Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scouting the hot NBA assistant coaches

In this space yesterday, we highlighted one NBA writer’s case for why former Portland and Seattle coach Nate McMillan should be the next Wizards head coach.

Now that the Orlando Magic have been mercifully knocked out of the playoffs, we could be only days away before Stan Van Gundy becomes available.

Should Wizards management decide interim coach Randy Wittman will not return and a veteran leader is their desired target, McMillan and Van Gundy are clearly viable options.

However, should they pass on a retread hire yet still want a coach with NBA experience, the question becomes which assistants are ready for the main job.

Monitoring the news out of Charlotte might provide some insight.

Unlike the tight-lipped Wizards operation, reports have been dripping out about whom the Bobcats intend on interviewing.

The latest name to surface, Orlando assistant and former Georgetown Hoyas and New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports, "Ewing is a close friend of Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, and several sources believe the Hall of Fame center will turn out to be a serious candidate for the opening."

Ewing is one of several names alreadly linked to the job.

Previously Wojnarowki reported the Bobcats would interview Warriors assistant Mike Malone, the NBA's highest-paid assistant.

Then there is the one assistant even casual fans are aware of, Brian Shaw. The former Lakers assistant under Phil Jackson, Shaw is currently on the bench with the Pacers, who await the winner of the Heat-Knicks series (so Miami) in the second round.

Sam Amick from Sports Illustrated reported the Bobcats asked for permission to interview Shaw, but "permission was neither granted nor denied for Shaw to speak with Charlotte because he prefers to focus on the playoffs at the moment."

McMillan is also on Charlotte's radar, though some have questioned whether an established coach would want to take over a total rebuild. Regardless, these initial reports indicate the Bobcats are intent on exploring the assistant route for their young and clearly in need of help squad.

As for the Wizards, obviously Ewing's experience as a scorer and defensive presence could benefit their young bigs, especially Kevin Seraphin. Malone's star is on the rise and he could have his pick of jobs. Considering the young roster and another top 5 pick on the way, this job could be attractive for someone looking to mold the team after his own vision and not simply coach the established veterans on hand.

Shaw clearly knows from winning. My one concern here would be whether he intends on bringing the famed triangle offense to Washington. On the surface John Wall's style and speed does not make for a great fit with the point guard-light scheme that's more east-west than north-south. Of course, the Pacers are not using the triangle, so we'll see.

Of course the Wizards have yet to make a decision - publically anyway -on Wittman, so, we'll see.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shooting down Thomas Robinson to the Wizards

Trust me on this: I do not take any NBA mock draft seriously at this point, especially since - hello! - we do not have an actual draft order. However, since we know the Wizards will pick no worse than fifth and the draft class is largely set, we have a good feel for their likely options in that range should they miss out on the consensus overall number one pick, Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Kansas star and D.C. area native Thomas Robinson is among them. The chiseled power forward is a double-double machine and the junior sports a non-stop motor that teams looking for an interior option will surely consider.

The question is whether the Wizards are one of those teams.

Apparently SBNation's Tom Ziller says yes. Yours truly says unless it's the shot blocking Davis, not so much, not right now.

After slotting Davis to the abysmal Charlotte Bobcats with the overall number one pick, Ziller sent Robinson back home with the No. 2 selection.

"A franchise that so believed in its ability to morph men it gave Gilbert Arenas a near-max after an ACL tear, extended Andray Blatche before he hit the market and hung with JaVale McGee for more than three years has changed so much that there's no chance it touches Andre Drummond with a fishing pole. Robinson's heart and work ethic will make some GM overlook his size and potential to be great in any one area."

Right now in terms of interior options, Robinson is the top non-Davis call for the Wizards, ranking above the likes of UConn's Drummond and Ohio State's under-the-rim wide-body Jared Sullinger. I agree there is zippy chance that at two the Wizards select the powerful but truly raw Drummond, even though another prominent NBA draft site has that marriage taking place.

If indeed the Wizards go big over small, the energetic Robinson is the logical call.

But considering the current roster makeup - an intriguing frontcourt with Nene and kids but a lineup devoid of shooters - adding a perimeter or wing weapon makes the most sense.

Redskins: Hightower plus other two yards and a cloud of dust free agent RB options

Just about the only pending topic not asked of Mike Shanahan following Sunday's rookie camp practice involved the running back situation. Granted, both the Redskins head coach and Tim Hightower expressed a mutual interest in having the free agent return for the 2012 campaign. Should the team and veteran runner agree to terms, the backfield would largely be set, Hightower reuniting with second-year runners Roy Helu and Evan Royster.

Then again, the draft has now come and gone and Hightower, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury suffered last October, remains on the open market. Plenty of time exists between now and the start of training camp - though OTA's start this month - so there might not be a calendar issue for the Redskins. They drafted a runner for depth in the later rounds of the just completed NFL draft, but the need for an inside runner remains.

However, should another team make Touchdown Timmy an offer he can't refuse - or the recovery period moves slower than expected or the missing cap space stays missing - then what?

This recent article on ranks Hightower as the top free agent RB on the market. That distinction is hardly impressive. The top-five list also could use a scrubbing since one listed option signed elsewhere, another one is on the verge of doing the same, another is talking retirement and the remaining two are Cedric "rap sheet" Benson and Thomas "3.1 ypc" Jones.

I wonder what the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions think about such rankings. Former Colts RB Joseph Addai just signed with the AFC Champion Patriots, who also reportedly worked out Hightower last month. Meanwhile the Lions are reportedly moving closer to adding former Packers star Ryan Grant.
One question that emerges from that transactional scenario is what do these signings or near-signings say about Hightower status. For now, not much; neither Addai nor Grant are considered big gets at this point of their career.

Why Hightower and the Redskins have yet to put pen to paper, unclear. What is incredibly obvious is that the other options are hardly interesting, but some veteran will be added. Considering Shanahan stated rookie Robert Griffin III is his starting quarterback, it would be nice for a more concrete ground game outlook.

Maybe Hightower is letting teams know he is Ashburn-bound. Maybe his penchant for two-yard runs is limiting his market. Maybe his outlook shines no brighter than the other available backs.