• Good morning, it’s your boy Tony Xypteras aka Mr. ’I know guac is extra’ checking in for another edition of Last Week This Morning, let’s have some basketball related fun, shall we?

    You’re Fired

    We touched on some of this coaching stuff in last weeks LWTM, but two more excellent coaches were fired this week in Frank Vogel and Dave Joerger, so I thought that topic deserved a longer revisit. Let’s start with Vogel.

    Larry Bird ‘fired’ Frank Vogel (and I use that term somewhat carefully because Vogel’s contract wasn’t extended, but still) for what I felt were some questionable reasons, but of course, I don’t have the access Larry Bird has to the inner workings of that organization.

    What I can attest to is how hard it is to find a good coach. I analyze NBA news from a slightly purple Sacramento Kings filter, in the sense that I specialize in basketball depression – when I see a young coach like Vogel continue to overachieve with his roster at best, or never underachieve with his roster as worst, I can’t help but hear the greed dripping from Larry Bird’s voice. Who do you think you’re going to find in coaching free agency that is better than Frank Vogel?

    It’s possible, sure, but it’s the kind of move that you only make after years and years of success. Larry Bird is a winner, he’s always won, so on one hand I can applaud the confidence he has in his ability to find Vogel’s replacement, but on the other hand, it seems like an awfully unnecessary risk I can only equate to some sort of a heat check. If Bird can find someone better, god bless him, but no one knows bad coaching better than someone who has watched every Kings game over the last decade, and I’d be ecstatic with baseline competence from that spot. Bird just canned someone who was much more than competent, with room to improve.

    I think the Pacers made a mistake, and I think Larry Bird may be underestimating both how good Vogel was, and how hard it is to find above average coaching.

    The Memphis Grizzlies’ decision to fire Dave Joerger is a lot more understandable considering the host of problems Grizzlies management had with him, although it still fits under the ‘you don’t know how hard it is to a find a good coach, do you?’ umbrella.

    Dave Joerger is an excellent coach. Even on his way out the door, Grizzlies sources continued to promote his ability as a coach. They weren’t a fan of his politicking behind the scenes, or penchant for criticizing the front office over roster errors, but as a head coach, even the folks that fired him wouldn’t argue against his talent. That says a lot to me. It’s easy to mud-sling, and the Grizzlies did some of that, but they never never doubted his coaching.

    And unlike Vogel, Joerger was under contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s just 42 years old. He’s still growing as a coach, as a person, etc. His basketball ideals are still being defined, and he’s already this good. The Grizzlies just let him walk out the door, if he wasn’t on his way out the door already.

    For their sake, I hope Chris Wallace and Co. know what they’re doing. Frank Vogel is already a rumored candidate there and he’d be an excellent hire for Memphis, but good young coaches like Frank Vogel and David Joerger aren’t easy to come by.  It is legitimately shocking how easily those guys got cast away as if the years and years of success were meaningless.

    Rip City

    How fun are the Portland Trail Blazers?

    They have quickly become my favorite team to watch as the playoffs roll on, and while I have little doubt that the Golden State Warriors will advance to the Western Conference Finals, seeing the Blazers slowly figure out how to play the Warriors has been a treat.

    Of course, all strategy goes out the window once C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard start cooking, and that is as exciting as basketball has been all year. Portland’s future is good for the NBA and as someone who loves the sport; I care about that sort of thing. The Blazers have built an incredibly marketable backcourt that, that, above all else, play an incredibly entertaining brand of basketball.

    In Game 3, Jeff Van Gundy made a brief comment suggesting that you could swap Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry and neither team would miss a beat. While I don’t necessarily agree with him, and while I do think that is slightly unfair to a guy should be the unanimous MVP this season, I can understand where JVG is coming from. Lillard does a lot of the same things Curry does, with the same swagger, on a good basketball team that should contend for a championship over the next several years, and it’s lovely. It’s lovely that the NBA has this kind of a talent pool right now. It’s lovely that you could conceivably compare a potential unanimous MVP to a guy that wasn’t even an All Star this season (that is dumb, by the way). But it’s good for the game that we can even have that discussion. This is as good a time as any to be an NBA fan.

    Space Jam 2

    Sometime between last week and today, someone somewhere announced that Space Jam 2 was going to be a thing. I’ll spare myself the Googleing. It’s happening, I don’t know how we know it’s happening, but it’s happening. That isn’t the point.

    The point is, post-Space Jam 2 announcement, a lot of NBA people I love and respect started trashing Space Jam on Twitter and the like. I was appalled. I had no idea that was a legitimate take. I mean this in all sincerity, what’s not to like about Space Jam?

    I am a product of the ‘90s, so I understand that the movie was essentially tailor made for me, but even still – I don’t get it. What is the criticism? Michael Jordan was great, so I won’t accept that the acting was bad. The Looney Tunes are a proven commodity; they have a storied history of success.

    It has an audience score of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is too low, but acceptable. Vlade Divac, Bill Murray, Newman, and Foghorn Leghorn were all excellent. The soundtrack is fire. The basketball game itself was a barnburner. I could do this for days. Shawn Bradley. Charles Barkley. Pepe Le Pew. Stellar. Excellent film.

    In fact, if you told me that Space Jam was the second best sports movie of all-time, behind D2: The Mighty Ducks, of course, I wouldn’t argue with you.

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