The Flip Side: Dell Demps' attempt to appease Chris Paul

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chris_paul.jpgYesterday’s four-way trade
saw just about every team involved walk away a winner. However, the
effects of that trade are far more specific than just saying “This team
got better,” or “This team accomplished its goals.” In The Flip Side,
we’ll look at one player from each of the four teams — the Nets, the
Pacers, the Hornets, and the Rockets — and how their career is
impacted by the move in both the immediate and distant future.

Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans. Newly-anointed Hornets GM Dell Demps acquires Trevor Ariza in exchange for James Posey and upstart point guard Darren Collison. Chris Paul still, probably, wants out of New Orleans.

The Hornets’ intent here was obvious, but if scoring Trevor Ariza is the endgame of the team’s plan to convince Chris Paul to stay home, someone miscalculated. Badly.

There’s honestly nothing wrong with Ariza. He’s a fine athlete, a good perimeter defender, a so-so three-point shooter, and a perfectly useful cog as long as he’s not asked to power the machine. The more responsibility Ariza holds in the offense, the worse off both he and the team are going to be. He’s just not a dynamic offensive talent, and that’s fine.

Because what Ariza is — a perfectly average player — comes at a perfectly average cost. He has a contract that fits his abilities, and the only problem with that contract is that it extends over the next four seasons. $28.1 million? Not too bad in the current NBA climate. Yet with earth-shaking changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement right around the corner, paying a guy like Ariza that much money may not be reasonable in a year’s time.

Finances aside, the Hornets need help. They need players like Ariza who can fill in the gaps, sure, but what they really need is a talent who can take over the second fiddle from David West without skipping a beat. West isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but this team, as it’s currently constructed, isn’t working. There’s clearly not enough depth (who on earth is going to back up Chris Paul next year?), but talent at the top remains a glaring concern. Paul is a top-five player, but West, Ariza, Emeka Okafor, and Marcus Thornton aren’t enough. That combination could conceivably get the Hornets to the playoff brink, but what then?

Here’s what I’m getting at: Though Ariza might be the most intriguing wing player the Hornets have had during the Paul era, little has changed. New Orleans still has contracts that could hurt in the long-term, little financial flexibility, and now they’ve lost Darren Collison. The starting five NOLA trots out on opening night may be more complete because of this move, but I fail to see how it’s evidence of some methodical, long-term plan.

The Hornets traded in their insurance policy for a fresh coat of paint, but Paul’s no fool. He knows what Ariza is and isn’t, what he represents and what he doesn’t. Demps is trying (and that’s something), but if Paul really is insistent on finding a new team to call his own, Dell will have to do much better.   

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.