Steve Kerr Becomes 1st NBA Coach to Start Career with 19-2 Record

The Golden State Warriors won a 14th consecutive game Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, making Steve Kerr the first head coach in NBA history to begin his career with a 19-2 record, per the team’s official Twitter account.

He broke a tie at 18-2 with Al Cervi, who served as a player-coach for the 1949 Syracuse Nationals, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

Hired to replace current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, the 49-year-old Kerr had previously been working as an analyst for TNT, the NBA’s other major national broadcasting partner.

Kerr inherited a team that went 51-31 during the 2013-14 regular season before losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games in the opening round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

While few first-time coaches have the benefit of inheriting such a talented roster, Kerr deserves his fair share of credit for Golden State’s incredible run.

The Warriors are off to their best start in franchise history and are only the 16th team ever to begin a season 19-2, per NBA.com. The ongoing 14-game winning streak is also a franchise record, eclipsing an 11-game streak from the 1971-72 season, per Basketball-Reference.com.

In addition to owning the NBA’s best record, Golden State owns a dominant plus-11.2 point differential, while no other team is better than plus-8.0.

Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Kerr’s take on the historic start was rather understated, with the coach simply saying, “It means I’m the luckiest coach in NBA history because I inherited a really good team.”

Not that Kerr is entirely incorrect, but there are plenty of NBA teams with similarly talented rosters—the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers come to mind—and only the Warriors boast a 19-2 record.

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Warriors Give Steve Kerr Best Start in History and Other Wednesday NBA Takeaways

Steve Kerr is officially off to the hottest start of any first-year head coach in NBA history. To accomplish that eye-opening feat, he had to lead his short-handed Golden State Warriors to a chaotic, occasionally messy, eventually inspiring 105-93 win over the Houston Rockets.

The Dubs went into battle without Andrew Bogut, whose right-knee tendinitis cost him his first game of the season. Anyone who had watched Bogut anchor Golden State on both ends this season knew going in that his absence would be a crucial one—especially against a Rockets club that hadn’t missed a beat without its own star center in the lineup.

Houston took advantage of the Warriors early, pounding the ball in to Donatas Motiejunas and daring backup Festus Ezeli to catch the ball (always a challenge for him) on the offensive end. When Ezeli proved incapable of handling duties as a relief valve for the perpetually double-teamed Stephen Curry, Kerr went with scoring stud Marreese Speights at the 5.

Speights finished with 15 points in 20 minutes, but his inability to pose even a minimal threat as a defender crippled Golden State’s stopping power.

How bad was it? Bad enough that Kerr yanked Speights with nine minutes left in the game in favor of Draymond Green—generously listed at 6’7″ and undersized at the power forward spot—at center.

Though it didn’t look promising initially, Kerr’s bold substitution proved to be the difference in the game.

Motiejunas bulled his way into the lane and drew a foul on the very first possession of Kerr’s semi-desperate, semi-inspired experiment.

From that point on, though, Golden State switched, ran, hustled and shot its way to a 25-16 closing run.

Green banged with Motiejunas, poking away entry passes twice as the rest of the undersized, yet rangy, Dubs hit the boards in gang fashion. Curry took the ball right at Patrick Beverley, and the team collectively pushed the tempo, attacking the Rockets’ interior with renewed aggression, as if finally remembering that Houston, too, was without its defensive star in the middle.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle provided a scoring comparison for the teams:

Harrison Barnes was dynamite throughout, hitting open threes, rebounding outside of his area and finishing inside with a flurry of two-handed slams. He put up 20 points on just nine shots.

Curry worked hard for his 20 points, and Klay Thompson chipped in with 21 of his own.

James Harden was masterful, bolstering his MVP case with 34 points, despite contending with whichever stout defensive wing (Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Barnes, even Green) was freshest. He took on all comers, falling short in a valiant effort.

This was the Warriors’ biggest test of the season, and they were resilient, resourceful and hungry enough to pass it. Kerr, now 19-2 as an NBA head coach, made the critical move that swung the game, but he also deserves broader credit for laying the groundwork, inspiring the confidence and trusting the talent that has brought the Warriors to this point.

