NBA Playoffs 2010 News & Notes: Cavs Fire Brown, Boston v LA, & More

May 25, 2010

With only four teams left standing, the anticipation for a lights-out 2010 NBA Finals is high. The past two weeks only added to some of the intrigue surrounding the Association, as once again the league's two-time MVP failed to deliver when things mattered most.

Here are the NBA's top stories of the week:

Doug Collins Returns to Philadelphia as Coach of the 76ers

They say life is cyclical in nature, and in the case of Doug Collins, such notions hold true.

In 1973, Collins was the number one overall draft choice of the Sixers, and now, he has been hired nearly three decades later as Head Coach of this proud franchise.

Collins has built his coaching reputation on his ability to rehab and mold young, struggling teams into playoff-caliber squads.

Unfortunately, he also has been labeled, perhaps unfairly, as being incapable of pushing his teams to the status of elite championship contenders.

As a result, Collins often has watched his squads follow the same pattern: 1) marked improvement under his watch, 2) a plateau, and 3) the team eventually tuning him out, leading to his exit out of town.

In Philly, Collins will take on another of his classic reclamation projects, as the Sixers roster is filled with young players who have yet to learn how to win in the NBA.

Worse yet, Collins can expect little in the way of free agent help, as the team's few expiring contracts will provide minimal cap relief this summer.

Much of the team's money is tied up with Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala, and Elton Brand, but the return on those deals has not translated into more wins. In particular, Brand has been a massive disappointment, as he has failed to elevate the team, and has been in and out of the starting lineup.

Still, there is some hope.

Philly holds the second pick in the draft, and could nab an impact player such as Ohio State swingman Evan Turner. Or they could package the pick and trade down for multiple selections in the hopes of improving team depth.

In addition, there is some talent among the young holdovers. Last year's top pick, UCLA's Jrue Holiday, showed some flashes during the last month of the season once inserted into the starting lineup. Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights both are regulars in the Philly rotation, and are productive players on the frontline. Finally, Louis Williams is a gunner from the perimeter, bringing instant offense off the bench.

But Collins' most important work might be with veterans Brand, Dalembert, and Iguodala, as he must push them to improve their consistency and lead the team. Of those three players, athletic wing Iguodala will be the key, since he not only is the Sixers' most talented player, but also still has some upside to his game which could be further developed.

New Wizards Owner Leonsis Claims NHL is in Better Financial Condition Than NBA

New Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis has had a busy week as he takes over operations for the franchise. First, his Wizards defied the ping pong odds, getting the number one pick in the 2010 draft and the rights to future star point guard John Wall of Kentucky. Second, he has already run his mouth about the current financial state of the league.

Leonsis, owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals, stated that the NHL's hard salary cap protects owners from "taking stupid pills" by preventing them from overspending on free agents. He contrasted the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the NBA's more flexible cap in which a dollar-for-dollar tax is instituted once team payroll exceeds the cap.

To Leonsis, the combination of the luxury tax system and out-of-control spending has caused some NBA teams to go in the red. Leonsis should wake up and educate himself.

Of the four top sports leagues in the U.S., the NHL is clearly a distant fourth when it comes to revenue and sheer fan support. And of those four leagues, the NBA has the largest global audience, without question. Part of the reason for that growth has been the NBA's more progressive stance toward free agency and labor relative to the other leagues.

Leonsis has enjoyed success with the Capitals by building through the draft and being fiscally responsible. That's wonderful, but he should read the memo: in the NBA, young teams do not win.

Drafting wisely and building a good nucleus is a wise stategy, but as that nucleus matures, develops, and starts to win over the years, players' contracts expire. At that point, franchises then have a choice: pay to retain their stars at an increased price or let them walk.

So sometimes in order to win a title, teams must bite the bullet, take a risk, dip into the luxury tax, and pay players their fair market value.

