Sports Outside the Beltway

Washington Wizards fire Coach Eddie Jordan

The second head coach firing of the 2008-09 NBA season has taken place.

Eddie Jordan was fired as coach of the Washington Wizards on Monday after opening the season 1-10 without injured starters Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood.

Ed Tapscott, the Wizards’ director of player development, will replace Jordan on an interim basis, running his first practice as the team’s new head coach Monday morning, a team spokesman told The Associated Press.

The firing was first reported by The Washington Post on its Web site.

Assistant coach Mike O’Koren was also let go, and the Wizards named Randy Ayers as top assistant coach, a source told ESPN’s Ric Bucher.

Jordan was in his sixth season with the Wizards and led the team to the playoffs each of the past four. In September, shortly before the start of training camp, the Wizards picked up a one-year option to keep him under contract through the 2009-10 season.

Frankly I would have been more inclined to giving Jordan more time to work out the problems in Washington. These two recently fired coaches were producing dismal results too but didn’t have Jordan’s success in previous season.


Kings for a day- Miami Heat defeat Sacramento 107-86

Only the Heat’s second win in over two months.

MIAMI – The sound you heard Tuesday night was not the scant crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena offering its approval of the Heat’s 107-86 victory over the Kings.

Instead, it was the pop of the champagne in Philadelphia, where the 1972-73 76ers were assured of another year of their place in history.

As bad as it has gotten this season, the Heat won’t be the worst team in NBA history.

Instead, broadcaster and former 76ers guard Fred Carter can retain his claim as “the best player on the worst team ever.”

With Philadelphia’s 9-73 infamy of 35 years ago out of the way, the Heat next can concentrate of shedding a different layer of shame, the franchise’s worst finish of 15-67 during its inaugural 1988-89 season.

Call it a gut feeling, but I think Miami will win more than 15 games. Not by much though.


Phil Jackson’s Hall of Fame Career

Phil Jackson is about to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. J.A. Adande takes a look at his unique style of coaching.

Phil Jackson enters the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, and to understand how he coached his way there, it might help to familiarize yourself with the concept of “antimatter” — that is, to realize that the opposite of something is still something, not nothing. That way, it makes sense that some of his best coaching moves come from not coaching, that the best way for players to appreciate him is to not play for him.

For a man with such an immense ego, the irony is Jackson has derived so much success by taking himself out of the equation. He realizes coaching isn’t about getting the players to do what you want, it’s about getting them to want to do what’s right. He always put the game above himself, placed his trust in the players more than his ways.

Opposing coaches might wonder why he doesn’t make an adjustment while they run the same play successfully against him time after time. Fans get agitated when the other team runs off 10 consecutive points and Jackson steadfastly refuses to call a timeout, sitting as motionless as if he were modeling for a Buddha sculpture. Jackson always believed that during times of duress, if the players discovered their own solutions they would benefit in the long run. He was right.

What is the essence of coaching? Getting the most out of your players and putting them in position to win. You won’t find a coach or manager who did that on a more consistent basis than Phil Jackson.

Jackson’s big number is the record nine NBA championships he shares with Red Auerbach, but here’s the telltale stat: Only once has Jackson lost a playoff series in which his team had home-court advantage. That means that nearly every time they were supposed to win, they did. A grand record of 35-1 when starting at home. His squads almost always maxed out, even these past two Lakers first-round departures, who traveled just as far as they were built to go.

Sure he’s had great players, most notably Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and Shaq and Kobe in L.A. But Auerbach coached 10 future Hall of Famers in Boston, so he wasn’t exactly doing it with scrubs. And if the best talent always guaranteed the best results, Marty Schottenheimer would still be coaching the San Diego Chargers. Why didn’t the 1991 Portland Trail Blazers or the 2002 Sacramento Kings win championships? Oh, that’s right, Rick Adelman was coaching them.

Another sign of Jackson’s success: the way his critics keep turning into allies.


When players see the alternative usually involves more stress and less winning, they realize they’re better off with Jackson. That’s why these days you’ll hear Bryant praise Jackson for “his understanding of the game, his understanding of unit cohesiveness, his patience. I think all of those things, the little intricacies of the game that he’s really picked up, that a lot of coaches and players don’t really understand, he’s mastered. It’s separated him from the pack, in my opinion.”

Jackson can do X’s and O’s. But he isn’t the best at it. And it’s not what he does best. Sometimes less is more.


The goal of Buddhism is nirvana, a state of being that’s devoid of wants and fears, the extinction of the individual consciousness. There’s that notion of nothing again. For Jackson, it might be more of a means than an end. He might not have reached nirvana, but he has made it to Springfield, Mass. He’s the “Seinfeld” of the sidelines, turning the concept of nothing into success.

