Posted Mar 19 2012 5:15PM
I hate "they won," or "they lost" columns after the trade deadline.
So in that spirit, I bring you ... a "they won, they lost" column. But, with different words!
It is impossible to determine who "wins" or "loses" in the days immediately following the deadline.
We have no idea who will be in the Draft, for example, and thus we have no idea what the relative value of the Draft picks teams have acquired -- or traded -- will be. We don't know if the lights will go on in a guy's mind after he's dealt, or if he'll remain the same dullard that prompted his old team to deal him in the first place.
We don't know where a guy like Derek Fisher will wind up, or whether he is too angry and/or depressed at being dealt that he isn't the same guy, or whether he doesn't have enough left for it to make a difference. Too many variables in too short of a time.
So this is more of an educated guess. It seems like Portland did the right thing in blowing up its roster and starting over. And what New Jersey did doesn't make a lot of sense, at first blush. But it's only the first blush. The wine isn't mature yet. The newspaper, it is said by historians, is the first rough draft of history. So these bits and bytes aren't even the outline of history. They're more like the topic sentence of history, like "Abraham Lincoln was the 17th President of the United States." (He was the 16th! Just seeing if you're paying attention.)
But what can you do? The NCAAs are in full bloom, and the playoffs are five weeks away, and Linsanity is dead. So, trades.
THEY SHOOK IT UP... AND IT WAS WORTH DOING
• Portland: The Blazers took it down to the roots in one week, firing coach Nate McMillan and replacing him with unknown assistant Kaleb Canales (see below), trading Gerald Wallace to the Nets, trading Marcus Camby to the Rockets and finally waiving Greg Oden. They would have done even more, but proposed deals for guards Ray Felton and Jamal Crawford fell apart at the 11th hour. Still, by dealing Wallace, Portland dramatically increased its chances of keeping Nicolas Batum, a rising restricted free agent. And the cherry on top is the first-rounder the Blazers got from Jersey in the Wallace deal that is only protected 1-3. After the demise of Brandon Roy, the Blazers "need to find a backcourt star," general manager Chad Buchanan said Saturday, "either a dynamic point guard or a ball-handing two guard." That pick, along with Portland's own pick -- which is, now, almost certain to also be in the lottery -- should provide the opportunity to do just that, and get the Blazers on the road to recovery.
• Milwaukee: At first glance, getting high-volume shooter Monta Ellis to pair with equally high-volume shooter Brandon Jennings in the backcourt seems a duplication of talents, and a potential defensive nightmare. But the Bucks had to get Stephen Jackson out of town, and were increasingly concerned that Andrew Bogut would never return to his pre-elbow blowout form. Ellis' presence assures that the Bucks' middling offense will never go completely south, and with Jennings dropping hints that he'll be looking around when he becomes a free agent, having Ellis locked in for the next three years is good insurance. If undersized Ekpe Udoh can solidify things in the middle, it's an even bigger win.
• Washington: With John Wall increasingly glum about his long-term prospects in D.C., the Wizards had to rid their locker room of as many knuckleheads as possible, and got most of it done in one deal, sending JaVale McGee and Nick Young out in a three-team deal, with McGee going to Denver and Young going to the Clippers. In return, Washington got 29-year-old Nene, who is locked into a five-year, $65 million deal he just signed three months ago.
That Denver walked away from someone it talked up so much so recently should give every Wizards fan pause, but the alternative was either overpaying for the mercurial McGee, who wanted a deal starting at $14 million as a restricted free agent next summer, or having to go find a center in free agency when the pickings were decidedly slim. Yes, McGee's per-minute stats are superior to Nene's, but when you can't count on a guy every night, you can't build anything. With the one and the five solidified for the foreseeable future the Wizards can use their lottery pick on the best forward available.
THEY SHOOK IT UP... AND MEH
• New Jersey: The Nets' spin on their acquisition of Gerald Wallace works only if you don't think this is going to be a very, very deep Draft, and thus New Jersey won't miss the first-round pick it included in the deal to Portland. But this is going to be a very, very deep Draft, and for a team that needs to acquire as many assets as possible --the Dwight Howard Dream is only deferred, not eliminated -- adding a young player to the core would be more beneficial, it says here, than an admittedly solid veteran player in Wallace who can help Jersey win more games now and next season. On the other hand, if Deron Williams is being consulted on every move, it stands to reason he didn't have any significant objections to this one.
THEY TINKERED ... AND ARE RUNNIN' WITH A FULL TANK
• San Antonio: The Spurs got Stephen Jackson back in the fold and were working on Sunday toward an agreement with guard Patty Mills, who finally was freed up from his contract in China, on Saturday. (San Antonio had to wait until Portland renounced its rights to Mills.) Jackson has always been a Gregg Popovich favorite going back to his first go-round in San Antonio, when SJax made a bunch of big shots during the Spurs' run to their second title in 2003. But they never could pay him what he wanted, and thus Jackson began an NBA tour that included stops in Atlanta, Indiana, Golden State, Charlotte and lastly, Milwaukee.
