51 Questions: Who will be the first coach fired?

14 Comments

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 Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

0 Comments

Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
0 Comments

Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.