It’s been an amazing thing to watch. He’s simply unparalleled in modern professional sports, with its free agency, massive league expansion, and culture of individuality. Nobody has come close to getting this much of out teams since the era when great coaches could stockpile talent and keep the same stars together for a decade or more.


NBA Mock Draft

ESPN’s Chad Ford offers the Sports Leader’s take on the impending NBA Draft.

It’s almost draft day, and the picture is getting clearer and fuzzier simultaneously.

We’ve been able to narrow down the list of prospects that each team is considering, but two things stand in the way of getting a complete picture.

One, this is a time when many GMs are notorious for dropping smoke screens. A source in Memphis swears the team is taking Joakim Noah. Another says to bank on the Grizzlies’ taking Mike Conley. Someone is misinformed or bluffing.

Two, there is a flurry of trade conversation, starting with Memphis, Boston, Charlotte and Chicago all talking about trading away their lottery picks. Meanwhile teams such as Golden State, Phoenix and the Lakers are trying hard to move up. Others — like Portland, Indiana and Toronto — are trying to get in or grab another pick.

The talk in Phoenix about trading up in the draft has gotten so hot that the Suns have gotten Noah, Jeff Green and Corey Brewer to agree to a workout on Tuesday. They’ll try to add Brandan Wright as a fourth. That shows you how much players want to play in Phoenix — they’ll drop everything just for the chance. It could be the most competitive workout of the draft.

Their consensus draft board:

    1. Portland TrailblazersGreg Oden – C
    2. Portland TrailblazersKevin Durant – SF – Texas
    3. Atlanta HawksAl Horford – PF – Florida
    4. Memphis GrizzliesMike Conley – PG- Ohio State
    5. Boston CelticsYi Jianlian – PF – China
    6. Milwaukee BucksJeff Green – SF – Georgetown
    7. Minnesota TimberwolvesJoakim Noah – PF – Florida
    8. Charlotte BobcatsCorey Brewer – SG – Florida
    9. Chicago Bulls (via New York Knicks) – Spencer Hawes – C- Washington
    10. Sacramento Kings- Brandan Wright – PF – North Carolina
    11. Atlanta Hawks (via Indiana Pacers) – Acie Law – PG – Texas A&M
    12. Philadelphia 76ersAl Thornton – SF – Florida State
    13. New Orleans Hornets – Nick Young – SG- USC
    14. L.A. ClippersJulian Wright – SF – Kansas
    15. Detroit Pistons (via Orlando Magic) – Rodney Stuckey SG – Eastern Wash.

Click the link for more in-depth analysis and for the second half of the draft.


Allen Iverson’s Denver Nuggets Debut

It’s underway. Here’s his jersey:

Allen Iverson's Denver Nuggets Jersey Photo

UPDATE (12/23): Denver lost, 96-101 but The Answer had a very good game: 22 points and 10 assistants coming off the bench.

Allen Iverson's Denver Nuggets Debut Photo

Allen Iverson fought through jet lag, car sickness and pregame butterflies that felt more like birds before he finally got to play his first game for the Denver Nuggets.

When his debut with the depleted Nuggets was over Friday night, the feeling was familiar for the former 76er. Another crowd-pleasing performance, 22 points and 10 assists over 39 minutes, wasn’t enough to prevent a loss — 101-96 to the Sacramento Kings.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Iverson said. “That’s the only thing I thought about, just getting the first one by me. I wish it could’ve ended with a win. I felt it could’ve ended with a win.”

In his debut, playing on a team with only eight healthy players, the newest Nugget gave the kind of gritty, gutty performance that has become his trademark.

He played 39 minutes after a whirlwind of a day in which he arrived in Denver in the late afternoon, was whisked to the Pepsi Center, passed his physical, took a few jumpers on the practice court then suited up to be on the floor for tipoff.

He spent the first 8:35 on the bench. When he finally came in, he received a standing ovation, and never left the floor.

This was widely considered the biggest trade in Denver sports history since the Broncos brought John Elway to town nearly 25 years ago. It’s a trade many think could put the Nuggets — who have long played second fiddle in this city — into championship mode.

“They embraced me here,” Iverson said of the welcome he received. “It was just a great feeling and it was a feeling I wanted to get. A feeling I hoped to get. It was special to me, something I’ll remember and cherish the rest of my life.”

I suspect the 76ers will regret not figuring a way to make it work with Iverson. He’s their best player since Charles Barkley and, arguably, Julius “Dr. J” Irving.


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