Author: John Krolik

Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks

Jerry Sloan would be interested in Magic coaching job


Fox Sports Florida’s Chris Tomasson has an interesting article up today about one legendary coach who might be willing to fill the Orlando Magic’s coaching vacancy:

Jerry Sloan once coached temperamental star Karl Malone for 15 years. Perhaps his next challenge could be another such guy, Dwight Howard.

Sloan told FOX Sports Florida on Tuesday he has interest in the Orlando Magic job, which became open Monday when Stan Van Gundy was fired.

“Yes, I think so,’’ Sloan said from his farm in McLeansboro, Ill., about his interest. “It would be very intriguing. But they would have to be interested in me.’’

Sloan, a Hall of Famer, resigned from the Utah Jazz in February 2011 after 23 seasons. But he said not long after that he got the urge to return to coaching.

Even though he’s never won a ring, Sloan is rightly considered one of the best coaches of all time, and would certainly be the biggest name available to replace Stan Van Gundy. Still, there are plenty of reasons to think that this won’t happen in Orlando. Sloan resigned from the Jazz position after publicly clashing with superstar point guard Deron Williams, who would be Howard’s running mate if Dwight does manage to get himself traded to the Brooklyn Nets, and has not traditionally been known as a “player’s coach.” He likes to fit his players to the complex version of the Flex Offense he’s become famous for running in the NBA, not the other way around, which would make him something of an illogical choice for a position in which immediate success would be a requirement.

Sloan is a fantastic coach, and could do wonders with the Magic if the team and Dwight Howard was willing to be patient with him, but right now, Dwight Howard wants Mike Malone or Brian Shaw, so I’d be surprised if anyone not named Mike Malone or Brian Shaw was coaching the Magic next season. Still, anything can happen.

NBA Playoffs: James, Wade carry Heat, even up series with Pacers

Heat Pacers Game 4

The Heat were able to get a 101-93 win over the Pacers to even up the series at 2 on Sunday, but it certainly didn’t come easy for them.

The Miami Heat absolutely needed a win in Indiana on Sunday afternoon, and for the first part of the game, it didn’t look like the Pacers were going to give it to them. Indiana came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, and started the game off on a 9-0 run.

Consequently, the Heat were forced to play catch-up for the entirety of the first half, and if Indiana had made some wide-open looks in transition or Shane Battier or Mario Chalmers had missed some early threes, Indiana could easily have broken the game wide open early. LeBron James came to play, but just about no other Heat player showed up in the first half — Dwyane Wade in particular looked like a zombie wearing a #3 jersey, as he made just 1 of his first 8 field goal attempts and got burned on defense numerous times.

Then, with 1:46 remaining in the first half, Wade was forced into a contested, off-the-dribble, end-of-shot clock three by the 6-8 Paul George — and he made it. After that, everything changed. The Pacers went into halftime with an 8-point lead thanks to a beautiful buzzer-beating scoop shot by Leandro Barbosa, but James and Wade were starting to get it going.

The second half was, quite simply, the James and Wade show. James played like a 3-time MVP, attacking the Pacers in the post, picking apart their defense with beautiful passes that led to dunks or layups, and driving right to the rack time after time for finish after finish. Oh, and he grabbed 18 rebounds, with 6 of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass. LeBron finished with 40 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists, which hasn’t been done in the playoffs in the last 25 years, and had 2 steals and 2 blocks to boot.

I know we’re supposed to put an asterisk on everything LeBron does until he wins a ring, but this was an absolutely unreal all-around performance from LeBron in what was essentially a must-win game for the Heat, and it should be appreciated.

That said, the Heat would be in a 3-1 hole right now if Dwyane Wade hadn’t snapped out of his funk with a vengeance. Wade hit 11 straight shots at one point, both from the inside and the outside, and James and Wade played off of each other beautifully for the entire second half. They weren’t just both playing great — they were elevating each other’s level of play, and that’s when the Heat get almost impossible to beat.

On the Pacers’ side of things, a few guys had nice games, but foul trouble kept Roy Hibbert and David West from playing major minutes, which made a huge difference in the game, as Hibbert’s ability to defend the rim and crash the boards and West’s ability to score down low gives Miami fits. With Hibbert and West on the bench for long stretches, the Pacers were forced to rely on a lot of long jumpers, and it wasn’t all that effective for them.

