Author: Ira Winderman

New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni reacts during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in Boston

Winderman: Lakers latest in trend to go with system regardless of personnel


The system coaches used to be the minority, it is among the reasons opposing coaches marveled all those years at Jerry Sloan, how his teams did one thing well and did it over and over and over, even after Stockton and Malone left the building.

The rest? They mostly adjusted.

Oh, Phil Jackson was wedded early to the triangle and Doug Moe had his teams pushing the pace long before there were seven seconds or less.

But it used to be that coaches coached to their personnel.

In Los Angeles, Pat Riley was Showtime. In New York, he was slow time.

Now? Now it’s almost as if teams are hiring the system as much as the coach.

The Lakers, for example, opted for seven-seconds or less over the triangle. That had to be the reason, right? Because it would be difficult to find many other reasons to go, especially in their situation, with Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson.

The Heat, of course, are now space and pace, although that has as much to do with Erik Spoelstra attempting to maximize his Big Three as being wed to a style.

The Knicks are now iso-Melo after Mike Woodson spent all those years with iso-Joe in Atlanta.

Coaches, of course, have long had their preferences, often scoffing at the gimmicks of others, in their private moments insisting that such styles will never win in the playoffs.

It used to be that a coach would adjust his game plan to his personnel, as opposed to Mike Brown’s ill-fated attempt to foist Eddie Jordan’s spin on the Princeton offense on Kobe & Co.

And Kurt Rambis’ insistence on the triangle in Minnesota hardly earned him any favor with the Timberwolves.

For the most part it is pick-and-roll, after the NBA emerged from its period of motion offense.

Mostly, it is whatever works with whomever happens to be working with the ball at the moment.

Perhaps with D’Antoni’s style, the Lakers finally have their post-Phil fit.

But it’s just odd in what widely is recognized as a players’ league that coaches still insist on trying to make the square pegs fit into their round holes.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: Granger news takes pressure of Rose return

Derrick Rose in D Rose Short and Family Story Tee

The upshot of Wednesday’s prime injury news is that the Bulls’ injury news no longer is nearly as grim.

No sooner had the Pacers sent out their release about Danny Granger likely missing three months following a knee procedure, then Tom Thibodeau certainly would have been within his rights to call Derrick Rose and tell him, “Take your time.”

With Rose out until March, if not longer, due to his gruesome playoff knee injury, there had been thought of a precipitous seeding fall for the team that routinely had gone all-in for the conference’s No. 1 seed during Thibodeau’s stewardship, even in the face of the Heat’s Big Three.

The Pacers, after all, not only outlasted the Rose-less Bulls in last season’s playoffs, but arguably gave the Heat their toughest test this side of the Celtics.


Now the Central Division might be the worst in basketball.

And it might not take much to secure the division’s title and therefore a guarantee of a top-four East seed for Chicago.

So instead of wondering when Rose might come to the regular-season rescue, there might not be a need for a rescue. Not with this motley group. Not with the Pacers lacking Granger for upwards of half the season.

Milwaukee? The best you can say about Scott Skiles’ group is they’re scrappy.

Cleveland? Kyrie Irving & Co. are on the rise, but not necessarily division-title rise. Yet.

Detroit? Uh, have you seen the Pistons lately?

Had the Pacers been able to go into the season with continuity and maintain continuity, the Bulls could have fallen enough in the overall seedings to create concern of a déjà-vu first-round fate.

But with the shorthanded Pacers, the scrappy-at-best Bucks, the learning-stages Cavaliers and the ghastly Pistons, a team with Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah should be just fine without Rose, considering how they’re Central-ly located.

For now, for the Bulls, even without Rose, it’s about location, location, location.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: Trying to make sense of rookie contract extensions

Daryl Morey, James Harden

On many levels it makes sense that the NBA’s deadline for rookie-scale extensions is Oct. 31.

Because while there are many treats (for the players involved), there also can be more than a few tricks (down the road when it comes to teams’ salary caps and luxury taxes).

James Harden? He deserved as much as anybody (although the max is another issue, and we’ll get to that later).

DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday at $10 million plus per season? Really?

For that matter, more per season for DeRozan and Holiday than Taj Gibson, a player who actually has helped drive his team deep into the playoffs, even if as a reserve?

First let’s start at the crux of all NBA contracts: the presence of a maximum salary.

NBA negotiations no longer are about per-for-performance, at least not at the top end. Instead, it’s a matter of a player essentially saying, “How much you got?”

With established maximum-salary levels, players know exactly how much their own teams have, since the salary-cap, even in its post-lockout draconian form, still allows teams to exceed the cap to retain incumbent free agents or impending free agents.

To the Thunder’s credit, Sam Presti drew a line in the sand, computed Harden’s request for five years at $80 million and balked.

It was the right move, because with the Thunder, Harden never would reach leading-man status, not behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

In Houston, he yet could prove worth the money.

And that’s something hard to say with just about every other rookie-scale extension negotiated outside of Gibson, and perhaps Ty Lawson.

Even if Gibson hits his incentives and reaches $38 million over four seasons, he already has proven to be worth considerably more than Carlos Boozer (which is why Boozer will be amnestied after this season and Gibson will receive a role commensurate with his new deal).


