What Would Make Michael Carter-Williams’ Sophomore Season a Success?

Michael Carter-WilliamsNBA debut was among the league’s hardest seasons to grade.

On the one hand, his versatility and overstuffed stat sheets helped the Philadelphia 76ers point guard take home Rookie of the Year honors. On the other, his numbers weren’t all that efficient and could not have made the biggest impact given that his team went 19-63.

The jury remains out on the 22-year-old, and his sophomore season won’t likely deliver a verdict. Still, there are signs that Sixers fans should be watching for to see how bright—and how closethe future is for this pivotal piece of their lengthy rebuild.


Shooting With More Consistency

Carter-Williams entered the league with a number of holes in his game, though no hole was greater than his lack of a reliable touch away from the basket.

In a 2013 scouting report, NBADraft.net’s Elliot Adamczyk started the on-court portion of Carter-Williams’ weaknesses by pointing to his “inconsistent outside shooting.” Had that report been written this year instead of last, it still would likely feature the same takeoff point.

For everything he did well as a rookie—he joined Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only NBA rookies to ever average at least 16 points, six rebounds and six assists—shooting was a constant struggle. And that’s putting it lightly. ESPN.com’s Ethan Strauss shared his thoughts on Carter-Williams:

His problems were most glaring on the perimeter, where he fired at will but rarely found his target. Of the 115 players who attempted at least 200 threes last season, Carter-Williams tied with Detroit Pistons bricklayer Josh Smith for 114th with a 26.4 percent success rate.

Given the league’s increasing reliance on the long ball, Carter-Williams’ three-point problems could set his ceiling uncomfortably low if they are never solved. Spacing is critical to offensive success—eight of the league’s top 10 three-point shooting teams last season had top-half offensive efficiency rankings—and Carter-Williams could have trouble maximizing his strengths without it.

Long, quick and explosive off the bounce, he got to the rim at will last season. His 696 drives were the sixth-most in the league, per NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data, and his 70 games played were the third-fewest among the category’s top 15 players.

While getting to the basket wasn’t a problem, finishing there absolutely was, as shown in his shot chart below, courtesy of NBA.com.

Between his shooting woes and the lack of scoring help around him, Carter-Williams often found himself going head-first into overcrowded lanes. Defenses will continue packing the paint until he forces them out of there, and the congestion has already hurt his production.

It’s telling that all of those drives only netted him 407 points, 10th-most in the league. It’s even more ominous that he had just a 37.7 percent conversion rate on his drives, the second-lowest of the 35 players with 400-plus drives.

His shooting percentages need to see dramatic improvement, and he knows it.

“I don’t have a specific number,” he said, per CSNPhilly.com’s John Gonzalez, when asked if he was eyeing a particular three-point percentage this year. “I know I want to shoot significantly better than I did last year.”

It’s hard to say how much he can improve his perimeter shot. He hit just 30.7 percent of his threes during his two years at Syracuse, and any work he planned to put in this summer became more difficult after he underwent surgery on his right shoulder in May.

He still hasn’t completely healed from the procedure, and head coach Brett Brown cautioned that the Sixers “still don’t know” when Carter-Williams will be able to return, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Whenever Carter-Williams can get back to work, he’ll have more than just his shooting to improve.


Trimming His Turnovers

Part of the challenge in evaluating Carter-Williams is that it’s difficult figuring out how much to trust his production.

His stat sheet was, without a doubt, inflated by his situation. Not only were the loss-column-embracing Sixers OK enough with his mistakes to give him 34.5 minutes a night, but their break-neck pace (league-high 101.6 possessions per 48 minutes) also enhanced his volume.

However, this is a two-way street. You cannot devalue his points (16.7), assists (6.3) and rebounds (6.2) without also acknowledging the negative side of the inflation: 3.5 turnovers per game, fourth-highest among qualified point guards.

Different factors contributed to that number, not the least of which was a woefully undermanned supporting cast. Still, that doesn’t completely get him off the hook.

A lot of his turnover woes can be chalked up to poor decision-making, as Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal noted:

In order to improve as a sophomore, Carter-Williams has to cut back on the bad-pass turnovers. 

