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Jim Buss FINALLY Gets it Right with Byron Scott

200px-LA_Lakers_logo.svgLet me take a moment to stand up and give Los Angeles Lakers owner Jim Buss a round of applause.

Buss and the Lakers’ brass made a good coaching move for a change and hired Byron Scott – a former Lakers great – to coach the team.  This was a lot better than the last coaching hires he made: Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni.

More importantly, Buss hired a man that Kobe Bryant WANTED.  Remember when the Lakers brought in Brown?  That was because Buss (and to be fair, his late father Jerry) clashed with former coach Phil Jackson and forced Jackson’s resignation after getting swept by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks out of the second round of the 2011 Western Conference playoffs.

And how did Brown work out?  He got fired five games (FIVE!) into the 2012-2013 season because he basically could not coach offense.

And remember that D’Antoni hire?  That was because he was chosen over the idea of bringing Jackson back to coach, which by the way was not only an idea that Jackson was open to but was also something Bryant WANTED (again).  Even with a healthy Bryant, the Lakers underachieved under D’Antoni.

So if you are keeping score, Buss rebuffed Bryant’s wishes TWICE before wising up in bringing in someone he wanted and respected.  Only this time, Buss may have finally listened.

Bryant idolized Scott because of the role he played on those great Laker teams in the ’80s.  Bryant also idolized Scott because he was a winner.  The fact that Bryant respects and loves Scott should bode well for the Lakers, even if they are not expected to make the playoffs.

Let’s look at Scott’s track record before that disaster in LeBron-less Cleveland.  He led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals.  He led the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) to a memorable playoff run that ended in a Game 7 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2008 Western Conference playoffs.

I think Scott is a good hire for the Lakers.  Again, it may not translate into a playoff spot for the Lakers (look at the Lakers’ roster aside from Bryant.  Jeremy Lin?  An amnestied Carlos Boozer?  Swaggy P?  Really?), but at least Buss finally have his Lakers headed in the right direction.

And it’s about damn time.

Melo Should Have Chosen Bulls Over Knicks

ny-knicks-logoI wish I was as shocked over Carmelo Anthony choosing to return to my beloved New York Knicks as much as I was over LeBron James leaving South Beach for Cleveland.  However, I had a feeling that Melo would return to the Knicks when it was all said and done.

In fact, Melo had over 120 million reasons to do so.

Thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams that currently employ soon-to-be free agents could offer those players the most money.  In this case, the Knicks could offer Melo the max, which was a five-year contract worth $125 million dollars.  The most that other teams such as the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers could offer him was four years and $88 million.  Let’s face it, there was no way in hell that Melo would leave a year and over $30 million on the table.

And let’s focus on the Lakers for a minute.  If Melo felt like a one-man band in New York, how bad would it have been in L.A. with a hobbling, aging Kobe Bryant.  And we all know how Kobe likes the get down.  He could have a wooden leg with a kickstand and STILL want to be the man.  As much as Melo loves Kobe (and as much as Kobe wanted Melo), it would not have been a good fit.

As for Chicago, even though Melo would have taken less to go there I still thought it was the right spot for him.  The Bulls simply have better personnel than the Knicks.  The Bulls have Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and a healthy Derrick Rose gives Melo a better chance to win.  I just don’t see a Knicks team the employs Amare Stoudamire, J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert making any noise next season.

Yeah I know, Rose may not be 100% ever again.  But if you watched how Chicago competed the last two seasons (and postseasons) without Rose, you’d know that the Bulls were a dynamic scorer away from advancing in this year’s and last year’s playoffs.

Alas, Melo chose money and comfort over a better chance to win – and I am not mad at him.  His wife loves it in NYC, and his son attends school there and probably made some good friends.

As a Knicks fan, I am happy as hell Melo is staying in New York.  I just don’t need to hear him say “I just want to win” when it was clearly about him getting paid.

Fisher A Good Hire, but Would’ve Loved Mark Jackson Instead

ny-knicks-logoDerek Fisher accepted the head coaching job of my New York Knicks early this afternoon.

While I would have loved it even more if Mark Jackson had been named head coach of my beloved Knicks, Fisher was not a bad Plan B.

Fisher is well-respected around the NBA, having won five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.  Plus Kobe Bryant is one of Fisher’s biggest fans, having come into the league around the same time and growing up in the Lakers’ organization together.  And if Kobe respects you and thinks you are hot stuff, you will have a chance in ANY locker room.  I think Carmelo Anthony would respect Fisher enough to listen to him.

I know there are some people who would prefer Steve Kerr, Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson’s first choice.  However as stated earlier, Fisher has more respect league-wide than Kerr.  Plus Kerr to me seems like TOO nice of a guy to command a locker room.  Do y’all think Carmelo would respect and play hard for someone like that?

