2014 PBT Awards: Coach of the Year

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

3. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

You can make a good case for any of those three to win it (just like you can make a good case for Steve Clifford to be on that list). I choose Hornacek because of the team culture and foundation he built in Phoenix, as well as the player development of guys such as Goran Dragic and Gerald Green (not to mention the Morris brothers). He won 47 games with a team most thought was built to tank.

Brett Pollakoff

1. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

2. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

3. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich guided the Spurs to the best record in the league the season following one of the most crushing Finals defeats in NBA history. We should name this award after him for instilling a culture that enables him to strategically rest his stars while continuing to rack up wins year after year, while making the playoffs for the 17th straight season. But as far as a job done in one season by itself, it would be crazy to overlook the year the Suns put together under a first-year head coach in Hornacek. Phoenix ended the season with 47 wins in a very tough Western Conference with as many as five candidates for Most Improved Player on its roster, and the job Hornacek did in putting that all together is worthy of recognition.

Dan Feldman

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

2. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

3. Steve Clifford, Charlotte Bobcats

In an extremely close four-man race, Clifford edges Tom Thibodeau for the final spot on my ballot. Both elevated rosters higher than they seemed they would go, Thibodeau taking the better group of players higher than Clifford took a lesser group, which cancels out. Clifford gets the edge, because he established an identity on a team full of players that didn’t fit his system, whereas Thibodeau was working with players who did. Between the top two, Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, but I could argue he didn’t have to do as much this year – it is Coach of the Year – as Hornacek. But by resting his top players so much and seamlessly integrating new ones, Popovich impressed by keeping the Spurs rolling no matter who was on the floor this year.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.