He recorded 144 as a rookie 1-guard, and that’s far too high a number for a player with only 70 games under his belt. Only seven players recorded more per game, and each of them generated more points off assists, making the biggest problem on this young floor general’s resume quite obvious.

Carter-Williams’ 1.79 assist-to-turnover ratio slotted him right between scoring guards Joe Johnson (1.80) and Monta Ellis (1.78) for 67th out of 96 qualified players. That’s not exactly what one would expect from a player labeled “a pure, pass-first point guard,” as Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman called Carter-Williams in March 2013.

It’s also not what Sixers fans would like to see considering how heavy an offensive load Carter-Williams is likely to carry throughout this rebuild. The franchise has started assembling other pieces around him—lottery picks Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric—but Carter-Williams remains the most important offensive catalyst.

“As Carter-Williams starts to craft his professional image over the next four seasons, it’ll be those players’ chemistry with him that dictates how successful this new generation of Sixers ultimately is,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Alec Nathan.

The Sixers will probably always need Carter-Williams’ scoring, which only makes his job as a table-setter more challenging. He needs to understand when to attack and when to defer, when to force the issue and when to stay patient.

It all comes back to decision-making, to reading a defense and reacting properly.

That’s still a work in progress, as is his biggest test as a floor general.


Embracing Leadership Role

As bad as the Sixers were last season—63 losses, lowlighted by a historically futile 26-game losing streak—this year’s group could be even worse.

“The likelihood of this team being better than last year’s 19-win outfit seems slim—especially when its biggest addition (Joel Embiid, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft) could miss most, if not all, of the upcoming campaign,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin, who predicted a 16-66 record for Philly.

With storm clouds still swirling above the Sixers, someone will need to keep this team focused on the horizon. And that someone really needs to be Carter-Williams, who says he’s up for the task.

“I think regardless who is on the team, I have to be a leader out there, give direction to the new guys and really bring the team together,” he said, per Tom Moore of The Intelligencer (via Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff).

This roster is littered with new faces, a lot of which have little or no NBA experience. In most places, that description would probably fit Carter-Williams as well, but Philly is not most places.

The Sixers have a lot of players who are either unproven or proven for the wrong reasons. Carter-Williams, though, has some major numbers and that shiny individual award to his name. And with those accolades comes a new batch of expectations.

“While Carter-Williams isn’t expected to turn into the next Chris Paul over a single summer,” wrote Philly.com’s Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “he will be expected to take that next step towards superstardom this season.”

Ceilings can rise quickly in the NBA, and fans will want to see him raise his now that he has captured the same award that point guards such as Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving won before him.

All four of those All-Stars added something to their games during their sophomore seasons.

Paul increased both his scoring (17.3, up from 16.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (from 3.39 to 3.56). Rose added nearly three points to his player efficiency rating (16.0 to 18.6). Irving made sizable jumps in points (18.5 to 22.5) and win shares (4.1 to 5.3). Lillard lifted his offensive rating (116 from 108) and dropped his defensive rating (110 from 112).

Every one of them progressed, but more importantly, they cemented themselves as central figures of their respective franchises. They led by example and bettered their teams by bettering themselves.

That is the blueprint for Carter-Williams to follow.

His challenge isn’t to replicate last season’s performance. It’s making this one even better, as he shared in a recent tweet:

That involves on-court items such as improving his stroke, getting smarter with his shot selection and making better decisions with the basketball.

But what would ultimately make his sophomore effort a success is bigger than that. It’s growth in all areas: as a player, as a leader and as a person.

The Sixers don’t measure success like most of the basketball world, but this metric is universal.

All teams can ask for is that their players get better from one year to the next. Now that Carter-Williams has a bar set for himself, grading his performance should be a lot easier this time around.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Renewed Cleveland Cavs, Washington Wizards Rivalry Would Be Good for NBA

The obituary for NBA rivalries has been written for a while now, but the revamped Cleveland Cavaliers and rising Washington Wizards have given them a pulse again.

Playoff adversaries for three consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2008, the Cavs and Wizards stand poised to renew their rivalry in the 2014-15 campaign. At least they would be if they were willing to wait that long.

Judging by the verbal barbs thrown back and forth already, they are not.