Even with James and Wade at the absolute top of their games, this wasn’t a blowout win for Miami, and that should be a cause for concern for the team that came into the playoffs as the Vegas favorites to win the championship. The Heat may have lost Game 4 if Udonis Haslem didn’t make four mid-range jumpers in the final six minutes of the game, which was notable since Haslem has struggled mightily from mid-range all season long.

Of course, the bigger concern is this: Can the Heat win this series, let alone a championship, if James and Wade have to do this much just to get Miami a win? If the Heat can make it into the Conference Finals, they will probably get Bosh back, which will help a lot, but this team is still wafer-thin offensively right now, and they need to get back to the principles of “pace and space” that made them so tough offensively early in the year, especially the latter. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and James Jones need to start hitting their threes, Chalmers, Cole, and Miller need to provide some playmaking, and Haslem, Anthony, and Turiaf have to force defenses to at least guard them.

Still, this was a good win for the Heat, and the road to the Conference Finals now goes through the American Airlines Arena again. The Heat should take a deep breath, and then realize they have to get right back to work if they don’t want to face an elimination game in Game 6.

NBA Playoffs: Heat flaws show up big, Pacers exploit them to even series

Heat Pacers Game 2

Miami fans, the time to panic may be now.

Indiana certainly didn’t dominate Miami in their ugly 78-75 Game 2 win, but they did make the Heat look like a team that may be fatally flawed without the third member of their “Big 3” in the lineup. The Heat had plenty of chances to win this game, but ended up giving home-court advantage to a team that nobody was predicting to win the series. Also, Miami simply didn’t look like a championship-caliber basketball team on Tuesday, which may be an even worse sign for them.

Miami was never able to get it going offensively, but they hid that in the first half by playing some absolutely suffocating defense on the Pacers, holding them to just 33 points in the 1st half and seemingly having an extra man on the court defensively.

In the 3rd quarter, however, Miami took their foot off the gas pedal defensively, Indiana was able to get a 28-point quarter, and Miami was unable to recover. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did their best, combining for 21 of Miami’s 23 fourth-quarter points, but LeBron missed 2 key free throws with 54 seconds remaining, and Wade missed a contested layup that would have tied the game for the Heat with 16 seconds remaining.

The Pacers missed a ton of free throws on their own to allow the Heat to stay in the game, but they were able to hold on after Mario Chalmers missed a game-tying 3 as time expired.

The story tomorrow will likely be about Wade’s missed layup and LeBron’s missed free throws (the latter more than the former), but the truth is that Miami’s offensive problems go much deeper than their ability to make shots down the stretch, especially with Bosh out of the lineup. Chalmers and Mike Miller played like they were shaving points. James Jones missed all 3 of his 3-point attempts. The team shot 1-16 from deep. Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and Ronny Turiaf combined for 7  points, and Erik Spoelstra seems to have lost faith in Haslem, the team captain, who only played 12 minutes.

No single Pacer had a great game, but that’s the beauty of this Pacer team — they don’t need big performances. They got what they needed when they needed it — a Leandro Barbosa floater here, a Danny Granger jump shot there, a David West post move on occasion, all the way down the line, and it was all they needed to beat the Heat on a night where Miami simply couldn’t get anything done offensively.

It’s simple for the Heat now — if they don’t win at least one game in Indiana, they’re going to go home early and have no rings to show for 2 years of having their “big three.” After Derrick Rose got injured, a lot of people expected Miami to have a fairly easy road to the finals, but the frontrunners should be feeling serious pressure right now.

NBA Playoffs: Can the Heat go up 2-0 without Bosh?

Chris Bosh injured

The Miami Heat managed to win Game 1 of their series with the Indiana Pacers thanks to an absolutely incredible half from both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, but don’t be fooled: Bosh’s injury changes the entire dynamic of the series. If James and Wade can play like they did in the 2nd half of Game 1 throughout the series, the Heat will probably win, because they’re just that good and the Pacers are somewhat lacking in star power. However, if James and Wade aren’t absolutely locked in for the majority of Game 2, here’s what Miami will need to do to hold serve at home:

— Get some floor spacing. Miami won Game 1 in spite of the fact that they went 0-6 from beyond the arc. That’s not going to work for the rest of the series. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers’ primary value to the Heat on offense is their ability to stretch the floor, and Erik Spoelstra should think about giving James Jones some minutes if his trio of shooters continue to have trouble finding the rim.