This is a pivotal off-season for Jackson.  He knows he needs a new head coach who will command enough respect to keep Carmelo from leaving the Knicks, and Fisher would do just that.

Again, I would have loved it a lot more if Phil Jackson would have hired Mark Jackson.

I think that Mark is a proven winner, having turned the once sad-sack Golden State Warriors into a back-to-back playoff team that is on the rise.  I also think that given Mark is a native son of New York City (he went to St. John’s and was drafted by the Knicks), it would have been a homecoming that would’ve given all of us Knicks fans something to shout about.

In short, it made too much sense to hire Mark.

However, I understand that Phil prefers someone with whom he has coached and that is his right.  Fisher played for and helped win Jackson five of his 11 NBA titles.  Fisher is someone that Jackson could entrust to run the vaunted Triangle offense.  Plus Jackson could mentor Fisher a la Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra.

As I said earlier, I – and most of my fellow Knicks fans – am optimistic, but a bit cautious.  Only time will tell how Fisher will do as a first-time head coach in Gotham.

Who Should Replace Mike D’Antoni?

200px-LA_Lakers_logo.svgWith Mike D’Antoni quitting, the Los Angeles Lakers are once again starting from the drawing board.

To those keeping score, the Lakers have hired – and ran off – two coaches (Mike Brown and D’Antoni) since 2011.  The Lakers are going to hire their third head coach in four seasons.  That is Clpper-like, not Laker-like.  And I blame team owner Jim Buss for running this once-proud franchise into the ground.

Now that D’Antoni ended his tenure in LA on his own terms (well, SORT OF…), who should be the next head coach?  I’ve heard that Kentucky’s John Calipari and UConn’s Kevin Ollie were the hot names to replace D’Antoni.  Both of those dudes are capable, but there is no way in hell a professional basketball player would listen to a college coach not named Mike Krzyzewski.

Here is my short list of coaches capable of leading the Lakers back to the promised land:

  1. Byron Scott
  2. Brian Shaw
  3. Kurt Rambis
  4. Jim Clemons

All of those dudes of one thing in common: they have either played for or coached the Lakers during their championship years.  Of those guys, I think Byron Scott is the best candidate.  Scott played for and coached under the legendary Pat Riley.  He witnessed greatness while playing alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy during the glory years of the 1980s.  Scott respects the Laker organization and its tradition of excellence, and will not be afraid of the the bright lights of LA.

And most importantly, Scott has Kobe’s respect and admiration.

While Shaw also won titles as a player under Phil Jackson – and has Kobe’s respect as well – he is currently under contract with the Denver Nuggets and the Lakers would have to pay a pretty price to acquire him from Denver.  That alone would give Scott the edge over Shaw.

Either way, both Scott and Shaw would be considered HUGE upgrades over the forced out – ERRRRR, the “resigning” D’Antoni…

Kobe’s Trayvon Comments Were Understandable, but Executed Poorly

kobe_bryant_extensionThis has not been a good sports year for Kobe Bryant.

First, he came back from an Achilles injury he suffered near the end of last season before Christmas – only to get hurt again with a knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  The experts – and haters – all said that Bryant came back WAY too soon from his Achilles injury.  Some of those same haters thought that Bryant wanted to stay relevant – which I thought was ridiculous.

Second, when he signed 2-year $48.5 million ridiculous extension, Bryant was criticized left and right for hamstringing the Lakers’ salary cap for the next few seasons.  It will be harder for the Lakers to bring in more than one superstar a la the Miami Heat and be salary cap compliant.  Hell, even I gave my two cents on the matter.

And last – but not least – Bryant gave perhaps the controversial quote of the year.  When asked by a reporter from The New Yorker about the Miami Heat’s hoodie photo in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old kid who was gunned down by a wannabe vigilante/neighborhood watchman, this was what Bryant had to say:

“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American.  That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”

Let’s examine Bryant’s comments.

First of all,  I understand Kobe’s sentiments.  Kobe’s thoughts were aimed at fellow black people.  Too many of us label our own “Uncle Toms” for not going along with our way of thinking. 

For example, when Mike Vick got busted for dog-fighting, a lot of black folks thought that dog fighting was not such a big deal and Vick should not have been thrown in jail.  The problem with that thought is dog fighting is not only a crime, it became a federal felony when he and his crew crossed state lines while orchestrating the dog fighting.  During ESPN’s Town Hall in Atlanta, many black folks in the audience showed their asses and booed Bryan Burwell (a black sportswriter) who had the nerve to disagree in saying Vick should do his time.

I also feel that just because some issues pertain to Black America, it doesn’t mean we all as Black Americans have to react a certain way.  Here are some good examples: Tawana Brawley and the Duke lacrosse case.  Look it up – Google it. 

I live by what my dad used to say: black people are not sheep.

