Stan Van Gundy rips Bulls over handling of Del Negro firing

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Ever since Jeff Van Gundy started out as an analyst with ESPN, he’s made it a point to come to the defense of a lot of coaches. Recently, Van Gundy was critical of how the Chicago Bulls handled the firing of Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro was seemingly on the hot seat from the first day he got the job. He was a constant target of media and fan criticism, and was often the first person blamed when the Bulls struggled.

In shootaround today, Jeff’s brother Stan told ESPN Chicago that he agrees with his brother on the matter of Del Negro’s firing:

“From midseason on, I don’t think Vinny got much support from their
organization,” Stan said. “I didn’t understand — you never know the
inner-workings, and so maybe there was some stuff behind the scenes —
but from a coaching perspective, Vinny did a very, very good job with
that team.

“They gave up their two best wing scorers in [Ben]
Gordon and [John] Salmons, and they were a great defensive team that
struggled to score. I don’t think that’s shocking when you give up two
guys like that. The front office makes the decision to make those
trades [Gordon left via free agency], and then Vinny’s the scapegoat
for it. [It’s a] hard thing to understand.”

Stan pointed to Derrick Rose’s development under Del Negro as a significant point in the ex-coach’s favor. When asked about the coaching future of his brother Jeff, Stan said that he doesn’t think Jeff will be coaching next season, and went so far as to say he didn’t even think he’d interview with the Bulls.

Whether or not Del Negro deserved to be fired after this season is debatable. On the one hand, the Bulls have a talented young roster led by Derrick Rose, but struggled to score all season long and barely squeezed into the playoffs with a 41-41 record. On the other hand, the Bulls finished their season strong, and had a respectable showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

However, as the team seemed to be playing its best basketball of the season, Del Negro made headlines for getting into a shoving match with John Paxson over Joakim Noah’s playing time. Only the Bulls front office knows for sure how big of a factor that incident played into Del Negro’s firing, but the timing of the incident and the firing were less than ideal from a PR standpoint. The Bulls have made their move, and are officially in the hunt for a new head coach. Only time will tell if they did the right thing.   

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.