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Luke Walton lands on his feet historically quickly considering record with Lakers

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Luke Walton coached the Lakers to a 37-45 record this season. Meanwhile, Dave Joerger coached the Kings to a 39-43 record.

Yet, Sacramento just fired Joerger to hire Walton. That hiring became official on Monday.

The Kings didn’t necessarily make a mistake. Wins and losses are an extremely limited way to judge a coach. Joerger had other issues in Sacramento. Walton was caught in a difficult situation between Magic Johnson, LeBron James and everything else in Los Angeles.

But Walton is getting treatment usually reserved for far more accomplished coaches.

In the last 30 years, five teams have fired their coach to hire someone who had a who spent the entire prior season coaching another team to a worse record:

Year Team W L Fired For From W L
2019 SAC 39 43 Dave Joerger Luke Walton LAL 37 45
2018 MIL 44 38 Jason Kidd/Joe Prunty Mike Budenholzer ATL 24 58
2013 LAC 56 26 Vinny Del Negro Doc Rivers BOS 41 40
2003 DET 50 32 Rick Carlisle Larry Brown PHI 48 34
2000 TOR 45 37 Butch Carter Lenny Wilkens ATL 28 54

Budenholzer, Rivers, Brown and Wilkens were widely regarded as among the best coaches in the league at the time. All four had already won Coach of the Year. Brown and Wilkens were already in the Hall of Fame!

Wilkens guided Toronto to the franchise’s first playoff victory. Brown coached Detroit to a championships. Rivers brought the Clippers newfound credibility. Budenholzer is favored to win another Coach of the Year this season, and he has Milwaukee dominating.

Those are big shoes for Walton to fill.

And it’s not as if this season were an aberration. This was the Lakers’ best record in three years under Walton. He went 35-47 and 26-56 the prior two seasons.

Yet, as Magic Johnson (kind of) pledged in November, the Lakers didn’t fire Walton during the season. That’s no small thing considering LeBron’s camp reportedly wanted Walton fired.

Then, as soon as the Lakers parted ways with Walton last week, the Kings were there to scoop him up.

It rarely works this way.

Walton’s win percentage with the Lakers (39.8%) is the fourth-worst ever for a coach in a tenure that ended with him immediately getting a job elsewhere.

Here are the worst coaching tenures by coaches who completed a season then got another job that offseason:

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Why all this special treatment for Walton?

He turned heads by guiding the Warriors to a 39-4 start as acting head coach in 2015-16 while Steve Kerr was out with medical issues. That’s not the same as being a head coach. Kerr was still involved. Walton didn’t have full autonomy. But it’s an experience that should absolutely count in Walton’s favor for future jobs.

However, Walton’s time in Golden State and Los Angeles leaves an impression true of many coaches: He wins with good players and loses with bad players.

Good luck comparing last year’s Lakers and Kings, though. At one point, it would have been hard to believe the team with LeBron had a weaker roster. But injuries and poor fits make it debatable.

Maybe this is just a product of personal connections lining up just right. Walton is a former teammate of Kings general manager Vlade Divac. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who previously owned a share of the Warriors, is reportedly obsessed with imitating Golden State.

Walton is also well-liked throughout the league. He’s the son of Bill Walton, an all-time great player who is also well-liked. Walton might have had inroads outside Sacramento, too.

It probably doesn’t hurt that Walton is white. These are the kinds of second chances black coaches rarely get.

Again, the Kings hiring Walton isn’t necessarily a mistake. The Celtics (Red Auerbach from the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in 1950), 76ers (Alex Hannum from the San Francisco Warriors in 1966), Trail Blazers (Jack Ramsay from the Buffalo Braves in 1976) and Celtics (Bill Fitch from the Cavaliers in 1979) all hired coaches coming off losing tenures then won a championship with that coach. Hannum and Ramsay won titles in their first years with their new teams.

But we can acknowledge how far outside the norm Sacramento stepping to hire Walton. This is a big bet by Divac – on his roster and on Walton.

Adam Silver likes NBA teams moving away from term ‘owner,’ prefers ‘governor’

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Warriors star Draymond Green has objected to using the term “owner.” The 76ers use “managing partner,” not “owner,” as Josh Harris’ title.

Does NBA commissioner Adam Silver like teams moving away from the term owner?

Silver, via TMZ:

I do. I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I’ve said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner. But, we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners governor of the team and alternate governors. So, I think it makes sense. As I’ve said, I don’t want to overreact, and you’ll find the word throughout memos over the past decade in the NBA. But I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent teams are moving away from the term, we’ll stick with using governor.

Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner. But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that.

The elephant in the room: Slavery. The history of white people owning black people is the subtext to this entire discussion. Slavery looms over a league where most owners are white and most player are black.

However, the term “owner” here doesn’t refer to owning the players, but owning the team. “Ownership” has far wider historically usage than slavery. In most fields, “owning” companies – which NBA teams are – doesn’t generate backlash.

Are we too loose with the term “owner” in sports? Perhaps. It’s common to say something like, “Players should strongly consider their potential owners in free agency” rather than “players should strongly consider their potential team’s owners in free agency.”

But there are power differences between players and owners/managing partners/governors/whatever you want to call them. Unless addressing the actual underlying issues, changing terms will accomplish nothing.

Those power dynamics are why the Warriors referred to Mark Stevens as “Mr. Stevens” and Kyle Lowry as Kyle Lowry after Stevens pushed Lowry during the NBA Finals. Those power dynamics are why Donald Sterling took guests into the Clippers’ locker room to ogle players. Those power dynamics are why LeBron James is remembered as the bad guy from The Decision despite Dan Gilbert’s wild letter.

There will always be differences between players and owners. Owners have more money and staying power. But the NBA can create a better, fairer environment for its players.

It’ll just require deeper consideration than a simple word change.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

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Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.

Chris Paul: “I never asked for a trade” and says he’s happy to be in Houston

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With Golden State laid low by injuries (and maybe a defection), Houston should be the team stepping to the front of the line saying “it’s our turn” in the West.

Instead, the Rockets two stars — James Harden and Chris Paul — are feuding, ownership is turning coach Mike D’Antoni into a lame duck, and everyone without a fantastic beard hears their name in trade rumors.

The Harden/Paul feud is real, but Paul tried to downplay it at a charity event in Los Angeles over the weekend, denying a trade request and saying he was happy to be in Houston, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.”

“I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”

The report goes on to note Paul was asked if he had to work things out with Harden and he kind of danced around that question but said the issues were around a season-ending loss. Certainly, two straight years of being bounced by the Warriors has the Rockets frustrated. However, there is also a style issue: Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul can’t be as efficient that way anymore and prefers a more fluid offense (and more pick-and-roll for him). Coach D’Antoni gives a lot of leeway to Harden.

Harden and Paul need to work their issues out because Paul is nearly untradable (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener with a pick or young player). Paul still has value on the court — a master floor general he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. There simply are not teams interested in trading for Paul.

Houston could head into next season the favorites in the West. Part of that depends on how things shake out in free agency (does Kawhi Leonard come West, for example), but a lot of it is just the Rockets getting their act together. I expect Paul and Harden to figure things out, at least well enough to make it work. Mostly because they don’t have a choice. Paul isn’t going anywhere, whether he asked to leave or not.