardly count because they were against the Clippers and Kings. I’d sum up the way the franchise handled this with two words – inevitable and stupid. It was inevitable because Scott had to go because of the start and because of the way the season last year went – a disappointing regular season and humiliating playoffs. Chris Paul was frustrated and the team has no more important task than keeping Paul happy. They are already over the luxury tax threshold so they can’t overhaul the roster in a meaningful way, so Scott was the only real option. The move was stupid, though, because of their choice of a replacement. The new head coach is general manager Jeff Bower. He has been with the team since 1995 and he built the current team so he knows them well, but he has never been a head coach and a couple of assistant stints atMarist and Penn State a hundred years ago are his only real bits of (barely) relevant experience. They have also hired Tim Floyd as Bower’s top assistant. Not only if Floyd coming off a disgraceful exit from USC, but his last coaching experience in the NBA was with the Hornets – and they fired him in 2004 after one season because he didn’t do a good job. I have no problem with getting rid of Scott, but only if they replace with a coach with a good chance of being better than Scott was. I just don’t really see that here.
In their last three games Orlando has been absolutely blown out by the Thunder (of all teams), and lost a lopsided game to the Cavs. The lone win in there was against a lousy Charlotte team. Cleveland scored 66 points in the first half of their win, and essentially shut it down andcruised for the second half. I have high hopes for this team this year, but I am very concerned by their play – especially on defense. It was the defense that made them so dangerous last year, but they haven’t been hustling nearly as much this year, and the defense is just a shadow of itself. Maybe it’s because I’m a Toronto fan, but I can’t help but think that the addition of Vince Carter – the ultimate locker room poison – has something to do with the change. He certainly doesn’t seem to have bought into the defensive discipline so far.
I’m not thrilled with what I am seeing with the Lakers. They are still winning, and that’s the important thing, but they are doing it largely on the back of Kobe, and I don’t think that that is sustainable all season and through the playoffs. Phil Jackson says that he was joking when he said Pau Gasol could be out until Christmas, but he certainly has taken a while to get back. Even more concerning than the time is that it seems like it is a bit of a mystery injury – the x-rays of the injured hamstring didn’t show the signs of a typical serious injury, so they assumed that it would just be a short term thing. He’ll miss at least a month, though, and because the problem isn’t clear it could linger even longer than that. Combine that with the fact that Andrew Bynum is the most fragile person on the planet and that Ron Artest hasn’t fit in particularly well yet and you have a team that has serious depth questions.
Other quick hits:
Hasheem Thabeet has had his jaw wired after breaking it on the weekend. It isn’t a serious break, and it won’t likely keep him out long, but it’s still another setback for a guy who certainly doesn’t need them. I have very little confidence that Thabeet will ever develop into anything more than a role player, and the fact that he was hurt in a reasonably innocent collision with a teammate doesn’t give me faith in his durability or make me think that I am wrong.
Speaking of freakishly big guys, I’m intrigued to see that Roy Hibbert is playing some pretty good ball for Indiana right now. Troy Murphy has been hurt so Hibbert has been the man, and he has stepped up to the challenge very well. Maybe he’s one of those guys who can’t mentally handle not being a starter.
I am very excited to see what Tyreke Evans can do over the next eight weeks. Kevin Martin, Sacramento’s best and really only scorer, is out with a broken wrist, so Evans has been moved off the point to play shooting guard and carry the load. It’s early, but so far Evans has looked brilliant. He had 32 points in his first game in his new role, and so far he is averaging 25 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.3 steals in three games at the position. He’s turning it over too much, but that will improve. Evans has a chance to make a real early statement in the rookie of the year race and to give Sacramento management a bit of a headache when they have to figure out what to do when Martin returns and they have to figure out the best way to get the most out of Martin and Evans at the same time. Evans is meshing well with Beno Udrih at the point as well.
While Evans is off to a great start the same can’t be said for my rookie of the year pick – Stephen Curry. He’s averaging just 8.7 points per game, his minutes have been slashed, and on Wednesday he came off the bench for the first time. Losing a starting role now, especially to an underwhelming player like Anthony Morrow, isn’t a good sign at all. The rookie class has been brilliant so far this year, but with Griffin hurt and Curry struggling the star turns haven’t come from the expected places.