• L.A. Clippers: Just because Young is a knucklehead doesn't mean he isn't talented, and his flat-out scoring prowess is exactly what the Clips need. There are nights when Young is prolific, and L.A. has been stultifying in the half court on occasion since Chauncey Billups went down. Young has actually given a better defensive effort the last couple of years than he gets credit for.
• Indiana: A second-round pick for a proven playoff talent in Leandro Barbosa is great value. And the Pacers still have enough room under the cap that they could be a player on Draft night for more assets. No one in the league has five better backcourt players than Darren Collison, A.J. Price, Paul George, George Hill and Barbosa. That is a great problem for Frank Vogel to have.
THEY TINKERED ... BUT THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE
• Denver: You can argue, as Denver does, that getting a younger, more athletic center like JaVale McGee is worth the chance. The cap room Denver gets from jettisoning Nene's $65 million went toward signing Wilson Chandler, who finally agreed to terms Sunday on a five-year deal (including a prorated salary for the remaining games this season) worth $37 million, his agent told SI.com. And you only had to watch The Association on NBA TV to see that George Karl thought Nene was spending a little too much time in the trainer's room. But the Nuggets aren't the Wizards; they have an established core group that can do some damage in the playoffs, not a group of kids with little discipline. Can McGee fit into that kind of team, instead of the non-disciplined mess that he knew in D.C.?
• Golden State: Not sure that taking on Richard Jefferson's extra year at $11 million was worth the first-rounder the Warriors got from the Spurs in the Stephen Jackson deal; even though this is going to be a deep Draft and that pick is going to be in the low 20s. Taking a chance on Andrew Bogut is worth the risk, especially when trading Monta Ellis for him cleared playing time for Klay Thompson. But it is a risk.
THEY DID NOTHING ... AND TRIUMPHED
• Orlando: Not to go too far with the metaphors, but the Magic's building was burning, the plane's engines had stalled, the ship was sinking, the peanut butter had gotten mixed with the chocolate, Laverne had left Shirley and the Fat Boys had broken up. Then Alex Martins went to work, and somehow, on Thursday, there was Dwight Howard, professing his love for the city and the team he'd asked publicly to be traded from in December. That is a remarkable save by Martins, who took over as the Magic's CEO last year with one job: Keep Dwight. He did. Maybe it was just a stay, but Orlando, again, has hope it can put a team around Howard that will be good enough for him to truly challenge for a title -- and to sign a long-term extension.
• Utah: There were rumors about deals for Josh Howard, and C.J. Miles, and Devin Harris, but the Jazz didn't pull the trigger on any of them. It says here that that will work out just fine for Utah, which has an impressive array of assets that should only increase in value by the summer. And if the Warriors don't finish in the bottom seven at the end of the season, the Jazz will get Golden State's first-rounder, a potentially huge chip to pair with its own first.
• Boston: I guess Danny Ainge didn't have all those great trade offers, after all. But it's just as well. Better that the Celtics play out the string this season with the Big Four, give them a proper sendoff, and begin the next era on July 1.
THEY DID NOTHING ... BUT SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING
• New Orleans: Shocked that the Bugs didn't find a deal for Chris Kaman to bring in more Draft picks and/or expiring contracts. They were on the phone with any number of teams and had a lot of possible deals on the table that the other side passed on -- they were talking to Washington about the same McGee/Young package that went to Denver, but the Wiz balked on Kaman, preferring Nene -- so it's not all the Hornets' fault. But it still was surprising that they couldn't make a deal. Now Kaman will surely walk or be bought out before the end of the season, leaving New Orleans with one less asset from the Chris Paul trade.
• Atlanta: A solid playoff team with a couple of good assets like Kirk Hinrich and/or Marvin Williams should have done something to shore up its precarious center position. Sure, the Hawks don't want to be tax payers, but renting Kaman for two months wouldn't have affected that scenario, and the Hawks could always have been more aggressive nearer the Draft -- say, dealing Josh Smith -- if it didn't look like keeping Kaman was a realistic possibility.
• Minnesota: This is a qualified critique, because part of me says the last thing the Wolves needed to do was make yet another move. Before Ricky Rubio went down, though, the Wolves genuinely thought they'd make the playoffs. And only because of that do I say they needed to figure out how to make the Michael Beasley to the Lakers deal work. I know it was L.A. that went in another direction, but GM David Kahn is a master at having dozens of balls in the air at once; surely he had backup plans in case someone got cold feet. For a franchise as woebegone as Minnesota has been for much of the last decade, making the playoffs is a big deal, and anything that gets you closer to that goal without impacting the team's core was worth doing.