Third-year Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal fired the first shot without even knowing he was armed.

“We’re definitely the best backcourt in the league,” Beal said of he and teammate John Wall to reporters at the team’s media day.

Considering the types of claims made at these sessions—when, as Grantland’s Andrew Sharp put it, “everyone’s either gained or lost 15 pounds, at least 45 different players added some post moves over the summer, and everybody’s in a good mood”Beal‘s comment seemed like par for the course.

But, in the best rivalries, nothing is as ever as simple as it seems. This was no exception to the rule.

Once Beal‘s words traveled back to Cavs guard Dion Waiters, the Syracuse product added some fuel to the old fire.

“That’s nonsense,” Waiters told reporters after practice. “(Beal is) supposed to say that, but I know deep down, he’s not messing with me and Ky (Kyrie Irving). I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt.”

Further stoking the flames, Wall was next to chime in with a response to Waiters’ rebuttal.

“Why he (Waiters) think that?” Wall said, per TruthAboutIt.net’s Adam McGinnis. “They haven’t seen a playoff game yet so when they make one, they can start talking.”

Waiters, apparently realizing that a war through the media is so outdated, took to Twitter for his next rejoinder:

The verbal beef came back around to Beal on Wednesday, who had the following exchange during an appearance on ESPN 980′s Inside the Locker Room (h/t Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post):

‘So you and Dion Waiters, you guys gonna be hanging out any time soon?’ Scott Jackson asked. ‘What’s the story there?’

‘Shots fired,’ Beal replied.

‘What do you think?’ Jackson asked.

‘I’m just gonna say November 21, man,’ Beal replied.

‘Are you guys trying to sell tickets, or what are you doing?’ Jackson asked. ‘It’s great. It’s like WWE almost.’

‘We’re trying to amp it up a little bit,’ Beal said. ‘Pay-per-view game, hopefully.’

Pay-per-view? Doesn’t that seem like a little too much for a rift over a backcourt crown that really doesn’t belong to either team?

Well, no, actually. Not when you consider the history between these clubs.

While ultimately one-sided—the Cavs took each of the aforementioned series by a combined record of 12-4—those meetings still provided what fans expect out of a great sports rivalry.

The star power was impressive on both sides of the coin.

LeBron James, just 21 years old when the postseason clashes started, shredded the Wizards to the tune of 31.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists over the 16 games. Three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas tallied 34.0 points (on .464/.435/.771 shooting), 5.5 boards and 5.3 dimes in the 2006 series, but a torn meniscus held him out of the next one, and lingering knee problems made him ineffective for the final meeting.

Although the Wizards could never knock off the Cavaliers, when they were at (or near) full strength, they had a way of giving Cleveland problems. The Wizards put up 1,163 points over the 2006 and 2008 series, only 19 fewer than the Cavaliers (1,182).

The games were exciting—and often incredibly chippy.

There were hard playoff fouls and copious amounts of trash talk. Ex-Wizards wing DeShawn Stevenson thought it would be a good idea to call James “overrated,” per Michael Lee of The Washington Post, and the Washington faithful later serenaded the King with Stevenson’s word.

The rivalry even had things fans never knew they needed—or wanted—in a spirited sports clash.

Rapper Jay-Z dropped a diss record of Stevenson in support of James (warning: NSFW). There was an ill-fated marketing ploy that stemmed from then-Wizards center Brendan Haywood, who now calls Cleveland his NBA home, mocking James for claiming the Wizards wanted to “hurt Lebron James in this series.”

Bad blood drenched the two teams like champagne inside a champions’ locker room.

It looks like it’s brewing once again.

Both teams seem stronger on paper now than they did back then.

The Cavaliers, bolstered by the offseason arrivals of James, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, could have a historically explosive offense. Cleveland averaged 48 wins in the seasons leading up to its playoff matchups with Washington. This team, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver, is projected for 65 victories.

The Wizards aren’t quite on the same level. Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin has them down for 50 wins, which would be a six-game improvement from last season.

However, Washington could make a steeper climb if Wall and Beal take another substantial step forward. Both are coming off career seasons, and neither has celebrated their 25th birthdays (Wall will next September, Beal‘s isn’t until June 2018).

