Transactions 12/21-1/16

Charlotte Bobcats

12/22    Fired Larry Brown and named Paul Silas interim head coach

Did Brown deserve to be fired?  The answer to this question really depends upon how you define success.  Objectively, Brown was successful in Charlotte.  He took a weak roster and turned them into a competitive team and a playoff team.  The Bobcats handed Brown mostly crap and he got the players to play.  In terms of acquisitions/transactions, the roster was systematically eroded of talent since Brown took over:

-Despite having Raymond Felton at point, the team drafted D.J. Augustin over Brook Lopez: Felton was an average point and they clearly needed a real center.  This draft pick made no sense at the time unless one thought that Augsutin was a really good prospect (which  no one really thought).

-Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley were traded for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw: J-Rich has his weaknesses but he was/is an above-average two guard.  Bell was injured, older, and average.  Diaw was overpriced based upon one good season and Dudley would end up being better very quickly.  A net big loss in talent.

-Emeka Okafor was traded for Tyson Chandler: This was a controversial trade since Okafor looked better on paper.  Chandler was not healthy but had a much shorter contract and was more explosive as a leaper.  In the abstract, you could make the argument for Chandler but most would’ve preferred Okafor.

-Traded Chandler for Erick Dampier: After one season, Chandler was traded for Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract.  Dampier was promptly cut, saving the Bobcats $12.75 million for 2010-11.

-On the positive side of the ledger, the Bobcats did flip Bell and Vlad Radmanovic for Stephen Jackson and obtained Tyrus Thomas last year for trinkets but the general direction of talent flow on the roster has been negative for Charlotte.

Despite all the flipping around, Brown was able to get the Bobcats to the playoffs last year only to see his point guard (Felton) and center (Chandler) let go for literally nothing.  Brown is not without his fault.  His slow defensive-oriented style of play isn’t fun to watch and, as always, he grates on players and management.  Brown is known to be impetuous and lobby for nonsensical trades because of anger at the talent he has.  So, it is quite possible that Brown endorsed some of these bad moves (i.e. the Richardson deal or drafting Augustin).  Still, there is no way Brown signed up for letting 40% of his starting lineup go for no return.

By any reasonable measure, the 2010-11 Bobcats were supposed to be bad and they have been no matter who the coach was.  Even worse, the vast majority of the players getting big minutes are unlikely to be on the next good Charlotte team.  Diaw and Gerald Wallace are 28, Jackson is 32 and Nazr Mohammed is 33.  The most notable criticism you could make of Brown as coach was his refusal to play Thomas bigger minutes.  Thomas has put up nice numbers this season (11.2 pph, 5.9 rpg in 21.6 mpg and leads the team with a 20.0 PER).  In Brown’s defense, Thomas does play the same position as Wallace, the Bobcats’ best player before this season (Wallace has been hurt and mediocre so far this year).

A different coach might’ve seen that having three athletic forwards as an indication that the team should run with a small ball lineup and playing Wallace or Thomas as a center.  But not Brown.  As great as coach as he has been, his system has not and will not change. Brown had tons of offensive talent in Indiana but chose to trade Detlef Schrempf for Derrick McKey because he didn’t want a high-flying team.  Brown isn’t wrong per se in his beliefs.  His system got the Bobcats to the playoffs and respectability.  But with the personnel he had the system wasn’t working and Silas has opened things open up a bit and given Thomas more minutes (25 mpg since Silas took over).  So, it’s fair to say that Brown can walk away feeling he did a pretty good job but the Bobcats also can walk away saying that this wasn’t a bad time for a change (even though management’s own bad decisions created/accelerated the need for such change).

Have we seen the last of Larry Brown as a coach?  It seems likely we have.  Brown is already 70 and though he appears plenty healthy, NBA coaching is a grind physically and mentally.  A financially secure 70-year old would have to be nuts to want to keep coming back.  Of course, Brown isn’t totally sane so I don’t think we can ever consider him done as a coach (particularly since he wanted to make it clear that he did not want to stop coaching Charlotte).

This raises another interesting question…how old is too old to keep coaching?  The answer isn’t clear.  We can’t guess how NBA teams feel but looking at what age coaches tend to be when they call it quits.  Let’s take a look at some coaches with long tenures in NBA history and their ages when they last were head coaches (the final season in parentheses):

-Rick Adleman, 64 (active)

-Al Attles, 46 (1982-83)

-Red Auerbach, 48 (1965-66)

-Bernie Bickerstaff, 62 (2006-07)

-Hubie Brown, 71 (2004-05)

-Larry Brown, 70 (2010-11)

-Don Chaney, 57  (2003-04)

-Doug Collins, 59 (active)

-Larry Costello, 47 (1978-79)

-Billy Cunningham, 41 (1984-85)