Moving Grizz out of Memphis a tough sell ... for now
The Hornets' agreement with the state of Louisiana on a new lease that will keep the team playing at New Orleans Arena through 2024 all but ensures that team isn't going anywhere for the next decade. When the sale of the team is completed in the next few weeks -- the league, I'm told, is holding out for $340 million, which would provide the Commish with the small profit he's insisted upon since the league bought the team from prior owner George Shinn in December, 2010. It also leaves Seattle out in the cold; the Hornets and Kings were the two franchises most likely to move in the foreseeable future, and the Kings' deal with Sacramento for a $391 million arena takes Sacramento out of the picture.
But Saturday's revelation that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has held talks with billionaire Larry Ellison -- though Heisley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the talks had not gotten past the preliminary stage and that he didn't anticipate making a deal with Ellison -- surely got everyone's attention.
Ellison, the Oracle founder, has made no secret of his desire to buy a team and move it to the San Jose area. He tried, unsuccessfully, to buy the Warriors, tapping out when the price got too rich for even his blood. (By the way, don't get it twisted; it's not that he didn't have the $450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid for the team, it's that he didn't think the team was worth that price.) And he acknowledged looking into the Hornets as well.
The fact that he's still looking for an NBA team will no doubt make the league happy, and highlights that Heisley is still actively looking for a buyer. Heisley has said time and time again he wants to sell to someone who will keep the team in Memphis, but any talks with Ellison are sure to stir up the agita down south.
No one doubts that Ellison has the money -- "if Larry Ellison wants to buy a team, he can buy a team," said a former NBA team executive of the man Forbes Magazine says is the third-richest in the country -- or doubts his intentions. The problem for Ellison -- unlike any of the other prospective buyers, which include a group headed by Grizzlies minority owner Pitt Hyde, the founder of the AutoZone parts company -- is that Memphis protected itself against just such a scenario when FedEx Forum was built in 2004. The city negotiated a series of painful buyouts for any owner seeking to break the lease. The original cost to break the lease was $175 million, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement, but that price has dropped in recent years.
According to the source, the only way the lease can be broken is if the team fails to meet certain benchmarks in either attendance, suite sales or club seat sales at FedEx. If the Grizzlies fall short in any of those categories -- starting next season, according to the source, if this current season is counted as a "full" one -- the city and surrounding county would have two months to make up the shortfall. If they failed to do so, Heisley could sell the team, though Memphis would still have the right of first refusal to match the sale price. If that didn't happen, the team could end the lease and be free to leave, provided the current (or, presumably, new) owner paid up in full. It is onerous.
This year's payment, for example, would be more than $107 million to the city and county. Next year, the payment would be just under $105 million. In 2014, it would be just above $101 million. In 2015, it would fall below $100 million, to $97 million. And in 2016, the payment would be $94 million.
Again, Ellison has the money. But if he thought $450 was too much for the Warriors, paying $360 million to Heisley and another $100 million just to move the team -- we haven't even talked about building an arena in San Jose or wherever Ellison would want to take them -- seems prohibitively expensive. Then again, the Grizzlies have been on the market for a while. Who knows how long Heisley can hold out with his price?
Another factor in Memphis' favor is that the team and the building are cornerstones to the city's economic development. Hyde and Staley Cates, another minority owner and president of Southeastern Asset Management, have the wherewithal to ultimately make a deal with Heisley, but the partners have had their differences with him in the last few years. There is John Paul "Jack" Jones, a lifetime resident of the city who was publisher of the Daily News there for 34 years, and who has been a fixture at Grizzlies games since the team moved from Vancouver. His son, Paul Tudor Jones II, gave the University of Virginia $35 million to help construct a new basketball arena -- named John Paul Jones Arena, after his father.
And there is Fred Smith, the founder, chairman and CEO of FedEx, who owns 10 percent of the NFL's Washington Redskins. The relationship between Smith and the Grizzlies is much deeper than the naming rights deal he made with Heisley when the arena was built. The Grizzlies and the University of Memphis are not just the biggest sports teams that play there; their presence allows the venue to operate nearly year round, with family shows and concerts when the basketball teams aren't playing. Having an NBA team in Memphis is a draw for a company like FedEx that has to entice people to come there instead of other competing cities. It's not likely FedEx and the other local businesses would stand idly by while Ellison makes a deal with Heisley and blows a hole in the local economy.
Meanwhile, venture capitalist Chris Hansen continues to make plans to have his native Seattle ready with an arena deal for any prospective team that becomes available. Many in Seattle grew excited at the possibility of getting the Kings to the Emerald City, but now that that possibility looks done, Hansen's group is continuing its methodical preparation toward getting another team, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangements. But a new arena will not be built on spec, and would only begin once Hansen's group had an agreement with an existing team to move.