The pair combined for 36.4 points and 12.1 assists in 2013-14, numbers suggesting that both have plenty of upward mobility left.

The explosive backcourt is also joined by one of the league’s more intimidating interior tandems in Nene and Marcin Gortat. Washington’s bigs both have the scoring touch needed to carry an offense in spurts, which could come in handy against a Cleveland frontcourt that appears short on rim protection.

The Wizards lost two-way swingman Trevor Ariza over the offseason, but veteran Paul Pierce arrived shortly thereafter to take his place. Pierce’s championship experience could be a vital asset for the youthful Wizards, but it’s his history with James that adds another level of intrigue to this rekindled rivalry.

Pierce and James have had some legendary postseason battles, to the point that James’ old running mate Dwyane Wade dubbed Pierce “the closest thing to a rival, if LeBron has one,” in 2012, per ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst.

While Washington could never match Cleveland’s top-level talent before—and still can’t now—the Wizards used their toughness, tenacity and heart to keep competitive with the Cavs.

If Washington has a chance to recapture that same passion, Pierce might be the best guy to bring it out of his new teammates.

“I am not intimidated by nobody in the league,” Pierce said, per ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “There are always going to be great players and there’s always going to be challenges. That is one of my greatest strengths. I am not afraid to face challenges or any matchup in the league.”

Sports are nothing if there’s no passion.

That’s why this has the chance to be something. Between the backcourt beef and the history of Pierce and James, these teams should not lack for intensity whenever they meet.

As Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post noted, even Irving and Wall have their own individual rivalry:

Wall and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will always be linked. The Wizards selected Wall with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. One year later, the Cavaliers took Irving with the first pick. The point guards landed in rebuilding projects and suffered through miserable seasons in the mediocre Eastern Conference.

Wall led his team to the playoffs first, heading the Wizards’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring after making his first all-star team. But it was Irving who was named the All-Star Game MVP last February and made the final Team USA roster after Wall didn’t survive the first cuts this past summer. Irving went on to start for Team USA in Spain and was named the tournament’s MVP.

Both franchises are now eyeing the same ultimate goal of competing for a title. Given the strength on each side, there is a chance that quest will eventually pit them against one another in a playoff setting.

Hoop heads should hope that’s the case, at least.

In recent years, few teams have reached the emotional levels these clubs hit during their postseason battles. Considering those battles never took place outside of the first round and always produced the same outcome, it speaks volumes as to how they felt about one another.

The NBA needs that same fire again. Any professional sports league benefits from burning desire.

With the stakes potentially heightened and the talent level undeniably increased, the Wizards and Cavaliers won’t simply renew their rivalry—they will make it even better than before.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Nick Young: Kobe knows I would beat him 1-on-1

On Thursday, Bryant also addressed the rampant trash-talking that had been going on between him and especially Nick Young lately during Lakers practice.



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Swaggy P: Deep down Kobe knows I would beat him 1-on-1

I’m not sure Kobe Bryant would admit it if asked, but you have to wonder if the Black Mamba actually likes his teammate, Nick Young. Bryant has never been known as an antics kind of guy, so you’d have to believe that the ‘Swaggy P’ persona wears on him at times. Bryant and Young are surely going to spend some time together after practice now because of these comments from Young regard a game of one-on-one.
“I probably could, but I don’t want him to feel some type of way because I still have to play with him,” he said. “He’s still got to pass me the ball every now and then, so I’m going to say he could win but deep down I think we both know who could win.”
Young and Bryant have embarked on a trash talk competition since training camp began.  Bryant explained why he goes so hard at Young during their verbal exchanges.
“He playfully does it but I take it to another level. I just stay on him,” Bryant said. “I do it because when you’re tired it’s very easy to go out there and go

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What Would It Take for Kevin McHale to Lose His Houston Rockets Job This Year?

Kevin McHale is entering his fourth year as the head coach of the Houston Rockets, and if the team continues to perform as it has under his tenure, it should be his last.

Last spring, the team picked up the final year of his contract. In May, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle explained why:

McHale just completed the final guaranteed season of his contract, but multiple individuals with knowledge of the Rockets thinking have said management believes in him and wants him to have more time with a relatively new team that spent the season battling injuries.

