Posted Oct 26, 2012 3:21 PM
This is the first in a series of articles previewing what's new in the NBA for the 2012-13 season.
Players aren't the only ones to change uniforms and allegiances during summer vacation. Since the end of last season, seven NBA franchises have hired new general managers. And new head coaches will be guiding three teams when the 2012-13 season tips off.
Here's look at the new men on the job:
DANNY FERRY, Atlanta Hawks
Background: After five years at the center of LeBronmania with the Cavs, he beat the MVP to the punch and took his talents out of Cleveland. Spent the past two years getting grounded in sanity once more in San Antonio as an assistant, but it was only a matter of time before the sharp young executive got another shot at running his own show.
What He Inherits: Never mind the inheritance, which was just a perennial legacy of the Hawks as a so-so playoff team that could never get past the second round. Ferry took the job and immediately held a garage sale. He sent leading scorer Joe Johnson to the Nets and Marvin Williams to the Jazz. What he got back was a first-round draft pick and a bundle of expiring contracts. Then he signed free agent Lou Williams and traded for Kyle Korver.
Outlook: Nothing that Ferry has done closes the Southeast Division gap between the Hawks and the defending champion Heat this season. In fact, they've probably taken a step back. But by making quick, bold decisions on Johnson and Williams, the new boss has left a foundation of Josh Smith and Al Horford and given Atlanta a chance to break the cycle of mediocrity and move forward.
KEVIN PRITCHARD, Indiana Pacers
Background: While the choice of Greg Oden over Kevin Durant will always be his albatross, Pritchard has shown a knack for evaluating and procuring talent through the years. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum were also tabbed by him during his three years as GM in Portland. The injury-plagued 2009-10 season spelled the end with the Blazers. Larry Bird brought him on as director of player personnel at Indiana and he replaced David Morway as GM in June.
What He Inherits: With Derrick Rose sidelined in Chicago and the years creeping up on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston, Pritchard takes over what on paper could be the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference. The core is solid, which is why there was no time wasted in signing center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill to big contract extensions. The Pacers also kept shooting guard Paul George on board for two more years.
Outlook: It's all about stability and steady progress with the Pacers. The starting five will be the same that won the franchise's first playoff series in seven years. Pritchard has added depth to the Indiana roster in D.J. Augustin and Ian Mahinmi and should have a lineup that is sure to get home-court in the first round. If the Pacers play up to their full potential, they could grab the No. 2 seed in the East.
GARY SACKS, Los Angeles Clippers
Background: Over the course of 18 years, Sacks has risen from the lower ranks of the scouting department to become the closest thing the Clippers organization has to a GM. That position officially is vacant after the departure of Neil Olshey in June. Sacks' title is vice president of basketball operations. That means he will be part of a three-man personnel braintrust with coach Vinny Del Negro and president Andy Roeser.
What He Inherits: For the first time in ... well, forever ... a successful season by the Clippers isn't followed by instability and uncertainty. After the pairing of Chris Paul with Blake Griffin a year ago made Clipper Nation a desirable place to call home and got them into the second round of the playoffs, they are no longer simply L.A.'s "other team." The battle for Staples Center supremacy only promises to get better.
Outlook: Not having one man hold the GM title did not inhibit the Clippers from making moves to strengthen the lineup over the summer. First up, re-signing Griffin. Check. Grant Hill and Lamar Odom give instant credibility as veterans who can have playoff impact. The additions of Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf and the re-signing of Chauncey Billups provides necessary depth. All of the headlines went to the Lakers, but the Clippers definitely got better over the summer.
ROB HENNIGAN, Orlando Magic
Background: The youngest GM in the league at 30, Hennigan brings a pedigree from working in two of the NBA's top front offices over the past eight years in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, where he learned the importance of managing budgets in a small market, focusing on stability and the importance of building through the draft.
What He Inherits: A virtual expansion franchise. Has any GM in history ever walked through the door on his new job having to deal with a bigger headache than the Dwight Howard soap opera? Could he repair the relationship? Could he pick up the pieces of what was left behind? He chose the deal that sent Howard to the Lakers, brought in Arron Afflalo as the new face of the franchise and begs the fans of Orlando for patience. Again.
Outlook: With his roots in Oklahoma City with a system that built an NBA Finals contender with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden through the draft, it was hardly a surprise when Hennigan took the long view and went for draft picks. Hennigan also has the Magic set up with contracts that he hopes will allow him to mine the free-agent market for help. Everyone in Orlando will be happy to have the Howard circus in the past. But the losing pains of this season will only be the start of what is a heavy lift to pull the Magic back to respectability.
TONY DiLEO, Philadelphia 76ers
Background: DiLeo's roots with the Sixers go back more than two decades and include a stint as head coach when he replaced Maurice Cheeks during the 2008-09 season. His elevation to the job was in line with the wishes of coach Doug Collins, who preferred a more traditional basketball talent evaluator than many of the acolytes of analytics that were candidates for the job.
What He Inherits: Despite taking the Celtics to a Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs last spring, the Sixers felt that lineup had maxed out and did an extreme makeover. Out goes Andre Iguodala to lead a wing attack, in comes Andrew Bynum to pound the ball down low. That was just a start. The Sixers have also added Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Kwame Brown and Dorell Wright while shedding Lou Williams and Elton Brand.
Outlook: The first challenge is to get Bynum fully recovered from the right knee pain he's been experiencing since a suffering a bone bruise during an offseason workout. But the bigger task is to get Bynum signed to a long-term contract extension that will keep him in Philly past this season. If Bynum can get healthy, the Sixers could be interesting troublemakers in the East this season. If he stays, they could become real contenders down the line.