A committee of local politicians and prominent citizens -- including former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens -- is supposed to present a report next month giving its blessing to the so-called "Sodo" (South of the Dome) plan for a new arena near the Mariners' Safeco Field and the Seahawks' CenturyLink Field. Once the committee report comes out, the plan is for the city and King County councils to give their blessing to the plan through approving a memorandum of understanding with Hansen to build the arena.
Hansen has bought significant tracts of land in that area and wants to build an arena for both an NBA and NHL team that would cost between $450 and $500 million. The bulk of that money would be privately financed, according to the Hansen plan, and Seattle's mayor has said publicly that no public funds would be used to construct the new building -- though some local politicians remain skeptical that that pledge can be adhered to. Because the land Hansen bought is adjacent to the baseball and football stadiums, it has already been zoned for the level of additional traffic that would come to a new basketball arena.
Keeping the financing plan limited to the city and county avoids having to go to the state legislature for funding; its opposition to the last series of arena proposals when the Sonics were looking for a new building to replace Key Arena gave political cover to principal owner Clay Bennett to move the team to Oklahoma City.
Despite the fade of the early optimism, the source said, Hansen isn't wavering. He is in this for the long haul.
"You learn from some people," the source said. "Some care. Some look to point fingers. There's been none of that (with Hansen). Hedge fund managers are often perceived as not being long-term guys. He is."
(Last week's rankings in parenthesis)
1) Chicago (1) [3-1]: Bulls have proven, emphatically, they can win (8-4) without an injured Rose. In the regular season, at least.
2) Miami (2) [2-2]: Thirteen straight at home after pulling away from the Magic on Sunday night has hidden shooting struggles from Chalmers, Cole since All-Star break.
3) San Antonio (4) [3-1]: Big Fundamental picking up his game since All-Star Break, averaging nearly a double-double.
4) Oklahoma City (3) [2-2]: Former Mr. Fifteen Royal Ivey has gotten and stayed in the rotation in the last couple of weeks. What up Texas?!
5) Orlando (5) [2-2]: Last week brought some of the best news in town since Mr . Disney decided, yes, this would be the place.
6) L.A. Lakers (6) [3-1]: For all of you who have asked: No, the Lakers cannot re-sign Derek Fisher once he clears waivers.
7) Dallas (7) [3-0]: Mavericks hope to have Delonte West (finger surgery) back in the next couple of weeks.
8) Indiana (9) [2-2]: Ixnay on the Icknays Are Innableway Amesgay.
9) Atlanta (10) [2-2]: Um, what was Zaza Pachulia doing on that last-second drive against Utah? How do you miss the entire rim from three feet away?
10) L.A. Clippers (12) [3-1]: Brutal stretch of 20 games in 30 days continues Tuesday with back-to-back-to-back set at Indiana, at Oklahoma City and CP3's homecoming Thursday at New Orleans.
11) Philadelphia (8) [0-3]: Sixers finally get Spencer Hawes back in the starting lineup.
12) Memphis (11) [1-2]: Cooled off a bit after hot stretch, falling into fifth in the west behind the Clippers, just ahead of surging Dallas.
13) Denver (15) [2-1]: Nuggets have not taken advantage of season-long nine-game homestand, going just 4-3 with two to play at Pepsi Center, including tonight's tilt against Dallas.
14) Boston (13) [2-2]: Celtics reportedly interested in veteran forward Ronny Turiaf, released by Denver to make room for newly signed Wilson Chandler. Turiaf could help them.
15) Houston (14) [2-2]: Camby deal gives Rockets length, and they flipped Jordan Hill for a first-rounder from the Lakers, but it has the feel of wheels spinning in Clutch City to me.
Phoenix (4-0): The Suns looked dead a month ago, but they've won nine of 11 in March to pull within a half-game of eighth-place Houston in the playoff race. Steve Nash said his only goal now was making the playoffs. I thought he was crazy. But Alvin Gentry has lengthened his bench, giving more time to Hakim Warrick and Michael Redd, who scored 25 Sunday night in the Suns' win over the Rockets.
New York (3-1): Knicks have won three games by an average of 23.7 points since Mike Woodson took over Wednesday, including back-to-back poundings of the Pacers at the end of the week. And although Woodson said he'd get the ball more to Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, it hasn't totally eclipsed Linsanity: Lin had a solid 19-7-6 line Saturday in Indiana.
Cleveland (0-3): Cavs have lost six of nine this month to fall off of the pace in the east playoffs chase.
Who is Kaleb Canales, and why is he coaching an NBA team?
"You must be really bored if you want to talk to me," he said by way of introduction Sunday afternoon, before his second game as a coach, against Oklahoma City.