That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. It’s essentially conceding he failed, but since he didn’t fail under perfect circumstances, he gets a chance to fail again. Whether McHale will justify the Rockets’ continued faith in him is questionable.

His history with Houston has been anything but inspiring. The team has won, but that’s more in spite of him than because of him. There’s nothing to its success that relates to his coaching. 

There are at least three things a coach is expected to do:

  1. Form a winning system
  2. Get the most out of his players
  3. Manage games

Thus far, McHale has proved himself to be deficient in all three areas.


Form a Winning System

The most important job of a coach is to develop a winning system. Whether you’re talking about Phil Jackson’s triangle offense with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers or the currently successful offense of the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich, a great coach has a system that can win.

There is a narrative that says that McHale should be able to coach well because of what he did when he was running the court with the Boston Celtics. And it’s true that as a player, McHale earned his way to into the Hall of Fame by being one of the best post-up scorers the game has ever seen.

His career spanned from 1980 to 1993. And over that time, teamed with Robert Parish and Larry Bird, he won three NBA championships. 

Theoretically, he should be able to transfer that ability to his team through coaching. However, the numbers throw that theory into doubt. According to mysynergysports.com (subscription only), the Houston Rockets are just 28th in the league on post-up plays. So whatever he did during his younger days hasn’t been translated into some sort of effective system. 

During his two previous stints coaching the Minnesota Timberwovles, he posted just a 39-55 record. While he deserves a degree of credit for developing Kevin Garnett during his 14-year tenure there as coach and exec, it was about the only positive thing he did. 

Yes, the Rockets have a successful offense, ranking fourth in offensive rating, per Basketball-Reference.com. But their efficient scoring would appear to have more to do with the philosophies of their general manager, Daryl Morey, than McHale.

Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland explains:

So far this season, 25 percent of NBA field goal attempts have occurred beyond the 3-point line. As a whole, the league is making 37 percent of its 3s. And despite the dramatic rise in 3-point shooting, many of the game’s premier analytical minds suggest that even today’s rate of 3-point shooting remains too conservative. There is no more prominent member of this camp than Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets and one of the cochairs of the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which gets under way tomorrow in Boston.

After detailing how mid-range shots are bad because they are less efficient, Goldsberry continues:

This is exactly what Morey’s D-League team does. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (profiled by Jason Schwartz on Grantland this week) are the most fascinating ongoing experiment in basketball right now because they have constructed an offensive strategy around shooting only 3s and close-range shots. They shun the midrange as if it were illegal to shoot from there.

The Rockets are using Rio Grande as a proving ground for their theories, and as Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report explains, Houston is emulating the D-League team:

On the season, Houston is averaging just 9.3 attempts from the mid-range area per game, according to NBA.com. The 76ers attempt the second most, but at 18.4 mid-range tries per contest, they take nearly twice as many of those low-percentage shots.

So the Rockets are a highly efficient offense, but that is more because of Morey’s engineering than any great coaching philosophies of McHale.

In fact, it’s hard to find something Houston’s offense wouldn’t do just as well if someone else were coaching.

Furthermore, while Houston’s offense is elite, its defense was only the 13th-most efficient. That’s in spite of having All-Defensive players Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley on the team.

James Harden bore the brunt of the blame for that, and his mental lapses invited it. However, how is a player permitted to have such lapses? That falls on the coach. 

Bruce Bowen recently conveyed his thoughts on Harden’s defense to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News

See, I don’t cringe (watching Harden on defense), because I remember him in OKC. In fairness to James, yes, (his defense) has been terrible, but what are the principles in Houston? I’m very disappointed in their team concept. That’s what I don’t see. So, if there are no rules and regulations, how do you hold anyone accountable? Speaking to James about this, he’ll say it – “I know I have to do a better job.” But without any direction, without a coach saying, hey, we’re going to send this player baseline because that will be our best bet, it’s really tough. Defense is something you have to practice every day, especially rotations. We went over our rotations every day in all my eight years in San Antonio. You would think me, Tim, Tony and Manu all knew what we were supposed to do. But others don’t. They have to become as familiar as we were. That’s why I go back to principles. Go back to OKC and they’re playing the Lakers, he guarded Kobe pretty well. That’s why I say, what’s going on (in Houston) is about something else.

