Monday Morning Point Guard
The NBA's Season of Shakeups went into overdrive last week, with two more coaches led to the guillotine and eight players forced to pack their bags.
So far, there have been five coaches fired -- which is the most ever before Christmas -- with Minnesota's Randy Wittman and Philadelphia's Maurice Cheeks shoved aside last week. Wittman's firing was surprising only because Minnesota owner Glen Taylor stripped Kevin McHale of his front office duties and made him coach that mess of a roster. Cheeks's firing was another case of an anxious general manager who caught Janet Jackson (What Have You Done For Me Lately?) fever.
Philadelphia General Manager Ed Stefanski decided that Cheeks couldn't get the 76ers moving in the direction that he wanted, especially after he invested more than $185 million in contracts last summer to bring in Elton Brand and retain restricted free agents Andre Iguodala Louis Williams. Never mind that Cheeks was able to get the 76ers into to the playoffs -- when many picked them to finish last in the Eastern Conference -- and then pushed conference finalist Detroit to six games in the first round. But that was eight months ago.
You can blame some of this on Boston, which was able to build a championship team in one summer. But making a big move in the summer doesn't ensure immediate success, and the Celtics were an anomaly. Danny Ainge brought together three great players who were famished for a championship, and that hunger drove them to the top. So, now, it seems, patience is a virtue of losers.
Cheeks and fellow fired coaches Sam Mitchell and Eddie Jordan are all situations in which their ability to get their players to overachieve basically set the stage for them to get sacked. By having success, they raised the expectations, even if the rosters hadn't been upgraded to the level their bosses believed. Granted, several players in Philadelphia were underperforming -- Iguodala, Williams and Samuel Dalembert -- and the 76ers were in a rough patch, losing eight of 10. But c'mon. Cheeks was given a whole 23 games to figure out how to incorporate Brand, who is still working his way back from a ruptured left Achilles that limited him to eight games last season.
Couldn't Cheeks have at least been given two months? Maybe three?
You figure last year earned Cheeks until the all-star break, especially when Stefanski addressed the team's need for a low post presence (Brand) but failed to add the necessary perimeter shooting to compliment those talents. At least Jordan may not be out of work for a long time, given his friendship with Stefanski. And, well, you can't fire the players.
You can trade them, though. The Wizards' trade with Memphis and New Orleans has been broken down plenty here, but that wasn't even the biggest deal made on Wednesday. Steve Kerr continued to remodel the Suns, making his third major move to distance the franchise from the successful Mike D'Antoni, fun-and-gun era by trading disgruntled guard Raja Bell and disinterested forward Boris Diaw to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Jason Richardson (Sean Singletary and Jared Dudley were also swapped as throw-ins in the deal).
Richardson gives the Suns an explosive scorer who can sky above the rim and shoot the rim. It's a good move because the Suns got rid of two of their least productive rotation players for the Bobcats' leading scorer. But it also creates a dilemma: shots. Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal have already griped about not getting enough touches, and Richardson averages about 16 shots a game over his career.
And, in order to get Richardson, Kerr had to sacrifice his two best defensive players (although Bell has been declining in recent years). Ever since Kerr took over, he has been emphasizing defense, which is what contributed to D'Antoni's ouster. Richardson is an exciting player, but he approaches defense with indifference. Ironically, he seems like a better fit for D'Antoni than Terry Porter.
As for Charlotte, what's going on down there? They traded the eighth pick in the 2007 NBA draft (Brandan Wright) for Richardson because they needed a perimeter scorer, then got rid of him little more than a year later? What are the Bobcats trying to be? It doesn't seem like there is a real plan.
The weekly awards are coming. . .
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