Although such moves might cut into ownership profits to a degree, the players are happier, and that results in the best talent staying in the NBA, rather than going to Europe. More importantly, the fans - the league's lifeblood - profit by continuing to see their favorite players perform for their hometown teams.

Of course, some teams do follow the alternate approach.

They let players go, stay far under the cap, and enjoy handsome profits while putting an inferior product on the court. It is called the "Donald Sterling Los Angeles Clipper Business Model for the NBA" and can be followed if tricking your fanbase is the objective.

As for the notion that the luxury tax does not prevent "stupid" conduct, well that simply is a stupid statement.

The tax itself operates as a financial disincentive to discourage such spending, and in that regard it has succeeded, as teams consistently make moves to avoid the tax. Often those teams who suffer under the tax do so by their own choice in cases where they have deliberately gambled away some profit in order to improve team performance.

Leonsis is either naive or very shrewd. More likely, it is the latter.

In all probability, Leonsis is planting the seed for lower expectations among the Washington fanbase. Such talk of "luxury tax" and "financial health" give him the perfect excuse to follow more a "Clipper-like" approach, for the benefit of his own pockets.

For the fans' sake, hopefully he was just being naive.

Cleveland Fires Coach Mike Brown After LeBron and Cavs Fail to Reach the Finals

What was widely suspected after the Cavs' postseason collapse finally came true: Cleveland officially has fired Head Coach Mike Brown.

Brown certainly had his faults, as his playoff rotation was inconsistent, his offense was far too dependent on LeBron James, and he lacked the ability to fully utilize the unique talents of Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq was perhaps the only true second option on the roster capable of consistently creating his own shot.

Worse yet, he followed the lead of Cleveland management by creating a locker room culture hellbent on kissing LeBron James' derriere. Considering that LeBron's personality drips with more arrogance and self-entitlement than perhaps any player in the league, such a sycophant-like interaction proved to be detrimental to the team.

Instead, what James needed during the Celtics series was a good Pat Riley-style tongue-lashing to instill in him some accountability for his poor play. Brown instead acted like another of James' yes-men.

Still, Brown instilled a defensive identity in Cleveland, and should not be made the scapegoat. In truth, the Cavs failure was caused by a variety of factors including:

1. Making the Wrong Trade. As the midseason trade deadline approached, LeBron was urging management to deal for Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire. James was adamant he could make it work, and Stoudemire was available and being shopped actively by the Suns.

GM Danny Ferry instead decided to trade for Antawn Jamison, his logic being that Jamison would be a better fit. In Jamison, Ferry saw a guy who could play the 3 or the 4, and had the ability to step outside and shoot the trey. Plus, Ferry had seen how Shaq and Stoudemire had difficulty trying to mesh their games the prior year with Phoenix. So Ferry ended up dealing for Jamison.

The problem with such reasoning was that Brown was playing Shaq limited minutes throughout the year, often opting to use Anderson Varejao at the 5 during the fourth quarter. Ferry should have known that Stoudemire would have the freedom to roam the paint during crunch time simply by observing Brown's rotation.

Having Stoudemire on the floor would have given the Cavs a true second option to pair with James, rather than another merely complementary player. Moreover, Stoudemire would likely have worked well with James, especially considering his ability to either finish at the rim or step out and hit the midrange J off of any screen-roll action.

Jamison proved to be no cure-all. A classic tweener, the undersized Jamison was burned time and again by the Celtics Kevin Garnett when matched up one-on-one in the post. Offensively, Jamison also came up short, as the Cavs never were able to successfully run their offense through him as a second option when James was off the floor.

2. Mo' was a joke. For the second consecutive year, Mo Williams proved to be a bust in the playoffs. Other than Game 6, Williams shot poorly throughout the Celtics series and had a minimal impact. More importantly, he could do little to stop Rajon Rondo, as Brown had to put Anthony Parker on Rondo just to slow him down.

What makes it all the more absurd is that Williams has been puffing his chest out the last two years acting as if he has done something special. He, LeBron, and the rest of the Cavs organization howled and screamed when Williams was not initially voted onto the All-Star Team two years ago, and in hindsight, that vote has proven to be correct.

