They say the NBA is a talent-driven league. The problem is most of the talent is concentrated on a handful of teams. So what happens when you don’t have enough talent to win?
The correct answer is you empower the coach. But that doesn’t happen in today’s NBA.
Let’s take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers as Exhibit A. You hire a college coach in John Beilein, who is 67 years old and established in his ways. He has had great success coaching young men and sent several to the NBA in his 12 years at Michigan.
This could have been a good fit. The Cavs are rebuilding through the draft and have a core of 21-and-under lottery talents in Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter. This was going to be about patience and building. But general manager Koby Altman did a terrible job making sure the locker room was structured in a way that Beilein could operate without any doubt as to who was in charge.
The difference between the pro game and the college game has nothing to do with system or strategy. It’s money, minutes and motivation. Every locker room has a politician that can destroy a season before it even starts. Smart management should recognize them and get them out of the room so the coach they just hired has the best chance to succeed.
Beilein never had a chance with Kevin Love in that room. There was a sourced-based report in December that emerged about how players in Cleveland felt Beilein practiced them too hard and made them watch too much film and “nitpicking over the fundamentals” — are you kidding me? — and running the team “like a college program” certainly didn’t come from the aforementioned young core players. A “college program” is all they know.
This clearly came from Love and some other veterans who were clearly miserable on a misfit roster off to a bad start. What did Altman do about it? Nothing.
Instead, he left his coach to deal with the daily awkwardness of coaching a team with locker room politicians who had no interest in buying in. What kind of influence do you think that had on someone like Sexton, Garland or Porter?
Then Beilein made an unfortunate mistake of stumbling over a word as he was calling out his team’s terrible defense (the Cavs are 30th in Defensive FG%) during film study. A word he often used to describe their lazy effort — “slugs” — came out “thugs” and that triggered a response. What a shock that it quickly made it to the media and a publicly embarrassed — and now neutered — Beilein apologized and tried to explain himself.
It was only a matter of time. The Cavs continued to plummet. Beilein was given only patronizing support. He limped to the all-star break at 14-40 and the decision was made then for him to step down as coach, 54 games into a five-year deal.
And after Beilein addressed the team for the last time, it was Love, of all people, who said he had “respect” for Beilein meeting with the players and looking them in the eye to announce his resignation. Love added, “he didn’t have to.”
Of course he did. That’s what a grown up does. That’s what real leadership looks like.
So here we are in an NBA that celebrates it’s stars like no other league in a dangerous place where we dismiss coaching more than any other league.
Markieff Morris is expected to clear waivers on Sunday, which will allow the former Pistons forward to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. That is the widely-reported destination for Morris, who negotiated a buyout with Detroit last week.
So we could have both Morris twins in LA for the next few months and some reality TV potential.
Marcus Morris, whom the Knicks traded to the Clippers at the trade deadline, already said it is likely he and his brother will live together while they’re in Tinseltown.
“Probably going to ride to the game together, too,” Morris told ESPN.
The Clippers and Lakers are the favorites to meet at some point in the playoffs, preferably in the Western Conference Finals. It’s something the NBA world is anticipating: a hotly-contested seven-game series that not only never leaves one city, but it never leaves the building, either. Both teams share the Staples Center as it’s home court.
The Morris brothers would be enemies for those two weeks the teams go head-to-head, but Marcus says that has no impact on their plans to live and even commute together.
“That don’t bother us,” he said. “To have to go out and compete, we’re pros. Both of us are gonna go hard and both are gonna do the best we can for our team.”
Markieff played 44 games with the Pistons this season and mostly came off the bench. He averaged 11 points in 22 minutes per game and, like Marcus, shot the ball well from three point range (39.7%).
Marcus averaged 19 points per game and shot 43.9% from three while with the Knicks, but in four games so far with the Clippers, his shot has been off. He’s scoring just 9.8 points per game and has made just 5 of his first 18 threes.
Remember, he had been rumored to sign with the Clippers as a free agent last summer before he took a deal with the Spurs that he then backed out of to take a one-year offer from the Knicks. His reasoning was because he preferred to be on the East coast and near his family, which is based in Philadelphia.
So it’s no surprise, with that much emphasis on family, he and his brother would want to live together in the same city.
The only way anyone will be able to tell them apart will be the uniform they wear.
Dwyane Wade’s stellar career was celebrated this weekend in Miami, where his No. 3 was retired at American Airlines Arena. Wade is honored as the greatest player in the history of the Miami Heat franchise and when you consider his career achievements in that uniform, it’s hard to argue anyone comes close to having the impact he had. Not even Pat Riley.
In 15 seasons with the Heat, Wade is No. 1 in almost every significant statistical category, from points (21,556) to assists (5,310) to steals (1,492), games played (948) and minutes (32,912).
But most importantly, the Heat franchise had its greatest success during his career. In 2006, they won their first of three NBA championships, with him as the Finals MVP and over his career the Heat reached five NBA Finals, had five 50-win seasons and made the playoffs in 12 of his 15 seasons.
He was a 13-time all-star, ws named All-Star MVP, an 8-time All-NBA selection and NBA scoring champ in 2008-09.
And while his game — based on uncanny instincts, body control and an amazing ability to make the biggest shots in the biggest moments — was enough to make him a star, his personality and relationships are what made him the face of the franchise not just for during his career, but for years to come.
Without Wade, there is no Big Three in Miami. There is no league-changing moment in the summer of 2010, when he drew the best player in the sport, LeBron James, to team up with him for a torrid and unforgettable four year run that, along with Chris Bosh, saw the Heat reach four straight Finals and win back-to-back titles in 2012 and ‘13.
While Riley gets credit for establishing the culture of the Miami Heat, Wade was always the linchpin to the success.
And now comes the question that should be easy to answer: is he a Hall of Famer?
With over 20,000 points, 5,000 assists and 1,500 steals, along with three championships, a Finals MVP and a scoring title, plus two gold medals at the Olympics, the resume is certainly there.