Transactions: 11/18-12/8

Golden State Warriors 

11/20    Signed center Chris Hunter 

Hunter is an NBDL call up for the Warriors.  He was a decent role player in college at Michigan but has scored quite well in the NBDL (19 ppg last year).  It’s not clear how good he will be but an active and cheap big man in his mid-20s is always worth as look.  The Don Nelson Warriors are not the ideal place for a big man to break in but it is definitely better than playing in Fort Wayne. 

New Jersey Nets 

11/29    Fired Lawrence Frank and name Kiki Vandeweghe head coach 

I was a bigger Frank fan than most.  There were legitimate questions as to whether Frank was creative offensively but his teams almost usually played hard and were prepared.  He also got about as much out of the talent as one would reasonably expect each season and survived crises pretty well.  Frank did a nice job getting the team to compete during the whole Jason Kidd injury and Alonzo Mourning rebellion in 2004-05, the team-wide malaise in 2006-07, Kidd’s rebellion in 2007-08, and keeping the team in playoff contention with a very little in 2008-09.  The only truly disappointing moment of significance was the Nets’ inability to hang with the Heat in the 2005-06 playoffs, when they were considered pretty equal in talent (the Heat lost Game 1 at home and blew away the Nets in the next four games).  In retrospect, that wasn’t necessarily fair criticism but this was the only year the Frank Nets’ slightly underperformed (they probably should’ve taken the Heat six or seven games before losing). 

Despite all that solid history, it was time to pull the plug Frank.  The Nets were defending and playing hard for Frank this year but they couldn’t score at all and to make him struggle through a season like this as a lame duck (new management was sure to can him and put in their own choice no matter what happened) didn’t make sense.  In the end, Frank is one of the better coaches in Nets’ history and hopefully will get another gig somewhere. 

As for Frank historically, he leaves New Jersey as the Nets’ leader in wins (NBA division) and its longest tenured coach (again NBA division only).  The top three are as follows: 

-Lawrence Frank: 225-241, .483% (Frank was exactly at .500 as Nets coach coming into 2009-10 and the team’s epic struggles).

-Byron Scott: 149-139, .517% (Scott was fired and replaced with Frank because Kidd and others reportedly were not Scott fans.  The firing felt abrupt at the time, coming off of two NBA Finals appearances.  Based upon how poorly the Nets were playing for Scott at the time of the firing it was the right move because, for better or worse, the team did seem to quit on him).

-Kevin Loughery: 129-234, .355% (Add in his ABA years with the Nets, and Loughery is easily the team’s wins leader, as he won at least 55 games in his three years in the ABA, and two titles.  When the Nets came to the NBA, Loughery found himself without Julius Erving and he suffered through four and half years of struggles). 

Oklahoma City Thunder 

11/25    Waived Ryan Bowen

11/26    Signed Mike Wilks 

Without Kevin Ollie, the Thunder turn to undersized Wilks as the back up point.  Wilks can’t defend like Ollie but he’s probably a better offensive player, albeit marginally.  I don’t see much aggregate difference between the two players. 

Philadelphia 76ers 

12/2    Signed Allen Iverson 

We’ve wasted a lot of breath on AI all ready but it is nice to see that his career didn’t end with memories of him going AWOL on Memphis.  Taking away all the hoopla and emotional stories about Iverson, this is a good deal for the Sixers.  Iverson is cheap and an improvement as a scorer for the 76ers backcourt.  The hope is that AI will give Philly some veteran playmaking and scoring like Andre Miller did the last few years.  Iverson isn’t Miller as a playmaker but this is a decent improvement.  Not enough to distinguish Philly from the tons of other fringe playoff squads but he makes things a little more interesting.  

But let’s return now to the hoopla part of this signing.  One can’t help but remember that only three years ago, Philly was so wary of Iverson’s temper that they sent him away from the team before they found a trade partner because they thought he would be too disruptive to go about his business and play until a deal was done.  A lot has happened to AI since that time.  It’s possible that Iverson can now handle not being the alpha dog (Andre Iguodala is clearly the best player on the roster) but another blow up always seems possible with AI. 

Finally, the prodigal son aspect to this story is also compelling.  Can Iverson end his second tenure in Philly more happily than the first?  Not sure but I was wondering how often we’ve seen Hall of Famer return to his place of former glory and attempted to recapture some of that feeling when they he was past his prime.  I ran through the list and only came up with a few: 

Moses Malone:  Moses’ peak either came in Houston in the late 1970s and early 1980s or with the Sixers in the mid-1980s.  Moses was traded to the Bullets in 1986 and bounced around for several season before returning to Philly for the 1993-94 season.  Malone was 38 by then and only a bit player, but was a fairly effective back up center for Philly in 11 mpg.  Moses helped back up and mentor top rookie center Shawn Bradley on an otherwise bad team.  Malone ended up playing a few games in San Antonio the next year before retiring.

Gail Goodrich:  This isn’t quite like the scenario described above but Goodrich started his career with the Lakers as a decent role player before being plucked after two seasons by Phoenix in the 1968 expansion draft.  Goodrich was only in his mid-20s at the time and emerged as a star in Phoenix.  He returned the Lakers in 1970-71 in a trade for Mel Counts.  Goodrich was then 27 and in his peak and continued a nice seven-year run with the Lakers that helped propel him to the Hall of Fame.

Elvin Hayes:   Probably the best remembered prodigal son story is Hayes’.  He came up with the old San Diego Rockets in 1968-69 and was an instant star there for four years (the last of which was in Houston, as the team moved in 1971-72).  Hayes did not really endear himself to management and was sent to the Bullets, where he continued to put up numbers for almost a decade.  When Hayes turned 36, in 1981-82, the Rockets re-acquired him for his golden years.  Hayes could still score a bit but was not a great defender and really shouldn’t have been playing regularly.  The Rockets kept Hayes for three years anyway and he is best remembered during this time for coincidentally geting a lot of playing time in 1982-83 when it seemed that Houston had incentive to lose to earn a shot at top pick Ralph Sampson.  Hayes retired after the 1983-84 season with Houston when he barely played (5 ppg in 12 mpg).

The ABA Guys:    Both Rick Barry and Billy Cunningham jumped over to the ABA in the 1970s, despite their star status in the NBA.  Barry was only 23 when he left the Warriors to go to the ABA.  The NBA hit Barry with litigation that forced him to miss the entire 1967-68 season.  He then spent four years in the ABA before returning to the Warriors in 1972-73 at age 28.  Despite all the acrimony, Barry returned and played great for the Warriors for six years and led the team to a title and regular contention (though he was still detested by some after his return).  Cunningham was a little older (29) when he left the Sixers for the Carolina Cougars in 1972-73.  Cunningham played one good year in the ABA and one injured year.  He returned to the Sixers in 1974-75 and had a good season before suffering a career ending injury the next season and jumping right into coaching with the Sixers.

Return to town:    A few players left town and later returned to town only to a new franchise:  Wilt Chamberlain started out for the Philadelphia Warriors and later returned to the 76ers in 1965.  We all remember how this turned out: the Sixers won the 1966-67 title (which was book ended by two bitter losses to the Celtics in the playoffs) before Wilt forced a trade to the Lakers.  Ed Macauley started out with the St. Louis Bombers in 1949-50 but went to Boston when the Bombers folded.  He later returned to the St. Louis Hawks as part of the Bill Russell trade, playing two more full seasons, including snagging a title his final full season in 1957-58.

Scottie Pippen:  He’s not in the Hall just yet but Pippen did return to the Bulls for his final season in 2003-04, at the time when injuries set in and ended his career (he played only 23 games that final year).

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