Hornets Owner Michael Jordan Does Not Believe in Resting Players

By John Denton
March 22, 2017

ORLANDO – One of 10 coaches to take over new NBA teams in a particularly volatile offseason in 2016, Frank Vogel had a startling, but pleasing revelation pop into his head recently: No coach has yet to be fired in the NBA this season.

Vogel, who was let go last May by the Indiana Pacers and quickly hired by the Orlando Magic, didn’t realize it at the time, but he could be witnessing some NBA history.

According to a report by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, the NBA could be on the verge of going a full season without a head coach firing or resignation for the first time in 53 years. Also, it would be just the third time in league history – the 1960-61 season (eight teams) and the 1963-64 season (nine teams) are the others – when no coach was fired or resigned over the entire regular-season schedule.

Of course, anything can still happen over the final three weeks of the season, but Vogel is holding out hope that all 30 coaches that started the season with their teams will finish it.

``I noticed it a couple of weeks ago and I just kind of thought to myself, `Has anybody been let go?’ The fact that no one has, it’s a shock,’’ Vogel admitted.

Of the 30 coaches in the NBA, only 12 have been with their current teams for more than two seasons. Since 2008, there have been 100 coaching changes – 10 of which came last summer. Vogel, who had a highly successful 5 ½-year run in Indiana, wasn’t retained by the Pacers despite five playoff appearances and two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.

``It’s been overly volatile and unreasonably so, quite frankly, over the last five-to-10 years in particular,’’ Vogel said. ``(No firings) is something that is great for our profession. I think teams need to understand that continuity is important. Everybody wants to win now, but there is strength in continuity. So the fact that (no one has been fired), that’s a good thing.’’

DEBATE OVER REST: Much has been made throughout the NBA of late about the issue of teams resting superstar players. The issue surged to the forefront of the national sports conversation two weeks ago when Golden State kept Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala out of a nationally televised game against the San Antonio Spurs. This past Saturday, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue followed suit, withholding LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving from a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

While not specifically addressing those situations, Vogel and Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said they are against resting healthy players. Vogel admitted his thinking is ``a little bit old school’’ and he feels when it comes to playing or resting, ``if you’re healthy, you play.’’

Clifford is of the same belief, and he has the backing of his legendary owner (Michael Jordan) and associate head coach (Patrick Ewing). In his 15 seasons as a NBA player, Jordan played in all 82 games nine times and had two other times when he played at least 80 games. In Ewing’s 17 NBA seasons, he played every game three times and appeared in at least 80 games three other times.

``It’s easy for me because I’m working for an owner who doesn’t believe in (resting healthy players),’’ Clifford said of Jordan. ``I also have an associate head coach who would kill me if I started doing that. The climate in this league has changed. This is 17 years (in the NBA) for me, but 17 years ago, nobody would have thought about sitting out of a game.’’

Clifford said he’s had numerous conversations with Jordan and Ewing about the plusses and minuses of players taking time off when they are healthy enough to play. All three agree that players need to be on the floor if they are available.

``I’ve had two or three dinners and conversations with (Jordan) and Patrick and they start talking about (resting players) and (Jordan) doesn’t understand it. Nor does Patrick,’’ Clifford added. ``Their thing is, that’s why you play. You train all year to play those 82 games.’’

MELEE MUSINGS: Several of the Magic’s players got a laugh out of seeing former Orlando power forward Serge Ibaka brawl with Bulls center Robin Lopez on Tuesday night in Chicago.

Lopez accidentally staggered into Ibaka, who hit the 7-footer with an elbow to the lower back. Lopez first had words with Ibaka and then knocked the basketball out of his hands. The two players then threw wild haymakers – Lopez’s just missing Ibaka’s chin and Ibaka’s punch grazing the side of Lopez’s neck and bushy hairdo.

The NBA announced on Wednesday that Ibaka and Lopez were both suspended one game, meaning they will lose 1/90th of their salaries in addition to being not allowed to play in their next games.

Ibaka played 56 games with the Magic before being traded to Toronto on Feb. 14 in exchange for shooting guard Terrence Ross. The Magic and the Raptors will play each other for the first time since the trade on Monday in Toronto.

``It reminded me of hockey a little bit,’’ Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. ``I think they should have just given the guys a three-minute timeout in the box and then let them come back in. It’s not so often in the NBA (that someone lands a punch), but Kobe (Bryant) got hit and a couple of other people. The Pacers and Detroit (had a big fight), and in AAU guys you see it every once in awhile.’’

Added Magic guard/forward Evan Fournier: ``First of all, they got lucky that they didn’t touch each other. It could have been a lot worse, but they both missed (with punches). But what a reach? Three guys between them and they can still throw a punch? That’s a nice reach right there.’’

FRENCH CONNECTION: For a second straight game, Fournier was matched up against a fellow player from France – something that filled his heart for pride.

On Monday, Fournier faced Philadelphia rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and on Wednesday he got a heavy dose of Charlotte standout Nicolas Batum. Of the NBA’s record 113 international players from 41 countries on opening-night rosters, 10 of them hail from France. Among international imports, that’s second only to the 11 players from Canada.

``I was talking to someone about it the other day and now young guys come into the NBA and young French prospects get more credit because there are a lot of French players have been successful in the NBA,’’ said Fournier, who is in his fifth NBA season. ``So maybe the French League is getting more credit now and it’s just good for French basketball with more and more guys coming in and having an impact. It’s great for our country.’’

Fournier, Orlando’s leading scorer this season at 16.9 points per game, said his opportunity in the NBA was made possible by the trailblazing ways of Frenchmen such as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Rony Turiaf and Tariq Abdul-Wahad.

``Those guys came here before everyone else and paved the way for us,’’ Fournier said. ``I’m just following their steps. I’m trying to make my own thing become a great player, but none of those things would be possible without them, definitely.’’

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