June 3, 2007
Say this much about Jim O'Brien:
The former Celtics coach does not march to an orthodox beat.
Just as he abruptly pulled up stakes on his new boss, Danny Ainge, midway through the 2003-04 season, and hit the wall in stunning fashion after resurfacing in Philadelphia, the veteran coach has once again made a move with all the uniformity of a knuckleball.
His unveiling on Thursday as Indiana's replacement for Rick Carlisle caught the league by surprise.
The names of everyone from Sam Mitchell, who earned a new deal in Toronto thanks to leverage from the Pacers' interest, to Stan Van Gundy and local hero Chuck Person had been on the wall in Larry Bird's office.
But by bringing in O'Brien, Bird also expects to secure one of his old assistants - ex-Celtics aide Dick Harter, defensive architect on the Pacers team that reached the 2000 NBA Finals. Bird, master of delegation that he is, entrusted the offense on that team to Carlisle.
O'Brien's challenge will be significant. The Pacers, thanks to the trade that essentially swapped Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, went from athletic and erratic to cumbersome and easily defended over the second half of the season.
But Bird is also trying desperately to change what had been an eroding culture on this team over the last three years.
O'Brien, who demands much in terms of discipline, will certainly get this team to play defense again - though how he mixes with the quixotic Jermaine O'Neal (barring a trade of the big guy) and Jamaal Tinsley (ditto) remains to be seen.
It will also be interesting to see how O'Brien, who went from brilliant with the Celtics to near-immediate disaster in Philly, has recovered from his Sixers flameout.
Perhaps his last two years as an ESPN.com blogger has been enlightening.
As evidenced by his ability to get the Celtics into the 2002 Eastern Conference finals, the man can coach. He probably milked more out of Antoine Walker than anyone else deemed possible.
But as evidenced by his Sixers tenure, O'Brien can also lose players quickly.
But if Bird is looking for a comfort zone on the bench - and a no-nonsense guy to boot - then this is an intriguing choice.
The question is which O'Brien has resurfaced.
BC-ing ya later
It was with a mild case of alarm that Charles Grantham read the first reports of Sean Williams choosing not to attend the NBAPredraft Camp in Orlando last week.
Though not reported as such in all media outlets, a good portion, according to the Chicago-based agent, couched Williams' decision as a desire to avoid answering questions about his suspension from Boston College last winter.
Williams is actually prepared to make a full disclosure to the teams he works out for privately over the next three weeks, according to Grantham.
``He will discuss with his (potential) employers what happened,'' said Grantham, who is leaving that information between Williams and the teams. ``When you talk about the mistakes people have made in judgment while they're living and working in a fishbowl, I think Sean has dealt with it well.''
Williams had served two earlier expulsions as an Eagle, one for marijuana possession and another for academic trouble.
Though Williams has declined interview requests - including one from the Herald - to elaborate on the violation that ultimately got him kicked off the team, the trouble obviously hasn't affected the league's interest in his unique, defense-based skills.
The Celtics are one of an estimated 16 teams expected to attend workouts by Williams on June 11 and 18 in Houston, where he is training with former NBA coach and player John Lucas, a longtime supporter of Williams.
``It's a misconception,'' Grantham said of the reaction to Williams' decision to remain in Houston with Lucas last week. ``Sean didn't run away. And teams have no reason to be alarmed.
``He'll be quite open with teams about what happened. I've read some things already that just aren't accurate. He's really matured quite a bit, and realizes the consequences of what he has done.
``He's worked with John Lucas, and this isn't a situation that warrants anyone being concerned about his past mistakes.''
Kobe speaks Truth
Wondering just how unsettled Paul Pierce is these days?
Ever wonder just how much the Celtics captain is biting his tongue?
Instead of trying to be the good citizen, he could have gone the way of Kobe Bryant last week.
All in the course of making the media rounds Thursday, Bryant first demanded a trade on ESPN radio, but, after a talk with Phil Jackson, then reversed his field.
All of this after exhorting Lakers management to bring back Jerry West, who appears to be committed to retirement following a frustrating tenure in Memphis.
Think Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, the man weaned by West, is taking all of this unsolicited help well?
The bottom line is that like Bryant, Pierce has most likely hit the point of absolute frustration with the news that the Celtics are picking fifth on June 28.
He doesn't even have to be asked his opinion for his feelings to be known - trade the pick, along with whomever else is needed, for some veteran help. . . .
Now that Clay Bennett has been in the Sonics ownership chair for almost a year, and has hit an apparent wall in his attempts to get a new arena built on taxpayer dollars, he's turned to that time-honored sports ownership tactic.
He's taken the team hostage.
As became apparent as he made the rounds of the media in his native Oklahoma, Bennett will likely move the team to Oklahoma City at some point in the next two years, though he has also mentioned Kansas City as an option.
Don't count on the latter possibility, though. The Oklahoma City community was far too enthusiastic in its support as the temporary home of the New Orleans Hornets to be ignored now.