Kurt Helin

51 Questions: Who will be the first coach fired?

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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season. Today:

Which coach will be the first fired this season?

As the saying goes, coaches are hired to be fired. Fair or not — and plenty of times it is not, coaches get fired for a GM’s failings all the time — coaches are the first let go when a team struggles or doesn’t reach expectations.

This season, NBA coaches will be fired. Who is sitting on the hottest seat going into the season? NBC’s ProBasketballTalk team gives you their answers.

Kurt Helin: Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans

The smart answer here would be Brett Brown in Philadelphia, but nobody is accusing me of being smart. Down in New Orleans, there is growing pressure on the organization to get enough talent around Anthony Davis and start winning sooner rather than later (the Pelicans have already been passed on the up-and-coming team rankings by the Timberwolves and Jazz). The fact the Pelicans won only 30 games last season had everything to do with injuries (including to Davis), and that bad luck hasn’t changed as again they will start the season without Jrue Holiday (as he deals with family issues) and Tyreke Evans. Even if this roster were healthy, it would be unlikely to make the playoffs in the West, which will add to the pressure. Fair or not — and you can certainly argue that Gentry would pay for GM Dell Demps’ errors — if and when the Pelicans get off to a slow start the coach’s seat will get hot.

Dan Feldman: Brett Brown, Philadelphia 76ers

As tempted as I am to pick Dave Joerger, not even I think Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is that outlandish (though…). So, I’ll go with 76ers coach Brett Brown. Other teams most likely to lose a lot — Nets, Lakers, Suns and Kings — have coaches in their first full season. Some other teams most likely to underachieve relative to internal expectations — Pacers, Magic and Knicks — also have new coaches. But Brett checks every box: He’s been there a while, has a terrible record, works for a general manager who didn’t hire him and now coaches a team poised to fall short of even its meager projections. Philadelphia’s new veterans won’t produce much, and the roster is still imbalanced. That Brown never had a fighting chance will matter only so much. Worth noting: I’d take the field in a landslide over Brown AND my runner-up choice, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.

Dane Carbaugh: Brett Brown, Philadelphia 76ers

It’s easy to take Philadelphia Sixers head coach Brett Brown as the safest best to be on the hottest seat. Brown has won just 47 games in three seasons at the helm for Philly, a mark partially orchestrated by ousted GM Sam Hinkie. More importantly, Jerry and Bryan Colangelo now lead the way for the Sixers front office, and both father and son have shown the propensity to make drastic coaching changes. Jerry hired Mike Krzyzewski to head USA Men’s Basketball in 2005 after a disappointing run at the 2004 Olympics, and Bryan dropped Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell in Toronto after signing him to a 3-year extension the previous spring. Although Brown is held in high esteem as a basketball mind around the organization, it’s likely the Colangelos will want to bring in their own coach to move past The Process.

Watch Zach LaVine drop 30 in preseason game

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When we talk about the offensive threats in Minnesota, the conversation quickly turns to Karl-Anthony Towns, followed by Andrew Wiggins. With good reason, that one-two punch could have the Timberwolves as contenders in a few years.

But they have other guys who can put up points.

Zach LaVine reminded everyone his game has grown and he can do more than just dunk, dropping 30 on the Hornets in a preseason game. LaVine was 13-of-20 from the field and 4-of-6 from three.

Kevin Durant talks of watching Game 7 of Finals, dreaming of playing in Warriors system

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It’s not this simple, except on some level it is:

Kevin Durant watched the Warriors play and thought their system looked like fun. Like something he wanted to be a part of.

In response to a question, Durant said Monday he watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals — a loss by the Warriors to the Cavaliers, giving Cleveland the title — and told his agent playing for Golden State he’d like to play for them. Via Anthony Slater of The San Jose Mercury News.

With Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder made the fewest passes of any team in the NBA last season — and they had the second best offense in the NBA. With fantastic shot-creating talents like Westbrook and Durant they played to their strengths. The lack of passing was in part due to them initiating their offense late in the clock more than most teams, but with talents like Westbrook and Durant it didn’t matter. It worked.

It was just not the style Durant wanted.

Watch Brandon Jennings put on show for Knicks fans in preseason game

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Derrick Rose is in Los Angeles because of his rape trial, and that opened the door for Brandon Jennings to start for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

And he was fun, playing with a little flair on his way to 11 points in the Knicks’ 90-88 win over the Wizards. He had the crowd on its feet a few times.

The night was an encapsulation of what Jennings has been since returning from a ruptured Achilles — he’s still got the handles and athleticism, but he’s just not an efficient shooter. It took 12 shots to get those 11 points, plus he had one assist in 26 minutes of play.

Jennings is going to get his chances this season playing behind Rose. Jennings bet on himself inking a one-year, 45 million deal, believing he can play himself into a bigger contract next season. We shall see. But if he keeps playing like this the fans will love him.

Heat conduct scrimmage, raising money for cancer research

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MIAMI (AP) The second half of the annual Miami Heat scrimmage was delayed a bit Monday night, because Hassan Whiteside was too busy taking selfies with fans on the court.

No one complained, either.

The scrimmage serves two purposes for the Heat – it’s a chance for fans to see what amounts to a glorified practice, and more importantly it gives the team a chance to pay tribute to breast cancer survivors, who come down to the court at halftime for plenty of hugs and photos.

“This shines an incredible light and we love it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It really is a touching moment.”

About 30 women, most of them somehow adorned in breast-cancer-awareness-color of pink, took part in the halftime ceremony. In the stands, hundreds of others wore pink and the Heat uniforms for the night were all adorned with pink names and numbers.

A few players, including Tyler Johnson and Udonis Haslem, even donned pink sneakers.

“It’s very special for me, obviously,” said Haslem, the Heat captain. “My mom passed away from cancer. … I’m not a man of pink, but I will wear pink tonight to show support.”

Ticket proceeds benefitted the Miami Cancer Institute.

“It’s something that we all pretty much have been touched by,” Heat forward Justise Winslow said. “Whether it’s a friend, a team mom, an aunt, a cousin, anything, we’ve all been affected by it. We can all see their hearts out there, and so we try to give them a little bit of our time and our heart.”

The night was also an unofficial introduction to a very new team.

Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire are among the biggest departures from last season, and Chris Bosh – who failed his physical and wasn’t cleared to resume basketball activities after his last two seasons ended early because of blood clots – is no longer in the team’s plans but remains under contract.

“We have an exciting group for you,” Spoelstra told the crowd. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The Heat play host to Brooklyn in a preseason game on Tuesday night.