Coaching the Los Angeles Clippers has proven to be a thankless job over the years but someone is going to have to do it.
It’s not going to be Mike Dunleavy anymore. He stepped down as the coach last week and will concentrate on his general manager duties (see Kevin Pelton's blueprint for what Dunleavy needs to do in this role).
It is not going to be Florida International University coach Isiah Thomas, contrary to some reports. One NBA source cracked that University of Washington guard Isaiah Thomas is more likely to be hired by Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
One name to keep in mind is Byron Scott, who was fired as the Hornets’ coach earlier this season. Scott was a popular player with the Lakers and his hiring would give the Clippers some much-needed credibility in Los Angeles.
Assistant coach Kim Hughes is the interim head coach and will likely finish the season in that position. There is some sentiment in the locker room for Hughes to get the job on a permanent basis.
“The guys really like his style,” center Chris Kaman said. “It's just a different face and a different voice and a different attitude than Coach Dunleavy. There's going to be a lot of things that are done differently."
Different would be better for the Clippers, who are 21-29 and headed to their 16th losing season in the last 17 years. Of course, this season seemed doomed from the time first overall draft pick Blake Griffin blew out his knee in the exhibition finale, an injury that is causing him to miss the entire season.
Dunleavy had felt for more than a month that he was no longer the right guy to be the coach. The realization hit on Christmas when the Clippers were thumped 124-93 by the Suns, causing Dunleavy to call Sterling the next day.
“I told him, ‘I'm working as hard as I can but if you feel you have to make a move, I want you to know I want to remain a part of this,’” Dunleavy said.
Hughes, for his part, will try to keep things basic, even if he winds up being nothing more than a caretaker.
“We need to shorten the intelligence factor and make things simpler,” Hughes said. “I'm really trying to get our energy back and trying to make this fun.”
Heat Could Be Active Before Deadline
The circumstances seem right for the Miami Heat to make a deal before the Feb. 18 trade deadline as it is a playoff contender, has some expiring contracts and a $4.3-milion trade exception gained in the Jermaine O’Neal trade that expires Feb. 15.
So, it is no surprise that the Heat has linked to various players, including Suns forward Amar’e Stoudemire and Mavericks forward Josh Howard.
“It seems like every city we go, there's a swirl or rumors,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “And, as we know, the overwhelming majority of those just have no validity to them. Our focus has just been on our play, our energy. We don’t even address the deadline because everybody is going through that and it’s not relevant to what we’re doing.”
The Mavericks have Howard on the block and owner Mark Cuban certainly sounds that like he would like to dump the former All-Star, who has been relegated to sixth-man status in recent weeks. Cuban doesn’t have any sympathy toward Howard, who says he is frustrated by his situation and the trade rumors.
“It's just the nature of the business,” Cuban said. “People get anxious and get nervous, particularly when things aren't going well and particularly with my history. It's not like Josh hasn't been here five years and knows we've made a lot of trades.”
The 76ers have been reluctant to trade such young players as Marreese Speights, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young but there are now some indications that might be willing include one of them with a veteran like Elton Brand of Samuel Dalembert in a blockbuster deal.
“We still like our young players,” 76ers president Ed Stefanski said. “We think they’re good players but we will listen to anything. With the record we have right now (19-31), obviously you have to listen to everything.”
Bobcats For Sale
Bob Johnson has the Charlotte Bobcats up for sale and Michael Jordan is considering the idea of buying controlling interest. If Jordan is unable to make a deal, the team will likely wind up going to a group led by former Rockets president George Postolos.
If Jordan does not buy the Bobcats then it seems certain that he would leave his position as their managing member of basketball operations. That leads to the question of whether Bobcats coach Larry Brown would also leave if Jordan goes.
“That's hypothetical,” Brown said. “I don't know. I don't even know who the buyer is. I'm hopeful Michael's the buyer. I go to bed at night hoping that. A lot of us do.”
Brown believes Jordan gives the Bobcats credibility and was the primary reason he came to the Bobcats prior to last season.
“Michael is the most important part of this franchise, in my mind,” Brown said. “He's been great for me to work with, with (general manager) Rod Higgins. He's well-liked. Everybody in the league respects him. He's got great knowledge. I think we need him.”
McMillan Keeps Blazers Competitive Despite Injuries
The Portland Trail Blazers are 30-23 despite a spate of injuries and many analysts believe Nate McMillan has done the best coaching job in the NBA this season. The Blazers have lost centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla for the season following knee surgeries while forward Travis Outlaw and guard Brandon Roy are also nursing injuries.
“You can’t do anything about injuries but they are still winning games,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
McMillan admits it is a challenge coaching a team whose rotation has constantly changed because of the injuries. However, Portland would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
"We have so many moving pieces, with the different lineups and rotations and guys being out," coach Nate McMillan said. "Every night, we're trying to put (a lineup) out there that is working. We talk about our three C's -- being calm, clear and consistent.”
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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