— Swarm defensively. This is something the Heat did extremely well in Game 1, and have done quite well all season. LeBron James, who finished 4th in Defensive Player of the Year voting this season, typically takes his defense to another level in the playoffs, and he held Danny Granger to 1-10 shooting from the field while snagging 2 steals and a block in Game 1. The Heat will need to make up for their lack of size on Roy Hibbert and David West by using their ability to cover ground defensively to make the Pacers uncomfortable on offense and keep Hibbert or West from getting 1-on-1 matchups on the block.

— Get contributions from the Haslem/Anthony/Turiaf trio. Haslem played terribly in Game 1, but fortunately for the Heat, Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf saved the day by providing great work on the glass, good energy on defense, and some nice dunks when the Pacers collapsed on LeBron and left a passing lane open. Anthony scored 9 points on 4-4 shooting from the field, which is 4 points shy of his career high. It’s unlikely that Anthony will play that well again offensively, and Turiaf isn’t a known commodity, so Haslem will have to step up, make his jumpers, crash the glass, and do his best to keep Roy Hibbert away from the rim on both sides of the floor.

On Indiana’s side of things, the game-plan is clear — they want to use their size and depth advantage to wear down the Heat, keep them scrambling defensively, and steal a game on the road to tie up the series. If they make their shots, hang onto the ball, and work the ball inside without forcing anything, they’re certainly capable of doing it, especially if they manage to contain James and Wade.

NBA Playoffs: Heat win Game 1, but Bosh injured

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game One

After the 1st half of Game 1 of the Pacers-Heat series, things did not look good for the defending conference champions. Miami couldn’t get anything going offensively, Roy Hibbert was beating them up inside, and Indiana was moving the ball crisply to get good looks. Miami was able to keep the game close thanks to Indiana’s foul problems, but the Heat were clearly getting outplayed.

To make matters even worse, Chris Bosh, who had the best 1st half of any of the big 3, was forced to leave the game after he strained his abdominal while dunking and getting fouled.

The only way for the Heat to turn things around in the second half was to have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh’s replacements step up, and that’s exactly what happened. James remembered that he’s a 3-time MVP in the second quarter, and started absolutely destroying the Pacers with tough drives to the hoop, pinpoint passes, some midrange jumpers, absolutely great work on the glass, and flat-out suffocating defense on Danny Granger, who finished the game with 7 points on 1-10 shooting from the field.

Wade was relentless as well — his shot wasn’t really falling for him on Sunday, and he didn’t grab a single rebound, but he went to the line seven times and made 13 of his 14 free throws, which helped the Heat get in the bonus while keeping the Pacers in foul trouble for the vast majority of the game.

What may have been even more important for the Heat was the play of Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf, who have both spent considerable portions of this season out of the rotation entirely. With Bosh injured and Udonis Haslem completely ineffective, Miami’s high-energy bigs stepped up and saved the game for Miami. Even though Indiana came into the game with a significant size advantage, Miami outscored the Pacers 52-40 in the painted area on Sunday, and somehow grabbed 15 offensive rebounds while Indiana managed to grab only 30 defensive boards. On top of that, Turiaf and Anthony actually managed to make an impact offensively, finding seams in the basket and catching and dunking when the opportunities were there.

This is going to be a tough one for Indiana to take — they led for much of the way, and had a tie game coming into the fourth quarter, but missed a rare opportunity to steal a game on the road from a team as good as the Heat.

On Miami’s side of things, they have to be hoping that Chris Bosh can get back to 100% as soon as possible. LeBron and Wade going into overdrive in the 2nd half and Turiaf and Anthony having great games saved the Heat in Game 1, but the Heat will need Bosh going forward, especially if their secondary perimeter players continue to do as badly as they did on Sunday. The Heat should be happy with this win, but they should also be very nervous about the health of the 3rd member of their all-important “big three.”