Los Angeles Clippers
7/7 Named Vinny Del Negro head coach
7/8 Signed Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes
7/9 Signed Brian Cook
In the best and worst of times, there is a certain sense of futility we all get when we hear that someone is going to be new coach the Clippers. It is true that all coaches are hired to eventually be fired, the Clippers seem to stack the deck against a coach’s ability to have long term success more than most. This got me wondering where Clipper coaches come from and where they go from Clipperdom. Here’s a list of the Clipper head coaches hired by Donald Sterling and how it went for them:
-Jim Lynam, 1983-84: The Clipps were Lynam’s first head coaching gig. He went 30-52 the first season before being fired after a 22-39 start in 1984-85. This job wasn’t a dead end for Lynam, who parlayed it into work with the 76ers (1987-88 to 1991-92) and the Bullets from 1994-95 through mid-1996-97. Neither later stint was a rip roaring success but Lynam did win one division with the 76ers and Charles Barkley at his best in 1989-90.
-Don Chaney, 1984-85: Chaney made his head coaching debut with the Clippers closing out the 1984-85 season. He was given two more full season before being fired after a miserable 12-70 campaign in 1986-87. Like Lynam, Chaney had more coaching in his future. Chaney went to Houston (1988-89 to 1991-92), Detroit (1993-94 to 1994-95) and New York (2001-02 to 2003-04). Chaney won Coach of the Year in 1990-91 when he led the Rockets to 52-30 while missing Hakeem Olajuwon for much of the season. Chaney hasn’t made the playoffs since that season (where the team was swept in the first round).
-Gene Shue, 1987-88: Before coming to L.A., Shue had a storied coaching career leading the Bullets and 76ers to the NBA Finals in the 1970s. After being fired from the 76ers in early 1977-78, Shue’s career stagnated a bit. He spent two mediocre years with the old San Diego Clippers (1978-79 and 1979-80) and returned to the Bullets, who were not quite the same team without Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. Shue’s new Bullets bounced around .500 from 1980-81 to 1985-86. He looked done until Sterling tabbed him in 1987-88. The Shue Clippers were an abysmal 17-65 that year and he was fired after a 10-28 start the next season, ending his head coaching career. Shue is apparently still scouting for the 76ers now.
-Don Casey, 1988-89: Casey received his first opportunity to be a head coach with the Clipps. His record wasn’t awful by Clipper standards, going 30-52 in 1989-90. He was fired anyway as the Clipps had amassed some real talent (Ron Harper, Danny Manning, Charles Smith) and expected better results. Casey returned to life in the NBA as an assistant until he got another interim gig that turned permanent with the Nets in 1998-99 when John Calipari flamed out. Interestingly, Casey’s single full season in Jersey went about the same (31-51) and he was fired and he was never an NBA head coach again.
-Mike Schuler, 1990-91: Schuler had been the head coach of the Clyde Drexler Blazers as they were starting to look like a real threat in the late 1980s. Schuler was fired in 1988-89 and the Blazers took off with new coach Rick Adelman. Schuler left the Blazer gig as damage goods too. Sports Illustrated wrote a feature in 1989 detailing Schuler’s inability get along with the players, particularly Drexler: “‘It’s not just that Mike and I are different,’ says Drexler. ‘It’s that we’re total opposites. It was hard for us right from the beginning, and I’d say it’s getting worse, not better.’” Schuler basically duplicated Casey’s 1989-90 effort, going 31-51. In 1991-92, Schuler started out better (21-24) but was abruptly fired when Larry Brown became available. Schuler never was a head coach again.
-Larry Brown, 1991-92: LB was well ensconced in his brilliant but nomadic career when the Clippers hired in 1991-92. At the time, Brown had left the Spurs abruptly after a fight with ownership (it’s not clear if Brown was fired or whether he quit). Brown was a friend of Sterling and was snapped up quickly. Brown led the Clipps to the playoffs in 1991-92 and 1992-93 and as seven seeds, they took better seeded teams to the brink before losing deciding Game 5s in the first round. Brown’s relationship with Danny Manning, the Clippers’ best player (and Brown’s star player at Kansas) hit the skids. Manning demanded a trade in 1993, which he retracted. But the tension was enough (combined with the usual Clipper chaos as to whether Manning we re-sign in 1994) to get Brown wandering again and he left the Clipps after 1992-93 to go to the Pacers.
