June 4, 2008

Joe Dumars Fires Flip Saunders

It did not take long for the axe to fall in Detroit. There was speculating that even a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would not save Flip Saunders job, and the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher and Minnesota Timberwolf has just been fired from him post as Detroit Pistons Head Coach.
AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File

The easy reason for Flip Saunders being canned in Detroit is that the Pistons made the NBA Finals the two years before, including beating the Lakers to win the 2004 title. Thus Flip walked into an impossible situation considering the expectations, but he knew that going in because it was also a great opportunity for him to coach an elite team.

Detroit actually was quite successful with Saunders including the monster 2005-06 year where they went 64-18. Unfortunately in a town like Detroit, Championships are the barometer for success. The problem with Detroit is that they lost to lesser teams in each of the last 3 Eastern Conference Finals under Flip. All series were 4-2 losses for Detroit actually.

Ultimately the Pistons underachieved with Flip as the head coach, as the veterans on the team did not respect Saunders enough for whatever reason. Rasheed Wallace in particular never was reached by Saunders and his awful Game 6 is not what the Pistons needed. Maybe the Pistons were spoiled having Larry Brown as a head coach, one of the best in the business. Saunders deserved more respect but simply never got it despite his previous success with the Minnesota Timberwolves, making the playoffs 9 straight years.

Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons responded quickly with the hire of up-and-coming bench coach Michael Curry. As an ex player he will earn the player's respect, and has already been coaching on the team anyway.

It is unknown whether or not the Pistons will be making any significant moves in the offseason, but doing something with Rasheed Wallace is a possibility. That said there are few players with as versatile an in-out game, but not many players are as maddeningly inconsistent either.

May 16, 2008

NBA Playoffs Home Team Dominance

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Last night saw two more home teams take home a win in Game 5. The Cleveland Cavaliers kept it close but failed to make the necessary Free Throws and overall were stagnant offensively. This has been a defensive series certainly and the home team has won every game not surprisingly. Cleveland has gotten closer to an upset in Boston, as Boston has not even been competitive late-game in Cleveland. That said, Boston does not need to win a road game to win this series. If Cleveland can take another home game in Game 6 Friday Night, they can give themselves another shot in Boston in Game 7. Remember though the Atlanta Hawks got blown away in Game 7 at Boston.

The other series saw the LA Lakers and the hobbled Kobe Bryant take down the terrible-on-the-road Utah Jazz. Kobe only need 10 shots from the floor to score 26 points (helped from 13 / 17 free throws). In the home games in Los Angeles you see a Kobe Bryant that is much more willing to get his teammates involved and he also tends to take more free throws (which is an indictment of how aggressive he is playing but also at home he gets more easy foul calls). Same with getting his teammates involved; they all tend to play better at home. Gasol looked like he was getting roughed up in Utah and couldn't handle the physicality. But he responded in Game 5 with 21 points 6 boards 8 assists 4 blocks and Lamar Odom had a breakthrough game with 22 points 11 rebounds 2 blocks with .666 FG% from the floor. Vujacic was one of the only weak spots, shooting 1 / 11 from the floor (1 / 8 shooting threes). Again, this series will be sent back to Utah where one of the best home teams tries to send it to Game 7 like Cleveland and San Antonio are trying to do.

With home / road splits you tend to assume that the home team is getting more calls and essentially playing the game the way they want it played. The Utah Jazz are probably the best example of why it is how it is because they are such a physical ball club. At home they are more apt to be allowed to play physically, whereas when they are on the road the officials are much more likely to call ticky-tack fouls (but with the Jazz they are so physical that they warrant a ton of foul calls anyway).

Another thing you find is that role players are much more key at home. Superstars will get their numbers at home or on the road (though they tend to be less efficient on the road), but it is the role players that disappear or make an impact based on being home or away. Harpring on Utah for example scores about 5 points a game in LA but in Utah he gets over double digits. Paul Millsap has proven to be a better rebounding / put-back presence at home as well.