The Rockets have a successful offense, but that doesn’t have much to do with McHale. Houston’s failures on defense, however, have plenty to do with him. There’s nothing to his system that makes him irreplaceable. In fact, you might say there’s nothing to his system, period.


Get the Most Out of His Players

The next thing a head coach is expected to do is get the most out of his players. Think about guys like Tom Thibodeau who keep winning, even when they lose stars, because they know how how to draw out the talent their players have. Thus, they can exceed expectations. 

So what about the Rockets? Are they overachievers or underachievers under McHale’s regime? I looked at some of the key players and their year-to-year player efficiency rating:

Chandler Parsons improved, but his max PER of 15.9 falls short of his abilities. Kyle Lowry saw his production drop off during his second season in Houston. Then he was dealt to the Toronto Raptors, where he had the best year of his career.

Omer Asik seemed like a perfect candidate for McHale to develop, as Asik’s offensive game needed considerable polish. After a successful first year, though, he regressed last season. Sure, some of that is on Howard’s acquisition, as Asik never quite fit with him. But part of coaching is figuring out how to make things work when the situation isn’t optimal.

Howard saw a slight uptick after his disastrous year with the Los Angeles Lakers, but his 21.3 PER was still well shy of his career high: 26.1.

Jeremy Lin came off a 19.9 PER and saw it fall in each of his two years with the Rockets. His time with the New York Knicks was an outlier, so the first-year drop is excusable. But the second-year decline is different. If he sees his production go back up with the Los Angeles Lakers, that would point further to McHale’s failures.  

The only player with steady improvement under McHale is James Harden, but McHale doesn’t deserve credit for it. Harden changed roles when he came over from the Oklahoma City Thunder, going from sixth man to first option. As a result, his usage went from 20.4 percent during three years in Oklahoma City to 28.4 percent over two seasons with Houston. That shift alone accounts for his PER going up.

McHale has proved insufficient in the second aspect of coaching. You can’t identify one player whose career is better because he’s been coached by McHale. 


Game Management

Game management is a tough thing to determine objectively. In theory, though, when the game is on the line it becomes at least partly a chess match. The coach who makes the better in-game adjustments will tend to win games.

If a team is blowing out its competition every night, it’s mostly a matter of talent. But when the game comes down to the wire, coaching matters more.

So how does one measure that? I looked at records in “clutch games” at NBA.com/STATS. That means that at some point during the last five minutes of the game, the score was within five points.

I then compared the records for clutch games with non-clutch games. Teams that are winning mostly based on talent should see a wide swing between the two. Teams with better coaching should see little change. 

It’s important to avoid comparing apples and oranges. Relative to their overall records, bad teams will automatically improve more in clutch situations. That’s because bad teams are more likely to get blown out, so the mere fact that they’re even competitive on any particular night means they’re doing better. 

Therefore, to avoid that conflict I compared only winning teams. Hover over the points in the chart below to see more details. Mouse along the bottom axis to reveal more teams. (You click here for full-screen version):

If the blue line is over the green line, it means the team is actually better in the clutch. Such is the case with the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana Pacers. Other teams, such as the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs don’t see much disparity.

When you start considering the coaches of those teams include guys like Popovich, Thibodeau, Doc Rivers and Frank Vogel, it’s apparent: Elite coaches win in the clutch.

McHale, though, is on the other end of the spectrum. The gulf between his non-clutch and clutch winning percentage is the fifth worst in the NBA. He is with other coaches, such as Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Randy Wittman of the Washington Wizards and Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, who have been “accused” of just riding superior talent to better records. 

And that makes three strikes for McHale. 

He hasn’t been able to establish a particularly effective offensive or defensive system, in spite of being given the tools to do so. He hasn’t developed the players he’s received or helped them to realize their full potential. And he hasn’t made the right decisions on the bench in late-game situations.

There’s a word for all those things: coaching. And if he doesn’t start doing them this year, look for a job opening next offseason in H-Town. All McHale needs to do to lose his job is keep performing at it this badly. 


