Kevin Ollie

Seven names to watch as Lakers begin search for new coach

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Mike D’Antoni is gone in Los Angeles — Lakers fans want to make Thursday a national holiday of celebration. Even though much of it was not his fault, D’Antoni had become the whipping boy of Lakers fans, the guy whose head had to roll (and he certainly made his share of mistakes and had his share of problems on the job). As proof Lakers fans are ecstatic check out this “classy” tweet from Magic Johnson.

Ding Dong the witch is dead….

Now what?

Don’t expect the Lakers to move quickly here, and expect them to cast a wide net and talk to a lot of people. Early buzz is they are focused on the draft (where they will have a Top 9 pick) so there is almost no chance a coach is hired before the NBA Draft lottery May 20. They could hold out longer, even past the June draft or later (in theory the Lakers could try to sell a big-time free agent with the idea he would have input on a coach, but they aren’t even giving Kobe Bryant that input).

When the Lakers do hire a coach, who will they choose? It’s impossible to say (other than “not Phil Jackson,” plus along those lines Stan Van Gundy told Eytan Shander of NBC Sports Radio “I don’t anticipate them contacting me.”). So here are seven names to watch.

1. Byron Scott. For their last two coaches management went outside the “Laker family” and went with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. Both of those failed miserably. Scott is a former Laker who twice coached the Nets to the NBA Finals (with Jason Kidd). More importantly, he is a Buss family favorite. He’s a guy that can burn out players and he’s had less success in recent stops, but he comes with one other big perk — a great relationship with Kyrie Irving (he coached him in Cleveland).

2. Lionel Hollins. If you want the anti-D’Antoni this is your guy — he is old school, hard knocks and likes to play slow. He’s also good at building a culture and developing players, as we saw in Memphis. All that said, his old school ways seem an uncomfortable fit with the Lakers organization. Plus, Jim Buss wants to win while being entertaining, and Hollins wants a grinding team.

3. John Calipari. No, it’s not happening, he’s even said as much , but you can bet World Wide Wes will throw it out there. If one job could lure Calipari out of Kentucky and to the NBA it would be this one — and he’s a guy with great player contacts all over the league, a guy players love to play for.

4. Kevin Ollie. If the Lakers are going to go the college route — I doubt they are, but let’s play the hypothetical game — the guy who just led UConn to a national title is the man they chase. A lot of NBA GMs have him on their radar. He’s a well respected NBA veteran who has shown some coaching chops. Here are two reasons to take this seriously: First, he’s a Los Angeles guy, he played his high school ball at Crenshaw high; Second, Kevin Durant speaks very highly of him and how as a veteran Ollie taught KD, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to be professionals. If you’re trying to lure Durant out of Oklahoma City in 2016 when he is a free agent, having Ollie as your coach would help.

5. Steve Kerr. He has no coaching experience but he’s got a championship pedigree and is a former GM. In LA you need a coach who can deal with the crush of media, keep the fans happy and still coach. Kerr has the potential to be that guy… I still don’t love the fit, but I could see why you have an interview. Kerr also wants to stay on the West Coast — he played his high school ball at Pacific Palisades and he currently lives in San Diego — so the Lakers may be more tempting than the Knicks.

6. Jeff Van Gundy. By law his name has to come up in every major coaching search. It will come up here, but I’m not sure he leaves the booth for the sidelines again, especially not for the rebuilding project that is the Lakers right now. The bigger problem is if he does return he’s not just going to want to coach — he will want player/personnel say. The Lakers have Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss for that, the power structure is set. Not sure there is a real fit here.

7. George Karl. He likes to play up-tempo, entertaining basketball, he’s good with the media and he would build a culture with the young players the Lakers have/will bring in. The one problem here is the same as Van Gundy — he would demand a lot of say over the roster. The Lakers aren’t going to surrender it.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.