Monday, May 11, 2015

LeBron throws coach under bus - then throws 21-footer into basket

The Cavaliers would be better off with no coach at all. The same might be true for the Rockets. As for my old Marquette classmate Glenn Rivers (we didn't call him "Doc" back then), he is showing why he is one of the most respected basketball coaches on the planet.

For me, one of the most interesting things about the NBA playoffs is watching the coaches. How do they handle the stress? Are they good punchers and counterpunchers? Can they deal with the egos around them?

Here's some of what I'm seeing ...


He is in so far over his head that he might as well be operating from the bottom of a grave --  which is where his Cavs would be had he not been saved from himself twice in the final 10 seconds of Sunday's victory over the Bulls.

With 9.4 seconds left, Derrick Rose scored on a drive to tie the game for the Bulls. Blatt immediately signaled for a time-out, which is normal procedure -- except that the Cavs had no time-outs remaining. Had the nearest referee seen Blatt's signal, the Cavs would have gotten slapped with a technical foul that very well would have delivered the game to the Bulls. Fortunately for Cleveland, alert assistant coach Tyronn Lue grabbed Blatt and reminded him of the situation before the ref saw the time-out call.

"Yeah," Blatt later admitted, "I almost blew it."

And then he almost blew it again.

LeBron James drove the length of the court for a layup but missed and the ball went out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left. As the refs watched the replay to make sure they were right in awarding the ball to the Cavs, Blatt drew up a play that had the world's best player inbounding the ball to somebody else.

"I told coach there was no way I'm taking the ball out," James said. "The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach, 'Just give me the ball.'"

Matthew Dellavadova threw it in to James, who had worked himself free in the left corner. LeBron caught the pass, rose high over Jimmy Butler and drilled a 21-footer as the horn sounded.

Blatt almost surely will be fired if the Cavs don't win the NBA title. You don't bring in a Ferrari and let Mr. Magoo drive it.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the unlikely event that the Cavs do win the title, though. The guess here is that he'd still be canned, and for good reason. The coach can't lose his head when the game matters most. And when the best player totally and publicly disrespects the coach, the coach has got to go.


The Rockets' coach has turned the Clippers series into a farce with his Hack-a-Jordan strategy.

Did DeAndre Jordan miss 20 of his 34 free throws? Yes. But the Clippers still won by a zillion points because the strategy made McHale have to use his mediocre bench too much, gave injured Clippers point guard Chris Paul ample time to rest and ruined the flow of the game.

McHale said he wanted to "muck up" the game because the Clippers are an athletic, fast-breaking team. But the Rockets like to play with a certain flow, too, one that includes a lot of transition 3-pointers. The mucked-up game ended up hurting them.

The Clippers are 19-2 when teams try the Hack-A-Jordan. The strategy didn't work back in Shaquille O'Neal's day with the Lakers, either.

What the strategy does is make a game un-watchable. I'd be stunned -- and disappointed -- if the rules aren't changed to make it illegal before next season.


Some coaches might have panicked and taken Jordan out of the game when he was missing free throws, especially when the Rockets took an early lead while using the hack strategy.

But Rivers just let the situation take care of itself. For one thing, he knows the strategy almost always eventually fails. For another, he knows Jordan is the league's best interior defender and the Clippers are better with him on the court.

All series long, Rivers' Clippers have been the more physical, more hustling and more prepared team. And hey ... Rivers even gets bonus points for having fathered -- and traded for -- his son Austin, who has come up huge with Paul being banged up.


The Bulls coach always looks as though his dad just told him he can't borrow the car.

I guess I don't blame him for being permanently perturbed.

Despite wringing a fine season out of an injury-prone team, despite coaxing Pau Gasol into his best performance in years, despite helping turn Jimmy Butler into an All-Star, despite his team always playing hard and never giving up, Thibodeau is viewed by many as the guy who is holding the Bulls back from true greatness.

It's widely believed he will be fired unless the Bulls win the championship or at least advance to the Finals.

Maybe it would be best for both sides. Thibodeau certainly will get another job -- Cleveland could do a lot worse. And maybe the Bulls need a new voice in the locker room because NBA players do tend to tune out the coach after awhile.

Still, it's hard to say the scenario has been fair to Thibodeau, who repeatedly has overcome major obstacles to keep the Bulls in contention. And it's hard to envision the Bulls hiring anybody better.

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