All stats for this article were obtained from NBA.com/STATS or Basketball-Reference.com

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Carmelo: Leaving NY would be hard after I ‘forced my way here’

Jim Racalto The New York Knicks held media day on Monday, and as usual, the center of attention was forward Carmelo Anthony, who re-signed with the Knicks this offseason to the tune of five years, $124 million. There are several factors that went into ‘Melo deciding to stay in New York, money obviously being one of them. […] Sports-Kings – The Kings of Sports Lists – Sports bloggers that cover the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, fantasy sports, college sports and much more. From funny videos to pictures we have it all

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Conference Realignment Moves We Wish Would Happen in College Basketball

There isn’t any college basketball conference realignment scheduled for next summer, but there are a few moves we would like to see.

We certainly aren’t complaining about the lack of conference realignment on the horizon. To the contrary, it’s simply delightful to know we won’t have to spend the summer of 2015 trying to remember which teams are now in which conferences.

However, we aren’t nearly naive enough to think there won’t be more bursts of realignment at some point in the next few years.

Rather than sitting back and just watching as great rivalry after rivalry is taken away from us in the name of football revenue, we’ve decided to proactively compromise by suggesting 10 acceptable moves.

Please note that all of these suggestions are made only with men’s college basketball in mind. College football and women’s college basketball were disregarded in the interest of making the best possible men’s college basketball conferences.

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Drake: I Would Collaborate On A Song With LeBron James (Video)

Drake featuring Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James on a new hit track? It sounds crazy, but it’s a possibility. After attending the premiere of James’ new TV show “Survivor’s Remorse,” TMZ asked the rapper if he would ever make a song with the two-time NBA champion. Drake laughed and said, “Always, man. Tell him to get at me.” Maybe Drake was joking, but he didn’t seem to hate the idea. Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames. As you can see in the video below, it wouldn’t be the first time LeBron has gotten on the mic. Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames. Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@WordOnRdFiled under: Entertainment, Justin Leger, NBA, Top Stories

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Atlanta Hawks: What an NBA title would mean to the city

Few things are harder than being an Atlanta fan in any sport. Die hard “Atlantians” consistently have their hearts broken every year by their favorite local sports team. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Braves or even the Atlanta Hawks, because they all have a history of losing.
The city of Atlanta is spoiled. We take for granted the regular season success our teams have and throw it to the curb because they struggle come playoff time. Our teams build up our hope and confidence and then crush us with first round exits.
For example, look at the Braves who won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2004, but only one World Series. The Braves’ 1995 World Series victory is the ONLY championship the city has won. The Braves also haven’t won a playoff series since 2001.
The Falcons have had a history of being bad one year and good the next since the start of the 21st century. Yet the Falcons have only been to one Superbowl (1998-1999) and they lost to John Elway’s Broncos. The

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Healthy Steve Nash Would Change Grim Outlook of Los Angeles Lakers’ Season

In February, Grantland’s Bill Simmons summarized the average Los Angeles Lakers fan’s sentiments regarding Steve Nash.

He just turned 40,” Simmons wrote. “His body keeps breaking down. The Lakers need his cap money—desperately—whether it happens through trade, medical retirement, buyout, stretch provision, whatever. He’s in the way.”

Be that as it may, the organization ultimately elected to keep the iconic point guard around and pay him the hefty $9,701,000 he’s owed in the final year of his contract.  

Now the question is whether 20/20 hindsight will view that expenditure as a sunken cost or savvy investment.

After playing in just 15 games last season (and 50 in 2012-13), Nash is looking to earn his money. His legacy remains intact thanks to those transcendent years in Phoenix, but the encore performance hasn’t gone as planned.

The season ahead may be the last opportunity to change that.

Though it’s still early to make any bold predictions, early returns paint a favorable picture of Nash’s health and vitality.

And after what these Lakers—Nash included—have been through, we’ll take whatever good signs we can get. 

The latest good sign is pretty consistent with what Lakers trainer Gary Vitti intimated to NBA.com’s Mike Trudell in August.

“All my conversations with [Nash] are that he has absolutely no neural issue at this point,” Vitti said. “He’s playing full-tilt, unrestricted soccer. He’s doing all the corrective injury and performance exercises he’s supposed to be doing, and right now he’s 100 percent healthy.”

