A friend of mine and I talk sports just about every morning before we go to work. This morning, we jumped around from subject to subject, talking about how the talent at UNC just wasn't working (he's a Duke fan, I didn't want to talk about that long), we talked about Cam Netwon and what would've happened had he stayed at Florida, we discussed Urban Meyer's re-retirement, and then our attentions turned to the Celtics v. Knicks game from last night. Did any of you see that game by the way? It was great, with Paul Pierce nailing a jumper with .4 seconds left to play to put the Cetics up 2, only to have Amare Stoudemire nail a three pointer at the buzzer for the Knicks win, only to have the refs wave it off after reviewing the clock. Wow, what a game.
The subject then jumped to Raymond Felton, who had 26 points and 14 assists last night and is quickly making everyone in the Big Apple forget about the plan to bring CP3 or Derron Williams to NY. This is the point where Larry Brown's name entered our discussion this morning. This is the point where my friend said, and I quote:
"Larry Brown has to be one of the worst coaches in NBA history. How in the hell does Raymond Felton go from scrub in Charlotte to star in N.Y. and Tyson Chandler goes from role player status in Charlotte to being one of the key catalyst to the Mav's year" (who are off to a 20-5) start,
Now, in previous years, I would've said something like "man, Raymond Felton is a scrub, I'm a UNC fan, I should know" or "You really think Tyson Chandler is going to keep that up", but this year, I'm finding myself constantly saying, "Well, the talent was always there".
Then, we moved on to other players who have shined in various ways after escaping the clutches of the Bobcats. He then said...............
"Look at Shannon Brown. You mean to tell me that this man can barely crack the rotation for the Bobcats, but he can be a key role player on a championship Lakers team? Or Jared Dudley?" (who had a lot of success with the Suns last year)
Now, in previous years, I would've said something like "man, Shannon Brown's skill set just doesn't fit Larry's, neither does Dudley's". This year, the only clear, thought through answer I could give him was a simple, "I don't know". And all at once, it's like it hit me.
When someone asks me what a good coach is, I always tell them that it is a person who can make talent work. I don't blame coaches with inferior talent when they lose, but when the talent is there, it's ultimately up to you to make it work. Which is the same reason I felt Erick Spoelstra was well on his way to being fired when Miami got off to a 9-8 start to begin the season (that seems like a long time ago). And for the Bobcats, I feel like the talent is here, has been here for the past few years, and will continue to be here. It just depends on what we do with it.
Stephen Graham and Dominic McGuire have come to represent Larry's love for overachieving. Like some of the other posts on here in recent days suggest, I'm really starting to question Larry's love for winning measured against it. Out of all the championship teams over the past 15 years, Larry Brown's Pistons have probably been the least likeliest to win it on paper. Out of all the championship contenders of the past 15 years, Larry Brown's Sixers have probably been the least likeliest to make it on paper (even less likely than LeBron's Cavs). I mean, in my opinion, to this day, getting a team featuring Eric Snow and George Lynch to the Finals and winning it with Rip and Ben over Shaq and Kobe were phenomenal achievements, but did Larry lose his mind somewhere along the way?
What really can explain the fact that McGuire is a featured player in Charlotte (yes, he is, check the minutes) other than the theory that Larry likes to win with less? I've been wrecking my brain trying to come up with something, but I just can't. I'll admit, the moment we got Larry Brown to sign on the dotted line to become our head coach I was estatic. Sam Vincent can do that to a man. But now that this pattern has continued of overachieving players being featured here, I'm wondering have we been underachieving all alone. Looking back at our 08 team, which included Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, Jared Dudley, and Nazr Mohammed, I'm really wondering how good our team could have been without a coach with such outdated ideas. L.A.L. has always scared me because I look around the league and I see guys like Jay Triano, John Kuester, and Mike Dunleavy out there who seem to just establish themsevles year after year of being bad coaches, and I really don't want to get into that pattern of having to fire a coach every three years. Then, I think back to Sam Vincent and literally shake. But then, I think about all of the Jerry Sloans, Alvin Gentry's Mike D'antonis, and Phil Jacksons, who always seem to make it work with whoever and whatever they have. Maybe the problem hasn't been the players. And maybe Raja Bell, Jared Dudley, Raymond Felton, and Shannon Brown are the proof. Time to get ready for L.A.L.