And speaking of Kerr’s exceptional start as the head coach, according to GSW Stats, he’s already rewriting the history books:

He’s exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations, though he’ll always be the first to credit his top-notch staff and divert praise toward his players, as echoed in his comments (via ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne):

From here on, Golden State’s biggest foe will be the historically great teams from the past. On the strength of 14 straight wins, they’ve clearly separated themselves from their 2014-15 contemporaries. Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group shows, through stats, just how impressive Golden State has been:

Kerr, now a history-maker himself, is proving he’s just the guy to lead them.

 

Around the Association

Miller to Beal Seals the Deal

We were all set to highlight the goofy battle between Elfrid Payton and Nene from this game, featuring the quirky, promising rookie faking out the Washington Wizards big man for a bucket on one play and the tables turning abruptly in their next encounter.

But then Bradley Beal had to go and win the game on a slick backdoor lob at the buzzer.

Washington took the contest by a final of 91-89—thanks to Beal’s feathery finish and, not to be forgotten, Andre Miller’s predictably pinpoint find.

 

Somebody Up There Likes Blake Griffin

After rimming in a game-winning three against the Phoenix Suns on Monday, Blake Griffin’s very next shot (his first field-goal attempt Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers) got a similarly favorable carom.

Perhaps in an effort to keep things from getting too obvious, whatever divine force had been intervening in Griffin’s shots of late caused the Los Angeles Clippers forward to air-ball four of his subsequent attempts on the night.

No matter; Griffin finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds as L.A. prevailed 103-96 against a Pacers squad that got horrible production from its starters and oddly competent play from its bench—C.J. Miles led all scorers with 30 points.

Chris Paul had 17 points and 15 assists, and DeAndre Jordan joined the double-double club with 12 points and 19 boards.

As for the supernatural force aiding Griffin’s shots…the Clips may not need it for a couple of weeks. Five of their next six games come against a soft slate of foes from the East.

 

Al Jefferson Ain’t Got Time for Tomfoolery

Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson swapped technical fouls and elbows as the Boston Celtics fell 96-87 to the Charlotte Hornets. Rondo finished with his second triple-double in the last three games, but Stephenson’s Hornets won the game.

Call it a draw, I guess—even though Rondo’s not sold on Stephenson’s reaction to his forearm shiver, as he pointed out (via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe):

And while those two covered the jawing and unseemly extracurriculars, Al Jefferson popped his blue collar and went to work in the post, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted:

Big Al finished with 23 points and 14 boards, dominating the game where it mattered as distracting chippiness whirled around him. His performance was exactly what a struggling Hornets team needed Wednesday, and it’ll continue to be critical as they try to overcome a horrendous start to the season.

Winners of two straight, Charlotte gets the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

 

Meaningful Streaks Trump Meaningless Stats

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 95-79 for their eighth win in a row, Atlanta’s longest victorious streak in 17 years.

Michael Carter-Williams, whose gaudy counting stats grow emptier by the day, flirted with a quadruple-double. He finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and nine turnovers. In some ways, that’s amazing. In others, it’s just sad.

The Sixers play fast and foist a ridiculous amount of responsibility on Carter-Williams, whose usage rate ranks in the league’s top 10, per Basketball-Reference.com. Hopefully, MCW’s growth isn’t suffering as a result.

 

Monta Ellis Doesn’t Stay Down Long

After scoring just two points on 1-of-11 shooting in a 114-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Monta Ellis bounced right back with 13 straight fourth-quarter points to give his Dallas Mavericks a 112-107 win over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

Anthony Davis went off for 31 points and 11 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday contributed 30 points and 10 assists for the Pellies. But the Mavs had four scorers crack the 20-point barrier, led by Ellis’ 26.

In the brutal West, facing a nonstop string of formidable opponents, it helps to have a short memory…or no conscience.

Ellis checks both boxes, and Wednesday’s performance shows why the Mavs have no problem with that.

 

It’s Not a Good Time to Be a New Yorker

Cory Jefferson isn’t the problem. The Brooklyn Nets are old, slow, full of bloated contracts and, after losing 105-80 to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 8-12 in the comically weak Eastern Conference.

And so, when Jefferson fired a 24-footer that traveled roughly half the necessary distance to the hoop, we got our “Nets season in a nutshell” moment.

