Kobe Bryant, the ultimate perimeter player, signs off

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Kobe Bryant played the last game of his 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers amid much fanfare on Wednesday, April 13. Bryant dazzled fans, scoring 60 points as the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in the season finale, capping a farewell tour for Bryant that started once he made it clear he was retiring at the end of this season.

"Penny" Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan's departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

“Penny” Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan’s departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

While not accurate, it is often said that Michael Jordan passed the proverbial torch to Bryant.

The similarities between Bryant and Jordan are easy to see. Both are similar in height, position played, disposition on the court, and team success.

However, many forget that there were two superstars who were poised to follow in Jordan’s footsteps but suffered career altering injuries: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, and Grant Hill. Both superstars were similar to Bryant early in their careers because they had charisma, exciting talent and marketing appeal.

On the strength of two championships at Duke university, Hill emerged quickly as a superstar leading all NBA All-Star Game players in fan voting in his rookie season and soon afterwards leading the Detroit Pistons to multiple playoff appearances. Hill was a dynamic player with excellent scoring and play-making ability.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

Hardaway also had quick success, helping to lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 with Shaquille O’neal. Hardaway and Hill had huge endorsement deals and were well positioned to be pre-eminent perimeter players in the NBA upon Jordan’s second retirement in 1999.

Other perimeter player contemporaries of Bryant who entered the NBA during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s include Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

All of these players helped lead their teams in different ways, while displaying entertaining and captivating styles of play. All of these players were also major faces in advertising, which assisted in bringing extra attention to the NBA internationally.

(I - r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

(I – r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

Bryant might have the highest international profile of all of the previous mentioned players, except Jordan, and his battles with those players helped pave the way for the current wave of perimeter All Stars. Bryant’s 20 year career has allowed him to compete with players already in the basketball Hall of Fame as well as number of players likely to land there as well.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James headline a long list of perimeter players that have carried the torch of exciting the fans and helping fans fill the impending the void created upon Bryant’s retirement.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

As Bryant retires, perimeter play is on the uptick in the NBA. The last several regular season and NBA Finals MVP have been perimeter players. Bryant reminded all spectators that current NBA fans enjoy seeing their perimeter stars score in bundles as he scored the most points by a player this season in his final game. A great ending to an even greater career.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Flip Saunders, Timberwolves’ coach/president of basketball operations, has died

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By Charles Glover Jr.

Phil ‘Flip’ Saunders, the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has died from cancer at age 60. His death has prompted an outpouring of grief across the NBA, with his two main teams, the Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver releasing statements, which appear below:

“It is with tremendous difficulty and deep sadness that the Timberwolves acknowledge the passing of our President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, Flip Saunders. Flip was a symbol of strength, compassion, and dignity for our organization. He was a shining example of what a true leader should be, defined by his integrity and kindness to all he encountered. Today is not a day to reflect on Flip’s accomplishments in basketball or what he brought to us as an organization on the court, but rather to indicate what he meant to us as a co-worker, friend, member of the community and the basketball world at large. We as an organization are devastated by his passing, and our hearts and prayers go out to Debbie and the entire Saunders family as they endure this extraordinary loss,” the Timberwolves’ statement read.

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“It is with tremendous sorrow that the Detroit Pistons organization acknowledges the passing of Flip Saunders. He will be remembered by Pistons fans as one of the franchise’s most successful head coaches – leading the club to three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances and a franchise-record 64 wins in 2005-06. Flip was a great ambassador for the Metro Detroit community and had a positive influence on those who had the opportunity to spend time with him. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Debbie, his children Ryan, Mindy, Rachel, Kimberly and all his friends throughout the extended Detroit Pistons and NBA family,” the Pistons’ statement read.

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“The NBA family is mourning today over the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Flip Saunders. With more than 40 years around the game, 20 of them in the NBA, Flip’s untimely passing has left a gaping hole in the fabric of our league. Flip was a beloved figure around the NBA, nowhere more so than in Minnesota, demonstrating a genuine and consistent passion for his players, his team and the game. On behalf of the NBA, we offer our most sincere condolences to Flip’s wife, Debbie, their four children and the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization,” NBA Commissioner Adam Sliver’s statement read.

The entire NBA family and fans mourn the loss of Saunders’ talent and legacy—-OnPointPress.net.—

The NBA learned from ‘Malice at the Palace,’ Will the NFL learn from its woes?

Before the brawl headed into the crowd, there was a dustup between Ben Wallace and Ron Artest.

