Prowling the NBA: Nov 15 - When it rains, it pours

As the saying goes, when it happens, it happens all at once, and en masse. And perhaps nothing personifies a downpour better than this young 2009-2010 season.

The Timberwolves and their fans are not the only ones stuck out in the rain. Read on to get up to speed on teams around the NBA that might be in even lower spirits than the Wolves, as well as a little point guard debate to sound off on at the end.

Alright, first up on this week's list of teams that have something to cry about:

The New Orleans Hornets have fired head coach Byron Scott, and in the process may have come up with the worst idea ever:

Firing your head coach after just 9 games (the Hornets' record was just 3-6 at the time) might seem a little harsh, but not entirely unexpected. Certainly one would expect a team led by Chris Paul not to have twice as many losses as wins, nor to get listlessly blown out on a nightly basis. After a dismal start to the year, including blowout losses to the Raptors and Suns and even a loss to the Knicks, the Hornets decided Scott had lost the ears of his roster.

But the Hornets' interim plan is nothing short of ludicrously idiotic. The team handed (forced?) head coaching duties to General Manager Jeff Bower, and promptly hired former NBA and college coach Tim Floyd as the top assistant. Yes, that's the same Tim Floyd who thoroughly washed out of previous coaching duties with these Hornets and the Chicago Bulls, then basically picked up a criminal record afterwards as the head coach at USC in a scandal that could have cost OJ Mayo his NBA eligibility.





The Hornets have lost both games under the new/old coaching regime, and it doesn't figure to get any sunnier for them, since...

Chris Paul is hurt. And in more ways than one:

First, yes, CP3 is physically injured, having sprained his ankle during the Hornets' first game post-Scott, an 86-78 loss to the Portland Trailblazers (and a score that doesn't reflect how badly the Hornets really got beat). Paul will be out two weeks, which just adds insult to injury for New Orleans.

But Paul is also hurt over the coaching change, which brings to light the rift between him and his team, and could possibly be an omen about Paul's future in New Orleans (or perhaps more accurately, away from New Orleans). The relationship between Paul and the team has already been smarting after the Hornets dealt Tyson Chandler and Rasual Butler, two of Paul's favorite teammates, and now it appears CP3 and David West are at odds over Scott's firing....West was nothing short of ecstatic when asked about Scott's termination, but Paul has been icy about it at best. 

"Obviously change needed to occur. I'm not sure that's what should have happened," Paul said. "I'm not sure it was all coach's fault. You can [only] play with the cards you're dealt. It's a tough situation. The team went a different direction."

"Coach was more than a coach to me. He was a mentor, someone who has made me the player I am today."

"I've been with this team for five years now and have been nothing but humble and all about the team. I wish I would have known, you know, before everyone else knew because it was a shock to me. You don't have to have my approval.... Just let me know."

Hornets fans expressed the same depressed outlook we Wolves fans have. They were expecting the team to power back to the level it was at two years ago, when the team reached the Western Conference Finals. Now everything is falling apart. They remember Floyd's subpar performance his first time coaching the Hornets (way back when the team still had Jamal Mashburn and PJ Brown), and are acutely aware of his problems at USC.

One said, "I felt Bower/Shinn should've given Scott the benefit of the doubt. The Hornets have
5 new guys (including 2 rookies) that they are trying to work into the rotation and it was obvious they were trying to build some chemistry. And it wasn't like their 6 losses came against bad teams, they just lost to squads better than them. So 16-19? A just dismissal, 6-9? Please. If they had any confidence in those players 1-13 they would've pull through."

Another simply said, "Tim Floyd? Really? Lmfao wow I am speechless."

A team firing its head coach and replacing him with the GM should sound familiar, because it is. McHale did it not once, but twice, during his tenure with the Wolves, which is something the national media hasn't forgotten. The question now popping up everywhere is...

Is Chris Paul this generation's Kevin Garnett?

The similarities are eerily striking. Both are/were phenom talents on rosters that offer(ed) them no support. Both made the Western Conference Finals, only to fall well short of expectations the next season. Both have had their head coaches fired and replaced by the guys who built the bad rosters in the first place.

Paul has been more explicit than KG was when it comes to leveling blame for his team's shortcomings. Comments like "I'm not sure it was all coach's fault." and "You can only play with the cards you're dealt", are strong indications that Paul felt the team needed roster changes, not coaching changes, and who can blame him?

The Hornets have, to put it simply, nothing on the wings. Zero. Zip. Nada. Peja Stojakovic, whom Hornets fans have affectionately dubbed "Overpayed-a Stojako-brick" is averaging just 9.5ppg on dismal 38% shooting. Mo Peterson is even worse....6.5ppg on 34% shooting. The Hornets started off the year with Julian Wright in the starting 5, only to abandon it 7 games later after he chipped in just 3.5ppg. Scott was so desperate for shooting, former Timberwolf Bobby Brown was getting over 20 minutes a night until Scott was fired.