-Bob Weiss, 1993-94: Weiss was one the first re-treads that Sterling had hired. Weiss had a few non-playoff years in San Antonio (1986-87 and 1987-88) before two .500ish years in Atlanta (1990-91 to 1992-93). Weiss hoped to keep the success that Brown had going but just was not as good a coach. Some of the good players of the Brown Era were already gone (Harper, Smith, Mark Jackson) and Manning was approaching free agency and clearly intended to bolt, throwing the team into flux. Weiss famously explained that he knew this was a short-term job as detailed in this story by Mitch Lawrence in 1995 in the Daily News: “When Bob Weiss became coach of the Los Angeles Clippers before last season, he never bothered to get a California driver’s license. But he had a stock answer in case he was pulled over. ‘I’m not going to be here long enough,’ Weiss would explain, ‘I’m the Clippers’ coach.’” Weiss was fired after one year, and returned to the assistants ranks. Weiss did get one more chance at head coaching in 2005-06, which ended after a 13-17 start.
-Bill Fitch, 1994-95: Like Shue, Fitch was an accomplished coach on his last legs when he got to L.A.. Fitch was known for rebuilding teams but driving the players crazy with his hardcore style. The Clippers were in a terrible place, having lost all their former stars to free agency but Loy Vaught. Fitch did a credible job, lasting four years and even getting the Clipps to the playoffs in 1996-97 with Vaught and few very good players (fringer Darrick Martin was the starting point). Still, the Clipps were mostly bad for Fitch (99-229) and he was fired after 1997-98 and never coached again. Fitch’s career eneded with a 944-1,106 coaching record (he had been 845-877 when he arrived in L.A.).
-Chris Ford, 1998-99: Ford had coached previously with the Celtics (1990-91 to 1994-95) and the Bucks (1996-97 to 1997-98) and been decent. He entered the Clipps at another low point, as they tried to integrate new lottery picks (Lamar Odom, Michael Olowokandi, Maurice Taylor) into a team. Ford was not known as a great coach but was hampered by the Clipps blowing the first pick on Olowokandi when Mike Bibby or Vince Carter would’ve been much better (not to mention Dirk Nowitzki or Paul Pierce). Ford was fired midway through 1999-00 with a collective 20-75 record in two years. Ford has had only one more head coaching shot since (as an interim coach for the 2003-04 76ers).
-Alvin Gentry, 2000-01: Gentry’s previous coaching experience was an interim job with Miami in 1994-95, which was terminated after the season and an interim job with the Pistons in 1997-98, which he parlayed into two more decent years as a head coach. Gentry rallied the the Clipps to 31-51 and 39-43 his first two seasons. When L.A. Struggled in 2002-03, Gentry was fired after a 19-39 start. Gentry returned to the assistant role until he used another interim job (when Terry Porter was canned) in 2008-09 to get the Suns’ permanent job in 2009-10 and made the Western Conference Finals, making him the most successful post-Clippers coach besides Brown.
-Mike Dunleavy, 2003-04: Dunleavy was probably the most acclaimed pre-Clippers coach to take the job. (Fitch and Shue won more previously but were not hot commodities when they came to Clipper Land and Brown hadn’t actually had much playoff success in the NBA at that time (Dunleavy had had more extended playoff success in the NBA than Brown at that point). We all remember Dunleavy having the best season in L.A. Clipper history in 2005-06 (going 47-35 and winning a playoff series) before he petered out the next three seasons. It will be interesting to see where Dunleavy’s coaching career goes from here. His Clipper career is a net negative for his resume but could get another shot..
So data leaves us with the following:
-Of the 11 coaches hired, five were re-treads (mediocre veteran coaches or good older coaches with no recent success), three were assistants, one was an interim coach/re-tread (Gentry), and two were well-known and more highly esteemed. Perhaps coincidentally, the two most highly esteemed (Brown and Dunleavy) had the best tenures.
-Not including Dunleavy, three of the group never coached again and an additional three only had brief or interim post-Clippers head coaching jobs.
-The only two coaches to have had any real success after spending time in Clipper Land are Brown and Gentry and Gentry’s post-Clipper success happened by a confluence of odd circumstances.
What does all this mean for Vinny Del Negro? Del Negro fits nicely into the decent re-tread category of guys who showed some coaching ability but didn’t bowl anyone over. As we mentioned, these guys haven’t exactly blossomed in Los Angeles or in their careers afterwards. We’ll be rooting for Del Negro (after the Bulls treated him so poorly) but history is not encouraging.