Stephen Curry at $44 million over four seasons? To what, miss shots and sit out games for the Warriors? Yes, he has shown he can be special, he just hasn’t done it over an extended period, the perfect reason to allow him to become restricted, which still would have had the Warriors in control, while also getting another season to get a read.

DeMar DeRozan at $40 million over four seasons? This is why the Raptors are the Raptors, consistently living in fear that they won’t be able to lure prime free agents (they won’t), so they instead squander on anyone willing to stay north of the border. And continue to chase a No. 8 seed and one-and-done playoff fate in perpetuity.

Jrue Holiday at $41 million over four seasons? Question: Is Holiday among the top half of point guards in the league? Answer: No. Question: Will he ever be? Answer: The 76ers are gambling eight figures a season on that prospect. A nice player? Sure. But the NBA’s new economy supposedly is not a place for nice players to make very-nice money.

Ty Lawson at $48 million over four seasons? We’re not talking Harden money here, but something closer to it than the other extensions in this rookie class. And yet, based on the star-less system the Nuggets supposedly are constructing, there is something to be said about making sure the motor of the offense is sated. In many ways, the Nuggets are Lawson, the little team that could. In Denver’s economy, this is a move that makes more sense than some of the above.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: Replay officials in NBA — an idea whose time has come

NBA referees instant replay

The comment came during one of those informal pregame chats NBA referees have been conducting with the media over the past month.

“I think that replay is only going to be growing,” the veteran referee said.

He wasn’t commenting on whether it was a good thing or otherwise, but rather that it was an inevitable reality, based on what he had witnessed in the NFL and even during baseball’s ongoing postseason.

This season, the NBA will utilize late-game replay on calls involving the restricted area beneath the basket and goaltending, make replay mandatory for flagrant fouls, and continue to utilize replay on the timing of end-of-period shot release, 24-second violations and out-of-bounds situations.

That’s a lot of time to be huddling at the scorers’ table amid typical late-game mayhem, almost as silly as baseball’s umpires running off the field in midgame to review homerun calls.

The NFL, of course, is ahead of the game, with replay officials already on site, able to assist with business away from the mayhem. The NHL takes it a step further, with all replay issues handled out of their hockey-central office in Toronto.

In the NBA, though? Mayhem at midcourt, where players, coaches, fans can at least attempt to influence the decisions.

As it is, the NBA already has referee evaluators at every game. The support staff and support system already are in place.

And in most years, quality officials are forced to step aside because of the rigors of the game, making for the perfect pool of NBA “video officials.”

Unlike regular referees, such replay officials would not have to deal with the rigors of travel, simply assigned to a single city. While some might be concerned about home-team and hometown bias, as it is, those who monitor shot clocks work a team’s schedule throughout the regular season. At some point, integrity has to win out.

The NBA has proven forward-thinking with its increased use of replay. Even during the regular season, there are enough important calls to warrant the use of such technology, as well as prepare the systems for the playoffs.

The last thing a referee after 46 minutes of action on his feet needs is to stare into a small monitor courtside and begin requesting replay angles. Such work could be accomplished far more efficiently in a television truck, where multiple monitors are available.

A ruling could be rendered. An announcement could be made. And the referees on the court would be spared direct derision over the final verdict.

Upon further review, the NFL and NHL have decided that an extra pair of eyes makes sense on the game’s biggest calls. The NBA would be wise to follow suit.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: NBA fun police enter the building with handshake timer

Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat

It is a curious thing, this NBA of ours.

On one hand, it seemingly is all about the marketing, the highlight mixes, the creation of a cult of personality.

On the other hand, there has to be structure, order, decorum.

Or so the league now says, with the new edict that players must be ready for the opening tip within 90 seconds of the end of introductions.

On one hand, it all has gotten a bit much, and for more than jumping chest bumps at the scorers’ table, teammates falling down like bowling pins, the slapping of every hand of every statistician on press row (including the supposedly neutral timers), and, yes, even the powder tosses.

Ninety seconds certainly is long enough to complete just about any reasonable pregame ritual, including Dwyane Wade dunking his head upwards through the rim and then turning in all four directions to salute the fans.

But once the fun police enter the building, as the NFL has learned, they tend to stick around.

It seemed as if we had moved beyond the NBA’s fashion police, and what constitutes dress jeans.

And, yes, we still have players forced to watch from the locker room when deactivated without a suitable sports coat on hand (although teams now stock them just like those uppity restaurants with their pilled blazers).

But it’s not as if 90 seconds after introductions fans are seated, ready to go. With the increase of lounges around the league, some barely make it to their seats by the end of the first quarter, leaving late in the second period to be at the front of the line at the bar.

If loosely enforced, fine. Television, after all, pays the freight and their formats have to have some semblance of timing.

But how many times does that extra pregame television feature bump into the start of the game anyway?

Beyond that, the introductions, themselves, have gotten over the top. Before a playoff game or a Finals moment? Fine. But high drama before Game No. 38 in January against the Kings? Yawn.

Basketball players embracing the joy of the sport should be welcomed.

Their individual moments should be embraced.

Even the ones that last 91 seconds.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.