The first game was Friday, in Chicago against the powerhouse Bulls, a day after the 34-year-old Canales became the youngest coach in the league, promoted to the job after the Blazers fired Nate McMillan. The Blazers had been in free fall for weeks, losing their last five games by 14, 12, 12, 18 and 17 before getting humiliated by the Knicks by 42 last Wednesday. That was enough for management, which not only fired McMillan but OK'd trades of Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace as Portland went all in for a youth movement. And the Blazers went the same route with their coach, choosing Kanales over veteran assistant Bob Ociepka, longtime head coach Bernie Bickerstaff and former Blazers legend Buck Williams, McMillan's assistants.
"It was time," general manager Chad Buchanan said by phone Saturday. "It wasn't fair to (McMillan) to go through another 22 games. They just weren't playing hard for him. He understood that. He saw the same things that we did."
Canales' playing days ended as a 5-foot-11 power forward at Alexander High School in his native Laredo, Texas; he never played in college, getting only as high as manager at Texas-Arlington. He has never been a coach at any level, having peaked as an assistant for two high schools back home before joining the Blazers in 2004. He is the NBA's first Mexican-American coach and one of just a handful of coaches ever with Latino roots -- the Warriors' Mark Jackson's maternal grandmother was from the Dominican Republic -- and that feat and what it means isn't lost on him.
"One thing I do know is that I think the responsibility as a head coach and someone that's been blessed and fortunate to coach at the highest level, I take that responsibility seriously," Canales said. "I try to get better at it every day. For the City of Laredo, I feel so fortunate to be born there and lived there. The greatest excitement I think is for the children that they're able to dream. I just want them to understand that through faith and hard work and perseverance, their dreams can come true."
But while Canales is younger than Bickerstaff and Ociepka, he's been around the Blazers longer, having started as a video intern in 2004 after writing then-general manager Kevin Pritchard, asking for an internship that could count for credit toward the Master's Degree that Canales was getting from Virginia Commonwealth University. He wanted to "knock the door down" with his letters, and they evidently worked. Over the last eight years, Canales did everything in the organization, rising to video coordinator, development coach and assistant coach. He developed a reputation as the hardest-working guy in the building. And in choosing Canales, owner Paul Allen repeated a longshot philosophy he'd first used in 1989, when he fired Mike Schuler with 35 games left to go in that season and promoted 42-year-old Rick Adelman to the job.
"He's just a bundle of positive energy," said Pritchard, now the Pacers' assistant GM.
"When we were going through our hard times, he was there. He was happy. He was always saying, 'We're going to be all right.' And you can never have too much of that, especially when you're going through a rebuild. He's really positive, and it's not fake. He legitimately is positive every day. And the big thing was, it was consistent. There's not a fake bone in his body ... I have no doubt that they're going to play extremely hard, and they're going to play the right way for him."
Canales spent those long, lonely hours of scouring tape learning about the league, about different styles, about players. He loved the things Gregg Popovich did with the Spurs and how consistent Jerry Sloan was with the Jazz. And he slept night after night at the training facility just outside of the city. Pritchard used to have contests with him to see who could get to work earliest, and it took months for Pritchard to figure out why he kept losing -- the kid never left the building.
"Kaleb started from the bottom of the totem pole and worked his way up," Buchanan said. "He slept on the couch. He put all his clothes in the locker. We have a kitchen here, and he would say, 'Why would I ever have to leave? I've got my clothes, I've got a couch, I've got a place to eat. This is my life.' I would ask him, 'Are you ever gonna get a girlfriend, or a wife?' He said 'I do have a wife. Her name is Spaulding.'"
In a business where almost everyone is suspicious that the new guy is going to kneecap them and take their gig, Canales seems to have moved up the ranks without causing any jealousies or envy. Five minutes on the phone with him, and you can see why.
"It's a blessing and very humbling," he says. "I understand the responsibility that comes with (being head coach). It's a great privilege. God's just been so good in my life and I'm so grateful for that."
Reporters tend to be cynical. Canales makes that very, very difficult. His work ethic comes from a mother who's worked the better part of two decades at the central office of Laredo's school district, and a father who worked two jobs, including a salesman at a clothing store.
"He's one of those guys that you can't help liking," said Bobcats general manager Rich Cho, who worked with Canales for a year while he was the GM in Portland. "He's just very, very positive. He'd come into my office every day, he'd give me a hug every day. He was very touch-feely that way, in a good way. He's definitely a worker. I really like him and I'm really happy for him."
Canales moved over to the coaching side in 2008 after four years in the video department. But he'd already started doing the work of a coach, beginning as a "shagger" for the likes of Damon Stoudamire and Nick Van Exel while they shot balls in practice. He quickly did the same for one of the Blazers' newest and most important players, LaMarcus Aldridge. The two met days after the Blazers took Aldridge with the second pick in the 2006 Draft
"Our strength coach already had a relationship with him," Canales recalled. "We went to Dallas to start working him out. He met us at the hotel at 8 a.m. and we've been bonding and growing ever since."