Elsewhere, the New York Knicks dropped a 109-95 decision to a San Antonio Spurs team playing without Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard.

The Knicks didn’t have Carmelo Anthony because of a sore knee, but with the way New York is playing, it’s hard to argue his presence would have been enough to change the result. That’s 10 straight L’s for the Knicks, by the way.

They’re 4-20.

So, the message for the Nets is this: Could be worse, fellas.

 

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Dennis Rodman Doesn’t Believe Steve Kerr’s Coaching Deserves Praise Just Yet

The Golden State Warriors are currently the best team in the NBA, but former basketball star Dennis Rodman doesn’t believe that first-year Warriors coach Steve Kerr deserves credit for the team’s success quite yet.

Golden State is 18-2 on the season thanks to its current 13-game winning streak. That’s a pretty impressive record for any coach to have through the first 20 games of his coaching career, but Rodman—Kerr’s former Chicago Bulls teammate—is a little skeptical about how much of an impact the rookie coach has had on his team.

Here’s what Rodman had to say about Kerr’s coaching thus far, via Jim Park of Sheridan Hoops:

It doesn’t look like Rodman is too impressed with Kerr early on.

Of course, Rodman could just be looking at the squad Kerr inherited. The Warriors made the playoffs the past two seasons under former coach Mark Jackson, winning 51 games last season. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the roster, some might say that Kerr walked into a great situation.

Although Rodman had some strong criticism of his former teammate, there does not appear to be any beef between the two. 

Maybe Kerr’s coaching abilities will win Rodman over someday.

[h/t Warriors World]

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Steve Kerr inherited a lot, but already has improved Warriors

It is easy to look at the Warriors roster and just say “Splash Brothers.”
The duo single handedly saved Golden State from a poor effort Tuesday when Curry drained three 3-pointers including the game-winner against the Magic. That is the, ahem, magic this duo can provide. They are never out of the game so long as Curry or Klay Thompson can get up a shot.
That is not what is going to win a championship though.
Mark Jackson knew that when he turned this seemingly offense-first team into a tough defensive team. Jackson’s final Warriors team, eliminated in the first round mind you, had the third best defensive rating in the league at 99.9 points per 100 possessions. He was fired for failing to spark the team’s offense — a middling 105.3 points per 100 possessions which is fine except for the fact the Splash Brothers are supposed to make everything OK.

Steve Kerr is building off everything built by Mark Jackson. Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Kerr inherited a lot. So…

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Lakers Reportedly Awarded $4.85 Million Disabled Player Exception for Steve Nash

The Los Angeles Lakers lost veteran Steve Nash for the season due to a back injury, but they are reportedly set to receive some compensation due to the disabled player exception.    

Brian Windhorst of ESPN initially passed along the news:

Nash has played in just 65 games over the last two seasons with the Lakers. The former Phoenix Suns star holds averages of 11.4 points and 6.4 assists per game during that span.

Back in October, the Lakers made the news of his injury official along with quotes from Nash and general manager Mitch Kupchak:

The Lakers have been ravaged by injuries this season, including the recent loss of Xavier Henry for the season due to a ruptured Achilles, per ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, as well as the loss of promising rookie Julius Randle to a broken leg. Receiving the return on Nash should help lessen some of the blow from another down season.

Jeremy Lin (12.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) has stepped up in place of Nash, but the team is still 3-11 entering Tuesday night and well outside of the playoff chase. Getting value back for Nash’s injury allows the team a chance to help bolster the roster in the future.

 

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Blazers’ Steve Blake Crosses over Celtics’ Evan Turner, Drains Jumper

The game is already over, but the Boston Celtics’ Evan Turner is still wondering where Portland Trail Blazers guard Steve Blake went on this play.

In the final minute of the third quarter of Portland’s 94-88 road win, Blake lost Turner with a nasty crossover and then drained a jumper to finish off the play. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Blake dropped 11 points and five assists off the bench.

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Steve Fisher agrees to new deal

The 69-year-old coach just started his 16th season with the Aztecs.

      
 

 

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Steve Fisher, San Diego State Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Analysis

San Diego State men’s basketball coach Steve Fisher has molded the Aztecs into a perennial NCAA-tournament team, and he will have the opportunity to build upon that foundation in the coming years.

