Been a bad start to the year for NBA coaches.
David Blatt could have realized that all he had to do was get out of the way and let LeBron James coach. But I’m pretty sure the clock was running on his tenure in Cleveland the second he was hired.
Jeff Hornacek could have figured out how to turn Archie Goodwin into “Teen Wolf,” or mastered whatever weird magic/religion that fire woman from “Game of Thrones” practices. Not sure either one of those tricks would have turned an injury-ravaged Suns team into a playoff squad.
Somehow, without doing anything close to the above, and racking up a record of 14-35 with a talented but raw roster, Sam Mitchell has managed to keep his job.
And thanks to injuries to Kevin Garnett (wink, wink) and Nikola Pekovic (big shocker), he might actually be forced into doing something right. Mitchell is now playing his best young players, a group that so obviously includes Gorgui Dieng.
After riding the pine all year so Garnett and Tayshaun Prince could log minutes in meaningless games, Dieng finally has the starting slot and minutes (close to 40 per) that he deserves.
He’s responded by averaging 17.6 ppg and 11.3 rpg in those three starts. All Mitchell could do was mutter that he’s “getting a lot better.” No, he’s playing a lot better, because you’re playing him!
Win or lose, the Wolves have to keep running Dieng out there with Karl-Anthony Towns and make it work. Or Sam might go the way of Blatt and Hornacek.
Get Dieng, any way you can, and check out some of these other guys:
Mason Plumlee – We’ve got some blockers out of action, and still others who are simply not blocking. Henceforth, we have a slow week for blockage with no one really standing out. So let’s look at Plumlee, who’s been pretty consistent as both a boarder and a rim protector if you throw out Sunday’s sinker against the T-Wolves. Plumlee gets me thinking … what if they replaced the boring as crap Skills Challenge at the All-Star Game with a Brothers Bash, where NBA bro tandem’s face off in a two-on-two tournament. You’d have Mason and Miles Plumlee; Brook and Robin Lopez; Jerian and Jerami Grant; Pau and Marc Gasol; Markieff and Marcus Morris; Goran and Zoran Dragic; Jrue and Justin Holiday; Paul and Elijah Milsap; Cody and Tyler Zeller. You’d watch that, wouldn’t you? What if we unleashed a lion during the action or something like that?
Alex Len – Despite what I said in my last column, Tyronn Lue taking over for Blatt did help Kevin Love. Could Hornacek (finally) getting canned in Phoenix do the same for Len? It looked like Len was coming on a few weeks ago, then Hornacek decided to play matchups in an effort to, what, pull the 14-35 Suns further out of the lottery? I’m not fan of tanking, but when you’re on a bad team, and you have good young dudes, you play them. Earl Watson was named the interim sheriff in Phoenix.
Amar’e Stoudemire – Speaking of former Suns, STAT has been turning back the clock with Hassan Whiteside on the shelf. He went for 12-8-2 on Friday in Milwaukee and then double-doubled with a 13-12-1 with 2 steals Sunday against the Hawks. Whiteside told the Miami Sun-Sentinel he’ll be out another game or two, and Chris Andersen hasn’t even tested his sore knee. Given that the Heat have actually been playing better without Whiteside, they might not be rushing him back, so I’d hold on to Amar’e for a few more games.
Justise Winslow – The injury domino effect has provided ample minutes for the Heat’s first-round pick, who has been waiting his turn all year. He’s not going to be a double-digit boarder on the regular, but Winslow’s athleticism will have him cleaning the glass by accident. Over his last five, he’s averaging 7.4 rpg.
Myles Turner – We already knew he could block shots (he rejected 4 in Saturday’s win over the Nuggets), but now he’s boarding too, as he pulled down 9 in that game and had 14-10-4 in last night’s tough OT loss to the Cavs.
DeAndre Jordan – Reclaiming his place on the B-N-B throne, with a monster four game run of 19, 19, 17 and 20 boards, the latter of which coming with 17 points in a home win Sunday against the Bulls. The best part is that he’s been hovering around 60 percent from the line lately.
Andre Drummond – Speaking of B-N-B dudes who suck at shooting FTs, Drummond is back to brickin’ just when it seemed like Scooter Barry’s dumb free-throw shooting app was helping his stroke. (Note to self: Never use any piece of technology connected to the Barry family, including a television whenever Jon is on the screen). The worst part is his rebounding has fallen off a bit, as he’s gone for double digits only three times in his last six games, including last night’s haul of 18.
Rudy Gobert – Back to his beastly ways, averaging 13.7 rpg, 12.3 ppg and 2.0 bpg over his last three.
Zaza Pachulia – Returned from injury on Friday and got right back to it, hauling in 12 rebounds against the Nets, then 15 against the Suns on Sunday, and then 13 last night in a loss to the Hawks.