As Portland's development coach, Canales grew close with most of the team's young stars, but especially Aldridge. That position is the one that often generates the closest bonds between an assistant and player. They work side by side, often in empty gyms, hour after hour, day after day. The coach is part confidant and Father Confessor; the player a lump of clay that the up-and-coming coach helps mold into a better player. Aldridge's deadly jumper didn't just happen overnight; he worked his tail off to make it so. And it was Canales who was most often there with him.
Assistant coach Bill Bayno had just joined the Blazers in 2006 when he met Canales.
"I actually scouted that year but he was my assistant on the summer league team," said Bayno, now an assistant with the Timberwolves. "One, the players love him. He's in the gym with them. He sweats with them. They want to win for him. They want to play well for him. And he really studies the game. He's always been a diligent worker. He was always asking questions on defensive and offensive schemes and was always trying to be ready. I told him, you're going to be the first Mexican-American coach in the NBA. I just didn't think it was going to be this fast."
It happened Thursday. The Blazers had gotten back to Portland after that humiliating loss in New York to the Knicks, and Canales was, as ever, working out some players on an optional day. When the workouts ended, Canales checked his phone and saw an unusually high number of messages and texts. He knew something was up. A few minutes later, he knew what. After speaking privately with McMillan, Canales was ready for the challenge. He met with the players and told them that he believed in them, but he needed a commitment from them to compete and play together. They would lean on each other, he said, with the goal of continuing to improve through the rest of the season.
Then he had to get on a plane to go to Chicago. The Blazers played the Bulls, and even though Chicago was without Derrick Rose (groin), it had been very successful without him on the court, winning 8 of 11. The Bulls had just beaten Miami with Rose in street clothes. But Canales felt, he said, relaxed. The moment wasn't overwhelming. And the Blazers competed, pushing the ball much more than they had under McMillan, who believes strongly in half-court, pound-it-in basketball. But the new style worked, if only for a night. Holding Chicago to 10 fourth-quarter points, Portland won 100-89.
I had seen Cousin LaMarcus a week earlier in D.C., when the Blazers won their last game under McMillan. And Cousin L.A. remarked that part of the reason he'd had such a good night against the Wizards was that he saw single coverage in the post. "First time all year I haven't been double-teamed," Aldridge said. But in Canales' first game, he put Aldridge on the elbows much more than he'd been all season. And Aldridge shot 50 percent in the upset.
"Great win!," Aldridge Tweeted Friday night. "Congrads (sp) to coach Kaleb on his first win! Rip City"
But Canales will learn that those 12 inches that separate the assistant's chair from the coach's chair tend to change your worldview.
"Thats a big adjustment," said Bayno. "But the one thing in the NBA, when you're an assistant, you're doing the scouts, you're doing the board, you learn and you get comfortable with that. The biggest adjustment is now you're in charge of the substitution patterns. Now you're in charge of the timeouts. We always talked about late game sets to get a two, to get a three. He was building up his notebook and he was building up his playbook for when he got a chance."
Canales is but the latest coach to get the gig after starting in video and development. It certainly is happening too much to be coincidence: the number of NBA coaches with his background include the Lakers' Mike Brown, Detroit's Lawrence Frank, the Pacers' Frank Vogel and the patron saint of the mousepad, Miami's Erik Spoelstra. Hires go in cycles, it seems: for a long time, the "Five Star" brand was all the rage, with Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello and other top-shelf coaches coming from that fabled program in the 70s and 80s. Then came the run on former players, who could "relate" better with their brethren. Now it's video guys, who work longer hours than everyone else and get hired, in part, because of their ubiquitousness.
"He's done everything in the building," said Pritchard, whose upcoming book features a chapter on Canales -- written well before he was promoted in Portland. "You're not going to fool him with anything you're going to be doing. He's done assistant video. He's done video. He's been behind the bench. He's been on the bench. Guys that have done everything, they're so equipped to do the job. Some guys get a head coaching job and you're just not equipped to do it, because you haven't done everything. He's done everything."
Canales said he just felt "weird" if he wasn't in the office, working.
"Every coach has a different story," he said Sunday, before his career record was evened at 1-1 in a loss to the Thunder. "I just tried to do research, in terms of the last 10, 15 years, that's been the trend. When I got to Portland, John Loyer -- he's an assistant with coach Frank in Detroit -- I read his bio. He had some experience in the video department. Obviously studying Erik, he started in the video room. For me, it gave me a great foundation for NBA basketball.