According to ESPN Insider’s Jeff Goodman, the 69-year-old former Naismith College Coach of the Year will ink a three-year contract extension to remain at San Diego State:

Fisher has been the head man at SDSU since the 1999-2000 season, and he has compiled an impressive 314-176 record. The Aztecs have qualified for the NCAA tournament in five consecutive seasons, including a run to the Sweet 16 last year.

Per FoxSports.com, via Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press, Fisher has even bigger aspirations in 2014-15:

Ultimately that’s what we aspire to. We want to win a national championship. You can’t do that if you don’t get to the Final Four. It used to be laughable for people. Now they’re laughing with joy, saying, ‘It’s going to happen.’ Many of them don’t realize how hard it is just to get into the tournament, much less win a game, much less get past the Sweet 16. We want to do something we haven’t done, which is get beyond the Sweet 16, which gets you one step closer. Ultimately we want to win a national championship. East to say. Very, very hard to do.

After news of the extension first broke, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports was among those who celebrated the decision:

Fisher has long been one of college basketball’s elite coaches, dating back to his time with the Michigan Wolverines. He led Big Blue to a national title at the conclusion of the 1988-89 season and reached the championship game in both 1991-92 and 1992-93 as well.

While Fisher hasn’t quite gotten San Diego State to that level yet, the class of the Mountain West Conference is seemingly getting closer with each passing year.

Fisher has been integral to San Diego State’s ascent, and securing him for three more years was undoubtedly a great move on the school’s part.

 

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Rumblings on J.R. Smith and Steve Nash

There will be a time later in the 2014-15 NBA season when the hot stove is on full blast and cooking up juicy rumors left and right.

In mid-November, it is simply simmering, with the occasional rumor popping up as something of an appetizer before things eventually get serious. Some of that early trade buzz recently surrounded J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks and Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers.

With that in mind, read on to see the latest from around the Association.

 

J.R. Smith

Marc Berman of the New York Post passed along an update regarding Smith and his early-season adjustments with the Knicks:

J.R. Smith, who scored 19 points, in particular, has seemed uncomfortable in the offense. Smith, who could have gained some redemption by hitting the final shot in Wednesday’s loss, is a big trade candidate and the Pacers have some interest.

Smith can opt out of his contract after the season, but he still could opt in, costing the Knicks cap space. They believe there is a strong market for Smith and aren’t looking to just dump him for an expiring contract, according to a league source. 

This is not the first time the Indiana Pacers have been connected to Smith this season, but Bob Kravitz of WTHR TV shot down the notion that Chris Copeland would be the player Indiana sent back in a potential swap:

Indiana could certainly use a scorer considering it is 29th in the league in points per game at 91.7 and still reeling on the offensive side without a healthy Paul George, George Hill or Rodney Stuckey. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Lance Stephenson is currently lacing it up for the Charlotte Hornets.

In the last eight years, the lowest per-game scoring total Smith posted for an entire season was 12.3 in 2010-11 and 2007-08, and he scored 18.1 points per game in 2012-13. The Pacers could use some of that scoring early this season.

The other note of interest in that rumor is the Knicks’ belief that they can get something of value back for Smith rather than just getting rid of his salary. Smith is only shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three-point range in the early going and is scoring 9.6 points a game.

The best hope from the Knicks is that the rest of the league assumes Smith is struggling to grasp the triangle offense and would be better off elsewhere.

Even if that were the case, it may take some time before Smith is actually moved if these comments from Knicks president Phil Jackson are any indication, via Berman in a separate piece: “This is going to happen, all part of the process. We think in terms of basketball-wise, Thanksgiving, December, it’s time to really say, ‘If you haven’t gotten [the triangle] by now, maybe we’ll have to think of you as a learner or not a learner as a ballplayer at that time.” 

It is certainly wise for the Knicks to show some patience as Jackson and coach Derek Fisher institute a brand new system for a team that struggled mightily a season ago. However, if Smith continues to shoot a poor percentage from the field and doesn’t really find a role in this offense, he will likely be on the trade market by the holiday season.

