You thought the Kings nemesis was gone forever? Not a chance. The Kings couldn’t beat him, then couldn’t hire him – though they came close. Our Friend Phil seriously flirted with the possibility of coaching the Kings when the Maloofs approached him at the end of the 2004-2005 season – while he was on sabbatical after being fired by Lakers owner Jerry Buss – but he was deterred from moving forward for two reasons: He felt uncomfortable because a colleague (Rick Adelman) still held the job, if only briefly, and more importantly he knew the Lakers would beg him to come back after Rudy Tomjanovich’s disappointing tenure. He was right. They begged. He went back. So now, while he abhors isolation basketball (Carmelo Anthony) even more than most of us, he won’t be able to resist the lure of running his old team, the New York Knicks, and not having to coach. Meet Phil, the executive.
The Flyers zipped through a 34-0 season and the Missouri Valley Conference title, and guess what? There is not a one-and-done player in their rotation. Leading scorer Cleanthony Early is a senior – a senior! – and the other rotation players are sophomores, juniors and seniors. Sounds like someone has been listening to Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who insists that balanced, talented teams can counter the programs who entice prep superstars with promises of getting them into the NBA Draft Lottery after their freshman season.
The two best teams in the Eastern Conference are slumping. The Heat have dropped three straight and the Pacers are have lost four in a row. The NBA is a long and winding 82-game grind. Imagine the Chicago Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose.
The Philadelphia 76ers, the storied franchise of Julius Erving, Mo Cheeks, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, etc., can give lessons on tanking. They traded All-Star Jrue Holiday before the season, used a Lottery pick on a rookie (Nerlens Noel) coming off ACL knee surgery, swapped starters Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes at the trade deadline – have lost 16 consecutive games. The Milwaukee Bucks have won three fewer games, so the 76ers haven’t hit bottom, but they will. They’re on a roll. And just wondering: Has anyone bothered to tell the new ownership group that Philly has always been a very, very, very, competitive and difficult NBA market?
Both teams qualified for spots in Big Sky Conference tournaments, and while it’s not the same thing as a ticket to the big dance, it is another step toward relevance.