Getting obsessive with Josh Smith's game-winning dunk

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Last night, Josh Smith won the internet with a game-winning tip dunk as time expired. This everyone agrees on. What isn’t as clear is which Magic player screwed up to give Smith a clear run to the rim for the game-winner. The general consensus is that Rashard Lewis, the Magic player closest to Smith, messed up by failing to box him out. 

However, there have been some dissenting opinions. In response to David Thorpe’s opinion on TrueHoop, Stephen Danley noted that Lewis and Jameer Nelson were responsible for boxing out three guys on the weak side because Dwight Howard had rotated over to play help-side defense. This fellow directly blames Howard for the mistake, and he uses tables to illustrate it. On NBA Playbook, one of Sebastian Pruiti’s stills of the play makes it look pretty clear that Rashard should have found Josh Smith and boxed him out. 
After looking at the video many, many times, here are some of my conclusions:
-First of all, this was a bit of a freak occurrence. Not only does the ball carom off the rim perfectly for Smith’s dunk, but almost nobody else in the league is capable of making that play. When the shot went up with 1.9 seconds to play, Lewis is standing with his toes on the charge circle as Smith stands at the three-point line. When it hits the rim with 1.3 seconds away, Smith is still a good two to three steps outside of the paint. A second later, game over. Of the thousands of times Rashard Lewis has boxed a man out in his life, he’s probably faced very few opponents capable of swooping in that quickly for a tip dunk after starting at the three-point line. Yes, Smith already has one tip-dunk game winner this season, but Lewis had about a half a second to remember this and override his instinct, which is that there was no chance Smith was going to be able to get to that rebound. Like the victims of a LeBron James chase-down block, Lewis got burned by letting instinct take over and forgetting the athletic capabilities of the player behind him. 
-Second, when the shot goes up, Lewis and Nelson aren’t actually responsible for three men, because Marvin Williams is hanging out beyond the three-point line and never comes inside of it. In this case, Jameer’s responsibility should have been to box out Mario West while Lewis makes sure he puts a body on Smith. Nelson is the smallest man on the floor anyways, and doesn’t quite get over to box out West, who is on the charge circle when the ball hits the rim. Lewis moves ever so slightly to his left towards West, giving Smith the window he needs to blow by Lewis’ right shoulder and dunk it through. 
Ultimately, my final opinion is that there’s no one mistake that made this possible for the Hawks. Howard ended up roaming a little too far over. Nelson didn’t box out his man as well as he could have. Lewis didn’t make it a priority to know where the best athlete on the Hawks was when the ball went up. The ball bounced perfectly to one of the few guys capable of making the game-winning play. It’s one of those things that will happen over the course of an 82-game season. Unfortunately for the Magic, it happened to them this time. 

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.

Frank Vogel out as Pacers coach

Larry Bird, Frank Vogel
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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After leaving Frank Vogel hanging for a few days – something he explicitly said he hoped to avoid – Pacers president Larry Bird finally ousted the coach.

“It’s time for a new voice around here,” Bird said at a press conference today. “Sometimes my job really sucks, and this is one of the toughest things I’ve done.”

Bird clarified that Vogel wasn’t fired, that his contract had expired and wasn’t being renewed.

Will there be a search now to replace Vogel? Kevin McHale has already been mentioned as a candidate, and he’d make sense. He played on Bird’s Celtics and learned an up-tempo system with the Rockets.

Vogel is now free to interview with the Rockets, and I think he’d be a home-run hire. Vogel’s defensive skills are badly needed in Houston, and perhaps the the Rockets’ institutional knowledge could fine-tune his offense.

Report: Rockets talking to Jeff Hornacek, Sam Cassell, Stephen Silas, Chris Finch

Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek directs his players in the second half of an NBA exhibition basketball game against the Houston Rockets Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Houston. The Rockets won 95-92. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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There are the big names: Jeff Van Gundy, David Blatt, Mike D’Antoni and Frank Vogel.

There’s the catchy name: Kenny Smith.

And there’s the eliminated name: J.B. Bickerstaff.

Expect many more names in the Rockets’ coaching search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Houston owner Les Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Houston assistant Chris Finch, league sources said.

Conversations with potential candidates are expected to include several prominent college coaches, sources said.

Among the NBA candidates with whom the Rockets are working to set up interviews are former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources said. There could be 10-15 – perhaps even more – candidates interviewed in the process, league sources said.

Hornacek coached the Suns and looked pretty good doing so until this season, when he feuded with Markieff Morris, used too many strange lineups and saw the team quit on him. If he can explain this year’s troubles, he’d be a solid hire. But the Rockets have the best job available, so they can probably aim a little higher.

Cassell, like Smith, played for the Rockets. An intelligent player, Cassell has successfully transitioned to coaching, though I’m not sure he’s ready for a top job. He mentored John Wall with the Wizards before joining the Clippers. From afar, it’s just tough to judge his contributions to a loaded coaching staff in Los Angeles.

Stephen Silas broke into NBA coaching on his dad’s staffs with the Hornets (turned Pelicans) and Cavaliers. Paul Silas even let Stephen serve as head coach for games during the 2011-12 season. Between and after stints with his dad, Stephen has impressed at other stops around the league. Maybe someone who learned offense from Don Nelson and defense from Steve Clifford and gets along well with players would make a good head coach. The biggest question is how his rapport with players would translate to the head chair, but that’s a concern for any assistant.

Finch coached in Europe for more than a decade until the Rockets tabbed him to coach their D-League team. After a successful stint there, he moved to the bench in Houston. He’d be more of a daring hire at this point, but he could perhaps unite the Rockets’ front office and coaching staff better than anyone.

Reports: Kevin McHale withdraws from Kings coaching search, could join Pacers

Kevin McHale
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports wrote a few weeks ago about the Kings coaching search:

Kevin McHale is steadily gaining internal support, league sources told The Vertical. If Cousins truly is the future, the Kings have to hire a coach he will buy into, and McHale, a respected voice and one of the game’s all-time great post players, certainly seems like a good fit.

They won’t get him, of course

McHale indeed emerged as a candidate, and though it took him a little longer than other prominent former head coaches, McHale also came to the conclusion Mannix foresaw,

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This is part of the reason Sacramento talking to everybody. The Kings don’t know whom they can get.

An owner who has changed course too often in Vivek Ranadive, a general manager with too little experience in Vlade Divac, a top player who repeatedly feuds with coaches in DeMarcus Cousins – who’d want this job? Probably not someone who could get one of the NBA’s other 29 head-coaching gigs, and that might apply to McHale.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

Frank Vogel is still twisting in the wind, but it seems unlikely the Pacers keep him.

There’d definitely be something intriguing about former Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale teaming up in Indiana. McHale’s experience with the Rockets could help him install an up-tempo offense, too.