3. LeBron failed to deliver. Already too much has been written about LeBron's effort to delve into it with more detail, but the plain truth is that LeBron again has failed to deliver in playoff crunch time.

From his 16 bad quarters against San Antonio, to his disappearance in the 2006 FIBA World Championships, to his weak showing in the 2008 Beijing gold medal game, James has had his AWOL moments in crunch time.

Still, James had clearly turned a corner the past two years, improving both his game as well as his ability to lead. And while virtually every GM in the league would prefer to have Kobe Bryant with the ball in his hands during the final minute, James certainly has had his share of clutch moments.

So, this year his disappearing act was somewhat of a surprise. Was it the elbow? Obviously, it played a strong role. But then the rebuttal to that excuse would be to look at his outstanding Game 3 performance where his elbow was not an issue.

Was it the Delonte West affair rumor? Who knows what to think on that one. But if it were true, I suspect we would have seen more demonstrative dissatisfaction from James, not some weak, passive-aggressive "I'll show him," half-hearted effort on the floor.

Or was it a lack of mental toughness?

The bottom line is James simply was not good enough - on an individual level.

In the latter games of the Celtic series, Boston often was able to get away with single coverage on LeBron, as he passively shot jumpers or passed the ball. To say he did not get enough team help is to oversimplify things.

Washington Wins the Lottery

After the Gilbert Arenas gun fiasco, and the trading away of stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, no NBA franchise needed a facelift quite like the Washington Wizards.

Fortunately, they got one, thanks to their good luck in winning the NBA Draft Lottery.

Most likely, Washington will draft point guard John Wall of Kentucky, the consensus number one choice in a deep draft.

Other probable lottery choices include guard Evan Turner of Ohio State, athletic swingman Wesley Johnson of Syracuse, powerful center DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky, skilled big Greg Monroe of Georgetown, and power forward Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech.

Here is the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery selection order:

1. Washington
2. Philadelphia
3. New Jersey
4. Minnesota
5. Sacramento
6. Golden State
7. Detroit
8. LA Clippers
9. Utah
10. Indiana
11. New Orleans
12. Memphis
13. Toronto
14. Houston

Lakers to Shut Down D-League Team Next Year

In a surprising move, the Lakers announced that they will be shutting down the Los Angeles D-Fenders, their Developmental League affiliate.

The move is expected to be temporary, with the D-Fenders joining the league again after one year.

The team will be shut down due to sparse attendance. Should the team become operational again, it is anticipated that the D-Fenders will not play in the Staples Center, but another local arena.

Current Laker Jordan Farmar is a D-Fender alum. The D-Fenders posted a 16-34 record last year.

Boston and LA on a Collision Course

Another season, another year of wasted Nike ad dollars, as only one of their two puppets can seem to make it to the Finals.

Although all those NBA fans 25 years of age and under might seem disappointed with not having a Kobe-LeBron matchup, the rest of the wiser basketball world - the ones who have a clue - are rejoicing at another potential Lakers-Celtics matchup.

What makes any Lakers-Celtics series great is the hatred.

When one can literally see the hate, the cursing, the I'm-about-to-snap anger in the faces of both the teams and the fans, special moments occur and a genuinely exciting series develops.

This year the hate will be there, even more so than in the 2008 series. LA will be coming in looking to avenge their ugly Game 6 punking from 2008, while Boston will be trying to take back what they believe is theirs. Throw in the past 50 years of history between the two, and this will be the most interesting Finals of the last ten years.

Of course, neither squad has wrapped up their Conference Finals series, so we are jumping the gun a little bit here. Nevertheless, the basketball gods know what they are doing, and if they have still have any sway over the NBA universe, then we should expect to see another epic Lakers-Celtics battle in 2010.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

1 comment:

  1. The Lakers won't be able to crack the Suns' zone defense. Suns in six.


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