Los Angeles Lakers
7/8 Signed Steve Blake
Blake is a competent point guard and has been able to blend into any system he’s thrown into. The Lakers are an interesting challenge because Blake is a good passer and runs a traditional offense pretty well but Phil Jackson has very little use for traditional passers in his triangle offense. It’s a bit superficial analysis but to highlight the differences, here are the assist per games of each of Jackson’s starting points:
1989-90 Bulls: John Paxson, 4.1 apg (5.1 per/36 min)
1990-91 Bulls: John Paxson, 3.6 apg (5.4 per/36 min)
1991-92 Bulls: John Paxson, 3.1 apg (4.5 per/36 min)
1992-93 Bulls: B.J. Armstrong, 4.0 apg (4.8 per/36 min)
1993-94 Bulls: B.J. Armstrong, 3.9 apg (4.2 per/36 min)
1994-95 Bulls: B.J. Armstrong, 3.0 apg (3.4 per/36 min)
1995-96 Bulls: Ron Harper, 2.6 apg (4.0 per/36 min)
1996-97 Bulls: Ron Harper, 2.5 apg (4.0 per/36 min)
1997-98 Bulls: Ron Harper, 2.9 apg (3.8 per/36 min)
1999-00 Lakers: Ron Harper, 3.4 apg (4.8 per/36 min)
2000-01 Lakers: Ron Harper, 2.4 apg (3.6 per/36 min)
2001-02 Lakers: Derek Fisher, 2.6 apg (3.3 per/36 min)
2002-03 Lakers: Derek Fisher, 3.6 apg (3.8 per/36 min)
2003-04 Lakers: Gary Payton, 5.5 apg (5.7 per/36 min)
2005-06 Lakers: Smush Parker, 3.7 (3.9 per/36 min)
2006-07 Lakers: Smush Parker, 2.8 (3.3 per/36 min)
2007-08 Lakers: Derek Fisher, 2.9 apg (3.8 per/36 min)
2008-09 Lakers: Derek Fisher, 3.2 apg (3.8 per/36 min)
2009-10 Lakers: Derek Fisher, 2.5 apg (3.2 per/36 min)
Outside of Payton (who Jackson tried to accommodate based upon his unique scoring abilities), Jackson points barely ever break 4.0 apg. Blake is coming off of a season (6.2 apg) that would be the best ever for a point gaurd in PJax’s career. Of course, Jackson doesn’t love passing points. The chart above indicates that what he wants are spot up shooters and big guys who can defend big guards. Blake can shoot the three, so he fits in that regard but he is in for a very different experience with the Lakers.
Another interesting side note: Fisher’s five best passing seasons (per-minute) were with the pre-Phil Lakers and the Warriors. Armstrong’s best passing season came with the Warriors and Payton ticked up to 6.6 assists per 36 minutes the season after he left the Lakers (he had been at 7.4 the year before he went to the Lakers). Jackson’s offensive style is so different from the rest of the NBA that one must learn to value players differently for the Lakers. Obviously, the triangle isn’t some impossible to learn offense but it clearly affects point guard penetrators greatly. It probably will never happen but I’d love to see how Jackson deals with a very good young penetrating-based point who is not a great shooter and can’t defend big guards. Would Jackson discard such a player or would he try to utilize his strengths? We probably will never know the answer because Jackson would never want this type of player but I suspect Jackson would sit such a player on pine.
7/8 Re-signed Rudy Gay
Five years and $84 million? Really? I like Gay but I have no idea what the Grizz are trying to accomplish with this roster. To me, having O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay doesn’t work that well and Gay’s offense prowess is overblown (he can’t/doesn’t pass, doesn’t shoot great, and isn’t a great defender). Gay can create his shot and takes a good amount of foul shots (400 for the season and 4.5 per game). In addition, he is young and has shown remarkable durability. The question is whether it is worth paying Gay maximum dollars to stay on a mediocre team that can’t play defense and has cheaper players that duplicate his strength. I don’t think so but you can’t say that the Grizz overbid if they really wanted to keep GAy. The buzz we saw indicated that whomever lost out on the LeBron bidding was going to throw big money at Gay. This would probably be a mistake but the Grizz had to choose between losing Gay and overpaying him and chose the latter. I suppose this isn’t an awful choice for fans, who need some feeling that management is actually trying to win. In addition, Gay is young enough that, barring injury or some huge changes in the collective bargaining agreement, will actually be tradeable too. But any big deal signed by the Grizz will be looked at against whether the signing/acquisition was favorable to keeping and paying Pau Gasol. Viewed from this context, the Gay signing kind of sucks. You’d much rather have Pau back in town if that really was the choice. But the past is gone and going forward, we’ll give the deal the most mild of thumbs up.
