Kurt Helin

Report: Wizard players expect coach Randy Wittman to be fired


The Wizards players are in a very long line on this one.

The feeling around the league is that Wizards coach Randy Wittman will be given his walking papers within a few days of the end of the season. The Wizards were a big disappointment this season, and while injuries were a part of that so was an attempted shift to play faster/smaller that is just not in old-school Wittman’s wheelhouse.

Wizards players are expecting the ax to fall, reports J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

Of all of the players talked to by CSNmidatlantic.com, including following Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Verizon Center, none expect him to be retained even though Wittman is partially guaranteed for 2016-17….

Some players don’t believe Wittman takes into consideration their points of view on in-game adjustments. John Wall and Jared Dudley have spoken up about it, though they’re hardly alone.

“I don’t see how they could bring him back,” one player told CSN via phone.

Wittman has not been popular with the players for years, but the combination of wins in the playoffs (last season) and there still being years on his contract kept him employed. This season both of those things go away (there is a partial guarantee on his contract, but Ted Leonsis would not need to eat the entire thing).

The Wizards need a coach who wants to play fast and whose base offense will take better advantage of John Wall’s skill set. The question becomes will Leonsis be willing to pay what the big names ask, and would he give them the power over players they will demand? Or, are the Wizards looking for a top assistant and hoping they strike gold?

We should find out soon, the ax will fall on Wittman within a couple of days of the end of the season.


Clever Nike ad for Kobe Bryant’s farewell, he conducts the love/hate


You knew Nike was going to nail “Mamba Day.”

Aside from getting current elite athletes such as Mike Trout to not-quite-still-elite-athletes like Charles Barkley to wear special black-and-gold Kobe-themed shoes on Wednesday, they released a new ad to commemorate his career.

As we’ve come to expect from Nike, they nailed it. Nice cameos by Paul Pierce and Phil Jackson, too.

PBT Extra: Warriors chasing legacy, snubbing critics with push for 73 wins

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The Golden State Warriors know Wednesday night is their chance. Their only chance.

The odds that they get to go after 73 wins again are infinitesimal — it takes a combination of health, luck, and incredible focus nightly to get near the Jordan Bulls’ record of 72 wins in an 82 game season. Think about it this way, next season the Warriors will likely not be close — they are not going to start the season 24-0, and with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green likely playing in the Olympics this summer rest will be more of a regular season priority.

But as much as it is about carving out a place in history, that nightly focus from Golden State came as an answer to their critics who said they got lucky last season. And it’s a shut-them-down answer.

All of which I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

PBT Extra: What we will remember most about Kobe is his indomitable spirit

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What will we remember most about Kobe Bryant five years from now? The five championships? His feud with Shaq? That he is third on the all-time scoring list and one of the great bucket getters the game has ever seen? The fadeaway jumper? The 18 All-Star Games?

I think we will remember his competitive fire, his spirit, his ability and willingness to do whatever it took to win.

That’s what I talk most about in this latest PBT Extra.

Sam Mitchel in trouble as Timberwolves coach, reportedly will be considered to keep job

Associated Press

As I had written in this week’s final NBC NBA Power Rankings, I have heard for a while that Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell is on shaky ground as the young team’s coach. Management thinks it can get a better fit than the old-school Mitchell.

That was confirmed by both Marc Stein of ESPN and Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports. And since this may be the best positioned up-and-coming team in the NBA — led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins — big name coaches will take a long look at this job.

I had heard that GM Milt Newton was safe in his job, but could his role change, Wojnarowski writes.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor has engaged with a prominent search firm to help gauge the potential for giving a coach full autonomy and letting him build out the front office, league sources said. The search firm has been identifying both coaching and management candidates, sources said. Taylor is intrigued with the Stan Van Gundy model in Detroit that has helped return the Pistons to the playoffs, sources said.

Milt Newton is the Wolves’ general manager, but it is unclear if a new coach will answer to him – or if he’ll answer to a new coach, sources said. Newton worked under the late Flip Saunders, who had full control of basketball operations and coached the Timberwolves. Saunders died in October.

I would see Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks as great fits here, that is if ownership and management feels they can deal with the gruff Thibodeau. Van Gundy would be a good fit anywhere, but I like him as a broadcaster, so I’m hoping he doesn’t land an NBA gig.

Minnesota may not be the warmest or most popular stop on the NBA tour, but it could be where one of the best teams in the NBA resides in a few seasons.