Because incompetence trickles down from the top, certain coaches in this league have to sweat the season. They are expected to look the other way or they are expected to take a hellish roster and do something with it. It’s a hell of a job when you are asked to cover someone else’s mistakes and at the same time not make excuses. Improving upon last season’s results is the litmus test that a few coaches will be forced to pass this season. But, they won’t be able to, these have-nots. Even as they work their asses off through 82 games hoping injuries don’t befall them or a long losing streak doesn’t sustain bad chemistry, it’s going to be a bad scene or it’s going to be mediocrity dressed up like perfection.
George Karl: It’s destined to be a blood bath in Sacramento. The Kings season opener is against the Clippers. Then they welcome Kobe Bryant and his L.A. following which will turn Sleep Train Arena into purple and gold fan fest with their Mamba chants echoing from the rafters. The Kings then go to L.A. to play the Clippers (this is just the first weekend), then they play Memphis and the Suns, Rockets, Warriors, Spurs.
Immovable object (George Karl) vs. unstoppable force (DeMarcus Cousins) is more than a physics equation. It is the Kings dilemma. Add in a dose of recalcitrant Rajon Rondo and it’s prime time soap opera in the state capitol consumed with water worries. George likes to control his players and Cousins and Rondo like the freedom to create. Something is going to give, particularly with a tough early schedule. Losing is one thing, but losing when the inmates are trying to run the asylum? Good luck, Karl.
Byron Scott: The Showtime reunion of Scott, Mitch Kupchak and Jeanie Buss has gotten off to a rocky start though Scott’s miscues- Kobe’s minutes, Jeremy Lin’s invisibility, Nick Young’s emasculation- netted the Lakers at the top of the lottery.
The Lakers start the season with a soft schedule and the return of a healthy Kobe Bryant in his last season (allegedly). But what will make or break Scott this year is his ability to develop D’angelo Russell into a NBA level point guard sans a bunch of turnovers. Scott did yeoman’s work last year with 47th pick Jordan Clarkson. Now he has to work his same magic with Julius Randle who is a big question mark and by December may be headed north to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins. On the flip side Scott has to figure out a way to remain a hardass and not totally cripple Nick Young or his possible replacement, sharpshooting rookie Anthony Brown. It’s going to be a crazy year for Scott with Bryant on his way out and Russell and Clarkson on their way to…what? Scott did good work with Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. He bombed with Baron Davis. His Lakers future is dependent on his ability to develop young talent.
Billy Donovan: Can he keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City? If he can’t, the Thunder organization will return to the mediocrity that allowed them to draft Durant in the first place. Losing Durant would be a fall from grace on par with the Cavs losing LeBron James. On the bright side, keeping Durant will be easy if the Thunder can win. But a new coach has a learning curve. He is going to make mistakes. (Think David Blatt). There will be games that slip away from him and cost him losses and in the Western Conference that will only ramp up the pressure. It’s easy for a three seed to slip to a sixth seed if they lose three games in a row. Donovan isn’t under pressure to be fired, just to gain and hold the trust of the second best player in the NBA.
Kevin McHale: Since McHale has been the coach of the Rockets he has missed the playoffs, lost in the first round twice, and been obliterated in the Western Conference Finals. No one can accuse the Rockets of being talent poor with James Harden and Dwight Howard, so what gives? Too many three point shots, not enough post touches for Howard, no championship caliber point guard. Ty Lawson is a definite upgrade if he can keep himself out of police cars. More Lawson means the ball is out of Harden’s hands. McHale has yet to pass the Phil Jackson test. Can he teach a talented team to rid their selfish nature for the betterment of the team? He hasn’t so far.
photo via llananba