Before the brawl headed into the crowd, there was a dustup between Ben Wallace and Ron Artest.

By Charles Glover Jr.

On November 19, 2004 the NBA was turned upside down with a brawl that eventually changed the view of players and the league itself. Dubbed the “Malice at the Palace,” the brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons erupted into the stands and earned recognition by the Associated Press as “the most infamous brawl in NBA history.”

The brawl spilled into the crowd as things escalated during the infamous night in Detroit.

The brawl spilled into the crowd as things escalated during the infamous night in Detroit.

Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) was at the center of the brawl that started after Artest and Pistons center Ben Wallace got into a minor altercation. Artest then threw a drink at a fan from the crowd. Artest then charged into the stands and attacked the person that thought was the assailant. Other Pacers like Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’neal were fierce in their support of their teammate during the melee that spread from the crowd onto the court.

The result was a prolonged stain on the image of the NBA as the fight with fans seemed to justify the concerns by some that the NBA had become too boorish and abrasive to accommodate the upscale portion of their fan-base. NBA’s commissioner at the time, David Stern, decided to institute sweeping changes to bridge the gap between NBA fans and its players. Several players received stiff penalties, highlighted by Artest’s 73-game suspension, which was the equivalent to all games remaining in the season.

David Stern was the commissioner of the NBA during the Malice at the Palace and was at the forefront of major changes that eventually benefitted the NBA.

David Stern was the commissioner of the NBA during the Malice at the Palace and was at the forefront of major changes that eventually benefitted the NBA.

The league also made changes to security measures and alcohol limits at games. Shortly thereafter, the NBA instituted a dress code, requiring the players to dress in suits when traveling for games. The dress code was geared towards changing the perception that too many players were distancing themselves from fans by embracing hip hop culture in their dress and attitude. The NBA became the first of the major sports to have such a requirement.

The four prominent participants in the Pacers - Pistons  brawl (l - r) Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine  O'neal, Ben Wallace.

The four prominent participants in the Pacers – Pistons brawl (l – r) Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’neal, Ben Wallace.

There were many opponents to some of the changes, specifically the dress code, as the changes seemed to be an overreaction to the “Malice at the Palace.” However, there was no doubt the NBA as facing an image problem. There was also increasing frustration with the NBA as they struggled in their representation of the USA in the 2004 Olympics and 2006 World Cup. These events provided enough of an impetus by Stern to make major changes to the way people view NBA players.

Stern has made a number of questionable decisions but the approach he took to reshape the image of the NBA at that time was a necessary one. The changes were not popular amongst everyone, including many fans. There was also renewed efforts to bring the best players to international competition. This calculated move helped bring national support to the NBA players during their gold medal run in the 2008 Olympics and thereafter.

The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell (c) could learn from the NBA on how to change league perception following scandals involving Ray Rice (r) and Adrian Peterson (l).

The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell (c) could learn from the NBA on how to change league perception following scandals involving Ray Rice (r) and Adrian Peterson (l).

The changes to NBA policies and initiatives were reactions to a number of negative incidents that were highlighted by the “Malice at the Palace.” Stern and NBA executives were wise enough to sense that there was enough of the fan-base that desired noticeable changes to some aspects of how NBA players operate. There are times when it is necessary to make forceful changes to make a lasting impact and the NBA was able to shift the perception in their favor.

However, the shift in perception took years to take effect. The lesson NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can apply to the current dismal state of affairs with the NFL with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandal is that it is necessary to make forceful changes that address the problem. There also must be patience that is earned from operating in a matter that demonstrates that the league is as appalled by the troubles of the league and will take exceptional measures to rectify matters.

(l - r) Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James have helped reshape the NBA image with Team USA and by making an impact in their communities as well as for their teams.

(l – r) Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James have helped reshape the NBA image with Team USA and by making an impact in their communities as well as for their teams.

The NBA now has a number of stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul who are noticed for their great play on the court and positive impact away from the game as well. The NBA has also seen increase in viewership and monetary growth in the 10 years since the “Malice at the Palace.” As the next 10 years unfold, the NBA seems to be miles away from the negativity that surrounded the league in 2004.will the NFL be smart enough to emulate the NBA model, which has improved the league’s image and profitability at the same time? Only time will tell.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindoMES on Twitter.com.

Mysterious NBA coaching criteria surfaces as free agency begins

 

Jason Kidd will join his second team in his second year as a head coach. So does this technically make him an experienced coaching hire for the Bucks?
Jason Kidd will join his second team in his second year as a head coach. So does this technically make him an experienced coaching hire for the Bucks?

