Joel Embiid & Trae Young

#IMHO: The End of the Sixers and the Jazz! Coaching vacancies everywhere! Plus, will Becky Hammon finally get that top gig?

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Kelcey Wright Johnson weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Monday, June 21, 2021 12:14 PM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: #IMHO


Welcome back from your summer vacation! From the glimpses I saw on the Gram, it looked like you were living your best life. And just curious, on your way back home to the 901, did you happen to cross paths with the number one seed Philadelphia 76ers or Utah Jazz? Because they’ve both gone fishing.

Because that’s where things are right now. The Jazz got detuned by the Clippers, who toward the end were without their best player in Kawhi Leonard. Meanwhile, the Sixers were mostly heathy, but still lost to the Atlanta Hawks, who look like the hottest team in the NBA right now.

Both of these one seeds had pretty obvious flaws. The Jazz had a defensive player of the year who could not make any impact on the game, thanks to the way the Clips were able to stretch them out offensively. And the Sixers had a marquee player (Ben Simmons) who wouldn’t shoot the ball in fourth quarters.

Let’s start this week in Philly. What would you do to get this team back on track?

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2021 8:59 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: #IMHO

What’s going on, Lang? Thanks for the welcome back! You see, I didn’t run into the Sixers or the Jazz because I was busy in Brooklyn and Phoenix; two cities where the basketball (while I was there) was still going strong!

I don’t want to say I’m good luck, but the Nets didn’t lose until I left…so take what you will from that.

As for Philly though, I haven’t been in a few months so my luck must have worn off for them unfortunately. So, the question is what now for the 76ers?

I doubt Doc stays, and I doubt Simmons stays. I think the Sixers blow up the team and start a rebuild around Embiid.

I don’t mind if Doc stays (like I said, I doubt he will), but my opinion is strong with getting Ben out. I think Embiid needs to be surrounded by shooters in order to space out the floor; so I say re-sign Danny Green and then add another shooter or two around him. Maybe someone like DeMar DeRozan? Mike Conley? Kelly Oubre? Philly can afford to shop with Ben’s price tag and resume.

I think Ben Simmons just wasn’t the right fit — you and I both know the importance of fit on a team. Ben Simmons is an All-Star and he will continue to be great … just on a different squad. And the same goes for Philly as a team, they just weren’t thriving with Ben, and I truly believe they’ll do better with players that complement each other better.

Now let’s move over to Utah. Lang, what went wrong? Where do they go from here?

Joel Embiid looks on

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2021 11:37 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: Re: #IMHO

The thing I liked so much about Utah this season is that they built this team from within – well, basically. Sure, they gave up a lot to our Grizzlies to add Mike Conley to the mix, but for the most part the rest of the Jazz roster was assembled through the draft and smaller free agency deals. Quin Snyder has been there for a while, also. So I like that the Jazz took their time and essentially invested in infrastructure and bet on improvement from within. So often these days we see teams try and trade half the roster and flip five draft picks and… well, I just like that the Jazz did it the old-fashioned way.

They had the best record in the league, at least during the regular season. But when they got to a series against a deep team like the Clips, they got found out. The Clips went five out and spread the floor and completely took the Jazz out of their element. And I know the Jazz were without Conley during some of the series, but clearly, the issue with the Jazz was how bad Rudy Gobert looked. I know that’s a strong thing to say, particularly when you’re talking about a multiple-time defensive player of the year, but man, the Jazz just looked awful when Gobert was in there. The Clippers kept creating problems, and the Jazz really had no answers. They couldn’t hide Gobert.

Gobert is a divisive figure. He famously broke into tears a few years ago when he found out he didn’t make the All-Star Game, and I don’t really fault him for that—he felt he deserved to make it and he reacted how he reacted. But he also seems to spend so much time on the court flopping and whining and complaining. If you’re one of the five best players in the League, maybe you can get away with that. But when you can’t stay on the court in the Conference Semis, at some point you have to realize you gotta put up or shut up. My guess is the Jazz hang onto him and try it again next season, but maybe invest in an athletic big who can spell Gobert when teams try and stretch them out next season. Because you know that’s what’s going to happen all season next season. The Clippers left everyone the blueprint; now everyone else just has to follow the plan.

Since we last emailed, thing have gotten spicy down in the Big Easy! First the Pelicans parted way with coach Stan Van Gundy after just one season on the job, then a report dropped that the family of Zion Williamson was disgruntled with the ways things were going in N’awlins. So while the Pelicans prepare to hire what will be Zion’s third coach in three seasons, if you were making the hire, who would you look to bring to the bayou to get things turned around, quickly?

Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert

From: Kelcey W. Johnson

Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2021 1:31 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: #IMHO

The Pelicans head coaching job is probably one of the most coveted jobs in the league; despite no coach sticking the last couple years, the next coach has the opportunity for real success coaching a superstar in Zion along with some talent like Brandon Ingram, who are both ready to reach new heights and grow into their potentials.

But this next coach needs to stick. Zion can’t have four coaches in four years – that would be insane. And I say that with experience; did I ever tell you that I had four coaches in my five years of playing college ball? It’s not fun.

Part of what didn’t work with Van Gundy this year was he didn’t have the buy-in with the team. I think the next coach should be a young, communicator who has a resume working with a young team. New Orleans has gotten permission to interview both Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn and Bucks’ assistant Charles Lee — both of whom I think would be great candidates to lead this team to a playoff appearance.

Vaughan is a former player and has coached with multiple teams around the league — I like his experience, his youth and some of the coaching philosophies that he’s had experience coaching under. I also saw somewhere that he likes reading and writing poetry, so how could I not root for that sweet soul?

And then Charles Lee? I said youth was important — this guy was born in 1984! He’s young young, which may be a great thing for the Pels team. He’s also a former player who has coached in the NCAA and on a couple squads in the NBA.

HOWEVER! Part of me wants Becky Hammon to be interviewed for every coaching vacancy available in the NBA, but seeing her interview for Portland seems like a way better fit anyway.

Who do you think is the best fit to coach Dame and the rest of the Blazers?

Becky Hammon and Gregg Popovich

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2021 11:14 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: Re: #IMHO

Well, sounds my top choice is off the market, at least as of this morning: According to reports, the Pacers have hired Rick Carlisle to be their next head coach. I’ve always admired Carlisle and thought he was one of the more underrated coaches in the NBA, despite winning a title with the Mavs a while back.

We know who Dame and CJ want: When the T-Wolves fired Ryan Saunders and brought in Chris Finch, those dudes were pretty adamant that T-Wolves assistant David Vanterpool should get a look. So you would assume those guys would want Vanterpool to get a shot. At the same time, I’d love for Becky Hammon to get a chance, and I think Portland would be a great fit for her. I’ve also seen Mike D’Antoni‘s name thrown around, but being worse on defense than they were last season seems like a bad idea.

At some point, Hammon is going to get a shot. It feels like we have this same conversation every year, and it seems like every season it seems like Hammon gets closer and closer to getting that head coaching gig. I’m wondering if this is finally the year that it happens.

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