"Watching four or five games, if I'm not learning, if I'm not growing, it's shame on me. For me, I've been able to build sweat equity with our players. From a coach, to keep growing and to keep improving, you find out, building that sweat equity, you find out their strengths, their weaknesses."
Some people can't stand the sweet, sweet smell of success. From Valerie Buchanan:
Even though he decided to opt-in for one more year, the Magic should have traded [Dwight Howard]. I just feel he did not want to go to a team that would not make the playoffs this year and he wanted to be "THE MAN" on the team. The way the team is presently constructed, they won't win a championship this year or next. It's really going to be hard for the Magic to get the right pieces to place around Dwight. (Look at Cleveland) In my opinion, one more year really is not going to make a difference to the Magic because they won't be able to get the talent they need to surround Howard with. They would have to trade away a player like Ryan Anderson, whom they really can't afford to lose.
You may well turn out to be right, Valerie. This may all still blow up in Orlando's face. But things do change. The Lakers did pull Pau Gasol out of a hat after it looked inevitable that they'd have to trade Kobe Bryant. The summer brings more cap room for more teams, and the Draft brings additional opportunities to improve the roster. I'd give the Magic a 40 percent chance to retain D12 -- which is better than the zero percent chance they had last Wednesday morning.
You didn't think you'd miss Vinsanity this much, did you? From David Verendia:
Not sure if I'll even get a response from you since you're such a busy guy and I'm sure you are getting a bunch of messages related to what i'm about to ask you.
But really ... what is Bryan Colangelo up to?
Aside from drafting JV (Jonas Valanciunas), which I think is an ALRIGHT pick ... (should have chosen Brandon Knight, personally, and signed a center in the offseason)
Trading Barbosa for a 2nd Round pick? that's absurd.
Probably one of the best 6th men in the league, and in return ... we get a 2nd round pick?
Colangelo gets a lot of criticism for his recent moves in Toronto, David, with some justification. The Raptors didn't make the most out of Chris Bosh's impending free agency -- they should have traded him before he ever got a chance to walk -- and the series of trades Colangelo has made the last few years haven't done much of anything to improve the talent pool. But I think he made a good hire in Dwane Casey, and we have to wait until Valenciunas comes over next season to see how impactful he'll be. Because if he's as good as many personnel types think he is, that would change things in Toronto in a hurry.
What Ben didn't mention was his desire to nab John Adams and his killer crossover in Revolutionary Free Agency. From Robert Shipton:
I work in an office and we have those little flip calendars where you tear off a page for every new day. And on each day there is a quote. I thought it was insanely coincidental the quote listed on March 15th, the day of the new trade deadline (which wasn't set at the time the calendar was made, making this even more interesting)
"No nation was ever ruined by a trade" - Benjamin Franklin
My brother and I are mad crazy Celtics fans and as I said to him "obviously Benjamin Franklin isn't aware of how trading Rondo would ruin Celtics Nation".
Ha! A lot of denizens of the Nation agree -- likely including one Glenn "D" Rivers, Robert. Thanks for the note.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and crumpled up NCAA brackets to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Weekly averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (24.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, .468 FG, .792 FT): Who would've thought someone else's indecision about impending free agency could get James off the hook for The Decision?
2) Kevin Durant (25.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, .478 FG, .897 FT): Remember at All-Star break, when Scott Brooks decried KD's turnovers? Then, he was averaging 3.7 per game, which was eighth-worst in the league. Since the break? He's averaging 3.8 per game, and he's up (down?) to sixth-worst in the league. Keep an eye on this stat.
3) Kobe Bryant (27.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, .375 FG, .897 FT): Three-for-20 from the field on Sunday against the Jazz, his worst shooting performance since Dec. 20, 2004.
4) Dwight Howard (20.5 ppg, 12 rpg, 2 bpg, .589 FG, .390 FT): The longest held breath in Central Florida history was let go by 238,300 persons within the city boundaries of Orlando, Fla., last Thursday.
5) Tony Parker (25 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 9.3 apg, .548 FG, .773 FT): On pace for career high in assists and his highest scoring average in four years.
Dropped out: Derrick Rose (groin, missed all but one game last week)
1 -- Players in NBA history with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. Welcome to that exclusive -- and, until now, playerless -- club, Kevin Garnett! KG reached those milestones in the Celtics' loss to the Nuggets Saturday.
7 -- Consecutive road losses by the Mavericks, their longest streak of futility away from home in more than 12 years.
99 -- Victories by Chicago's Tom Thibodeau in his first season-plus as the Bulls' coach. A win tonight over Orlando would make Thibodeau the fastest coach in NBA history to win 100 games, beating the mark of 131 games set by Dallas' Avery Johnson.
1) When have so many people been so happy to have their brackets blown to smithereens?