 

Steve Nash

Marc Stein of ESPN.com updated fans on the status of injured point guard Nash:

With respect to injured guard Steve Nash, meanwhile, sources say that the Lakers are still evaluating their options.

As ESPN.com reported last month when Nash was ruled out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring nerve issues with his back, Lakers officials are planning to explore the trade market for potential deals between now and the February trade deadline with Nash’s $9.7 million expiring contract.

It is difficult to see one of the greatest players of his generation and a former league MVP reduced to an injured salary-dump chip in a potential trade, but that is the reality for the Lakers and Nash at this point.

From Los Angeles’ perspective, if it can get anything at all in return for Nash, it should pull the trigger. 

The Lakers are not competing for anything this season except for better draft position (if their pick in the upcoming draft is in the top five, they get to keep it), but they need to keep an eye on the future. What’s more, Los Angeles needs some depth across the entire positional board, so lumping Nash’s salary in any trade that could land something back seems ideal.

Los Angeles simply needs bodies at this point with Nash and Julius Randle out for the season and Nick Young and Ryan Kelly dealing with temporary ailments. If the Lakers can get that in any deal involving Nash, they should not hesitate to make the move.

 

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart and Steve Nash

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the two cornerstones of the NBA in terms of historical success and championships. 

However, they have both fallen on hard times in the 2014-15 season and are more interesting when they pop up in trade rumors than when they actually take the court.

With that in mind, here is a look at some trade whispers surrounding two point guards from the historic franchises, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash.

 

Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald provided an update on Rondo and Smart, courtesy of a league scout:

One league scout also buys into the theory that Smart — once he returns from his ankle injury — won’t fully develop as long as he plays behind Rondo.

“I think they’ve got to get rid of Rondo because they drafted a good, young point guard,” the scout said. “Marcus Smart is a franchise-type point guard or can be, I think, who needs to play to be good. He’s fast and he defends. And you don’t say that about rookies.”

This quote from the anonymous scout is certainly interesting considering Rondo is an established star in this league and Marcus Smart is an unproven rookie. On the surface, it may not make a ton of sense if Boston wants to compete for a playoff spot this year.

However, Rondo will turn 29 this season, and the Boston Celtics are nowhere near contending for a title with the way the roster is currently constructed.

Rondo would certainly bring back more young assets or draft picks than any other player Boston could offer in a trade, which is critical at this rebuilding stage. A young core of Smart, Jared Sullinger and James Young would at least be a start, and the Celtics would bring in a couple more pieces in a hypothetical Rondo trade.

What’s more, it would fully open up the point guard duties for Smart, who was already playing defense at an impressive level before he injured his ankle. He is averaging 1.2 steals a night and is third on the team in his five games in defensive box plus/minus (0.3), according to Basketball-Reference.com

If the Celtics do trade Rondo, they could better assess what they have in the young point guard moving forward.

 

Steve Nash

Marc Stein of ESPN.com passed along the latest on Steve Nash and the thinking from the Lakers regarding the injured point guard:

With respect to injured guard Steve Nash, meanwhile, sources say that the Lakers are still evaluating their options.

As ESPN.com reported last month when Nash was ruled out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring nerve issues with his back, Lakers officials are planning to explore the trade market for potential deals between now and the February trade deadline with Nash’s $9.7 million expiring contract.

It is important to note that Stein offered this update from the previous report because the Los Angeles Lakers were granted a disabled player exception by the NBA on Monday in light of Julius Randle’s season-ending injury.

Los Angeles can use that exception to bring in a free agent, provided he is worth up to $1,498,680 (50 percent of Randle’s rookie salary) or trade for a player in the last year of an expiring contract making $1,598,680 (trades allow an extra $100,000 with exceptions).

It’s not like the Lakers would land some impressive asset who would accelerate the rebuilding process if they traded Nash, but Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders added some context to the possibility of moving Nash:

Given the Lakers’ need for contributors all around the court – specifically in the backcourt – the idea that Los Angeles could potentially look to lump his contract into a deal isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. While there are no reports of any such negotiations currently, it wouldn’t surprise us to hear about the Lakers and Suns at least discussing the chances of a Nash return to the Valley of the Sun so that he can retire with the organization he played the bulk of his Hall of Fame career with. 

That would work for both sides.

 

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