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The Downbeat #1355 -- The "One Team, so many coaches" Edition

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not finished writing / uploading all of my thoughts / media from the NBA Draft combine. It was a fun two days, and day two was filled with remarkably better play, and astoundingly more information. The personalities of the guys who were being interviewed were quite bland compared to last year -- but the overriding idea is that none of the guys who played over the weekend were difference makers.

You could throw a stone at last year's draft class to pick out who was best. Everyone had their warts and no one really shined on all aspects. But there is a clear separation this year -- the best players are the guys who just didn't play, period. I can understand the decision for Andrew Wiggins / Jabari Parker / Joel Embiid not playing. I can kinda understand Marcus Smart and Dante Exum not playing. But when guys like Gary Harris, Aaron Gordon, Adreian Payne, Doug McDermott, and Nik Stauskas do not play it sounds like they think a little too highly of themselves.

Payne didn't play because he had "mono". But he was healthy enough to hang out all day, talk to people (including me), and do interviews. He didn't seem in any ill health at all. He just didn't want to tarnish the idea we had of him from the tournament. Most everyone who didn't play did so for the exact same reason.

As a direct result, the guys who did play had a chance to improve their draft stock, or at the very least, did enough to deserve a draft workout invite. The standouts were Zach LaVine, Isaiah Austin, Roy Devyn Marble, and Glenn Robinson III. Sadly, some guys hurt themselves -- not by playing -- but by playing poorer than expected. Aaron Craft (bubble draft pick), Joe Harris (current 2nd rounder), and Jarnell Stokes (bubble first rounder) were three such examples. But if they were invited to the combine and did not decide to play they just would have been passed over, and forgotten.

There's no one True path to the NBA. But for these hopeful rookies the hard part is just beginning. Teams will conduct workouts and interviews up to the day before the NBA draft, on June 26th. I hope between now and then some of them can develop an actual personality.


Nik: "Do you find boring stuff boring?"

Doug: "Perhaps what I find boring others may find fun in?"

Nik: "Well said."

Doug: "So are you going to shoot today?"

Nik: < looks at phone >

Doug: ...

Every black guy around them: (internally) "Why did I decide to sit here?"



For those of us not fully invested in the draft just yet there's still NBA Basketball this season. The NBA Playoffs have continued on with few surprises in the second round and the final four has the Indiana Pacers hosting the Miami Heat, and the San Antonio Spurs hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder. You may have noticed that these are the top two teams from each conference. CBS's Tony Moss points out that:

The 2014 postseason will mark just the fourth time in the 16-team NBA playoff era (1984-present) that the conference finals round will include all four top seeds, and we at Eye on Basketball love ourselves a historical curiosity.

Never has an "all chalk" conference finals round yielded two No. 1 seeds in the Finals, which is perhaps bad news for you lovers of heavyweight battles, and worrying if you're a Spurs or Pacers fan.

- Tony Moss, May 16, 2014, CBS

Moss also details each time this has happened before:

Going back in the time machine to read about the teams, the series, and the results is worth the click itself. I'm an NBA History nut, so this is a great find. Apparently when this situation has happened in the past the two #1 teams have never both advanced. And for the record, the two #1 teams have faced off in the finals 10 times in the last 30 years -- just never when the top teams are in the finals four. Homecourt helps, but it's not everything.

At this stage of the seasons injuries can shape legacies. Karl Malone got injured at the worst time ever, and he lost another ring as a result. Oklahoma City Thunder pr, players, and front office have to feel a little sad about the fact that Serge Ibaka (grade 2 calf strain) will miss the rest of the playoffs. I honestly don't think that Nick Collison or Steven Adams are ready for Boris Diaw 's jelly. I'm also not so sure the Pacers are ready for a rested Heat team.

We could see yet another year where all four teams in the conference finals are the top 2 in each conference -- where the teams that go to the finals aren't both #1s.



I have gone on the record (I think) in stating that the Utah Jazz may have a new head coach by the time the Vegas Summer League rolls around, and that's not just so the new coach can work with our rookies asap. It's also necessary to have a coach in place when free agency starts on July 1st. After all, knowing who you are going to be playing for is a huge deal -- it's not the same as drafting without a coach. The GM constructs the team, particularly in the draft, but it's a free agent and his people who agree to sign somewhere. And coaching is a huge factor that influences a player's attraction to a team.

As it stands right now coaching is a huge mess, in general; and more specifically, there are so many moving pieces that almost any coach can throw their hat in the ring -- serious or not. The current 24 hour news cycle will write about it and you can get a lot of free reactions to the idea.

In the last few days in Jazzland we've heard about the names of former players like John Stockton, Mark Jackson, and now Earl Watson. We've heard the names of former NBA coaches, never-been NBA coaches (assistants), and some NCAA coaches as well. With the private conversations I've had with members of the Jazz organization at the NBA Draft combine yesterday it appears as though suggesting that "another in-house promotion is out of the question" is a little premature as well. Most fans I've talked to have fallen in love with the mysterious European guys like Messina or Blatt, or both. (Even though Blatt is a U.S. Citizen, somehow we look at him as European.)

If you listen to the radio, or read Moni's amazing transcripts you get a lot of double talk. And while that's happening, the Golden State Warriors have gotten a new coach in Steve Kerr, and the Detroit Pistons have as well, with Stan Van Gundy.