Look, I really respect Jay Bilas. I think he's a brilliant analyst and he's forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know. But I truly disagreed with his notion that automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournament from the smaller, non-Big 6 conference should be eliminated. The main reason I disagreed was that I went to a small school, American University, from the Patriot League -- the same Patriot League of Lehigh University. (In fact, AU was the last team to beat Lehigh before the tournament.)
I know that AU isn't one of the 68 best basketball teams in the country, which is Bilas' argument for eliminating the AQs, so that the tournament is a more representative compilation of the country's best teams. But why does college basketball have to emulate the BCS in college football? Why do we have to create a structure where a team like Lehigh, or Norfolk State, is legislated out of a chance to compete against the big boys?
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh's star guard, is going to be drafted if he enters. You're telling me he's not good enough to compete just because he went to Lehigh instead of Duke or Kentucky, like everyone else? Not to get too treacly about this, but the tournament is, to me, representative of the best of sports. Just about every player who plays Division I college basketball has a chance, at the start of the season, to get to the Dance. I love to see the champions of the MEAC and the SWAC and the Big South and America East and the Sunbelt -- and, yes, the Patriot League -- get one shot at playing the elites. And I wouldn't trade seeing AU play Tennessee and Villanova in the tournament in 2008 and 2009 for anything.
2) Mike Woodson is going to do a very good job in New York with the Knicks. He coached up a very, very young group in Atlanta all the way to the playoffs, and he never had players as good as Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire there. And he did a very smart thing bringing Darrell Walker in as an assistant. DWalk should have gotten another shot at a coaching job years ago.
3) It's been a lousy season in Charlotte, but Bismack Biyombo is coming on strong. Very strong.
4) Classy move by Monta Ellis to take out a quarter-page ad in the local paper upon his arrival in Milwaukee.
5) Does anyone else really, really like the Bulls' St. Patrick's Day unis? Is it just me? Maybe it's just me.
6) I am not a Three Stooges fan. Never watched the old black and white shorts or feature films. But there's something so retroactively stupid about the trailers for this new Stooges movie that I think, if I see the film, I'm gonna laugh out loud two or three times.
1) We still love The Prokhorov around here, but he did promise a title in Jersey/Brooklyn by 2015. How's that coming along? The principal owner of the Nets cannot feel too good about the immediate future of his franchise, with his franchise player saying decisively he'll test free agency this summer -- with no Dwight Howard in tow.
2) You can't be surprised that the Blazers, finally, cut their ties with Greg Oden on Thursday. There just wasn't any point in going forward, with Oden on the shelf, again, well past the point where Portland could invest any more time and money into his rehab. It's a terrible shame for everyone involved. I can't help but think that Oden will have a trip to Europe on his itinerary in the near future to see if the platelet treatments that Kobe and Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning had could work for him. And if I were a guy who couldn't stay healthy, would I think about signing up with Aaron Nelson and the other miracle workers on the Suns' medical staff in Phoenix, who've re-made the arc of Grant Hill's career and kept Steve Nash lethal well into his late 30s? You bet I would.
3) It's never a good week when two very good coaches leave, for different reasons. But Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan knew long before anyone else how this was probably going to turn out, and neither will be out of work long. On the bright side, this summer is shaping up to be one of the best for hiring a quality, proven head coach in some time. With a pool featuring Jerry Sloan, McMillan and D'Antoni for starters, along with the usual suspects Van Gundy and the specter of Zen, you shouldn't have any problem getting someone on your bench that knows what he's doing.
4) Serious question: JaVale McGee has athletic asthma. Bad athletic asthma. How much of a problem will that be for him now that he will be living and playing most of his games in the Mile High air of Denver?
5) I have two sons of color, and I don't want them to be killed because they're walking down a street with a bag of candy and a soda in their hands, and someone else deems that "suspicious." Someone needs to speak out on behalf of Trayvon Martin, and justice needs to be done.
I love my soup, and yes I take it very seriously!
-- New Warriors center Andrew Bogut (@andrewmbogut), Monday, 2:26 p.m. Luckily for Bogut, the Bay Area has some quality chowders and stews, and that wonderful sourdough bread to sop up the rest with.
"Very tired. But I told my mom that I talked to Craig Sager once, and I wanted ... to do it again."
-- Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn, in his postgame interview with the Sartorial One following Norfolk State's upset victory over second-seeded Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Friday.
"We talked about the good times and what a fun time it was to go to battle together and things like that. But that's about as sentimental as I'm going to get."
-- Kobe Bryant, giving the Los Angeles media all he was going to give them concerning his conversation with Derek Fisher, who was traded to the Rockets Thursday.
"It's a winning team, so I can show I can win and that I'm not a loser just because I was on a losing team."
-- Newly acquired Nuggets center JaVale McGee, looking to burnish his reputation now that he's with a playoff team instead of the train-wreck Wizards.
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