This would seem rather like a certain Kevin McHale, who thought players such as Wally Szczerbiak, Troy Hudson, and Rasho Nestarovic were enough to support Garnett in a title run. About the most help KG ever got outside that one year of Sam and Spree was Joe Smith, but who wants to get into that again, right?

At any rate, it appears the Hornets have already given up on this year, because...

The Hornets are reportedly discussing a trade that would send Emeka Okafor to the Kings for Kenny Thomas:

Kenny Thomas: The Kings' resident Mark Blount. It's a clear, 100%, get-us-under-the-cap move by New Orleans that rivals the talent discrepancy between Pau Gasol and Kwame Brown.

One would think every team lacking cap space to play this summer would be trying to get in on this. It's basically talent acquisition for free, and it's probably fair to say every player on the Hornets' roster except Paul is on the trading block.

Should the Wolves be in this one? Okafor would tie up a lot of the hard earned cap space Kahn has stocked up for the summer, but he also would instantly shore up the frontcourt and add some much needed defense to it as well. For Wolves fans who don't think the team will ever lure a blue chip free agent to the team, this is exactly the kind of cap deal the team should look into, right?

So the first four stories in this update are all about the Hornets collapsing. When it rains, it pours.

But now, moving on...

New developments in the Allen Iverson saga, including that Iverson is considering retirement:

Which would follow suit from what was reported last week: Iverson isn't going back to Memphis, and no one else wants him.

The rather shocking story that broke is that no one from the Grizzlies, GM Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins, ever discussed Iverson's role with the team. Ever.

"That is, in a word, amazing," said one NBA executive told ESPN writer Chad Ford. "The guy has a documented history of resisting coming off the bench. The Grizzlies had a young starting backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo. No one thought to explore it?"

Iverson himself confirmed this, saying, "I think that's probably the worst part of all this. That while all this is going on, we [Iverson and Lionel Hollins] have never talked to each other. That's probably why it's at this point right now. We've just never had a conversation, so it's probably going to always be hard for me and him to see eye-to-eye, because we've never even talked to each other."

Just another display of the mass incompetence harbored in the Grizzlies' front office.

As is this...

With Iverson gone, the Grizzlies have signed infamous malcontent Jamaal Tinsley:

The same Jamaal Tinsley the Pacers hated so much, they barred him from everything associated with the team last year. Tinsley didn't attend on practice, one meeting, one workout, one PR event, and didn't play in a single game with Indiana last year. Nor did he garner any interest from any other team in the league, despite Bird's attempts to fairly give him away.

Yet the Grizzlies sign him, and sound happy about it. Go figure.

It's enough to wonder if perhaps the Wolves really can steal Rudy Gay from them at the trade deadline...

Golden State is still in turmoil as well. And it's gotten worse:

Stephen Jackson played just 18 minutes in Golden State's loss to Indiana, after coach Don Nelson pulled him off the floor, claiming he was injured.

"He's got a sore back or hip or something," Nelson said. "I didn't think he was moving very well. I didn't think he moved very well at the shootaround. I didn't expect that he'd give me very much, but he gave me what he had."

But when asked, Jackson said he was fine. "Do I look hurt? I'm fine. My back is not sore at all."

This was followed by public complaints about playing time from both Anthony Randolph and Stephen Curry, both who play far, far less than they should, as well as a heated argument between Nelson and point guard Monta Ellis over who is to blame for the Warriors' early season struggles.

LeBron James publically declared he won't field any more questions about free agency the rest of the year:

James apparently wasn't pleased with the outburst over his comments during the Cavaliers' sole visit to Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago, which was followed by a slew of questions about possibly joining Dwyane Wade in Miami after the Cavs played the Magic.

"This free agent talk is getting old. It's getting old and I think I'm going to stop. Tonight will be the last time I answer any more free agent questions until the offseason," James said.

"I think I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my teammates. It's just getting old. I'm focusing on this season, and this is going to be a really good season for us. I don't want anymore distractions for my teammates, for my organization, for my family. This will be the last time I answer a free agent question for the rest of the year."




It's a smart move (bets are off on whether it will really work...) The Cavaliers have enough to deal with this year without James' pending free agency hanging over their heads. The team is still trying to adjust to the acquisition of Shaq, as well as prove they aren't irreparably damaged by their shocking loss to the Magic in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

As a side note, LeBron has also said he will switch his jersey number from 23 to 6 next year, out of respect for Michael Jordan.

Last week I featured Chris Duhon and Mareese Speights. This week they make the update again:

For very sad, sad reasons.

Mareese Speights is injured. He has a torn knee ligament that will keep him out 6-8 weeks...a costly setback for both him and the Sixers. Philadelphia was contemplating moving him into the starting lineup and either moving Brand to center or the bench. Now the team is stuck with what they had, minus their best big man off the bench (and possibly their best big man period)

Chris Duhon, meanwhile has set a remarkable record of futility this past week, hitting just 3 shots in his last 5 games combined.