My idea is that the Jazz have an idea of who they want, and he happens to be someone who was still working recently, and thus, did not want to put the full court press on them until their season was over. Or in the worst case scenario, they are still working right now. The "best" case scenario I think is that the Jazz are waiting to see if someone like Brad Vogel gets fired because his team under-performs. I think in their mind the idea of Vogel getting fired could have been real, and thus worth waiting for. Now that the Pacers have reached the East finals again I think the possibility of Larry Bird getting rid of him is much lower than if they flamed out in the second round though. So the plan to wait to see what happens with Frank Vogel before starting your coaching hunt is, well, silly.

If the Jazz were waiting for a team to be finished out of respect before trying to get a coach which other situations apply?

Well, Blatt's Maccabi Tel Aviv just beat Ettore Messina's CSKA Moscow last night. So Messina's team isn't going forward in the Euroleague right now.

But that does not necessarily mean that CSKA's season is over. The Euroleague playoffs is one thing, but they also play for cups as well, like Bowl Games / less crazy tournaments. So . . . if they're waiting on either Blatt or Messina they have some waiting to do still.



But what about Earl Watson tho? I love Earl Watson. I've always felt that he would end up being a head coach one day when his playing days were over. He has intensity, is vocal, and more than that, he is instructive. He has his own academy and has been teaching Kansas City youth how to play the game, but also giving them life advice and help. He also spends some of his off-season in Los Angeles and does work there too. In this regard (having a skills academy and so forth) he's like Jalen Rose with all the work he does in Detroit (love him or hate him, Jalen gets mad props from me for creating a discipline / accountability first magnet high school in a bad part of Detroit that he paid for himself and helps run). Except right now Watson's group is focused on basketball, and not trying to give poor kids access to a school that has a good graduation rate.

Watson was instrumental in getting some of our younger players to gain confidence on the court. And he fought for them when they were too timid to do so for themselves. I don't remember Tyrone Corbin ever yelling out there to protect the guys he would later throw under the bus in a post-game sound bite. ("Why did the Romans crucify Jesus Christ, our Lord?" "You know, just young guys. The Apostles just need to get better.")

But for all of the assumed qualities of Earl (some real, some imagined) there's more to being an NBA Head coach than just being instructive and a good communicator. Love him or loath him, Ty paid his dues. After he was finished with playing his next job was as a player mentor in the NBA-DL. Then he went on to be a player mentor in the NBA. And then he was an assistant coach at the NBA level for almost a decade. Unless you are Bill Russell or Lenny Wilkens I don't love the idea of going from being an NBA player to being an NBA head coach in the span of a few months.

As far as I understand it, Earl hasn't coached on any level before. I'd love for the Jazz to HIRE him this off-season though, if he has hung it up. I'd want him to start off as an assistant coach who is a player mentor. Keep him in the pipeline. That doesn't mean all he does is make sure that the guys aren't partying too hard, it means he gets to learn to be a coach while helping these young guys learn to be NBA players. He'll still get out on the court in practice and grab and hold players on defense and make them tougher. He'll just have to wait a season or two before sitting on the first row of chairs on the bench. He can still yell at the ref from the second row though.

That's where I would want Earl. Not as the guy who will be hung out to dry on his first day. I have strong feelings about this, as someone who was promoted too quickly with too little experience.



For those who were following along the live-tweeting of the NBA Draft Combine, first of all thank you. Second of all, I want to clarify the worry some have of Greg Foster being so involved. Having Greg Foster involved shouldn't be a worry to anyone that he's going to be part of our coaching staff at any point in time. There are usually at least two bigs who are brought in to help with the drills. These drill instructors / coaches are on the floor to fill specific roles. Last year Roy Rogers (you never heard of him, he played for the Vancouver Grizzlies years ago) was one of the drill coaches. But no team added him to their normative roster of coaches.

Wait, crap. Okay, he has worked an assistant coach or scout with a number of teams -- most recently with the Celtics and Nets. And he was a head coach and assistant coach at the NBA-DL level before that. Maybe Roy Rogers was a bad example.

BESIDES Greg Foster the other bigman coach this year was Mark Madsen. Surely HE isn't serious coaching material . . . oh wait, he was an assistant coach in the NBA-DL and now is an assistant coach with the Lakers. Crap.


Crap. Okay, it seems like this is an opportunity for up-and-coming coaches to show off their stuff as well. Which helps explain (among other things) why they have vet coaches drilling the noobs for hours before the players even get to the gym. (Like I saw Scott Layden do in the locked conference room to all the other drill coaches)

You don't get to the NBA Draft combine by accident. Doesn't matter if you are a facility regular, or media guy, or player, or drill instructor -- you worked your way to that point. And Greg Foster being there is a product of his post-playing career efforts to get into coaching. I find it co-incidence though that he was there. Foster did play for the Jazz, and the drills were run by a former Jazz front office exec / former Jazz assistant coach. And yes, there were lots of current Jazz people there too. And yes, another drill instructor was a current Jazz assistant coach. But you can make plenty of crazy things to link anyone to anyone.

Foster played for 10 NBA teams. He is from Oakland. He went to UTEP, and Tim Hardaway was among the people at the combine this year. And he played with Tim at UTEP. And Tim played for the Warriors, who are in Oakland. So, clearly, he's going to be the bigman coach of the Warriors. Right?

Conjecture is fun, but I don't think Foster is on our coaching radar. Even though he did a pretty good job in providing a challenge for the players tested at the combine.

OR he could just stick with his current day job.