Right now things look better on July 31, 2014, than they did July 31, 2013. He was still having nerve issues last July,” Vitti added.

Nash’s 2013-14 campaign never really got off the runway thanks in large part to a fractured fibula he suffered in November of 2012. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne described the fallout from that break as a “chain reaction in the nerves throughout Nash’s body.”

One day it’s his hamstrings and lower back that are barking,” Shelburne explained. “Then the pain spreads into his neck and up and down his spine. Another day it’s shooting down his legs again.”

“I’m still fighting things that happened because of the broken leg,” Nash told reporters early last season. “I still feel that almost every day, all over. It’s not just in that spot. The whole system in a way is different now, it’s just a little bit more sensitive.”

Shelburne refuted the notion that his ongoing struggles were attributable to age, writing, “It’s a circuitry issue, not decay—like the logic board on your computer going haywire more than wear and tear on the parts.”

The coast isn’t entirely clear, but Nash appears to have made significant progress.

As NBCSports.com’s Brett Pollakoff put it, “The problem with the nerve injury is that it’s been unpredictable, and has flared up at seemingly random times. If Nash is able to keep it in check for the bulk of the upcoming season, his consistent presence in the lineup would undoubtedly help L.A.’s chances.”

So—in theory—there’s reason to be hopeful that months of rest and recuperation could yield some dividends. It’s entirely possible the 18-year veteran goes on to have an injury-free season, riding off into the sunset without aches, pains and any lingering doubts about whether this summer’s decision to keep him around was a wise one.

To be sure, Nash will have some help running the offense this season.

General manager Mitch Kupchak acquired point guard Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets, adding some backcourt insurance and supplementing Nash’s minutes with a capable floor general still very much in the prime of his career.

At the moment, it remains unclear whether Nash will reclaim his starting job.

The Los Angeles Daily NewsMark Medina indicated that head coach Byron Scott was planning to start Nash, while the OC Register‘s Bill Oram subsequently noted via Twitter that decisions about the starting job haven’t been made.

Either way, meaningful contributions from the two-time MVP would go a long way toward restoring the Lakers to a respectable position in the crowded Western Conference.

Through 50 games in 2012-13, Nash averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists in 32.5 minutes per contest. His 49.7 field-goal percentage was consistent with a 49 percent career mark, and his long-range accuracy followed suit.

This is still a guy who can make a difference.

How much of a difference remains to be seen.

With eight All-Star appearances under his belt, some will expect $9.7 million worth of heroics. Others are—by now—dubious that Nash will ever regain consistently productive form.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s better than nothing.

Though the Lakers’ most damning problems haven’t been on the offensive end, their defensive struggles create little margin for error. Even if Scott turns around a defensive efficiency that ranked 28th last season (at 107.9 points per 100 possessions, according to Hollinger’s NBA Team Statistics), chances are L.A. will have to score a lot of points to win games.

Defensive cultures rarely undergo overnight course corrections.

While arguing Nash will be something of an X-factor this season, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale suggested, “Scott will chirp about defense and the importance of accountability, but these Lakers, from top to bottom, are built to score.”

And now these Lakers need to score a little more efficiently. They averaged just 101.9 points per 100 possessions last season, the 21st-best mark in the league. The sometimes impressive scoring output had more to do with a breakneck pace that ranked second in the league than it did any kind of systemic proficiency.

Nash can help change that.

His court vision and decision-making remain uniquely dangerous at any age, so dangerous that his exceptional accuracy from the floor is often overlooked. No one expects Nash to dominate the ball like he did in his prime, but a legend’s part-time contributions are still better than most alternatives.

Nash understands how to operate the pick-and-roll far better than most of his peers, making him a force multiplier capable of getting the most from bigs like Carlos Boozer or Jordan Hill. He’s a patient and cerebral floor general who prefers facilitating a well-oiled offensive machine to any personal accolades.

But the question has never been about Nash’s ability.

It’s been whether he can remain healthy enough to put that ability on full display.

With the 2014-15 season just around the corner, all signs point toward him doing just that. 

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