0-6 against Cleavland

0-4 against Milwaukee

2-7 against Utah

0-6 against Atlanta

1-7 against Golden State

All losses for the Knicks, of course. The cold streak has dropped Duhon's shooting for the year to a disastrous 22%. Keep that in mind next time Corey Brewer clanks a jumper.

Abdul-Jabbar being treated for leukemia:

Not much to report on beyond that. We wish Kareem the best...and perhaps request his presence on our coaching staff.

Now for some interesting news on a few NBA prospects...

Evan Turner is off to a fantastic start:

The Ohio State swingman is averaging 19 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals so far this year. He's a jack-of-all-trades, and a player who should most definitely be on the Timberwolves' draft radar. Something of a Scottie Pippen clone...sounds like a perfect fit for the triangle, yes?

Tyler Smith is not doing well in Israel:

For those of you not familiar with him, Tyler Smith is the next step beyond Brandon Jennings. Not only is he skipping college to play overseas, he's skipping his senior year of high school, having signed a two year deal with an Israeli pro basketball team in Haifa.

And it's not going well. The New York Times sent a reporter to catch up on the situation. He reported:

"His coach calls him lazy and out of shape. The team captain says he is soft. His teammates say he needs to learn to shut up and show up on time. He has no friends on the team. In extensive interviews with Tyler, his teammates, coaches, his father and advisers, the consensus is that he is so naïve and immature that he has no idea how naïve and immature he is."

"Tyler has played little, has been fined for team violations, has fought with the coach and teammates ... all in a couple months."

Jennings too had problems with his team, Lomattica Roma, but nothing on this scale. So far Tyler has proven what most of us who have been following him expected: too young, too soon. Jennings wasn't by any means an adult when he left for Rome, but he was at least a high school graduate.

Now for a more positive draft prospect story....

Latavious Williams has jumped from high school to the DLeague:

It's the latest in prep prospects' experiments to bypass the NBA's current mandatory year rule that requires a player to be one year removed from high school before he is draft eligible.

Williams originally committed to play for the Memhpis Tigers, but showed strong interest in playing overseas. He officially withdrew from Memphis when then-coach John Callipari left the school to become head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.

It's not clear what caused Williams to abandon overseas play and stay in the States, but the development is certainly positive for many reasons. There's no culture shock or overblown media hype....good for the players. There's no one-and-done cycle to create an imbalanced dependency on overly aggressive recruiting....good for colleges (even Tubby Smith laments how bad it's gotten. College coaches are being forced to contact kids just 14 or 15 years old to beat the competition) And the DLeague system is set up expressly to teach players NBA basketball...ultimately good for the NBA.

Williams will play this season with the Tulsa 66ers (who also, by the way, have Wolf camp invite Mustafa Shakur on their roster). He's obviously ineligible for NBA callup, but expect the media to start talking about him as the season wears on and the NBA draft starts to become relevant for non-contending teams. Should he be successful, this could make the Jennings experiment irrelevant, as high school prospects would certainly prefer to stay in the States to get their mandatory year out of the way.

And of course, speaking of Jennings...

Brandon Jennings lit up...and I mean lit up....the Golden State Warriors last night:

55 points, 29 of them coming in the 3rd quarter alone. The single most defining example of a rookie taking over a game in recent memory.




Last week I reported that the Bucks had the best defense in the NBA. That's no longer statistically true, but when the two high-scoring affairs that bumped up the Bucks' OPPG average were wins over the Nuggets and Warriors...who cares?

Jennings was a one man show against Golden State, hitting from everywhere (7-8 from three) at anytime he wanted. The 55 points tied him for 4th on the single game rookie scoring record with Elgin Baylor, and left him just 3 points short of the all time rookie record of 58 set by Wilt Chaimberlain.

Which, of course, begs the question...

What's with Flynn?

Because the Wolves got blown out by those same Warriors and Flynn most definitely did not score at will in that game. 20 points and 6 turnovers. In the comparison of rookie point guards, Flynn definitely trails Jennings and Ty Lawson, and it could be argued he trails Steph Curry and Eric Maynor as well, who's been stellar for the Jazz during the last two games, filling in for the absent Deron Williams.

Jennings has the Bucks atop the Central Division and Ty Lawson has been nothing short of spectacular so far with the Nuggets (check out his sick dunk over DJ Mbenga in Denver's blowout win over the Lakers)

Meanwhile, Flynn has scored efficiently, but sparingly, in limited minutes, and has a very bad negative assist-to-turnover ratio. The Wolves has struggled to generate any sort of offense, and so far Flynn has facilitated even less than Randy Foye.

I think we’re at the point now of questioning why there’s such a disparity between Flynn and Jennings (and between Flynn and Ty Lawson). Is it the triangle? Lack of talent on the roster? Is Jonny just not as good as advertised?

What do you guys think?

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