Before the season the talk was about the Heat and 72 wins, with everybody sane saying it wouldn’t happen and wasn’t worth the effort. But that never stops the talk.
But the Lakers? They are off to a 7-0 start. They look deeper, they have a healthy Kobe Bryant and a rested Pau Gasol and an inspired Lamar Odom. And they haven’t even gotten Andrew Bynum in the fold yet.
Why not the Lakers and 72 wins? Because Phil Jackson isn’t convinced these Lakers play good enough defense, for one. Also, he’s been down that road and knows a lot of things have to fall your way. Here is his quote from via the Daily News.
“In ’92, after the first championship (with the Bulls), I think we’re 46-3 or 43-6, something like that around the All-Star break,” Jackson recalled. “The owner called me up and said, ‘I hope you’re not trying to win the most games ever won in one season.’
“And I said, ‘Well, we have a lot of depth. We have a young team. I’m not trying to wear them out. We’re just trying to use momentum and win games.’
“That team ended up winning 67 games. They had a little letdown at the end of the season. You get a feel like teams know how to win games and know how to turn it on at the end. They know how to expend the right amount of energy to win a ballgame.
“That really happened with the team in ’95-96. They knew how to blow teams out and put them away in the early part of the second period. Everything kind of fell into place for us, also.
“We went on a long road trip and three of the five teams or eight teams we played on that road trip had injuries to players who were important players. We won seven out of eight games on that road trip. Things like that happened.”
There you go. I’m not going to disagree with Phil Jackson.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.
The Houston Rockets are still searching for a head coach — with Jeff Van Gundy believed to be their top target — but it won’t be J.B. Bickerstaff, who has served as the team’s interim coach since they fired Kevin McHale in November. According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff has informed Rockets management that he’s no longer in consideration for the job:
After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Tuesday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials that he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.
Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.
After the Rockets’ disappointing season and disastrous playoff performance — where they lost in five not-very-competitive games to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors —it makes sense that Bickerstaff would rather get a fresh start as an assistant somewhere else, where he could build up his credentials and be a more highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the future. He isn’t a big name, so he likely wouldn’t be able to command as much money as the Rockets’ head coach as a more established figure would be. Given the Rockets’ uncertain future with Dwight Howard almost certain to opt out and not a lot of long-term pieces around James Harden, it’s not the most stable job in the world.