Kiki Vandeweghe pushed for the New Jersey Nets’ youth movement as their general manager. Now, he will get a chance to be more hands-on in an effort to pull the franchise out of the abyss.
Vandeweghe will be named the Nets’ head coach today and officially take over Friday night when New Jersey hosts the Bobcats at the Izod Center. Assistant coach Tom Barrise, who served as interim coach Sunday and lost to the Lakers after Lawrence Frank was fired earlier in the day, will have the unenviable taste of trying to prevent history Wednesday night when the Nets host the Mavericks.
The Nets are 0-17 and one loss away from setting the NBA record for most losses to the start the season. They tied the mark shared by the 1988-89 Heat and 1998-99 Clippers on Sunday.
Vandeweghe, along with president Rod Thorn, traded stars Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter since February 2008 and got back such young players as Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian and Courtney Lee. Vandeweghe, who has yet to address the media, was reportedly opposed to becoming the coach but was ordered to Thorn. Vandeweghe has never coached at any level.
The Nets have been beset by injuries and often dressed just eight players, the minimum allowed by NBA rules, in the early part of the season. They continued to play hard for Frank until the end but could not overcome their lack of manpower or experience.
“Nobody wants to accept losing, ever, and we haven’t,” wing Chris Douglas-Roberts said. “We have guys who really hate it with a passion.”
The losses wore on Frank, though he remained upbeat throughout the rough start.
“The record was not indicative of the team we were,” Frank said. “Our guys knew that but obviously we needed to show it more with our record.”
The Nets’ players were sympathetic to Frank’s plight and believe no other coach would have made a difference.
“I’m sure they’d like to fire some of the players if they could but they did the easy thing and fired the coach,” guard Rafer Alston said. “We didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility for some of the games. The coach doesn’t put on the uniform and chase down the rebounds. We had to do it and didn’t get it done.”
Could Iverson Return to Philadelphia?
The Allen Iverson story has taken another interesting twist as he and his agent had a two-hour meeting with Philadelphia 76ers officials on Monday in Dallas before they lost to the Mavericks. Iverson spent his first 10 full seasons with the 76ers before being traded to the Nuggets during the 2006-07 season.
“We had a good conversation,” 76ers coach Eddie Jordan said. “Both parties were noncommittal and we’ll see what happens in a few days.”
Iverson left the Grizzlies after three games because of what were termed personal reasons then eventually announced he was going to retire. Iverson made it known that he did not like coming off the bench for the first time in his career.
The 76ers have a temporary need for a starting point guard as Lou Williams suffered a broken jaw on Nov. 24 and is expected to be out until the end of January. Rookie Jrue Holiday has been starting in Williams’ place.
Though Iverson is 34, Jordan believes he could help the 76ers.
“He has an aggressive scoring mentality,” Jordan said. “He’s a guy who can take over games, even at this stage of his career. He’s a guy who has been to the top. He’s been to the Finals. He’s just a guy who would be another weapon on the floor for us.”
Ilgauskas to Become Cleveland's Games Leader
The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had the most glorious history, never winning an NBA championship in their 40-year history and getting to the Finals just once, only to get swept by the Spurs in 2007.
However, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas can become the franchise’s all-time leader in games played Wednesday night when the Cavaliers host the Suns. At 723, he is tied with former teammate and current Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry.
“This franchise has been around for 40 years,” Ilgauskas said. “So many players came in and out. To know that of all the players who have been here throughout the years, you have the opportunity to put on the uniform the most times is special.”
Ilgauskas is particularly proud to have spent his entire 12-year career with the Cavaliers.
“It goes to show you it’s hard to play so many games for one team,” Ilgauskas said. “It doesn’t happen anymore with free agency, with fans, management and media. They are so impatient. Guys bounce around more. It means a lot.”
Luxury Tax no Obstacle for Magic
Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos has given the OK to team president and son-in-law Bob Vander Weide for the franchise to enter luxury-tax territory for the first time this season. That is a clear sign that DeVos believes the Magic can win the first NBA championship in the team's 21-year history after losing to the Lakers in the Finals last season.
“Bob told me, ‘we have to get you a championship before it’s too late,’” DeVos said. “I guess he means before I die.”
DeVos is 83 and has lived more than 10 years since having a heart transplant.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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