Kwame Brown continues to drift into irrelevancy

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kwame brown.jpgKwame Brown, former #1 overall pick and legitimate candidate for the unenviable ‘Biggest Bust of All-Time’ distinction, is a shining example of the power of the Los Angeles Lakers. Not two seasons ago, Brown was an occasional starter on an upstart Lakers team that had taken the West by storm, and he averaged over 22 minutes per game for Los Angeles.

Brown may have received more ridicule than praise, but under the bright lights at Staples Center, it was impossible to deny his existence. He played for the most visible basketball team on the planet, and as such, he was among the most visible players on the planet. 

Then a funny thing happened. The Lakers snagged Pau Gasol away from the Memphis Grizzlies for a few first round picks, Javaris Crittenton (a good move in retrospect), and one giant expiring contract. That expiring contract was named Kwame Brown, and without the glitz and glam of the L.A. making him more or less a mainstay on national television, he’s slowly drifted from public consciousness.

It doesn’t help that Brown simply refuses to improve. Some players employ an exponential style of improvement over their formative years, where they’ll lay low temporarily before making big leap after big leap. Others are slightly more linear, showing steady, incremental improvement year after year. And then there are those like Brown, who quite honestly, may have plateaued before he even began. His body is more NBA-ready than his frail high school frame ever was during his early years in Washington, but from a technique standpoint has Brown ever really added anything to his game?

It doesn’t help that Brown plays for the pretty terrible Detroit Pistons, a mistmatched squad of talent that has Joe Dumars playing mad scientist. I’m honestly not sure what anyone expected would happen when the team dropped some major dough on signing Ben Gordon (a streaky shooter and decent, if undersized, defender) and Charlie Villanueva (a streaky shooter and a poor, if underwhelming, defender) as franchise cornerstones, but it’s not especially a recipe for success. Especially when considering the larger holes and problems on the roster. Namely, the center position, where Brown drifts through for about 14 minutes a night.

And it doesn’t help that Brown has a self-image that is increasingly dissonant with reality. Confidence (or really, disillusionment) has never been Kwame’s problem, as evidenced by a feature piece by Terry Foster of the Detroit News:

Pistons reserve center Kwame Brown rolled his head back in laughter inside the Pistons dressing room. Between beats of DMX on the loudspeaker there was the cackle of a giant man who didn’t agree with the latest lyrics from his coach.

“Our biggest concern and I have discussed it with him is defense,” Kuester said. “We have to make sure he continually plays the consistent defense that I want to in the scheme. That is pick-and-roll, high pick-and-roll. Just making sure he knows.”

If Brown didn’t know, he knows now. That is why he laughed when Kuester’s words were relayed to him.

“Listen, man, I don’t want something to be flared up on what I say,” Brown said. “I will do what the coach says in order to get better, although that is a first because there is one thing I do bring to the table and that is defense. That’s the first time I heard that. It’s the first time a coach said I don’t play defense. But like I said, I will learn to play the defense he wants me to play.”

…Brown remains confident. He started for the Lakers in 2006 when Chris Mihm was injured. Brown said he’s one of the top three defensive players in the NBA. That’s why Kuester’s words make him laugh.

One of the top three defensive players in the NBA. Kwame Brown. I’ll let that sink in.

It’s hard to be a Laker and not get noticed, one way or another. But as a Piston? A Piston who’s logging floor time behind Ben Wallace, Jason Maxiell, and Chris Wilcox at center? A Piston who honestly believes he’s one of the league’s top defenders, despite incredible evidence to the contrary? Well, to get noticed in that situation, Kwame needs to let his game do the talking.  

Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was excellent. THEN, they made 25 in a game

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) reacts after the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. Smith hit seven 3-pointers in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers set a record for 3-pointers in a team’s first six playoff games on this Kyrie Irving shot:

Did you notice anything strange about that clip?

It came in Game 1 against the Hawks – Cleveland’s fifth playoff game.

That’s right, the Cavs needed just five games to set a record for 3s through six playoff games. Then, they piled on 25 3-pointers – a record for any NBA game – in their Game 2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s 97 3-pointers through six postseason games absolutely crushes the previous record:

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The difference between the Cavs and second place equals difference between second and 88th.

In fact, Cleveland has already demolished the record for 3s through EIGHT playoff games (previously 90 by the 2014-15 Hawks). Again, the Cavaliers have played just six games this postseason.