-Mike D’Antoni, 59 (active)

-Chuck Daly, 68 (1998-99)

-Mike Dunleavy, 55 (2009-10)

-Bill Fitch, 63 (1997-98)

-Cotton Fitzsimmons, 65 (1996-97)

-Mike Fratello, 59 (2006-07)

-Alex Hannum, 50 (1973-74)

-Del Harris, 61 (1998-99)

-Tom Heinsohn, 43 (1977-78)

-Red Holzman, 61 (1981-82)

-Phil Jackson, 65 (active)

-K.C. Jones, 59 (1991-92)

-George Karl, 59 (active)

-John Kundla, 42 (1958-59)

-Joe Lapchick, 55 (1955-56)

-Slick Leonard, 47 (1979-80)

-Kevin Loughery, 54 (1994-95)

-John MacLeod, 53 (1990-91)

-Doug Moe, 54 (1992-93)

-Don Nelson, 69 (2009-10)

-Tom Nissalke, 52 (1983-84)

-Gregg Popovich, 62 (active)

-Jack Ramsay, 63 (1988-89)

-Pat Riley, 62 (2007-08)

-Flip Saunders, 55 (2010-11)

-Bill Sharman, 49 (1975-76)

-Gene Shue, 57 (1988-89)

-Paul Silas, 67 (active)

-Jerry Sloan, 68 (active)

-Rudy Tomjanovich, 56 (2004-05)

-Jeff Van Gundy, 45 (2006-07)

-Lenny Wilkens, 67 (2004-05)

Of notable coaches, only Hubie Brown has coached at an older age than Larry Brown did this season.  On the plus side, the tenure of coaches seems to be getting longer.  Before this decade, getting a coach to work past age 59 was a rare thing and even the legendary ones like Kundla, Auerbach, and Hannum were done by age-50.  Now we have a significant number of coaches in their 60s and even approaching 70.  Even with ages of coaches getting older, there is little evidence that anyone can make it past 70 as a head coach (there have been plenty of assistant coaches still working past 70).  For Brown to crack that barrier, he’d have to find the right situation, namely a team with talent that is looking to make a run short term like Brown did for the Pistons.  I don’t see any team jumping out as a likely candidate at the moment (except maybe the Clippers if they struggle) but the NBA is very fluid so hopefully we will see Brown one more time and he gets to go out coaching a team that matters a little more than the his Knicks and Bobcats did.

Cleveland Cavaliers

12/27    Waived Jawad Williams and signed Alonzo Gee

When you have a seriously struggling team being the local guy and twelfth man doesn’t help you anymore.  Williams was not great last year but showed some flashed.  This year, Williams shooting was untenable for guard, let alone a forward,(.325% from the field), so he had to go.  In Williams’ place, the Cavs are hopeful that Gee, can give them some scoring at guard.  Gee doesn’t project as a very good player but he is young and shot well in limited playing time as a rookie for the Wiz (.475% from the field and an absurd 7-9 from three).

Dallas Mavericks

1/10    Signed Sasha Pavlovic to a 10-day contract

The weird thing about Pavlovic is how all over he map he has been.  He has shot over 40% from three twice in his career but also been under 30% three times.  He is athletic but that also comes in flashes.  So, it’s not clear what his skill set is.  Pavlovic is still only 27 but he really hasn’t had an acceptable season since 2006-07, when he was just okay.  For the Mavs, they hope he can be a reasonable facsimile of Caron Butler.  This isn’t likely but Pavlovic is young and active on the court so there is a chance he could be useful.

Golden State Warriors

1/4    Waived Rodney Carney

Carney has always been filler–a slightly below average player, at average NBA size, taken in the middle of the first round.  He will catch on somewhere since averagish NBA players have some use.

Los Angeles Clippers

12/22    Signed Ike Diogu

Playing behind Blake Griffin is probably not the best place to try to make an impact.  Diogu missed last year with injuries and has shown flashes that he can play but successful undersized scoring forwards are few and far between.  His best hope is to be a designated scorer off the bench.

Phoenix Suns

1/9    Signed Zabian Dowdell to a 10-day contract

This is a weird signing since Dowdell wasn’t exactly lighting it up in the NBDL.  He scored efficiently (53% from the field) but couldn’t shoot threes, which is a no no in Phoenix’s offense and the Suns have plenty of point guards anyway.  This signing appears to be a reward for Dowdell’s strong play for Phoenix in the summer league.

Toronto Raptors

12/26    Signed Ronald Dupree

1/5        Waived Ronald Dupree

1/13      Signed Sundiata Gaines to a 10-day contract

Gaines’ nice 2009-10 run with the Jazz feels like awhile ago after he struggled in limited minutes with the T-Wolves this season.  Still, Gaines has some ability and the Raptors are an ideal team for him to get some time and another chance.

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