Orlando CEO says Scott Skiles warned about culture under GM Rob Hennigan

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After a 25-win season in 2014-15, the Orlando Magic hired no-nonsense coach Scott Skiles to bring some discipline and accountability to the locker room, and some wins to the record. The next season under Skiles the Magic won 35 games, then after the season Skiles unexpectedly left the team after having issues with GM Rob Hennigan, particularly about the use of a few players and their value.

On his way out the door, and even before, Skiles warned Magic ownership about the soft team culture under Hennigan. The Magic brought in Frank Vogel as coach and he ran into some of the same issues as Skiles, got the team to only 29 wins, and this time it was Hennigan who was let go after the season.

Speaking with the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said Skiles gave them warnings about the team culture under Hennigan and the also let go GM Scott Perry.

“Scott certainly had his concerns; I don’t think that was any secret,” Martins said when I asked if he should have listened to Skiles instead of Hennigan. “He made that very well known. He and I had several conversations about things during his tenure here.”

From talking to people close to the situation and listening to Martin’s public comments, it appears Skiles felt Hennigan and Perry coddled players and undermined the coaching staff’s ability to instill accountability. Skiles is a no-nonsense basketball lifer who didn’t like the work ethic of his young players or the culture created by the inexperienced Hennigan….

“There were things Scott could have done better and one of them is that he could have been more patient,” Martins said. “We were clearly having those conversations [about the culture] and working toward solutions, but Scott didn’t want to be patient about it.”

You can’t blame him, because coaches are usually the ones let go, not the GM. Part of what changed is that Vogel was a proven winner who knows how to build a strong team and culture, and he had a four-year contract. Vogel wasn’t going anywhere, so Hennigan was.

There was surprise around the league GM Perry was caught up in the house cleaning, he was well respected by other teams. Perry reportedly had pushed for a trade that would have brought the Magic DeMarcus Cousins for Nikola Vucevic and either Evan Fournier or draft picks, but Hennigan shot the idea down, worried Orlando couldn’t re-sign Cousins and, ironically, about Cousins impact on team culture. New Orleans stepped in and made a trade for Cousins.

The Magic have said they are going to take their time and get the right GM in place, but there are key decisions coming this summer to turn this franchise around. That will start with the NBA Draft, where the Magic will have a high pick (currently fifth before the lottery). There also are decisions about whether to bring Jeff Green back, what free agents to chase, and to consider trades of guys like Vucevic or Terrence Ross.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.