However, I think Kobe used a bad example in the case of Martin’s murder.  Even though the prosecution failed to convince a jury beyond the reasonable doubt of George Zimmerman’s guilt, I believe that the young brother was racially profiled and led to him being murdered.  In making those statements, Kobe appeared out of touch – and frankly condescending  – with folks in the African American community.

A lot of Black folks are coming out in droves against Kobe.  A had the pleasure of conducting a podcast with Lawrence Watkins (younger brother of the great activist Dr. Boyce Watkins), founder of the Great Black Speakers series.  He called Kobe one of the “safe negroes” for those comments.

I think that is a case of the sentiment being there, but the execution being piss-poor at best.

Phil Jackson Hire Great for Knicks

ny-knicks-logoPhil Jackson has been officially hired as president of my New York Knicks, where he won two NBA titles as a player.  His deal is for five years and is expected to pay him $12 million annually but does not include an ownership stake.

Good news for Knicks fans everywhere, right?

Well, there are some naysayers.  Some folks think Jackson is not ready for life in the front office.  A person in Jackson’s position typically puts in several hours a week, and there is talk that Jackson will split time between New York and Los Angeles where his fiancee Jeanie Buss – who should be running the Lakers, not her bumbling brother Jim – resides.

Others wonder why Jackson would want to take on such a challenge.  He has more money than he could spend.  He has 11 championships and a legacy that second to none, late Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach notwithstanding.

I think Jackson always relished the challenge of running a team.  I am willing to bet that Jackson saw the job his old nemesis Pat Riley has done in running the Miami Heat the last decade-plus (two NBA titles as an executive).  Jackson would love to challenge Riley and add that to his legacy.

You also have to figure that Jackson has heard enough of the talk of him always walking into ideal situations.  After all, the Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before Jackson arrived.  The Lakers had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant before Jackson arrived there.  The thing that those naysayers conveniently forget is this: neither the Bulls and Shaq’s Lakers won titles before Jackson arrived.

Which is why I think the Knicks will greatly benefit from Jackson’s arrival.  Not by winning an NBA title right away – my Knicks have WAY too much work to do to get a championship level.

What I mean is that Jackson is a necessary first step in changing what has been a dysfunctional culture in New York.  There is a reason that bumbling owner James Dolan gave Jackson that $12 million per year contract – to bring his winning ways to New York as an executive.

There is something to be said about perception.  Again, the Knicks will not turn into winners overnight.  However, with Carmelo Anthony wanting to test the market as a free agent this summer as well as the free agent bonanza in 2015 with cats like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving becoming free agents, just the thought of rubbing elbows with Jackson would be enticing.  Plus it helps that the Knicks will have enormous cap room in 2015 (Amare Stoudemire’s, Andrea Bargnani’s and Tyson Chandler’s contracts are scheduled to come off the books).

As a diehard Knicks fan, I have been longing for the Knicks to at least get back to their glory years of the 1990s – no NBA titles notwithstanding.  I think that Jackson coming back to his old team is a huge step towards bringing the Knicks some much-needed credibility.

Trust me, New York needs all the credibility it can get…

Lakers Made the Wrong Move with Kobe

200px-LA_Lakers_logo.svgLook, I understand the whole loyalty thing.  I get it.

I like it when a team rewards a veteran who gave his blood, sweat and tears to his organization.  Loyalty is such a lost art in professional sports, so when I see a team hook its player up with a new contract, I usually applaud it.

In the case of Kobe Bryant’s new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, not so much.

No one is saying Kobe Bryant is turning into an “okay” NBA player before our eyes.  Before he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon late last season, Bryant still averaged 27.3 points, six assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game.  And that was during a season where he played through a variety of injuries.

It’s just that I do not believe in investing in risky commodities.

Bryant is coming off that aforementioned ruptured Achilles tendon last May, and the timetable for rehabbing that injury is at least a calendar year.  How could the Lakers be sure that they will be getting the same Kobe who is one of the best players in the NBA last season?  Will they even get Kobe back by the end of this calendar year?

And now with various stars destined to hit the free agent market next season (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade to name a few), the Lakers could not afford to have too much of their salary tied up.  That changed when they re-upped Kobe to that ridiculous two-year, $48 million extension.

And yeah, I know that the Lakers have media deals that help them to more than afford that extension.  However the last time I checked, professional sports is all about winning championships than making the most loot (ask the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones how that is working out for him).

And speaking of the dollars, what that signing did was send a message to the rest of the league which said that the Lakers is STILL Kobe’s team until he retires.  That’s not such a good message to sell to potential superstar free agents looking for a new home.

And it seems to me that Kobe has made more than enough money in his career, and that he would take less in order to bring in the right cats to help him win that coveted sixth championship.  But as usual, Kobe’s super-sized ego trumped common sense.

I will say this: that is good news for this life-long Laker hater.  That signing just reaffirmed that Kobe and the Lakers will not be winning another championship any time soon.

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