Where is all this outside output coming from? The key long-distance shot makers:

Add it all up, and the Cavs are making 16.2 3-pointers per game – which would easily set a playoff record:

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Cleveland could make no 3-pointers in its next two games – and still rank first for 3s per game in a postseason.

Not that the Cavs appear likely to go cold from distance anytime soon.

Their stars generate open looks and make 3s themselves. Smith is an unrepentant gunner, and he’s feeling it.

These are the Cavaliers as scary as they get.

John Wall undergoes surgery on both knees, expected to be ready for start of next season

Washington Wizards guard John Wall speaks during a media availability before an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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John Wall tried putting the Wizards on his back and carrying them into the playoffs.

Washington fell short, but the process still took a toll.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced that guard John Wall underwent a successful procedure today to excise calcific deposits in his left patella tendon in order to eliminate pain and assist healing.  He will begin the rehabilitation process immediately and is expected to be available for the start of the 2016-17 season.  Wall also underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee in order to remove loose bodies.

If the Wizards are just using the next date most fans care about, this might not be such a big deal. That would open the door for Wall being healthy at any point over the summer.

But if the start of next season is his targeted return, that’s more troubling. Sitting an entire offseason is a big deal, and that means potential complications are more likely to cause him to miss games. It’s also a worse indicator for his long-term health.

As the Wizards enter free agency primed to spend, the last thing they need are questions about the length of their franchise player’s prime.

Larry Bird shows courage in his convictions by firing Frank Vogel

Larry Bird, Frank Vogel
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird sounded cruel.

The Pacers president announced to the world that Frank Vogel begged for his job. Not only did he oust the coach anyway, Bird seemed to toy with him at a press conference today. Asked what he’d tell someone checking Vogel’s references, Bird answered with a resounding: “He’s the best.” What will Bird look for in the Pacers’ next coach? The same things that led him to Vogel during the last search.

So why did Bird fire Vogel?

“My experience has been good coaches leave after three years,” Bird said.

And maybe Bird is cruel, foolish, self-absorbed or any other adjective being thrown at him today.

But also realize he sincerely believes this.

After all, he also ousted a coach who went 147-67, reached two conference finals and an NBA Finals and won Coach of the Year in his three-year tenure.

Himself.

Bird coached Indiana from 1997-2000, and even though he guided the team to the 2000 NBA Finals, he still stepped down after that third season.

“Three years is enough for a coach in any one place” Bird said he told the Pacers when they hired him.

Despite all his success, he stuck to it.

Bird said he spoke to Red Auerbach about the value of coaching turnover, and Boston had plenty. Bill Fitch got four years at the helm of Bird’s Celtics, K.C. Jones five – “nicest man I ever met, and they let him go, and we were having success,” Bird said – Jimmy Rodgers two and Chris Ford two (and another three after Bird retired).

Vogel coached Indiana five-and-a-half years.

“That’s a long time for me for a coach,” Bird said.

As so many teams across the NBA chase continuity, Bird actively rejects it – maybe to his detriment. Five of the six longest-tenured coaches in the league are still alive in the playoffs: Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Dwane Casey (Raptors), Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks). The Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle is the exception.

Bird just doesn’t want to follow that model.

“Every day the same voice and the same, I think guys sometimes tune that out,” Bird said. “It happens. It’s unfortunate.”

It is unfortunate, and it cost Vogel a job he appeared to be succeeding in and wanted to keep. You can wonder whether Bird and not just players tired of Vogel’s message, even if it were a wise one. Bird clearly believes he can assemble a roster, and he has own ideas about how he wants it coached (small, up-tempo, dynamic).

But don’t wonder about Bird’s intentions when he brings up three-year term limits for coaches.

Right or wrong, he believes in them.

Larry Bird: Kevin McHale won’t coach Pacers

Larry Bird
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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1. Kevin McHale withdrew from the Kings’ coaching search.

2. The Pacers fired Frank Vogel.

Will McHale reunite with former Celtics teammate Larry Bird in Indiana?

“I would not do that to Kevin, have him to work for me,”Bird said at a press conference today. “That’s just not fair. I respect the man too much, and we’ve been through too many battles together to bring him in here and be my coach. I would love for him to be my coach, but it ain’t going to happen, because our relationship.”

It would have been compelling to watch Bird and McHale work together, but I’m not convinced McHale is the best coach available – though that’s not the only concern.

After all, Bird just ousted someone who might be a better coach than any replacement.