Coach of the Year may come down to whether you’re old school or new school this year.
The expected favorite for the award is Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who has brought Chicago around to what may be the best win-total improvement, seed improvement, and clearly defensive improvement in the league this year, in only his first season with the Bulls. Thibodeau has helped Derrick Rose reach an MVP level (mostly bey admittedly staying out of the way and letting Rose do his thing), and made a defensive juggernaut out of a team featuring Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Keith Bogans.
But his biggest competitor has the best advantage he can have. A superior record. Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is gaining more and more traction for his performance in leading the Spurs to a ridiculous 54-12 record. You can count Rockets coach Rick Adelman among those who think Pop’s done the job this year.
“I think Pop’s just done a great job this year,” Adelman said. “To me, the record they have, he’s the Coach of the Year, the way he’s put these guys together and the type of season they’ve had.
via Rockets notes: Adelmans COY vote goes to Popovich | NBA Basketball | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.
The award may end up coming down to whether Thibodeau’s Bulls manage to hold onto the top spot in the East which they now share a piece of after Saturday’s win over the Jazz. If they secure the top spot in the East after being an 8th seed speed bump last year, with a group of new pieces, that may be enough to win. But if the Spurs keep pace, voting against Popovich will be extremely difficult.
Thibodeau does have one other advantage. He’s coaching a team with significant roster changes, featuring three new starters from last season, guys who are playing together for the first time. Much of the bench unit has changed as well with Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Omer Asik. Getting new guys to play this well together is extremely tough.
Just ask Erik Spoelstra.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.