 By Charles Glover, Jr.

As NBA free agency begins this July 1, 2014, there are still a couple of head coaching vacancies to be filled. The Brooklyn Nets find themselves looking for a new head coach after Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks agreed to terms on June 30 as their new head coach. Meanwhile, the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise is still without a head coach, though they may have narrowed their search to a few candidates by now. The head coaching carousel continues in the NBA while the criteria for being hired as a head coach becomes more mysterious and cloudy than ever.

The Knicks new general manager, Phil Jackson (r), felt comfortable hiring coaching novice Derek Fisher (l) because of system familiarity. Time will tell if this strategy is successful.

The Knicks’ new general manager, Phil Jackson (r), felt comfortable hiring coaching novice Derek Fisher (l) because of system familiarity. Time will tell if this strategy is successful.

A year ago, the Brooklyn Nets were questioned about their decision to hire Jason Kidd as their head coach, directly from his last moments playing in the league. A season later, the New York Knicks followed suit by hiring Derek Fisher, fresh of his final game as a player. The trend of hiring head coaches with no coaching experience did not start with Kidd, however. Just a few seasons ago, Mark Jackson transitioned successfully from announcer to head coach. However, his success was not good enough to prevent the Golden State Warriors from firing him and replacing him with Steve Kerr, another first time head coach with no prior coaching experience.

The last time Lionel Hollins was coaching he led his team to the Western Conference Finals. He is rumored to be a possible replacement for Jason Kidd in Brooklyn.

The last time Lionel Hollins coached he led his team to the Western Conference Finals and he was rewarded by being fired promptly. His success did not earn him another coaching job. He is rumored to be a possible replacement for Jason Kidd in Brooklyn.

Head coaches in the NBA appear to have very little job security and very little indication that their job is even jeopardy. The most recent example would be former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Larry Drew, who was entering year two of a three-year contract and had no idea his job was on the line just a week ago. Other examples from this season would be Maurice Cheeks formerly of the Detroit Pistons and Mike Brown formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, both of whom lost their jobs after a year, or less),into multi-year contracts as head coaches.

Those coaches were at the helm of teams that struggled but Lionel Hollins led the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals in 2013 for the first time in team history and was abruptly fired immediately afterwards. George Karl was let go by the Denver Nuggets in 2013 after he won NBA Coach of the Year that season.

Phoenix Suns head coach was runner-up to Gregg Popovich for NBA Coach of the Year in 2014.

Phoenix Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek was runner-up to Gregg Popovich for NBA Coach of the Year in 2014.

Ironically, the past typical trend of hiring coaches who have previous coaching experience was successful template for several teams last season. The Phoenix Suns hired Jeff Hornacek last season after he had been an assistant coach in the NBA for a few years, and saw their team win 48 games and greatly improve from the season before. The Charlotte Hornets hired Steve Clifford, who had also been an assistant head coach for years in the NBA, and were pleased with the resulting 43 wins and 7th seed in the playoffs. The Toronto Raptors had success for the first time in many years under Dwayne Casey, who had former NBA head coaching experience. The Portland Trailblazers were another team that saw a nice turnaround with a head coach, Terry Stotts, who had previous experience as an assistant coach in the NBA.

Patrick Ewing has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2002 and has made his desires to be a head coach clear.

Patrick Ewing has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2002 and has made his desires to be a head coach clear, yet he is overlooked every time that a head coaching job becomes available.

Teams have the right to make the changes they feel are necessary to improve their team, but it seems there is little merit behind this trend of unproven coaches gaining such prominent positions without prior experience. Several teams have long-time assistant coaches, like Robert Pack, Sam Cassell, and Patrick Ewing to name a few, that are worthy candidates and fit the mold of previous successful head coaches.

Gregg Popovich (l) and Eric Spoelstra (r) have been in the last two NBA Finals and have won multiple championships. Maybe their coaching background should be the standard.

Gregg Popovich (l) and Eric Spoelstra (r) have been in the last two NBA Finals and have won multiple championships. Maybe their coaching background should be the standard.

The teams that win championships do not hire coaches who do not have any coaching experience. The San Antonio Spurs’ head coach, Gregg Popovich, has been coaching since 1973. Eric Spoelstra was an assistant coach with the Miami Heat from 1997. Former coaching legend Phil Jackson was a coach for five years in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) before joining the Chicago Bulls.

It seems that NBA franchises are trying to find out the hard way that there are no shortcuts to success and that the coaches who win championships have one major requirement on their resumes: solid experience, not flash.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.