NEIL OLSHEY, Portland Trail Blazers
Background: Having already hinted that he could walk on water by making the Clippers truly relevant with the trade for Chris Paul, perhaps Olshey is just looking to perform another miracle by picking up the pieces of the broken and star-crossed Trail Blazers. He overhauled the L.A. roster to also bring in Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Nick Young and Kenyon Martin. With all those changes, the Clippers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in 31 years.
What He Inherits: A team that is trying to pick itself back up off the floor after the devastating injuries that ended the Portland careers of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden and set the franchise back for years. They have a frontline star in LaMarcus Aldridge and forked over big money to Nicolas Batum on the hope that he can live up to the potential that's been attached to him for so long. Point guard Damian Lillard is getting talked up as a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Outlook: One of the most loyal fan bases in all of professional sports is having its patience tested by the Blazers. Olshey tried to land center Roy Hibbert with a big offer sheet and then made the right decision in matching to keep Batum. He has the seeds of a team in Aldridge, Batum and Lillard that could deliver down the line. But rookie center Meyers Leonard will have to prove he can do it in the middle and there are far too many holes in the rest of the lineup to even dream about making a run at the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference this season.
DENNIS LINDSEY, Utah Jazz
Background: After all those years watching Utah up close from the perspective of a rival and playoff opponent in Houston and San Antonio, Lindsey is no stranger to the Jazz franchise. He's spent the past five seasons soaking in the knowledge of the league's best one-two front office punch -- Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford -- with the Spurs and should be a good fit with outgoing GM Kevin O'Connor.
What He Inherits: The Jazz made a strong finishing kick to reach the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and despite a first-round sweep at the hands of San Antonio, it was a valuable experience. A lineup that is already strong up front with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors has added solid role players in Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Marvin Williams.
Outlook: In Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter, the Jazz have a solid foursome of young talent that could take them places in the future. One of Lindsey's first priorities will be to sort out the logjam up front. If Favors takes a big step forward this season, Lindsey will be able to move one of the big and expiring contracts of either Jefferson or Millsap for the added lineup boost that makes the Jazz for real in the West.
MIKE DUNLAP, Charlotte Bobcats
Background: What Dunlap lacks in name recognition he more than makes up for in terms of experience. He's been a coach for the past 32 seasons, most recently as an assistant at St. John's University for the past two seasons. His only prior NBA experience was an assistant in Denver from 2006-08. But it was Dunlap's intensity that enabled him to surprise and prevail over more heralded candidates as Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder for the job.
What He Inherits: The Bobcats' roster has undergone a remake following last season's disastrous 7-59 season that earned them a place in the NBA record book. With the No. 2 selection, they chose the athletic Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Kentucky and supplemented him with veterans Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood. Dunlap is also the latest to get a crack at unlocking the enigmatic Tyrus Thomas.
Outlook: Nobody's expecting miracles. It would be a huge accomplishment if Dunlap could simply inject a healthy dose of discipline and professionalism into this laughingstock of a team before 49-year-old team owner Michael Jordan thinks about coming out of retirement or tries to trade the team for a minor league baseball franchise.
JACQUE VAUGHN, Orlando Magic
Background: Vaughn spent his final three seasons playing under coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and spent the last two years as an assistant coach for the Spurs. And almost from the moment that he walked through the door of the gym, Popovich said that Vaughn carried himself with a presence that told you one day he would get his own team.
What He Inherits: Well, it would have been a much prettier picture if Vaughn had touched down in Orlando a year ago when the first-team All-NBA center was still roaming the middle. With Dwight Howard gone, the Magic attack will change drastically. It will now revolve around shooting guard Arron Affalo, Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and a bunch of disparate parts left behind. With no expectations, it is a perfect situation for Vaughn to lay a foundation of his philosophy as the Magic play an uptempo game to offset the loss of Howard.
Outlook: It is highly unlikely that the Magic will be able to extend their streak of six consecutive playoffs appearances, currently the longest in the East. The goal for Vaughn is to simply be competitive each night while GM Rob Hennigan tries to rebuild through draft picks and free agency. The next few seasons will be a painful experience for the Magic and their fans. Perhaps the most agony could come from having to watch Howard raise a championship trophy out in L.A.
TERRY STOTTS, Portland Trail Blazers
Background: If Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle were strictly being selfish, he would have locked Stotts away in his garage and not allowed the Trail Blazers to interview him. That's how highly Carlisle thinks of the man he calls an "elite offensive mind." After previous uneven experiences in charge in Atlanta and Milwaukee, Stotts spent the past four seasons as an assistant in Dallas and was a key contributor to the Mavs winning the 2011 NBA championship.
What He Inherits: Stotts take over a team that fell drastically short of expectations last season and heads into the new one with a roster that includes forwards LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and a barrel of question marks. Can rookie point guard Damian Lillard live up to the preseason hype? Can rookie center Meyers Leonard begin to make Blazers fans forget about the ghastly Greg Oden experience? Stotts has tremendous upside.
Outlook: The Blazers made their most significant attempt to get much better right away by giving Roy Hibbert an offer sheet. But since that failed, they'll be taking an offensive tack as Stotts tries to get them running back to respectability. This is a team that will put its emphasis on youth and quickness. The Blazers' roster is young and younger with five rookies and eight players that have two years of NBA experience or less. It's best to settle in and take the long view with the Blazers. This is going to take a while.
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