There’s so much going on around the NBA right now. As you can see, Dwyane Wade added another clip to his “I’m a dirty player” highlight reel (off the top of my head there’s also breaking Kobe’s nose in the All-Star game (imagine if Kobe had done that to Wade?), dragging Rondo down and dislocating his elbow in the playoffs two years ago and punching Rip Hamilton last season for almost no reason. If this keeps up I’m going to side with his crazy ex-wife in their nasty divorce proceeding.)
There’s also the Nets, who fired coach Avery Johnson. I don’t think firing Johnson is unreasonable - he’s just not a very good coach - although the Nets are only really underachieving when you compare them to the team they looked like during their fast start (they are 14-14) Still, Johnson’s a dinosaur. All he does is bitch and overcoach (he called a timeout when it was 4-0 Celtics on Christmas) and they made the Celtics look good, no small feat. And even though I’m not a fan of Deron Williams’ attitude, it isn’t like they let Red Auerbach go because he couldn’t get along with D-Will. Speaking of Red Auerbach, I don’t think Phil Jackson is a realistic option, nor are the Van Gundys. First, it’s doubtful an elite level coach is going to want to take over a team mid-season. For Jackson, I just don’t see him risking his legacy by taking over a team with the issues the Nets have. For the Van Gundys, I still think the Nets have their eyes on Dwight Howard so I’m not sure they’d even want to bring in either guy. So that leaves a lot of retreads who aren’t dealing from a position of strength, who have no choice but to jump on an imperfect opportunity. There are a lot of names floating around out there but I think the most interesting one is Larry Brown. Brown’s coaching down at SMU, no doubt waiting for an opportunity like this. He’s got a relationship with Billy King from their time in Philly, which makes him a logical option. I’m not sure how to describe his track record - there’s been a lot of winning (Indiana, Philly, Detroit) and some terrible failure (New York, Charlotte - not insignificantly his last two stops.) He had a lot of success with Mark Jackson and Chauncey Billups, veteran PGs with whom Deron has a decent amount of similarity. He coached the Nets in the early-’80s and he’s a local guy, born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Beach, so the hire would have a nice symmetry to it as well. I think he’d be a smart hire for the Nets, even if he did a terrible job with the Knicks.
And then there are the Celtics, who lost by 29 to the Clippers last night and are 14-14 just like the Nets. Coming off a trip to last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Paul Pierce looks old, Jeff Green looks like he’s average at best and Rajon Rondo doesn’t score enough. They’re starting Jason Collins at center. Jason Terry isn’t producing enough to make up for the loss of Ray Allen. All that’s combined for the league’s 22nd best offense. When that’s the way a team scores, they need to be elite defensively. Take last year, when they were 27th offensively but sported the league’s top defense. This year, their defense is only the league’s tenth best. And there’s no fix for them. They have no attractive assets to give up to shore up their front-line issues. They’re waiting for Avery Bradley to get back but it’s unlikely that a single perimeter defender will turn things around for the entire team, and that’s assuming he’s completely healthy. Knicks fans might remember that Toney Douglas had offseason shoulder surgery last year, just like Bradley did. When Douglas returned he was no longer a high-level perimeter defender as he couldn’t get through screens. He seems recovered now, but it took a long time for him to get back to full strength. Bradley is better than Douglas, but the Celtics may be in for the same wait for Bradley to return to full strength. And a Bradley-Rondo starting backcourt will be really deficient when it comes to scoring the basketball. They’ll be forced to ask for too much from Garnett and Pierce, especially with the guy who’s supposed to be guarding Jason Collins wandering around in the paint.
It’s early in the season but with Boston and Brooklyn on the ropes and still ahead of the Sixers, the Atlantic Division is already the Knicks to lose.