6/23 Traded Daequan Cook and the 18th overall pick in the 2010 draft to Oklahoma City for the 32nd overall pick
6/29 Waived James Jones
7/9 Traded two first-round picks in 2011 and a trade exception to Toronto for Chris Bosh
7/9 Traded first-round picks in 2013 and 2015, a 2012 second-round pick, a future second-round pick, and a trade exception to Cleveland for LeBron James
7/9 Re-signed Dwyane Wade
7/12 Traded Michael Beasley to Minnesota for second-round picks in 2011 and 2014
7/12 Signed Udonis Haslem
That’s not a bad off-season. As noted in part one of our transactions column, James AND Bosh are two of the best players to switch teams at their peaks. We have a lot of interesting questions for the Heat, many of which won’t be answered until next season.
-Can they cobble together a supporting cast?
Probably, since vets are desperate to play with stars for the possibility of rings and exposure. Penny Hardaway was kind enough of to offer his services already (Keith Askins jokingly said that he could do it too if Penny could). I’m sure Shaq probably wants back to Miami now too, though he burned some serious bridges on the way out of town not so long ago. Regardless, there will be plenty of good players taking discounts to go to Miami (already Haslem is back at a discount).
-Are the Heat favorites to win the NBA title?
This will depend how good the supporting cast is but certainly they have as good a chance as anyone if they get even average role players and good health from the stars.
-How will sharing the ball affect the stats of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh?
That’s a great great question, since this type of pairing of young stars is so unprecedented. Just for fun, here’s how the some of the other trades.signings of stars affected the usage rates of the stars and the incumbents:
Here, we see how MVP Moses took a huge tumble in shots when he came to Philly but Dr. J ended up giving up even more shots. It worked out pretty well for all involved and Malone was still considered the best player in the NBA and Erving was still very effective.
T-Mac’s move to the Rockets knocked down his stats a little but had no effect on Yao. An interesting footnote is that McGrady’s usage bounced back up to 35% the next two season (same as his Orlando heights) but his PER fell from 30.30 in 2002-03 to 22 range for Houston.
Barkley totally changed his game to blend with the Rockets but remained just as effective a player, focusing on rebounding and even raised his effective field goal percentage slightly in this new arrangement. Hakeem and Drexler were not affected too much statistically by Barkley’s presence. Hakeem lost some shots and boards (though it’s not clear if age was a factor too). Ironically, Drexler was the one who supposedly did not like Barkley but his shots were not reduced by the fact that Sir Charles was in the game.
When the Lakers acquired Payton and Malone, everyone’s stats took a tumble across the board. The ultimate results were positive (the Lakers went 56-26) but you can question whether it made sense to take possessions away from Shaq and Kobe. Payton was a player of limited utility as a role player since scoring was such a big part of his value, while Malone did a pretty nice impressions as role playing forward. Again, however, perhaps a Kurt Thomas/P.J. Brown would’ve done most of the same without taking too many shots from Shaq. The upshot is that scoring has value but in diminishing returns depending personnel. This is why a Kerry Kittles or Charles Oakley can have value, see they can fill roles well without shooting much, in the right context. It’s not that Oakley is actually better than Malone but he can do most of the same things Malone was asked to do without the need for the ball.
As for the 2010-11 Heat, I think we can expect to see the biggest drop in usage from Bosh first and foremost and a slight drop from James and Wade. It’ll be absolutely fascinating to watch how this will work.
Bye Bye Beasley?
He was totally superfluous to the Heat’s plans going forward so the giveaway made sense. This doesn’t mean he’s a total bust but he’s no superstar either. The last time a number two pick in the draft was traded after two years was Marcus Camby, whom the Raptors dumped with prejudice because they considered him soft and a malcontent. Camby thrived thereafter. Hopefully, Beasley can do the same. But Beasley is nothing like Camby looks like another good scoring but not great rebounding forward. Usually good versions of these players end up being Glenn Robinson, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if Beasley can get there.
Does this conclusively mean Pat Riley was correct?
You may be wondering what we’re talking about. We are not referring to Riley’s conclusion that a team of Wade, LeBron and Bosh is a good idea. It is a good idea but we are referring to Riley’s New York years. When Pat Riley bolted New York in 1995, he claimed that he wanted to acquire all sorts of potential stars to move the Knicks over the top (Mitch Richmond, Clyde Drexler, or Dominique Wilkins) but that management squashed the deals. Since coming to Miami, Riley has decisively found stars and hot names in the trade market/free agent market (Alonzo Mourning, Jamal Mashburn, Tim Hardaway, Eddie Jones, Briant Grant, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, Shaquille O’Neal, Antoine Walker, and now LeBron and Bosh). The signings/trades haven’t always worked out for Riley in Miami but I think Knick fans can’t help but think that they would have LeBron right now had Riley been given full control so long ago.