Archive for the ‘NBA Finals’ Category

Finally, a sensible NBA GM: Why I love the Pistons
June 13, 2007

I wrote this article for my other blog after I saw Tracy McGrady so down on himself after he lost the series to Utah. The Houston Rockets have made the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years and the #5 seeding they earned and the fact that they took the series to 7 games are both things they should be proud of. There was no sense in that locker room after the game or by the sports media of “well, the outcome was decided over a series of 7 games and it really could have gone either way.” Houston should have appreciated the positives and just continued to improve and give it their all. Instead, they go and fire the coach and will probably trade half the team way. I’m no statistician but I can point to a million examples of teams in recent years that missed the playoffs as a result of a big trade that altered team chemistry. I understand the need to fix a team that’s clearly dysfunctional, but what indications were there that the Houston Rockets were broken and needed to be fixed? They just happened to lose a game in a 7-game series. For the sake of not dismantling your entire franchise and pressing the panic button, can the GMs, fans, and media just acknowledge that sometimes balls bounce certain ways, refs make certain calls and sometimes teams just have an off-night? Besides, what message does this send to kids about persistence and teamwork? If at first you don’t succeed, can the coach?

Van Gundy’s firing pales in comparison to the firings of Brian Hill of the Magic and Rick Carlisle. Hill took the Magic to the playoffs for the first time since McGrady was traded but because the Magic were swept by the Pistons, he was fired. Before firing Hill, the GM should ask the fans in Orlando if they felt a series sweep took away the excitement of making the playoffs for the first time in years and having Dwight Howard voted over Shaq as the All-Star East team’s starting center. Carlisle guided the Pacers to two playoff appearances and even managed to squeak out a series win over Boston despite losing his three best players to suspensions for all or part of the season in the infamous Auburn Hills brawl. The front office makes a humongous trade in January and because they can’t get a new team chemistry together in time for the playoffs that same year, he gets the axe. The front office talked about the need to go in a different direction but Ron Artest, Jamaal Tinsley and Stephen Jackson’s troublemaking ways are hardly Carlisle’s fault.

This is why in the wake of all this, I was rather pleased that Coach Flip Saunders got to keep his job even though some people in the media (not myself, of course) saw the glass as half-empty when the Pistons failed to beat the Cavaliers in the conference finals. Not general manager Joe Dumars. He was quoted in USA Today as saying, “Just because we haven’t gotten to the Finals, it doesn’t mean Flip has done a bad job.” Dumars is also squashing trade rumors for Rasheed Wallace, pointing out that the power foward was the best offensive player for the team in the playoffs. Finally, a GM who has some brains. This is why he’s won a title: because he understands the concept of a team. If you have good guys, you keep them. If you have a coach who’s good, you keep him. It’s really not as hard as it looks, yet most other GMs in the league are too trigger happy to follow Dumars’ model.

This is also a team that has made the conference finals five straight times and being that consistently good deserves merit even if those playoff appearances haven’t always translated into titles

I think the lesson Houston should have taken from their loss, was take it a sign that the team’s doing well and move on and I think that’s really the best lesson you can preach as a role model. Instead, the Houston organization fires the coach and will probably trade half the team away. I have a belief and it’s one that I’m often surprised isn’t so universal as ethical values go. This belief is that I don’t think people should be fired without due cause and I even feel this way about NBA Basketball Coaches even if they get paid millions of dollars. Even if Jeff Van Gundy was rehired by the Magic and he enjoys it there, I don’t believe everything’s ok. He should have had the chance to leave on his own terms.