Having throughly enjoyed the memorable seventh game of the Kings-Lakers conference finals in 2002, I am totally engrossed in this seven-game series between the heavily favored Lakers and the injury-depleted Houston Rockets. Even without the injured Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and (reitired) Dikembe Mutombo, the Rockets have a lot to offer. Daryl Morey has done an exceptional job manipulating the salary cap and assembling a deep, talented roster. Equally important, the pieces fit. The point guard (Aaron Brooks) breaks down defenses. Ron Artest and Shane Battier are lockdown defenders and opportunistic scorers. Luis Scola is a physical, if undersized low post performer. And Carl Landry and Kyle Lowry are solid, important contributors off the bench.
But it only works because Rick Adelman is coaching this team like he doesn't give a hoot what his boss says or whether he returns next season. He isn't catering to an ailing superstar (think Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady), worrying about playing popular rookie Jason Williams when Vernon Maxwell or Tariq Abdul-Wahad should have been on the floor for the final defensive possession against the Utah Jazz (Game 4, 1999), or sticking with the struggling Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic in Game 7 vs; the Lakers in 2002 when Scot Pollard and Bobby Jackson were the only Kings who weren't swallowed by the moment.
Frankly, it's fascinating to watch the hyper sensitive Adelman coaching to his players' strengths (defense) and not fretting about what his general manager or his owners or the media thinks, or worrying about playing this player or that player because they make more money than someone else. As they say, coaches evolve. I wouldn't be shocked if the Rockets upset the Lakers Sunday in Staples Center. Adelman is overdue. And Phil Jackson seems far from enamored of his club - for all its talent. I can't remember ever hearing him sound so accepting of so many lopsided losses. Maybe he's just tired ...
Jumping at the chance
Increasingly, it sounds as if Eddie Jordan would take the Philadelphia 76ers head coaching job if offered, which would eliminate him from the Kings' situation. The reasoning is pretty obvious. Sixers GM Ed Stefanski has more security than Geoff Petrie, the Comcast-owned club figures to be more generous with its offer than the small-market Kings, and the Sixers roster has better talent. Nonetheless, my sources in Philadelphia are telling me that Jordan would be a tough sell in the famously demanding market. The Sixers historically labor to fill the building - there were plenty of seats even during those classic Bird-Erving playoffs in the 1980s - and they trail the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers in popularity. There is a lingering suspicion among media types, in fact, that Stefanski, who has been friendly with Jordan since their time with the New Jersey Nets, might be pressed to pursue a higher profile coach such as Jeff Van Gundy (supposedly interested) or Doug Collins (definitely interested)..
Petrie is in Europe for the next few days, scouting Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, so no movement is expected on the Kings coaching situation until he returns late Tuesday. But it could get interesting, particularly if the Kings win one of the first two picks Tuesday in the annual Draft Lottery. The job suddenly would become more appealing, and perhaps convince Petrie and the Maloofs to expand their search beyond Jordan and Paul Westphal.