Latino Stars Go Through Highs and Lows As Their Season Concludes
Meetings and meetings passed throughout last summer but the NBA players and owners never came up with a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in time to let the players back to work. Once they did reach a deal for a new CBA, it was back to work with a 66-game schedule, evidently a nightmare in the eyes of many.
We saw the debut of the league's first Mexican-American coach, Portland's Kaleb Canales and also another coach with Dominican roots, Golden State's Mark Jackson.
Never in his wildest dreams Canales thought that he would be a heach coach in the NBA at this stage in his career. The 33-year-old was named interim head coach in March, replacing his mentor Nate McMillan. The Blazers were 20-23 before Canales stepped in and they went 8-15 under the kid from Laredo, Texas, who started out as a video intern in 2005 and eventually by 2009 was an assistant. He lost LaMarcus Alridge, who raved about Canales' leadership since taking over, and had two starters traded, Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace. Add injuries to Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Nicholas Batum over the last month, where was this team exactly heading but expect Canales to be considered for a job.
Jackson, whose grandmother was born in the Dominican Republic, finally got his first head coaching gig but the first year is one he'd like to forget. Jackson guided the Warriors to a 23-43 record in the shortened season and saw his best player, Monta Ellis, traded away to Milwaukee last month for an injured center, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson, who was immediately sent to San Antonio. The original plan was to try and pry Orlando's Dwight Howard but we all saw how that saga ended. Jackson's team ended the season losing 20 of 28 after the Ellis deal, putting them in line for a lottery pick in this year's draft.
Jackson even dreamed of making the playoffs in his first season as a kid.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson said, “I made the playoffs in my dream. The first year was off the charts. I woke up, and I went back to sleep and we won it all. The dream was much better than it turned out to be in my first year.”
Jackson should expect a better things if Bogut (fractured ankle), Stephen Curry (right ankle surgery) and David Lee (torn abdominal muscles and abductors) come back healthy next season.
The Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Clippers set the stage for a rebuilding mode of the New Orleans Hornets, who went out and acquired another point guard. They got a serviceable one in Venezuelan Greivis Vásquez, who clearly was not going to get the playing time in Memphis that he earned playing for head coach Monty Williams.
The second-year point guard averaged career highs in points (8.9), assists (5.4) and minutes per game (25.48). Another Latino that benefited from New Orleans' new plan was Gustavo Ayon, who came over after playing for Fuenlabrada in the Spanish ACB league while the players were locked out. Ayon got an early Christmas present, signing a three-year deal although the first year was only guaranteed. The Mexican power forward averaged just 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 54 games. He started 24 games and during one stretch had double figures in rebounding in three of five games. Trevor Ariza started 41 games and averaged 10.8 points for the Hornets but failed to get on the court since April 7 as Williams informed him that the team wanted to go ahead and provide more playing time to the younger guys and get a feel of what they were capable of doing. Ariza, according to The Times Picayune, was given permission by Williams to miss the team's final road trip.
If you were to feel sorry for a team just look at the Minnesota Timberwolves and their fall from grace. While basketball is a team sport, the absence of one player could derail whatever postseason hopes you'd come to expect out of your team. Ricky Rubio's torn ACL injury basically wiped out the Timberwolves season. Rick Adelman was doing a phenomenal job with a young team up north that was 21-19 when their Spanish star was lost. They finished the season 5-21 and completed the free fall by winning just once in their last 14 games. J.J. Barea's injuries throughout the season didn't help the cause, but he did average 11.3 points and 5.7 assists in 41 games.
Let’s stay on the collapse subject here. All was well in Houston before the Rockets ran out of gas and completely missed out on the playoffs. It was just two weeks ago that the Rockets held the sixth spot in the Western Conference only to go on a slump and lose six straight and seven of their last nine.
Luis Scola wasn't expected to be around for this collapse had it not been for the NBA rejecting the three-team deal that would have sent him to New Orleans with Paul going to the Lakers. He stuck around in a place where he says he feels comfortable but certainly understands why they tried to move him and proceeded by playing in every game this year. His points (15.5) and rebounding (6.5) were slightly below what we've become accustomed to over the years.
“It's frustrating. We had the upper hand all the way until the last week and we just couldn't do it and it's very frustrating right now,” Scola said last night after Houston beat New Orleans to close out the season.
Carlos Delfino and his Milwaukee Bucks also went into a late season dive and could not take advantage of a Philadelphia team that also went into a rut. The Bucks ended the season by losing five of seven. The Ellis traded should had made them better but they went 13-11 with him in the lineup.
Jose Calderon was perhaps the only positive light in yet another bad season for the Toronto Raptors and according to the Toronto Star, coach Dwayne Casey came away impressed with his point guards leadership on the court.
Casey said he never doubted the decisions that the Spanish point guard made through the course of a game and always found himself listening to his player.
“I love Jose, and that was one of my big surprises coming here was how good he was as a leader, as a point guard, as a distributor, as a student of the game,” Casey said. “He sees things on the floor and my trust level went up for him to the top just because I respect his decisions. He has a good feel for our team, of what guys need and don’t need.”
Calderon finished tied for fourth in assists with 8.8 per game and his assist-to-turnover ratio was 4.5-1, tops in the league. Panamanian Gary Forbes appeared in 48 games and averaged 6.6 points.
Anderson Varejao has his season cut short just as it was last year due to an injury. Varejao fractured his wrist on February 10 against Milwaukee but it quite never healed quickly. It seemed like the Cleveland Cavaliers center was headed to an All-Star game selection but the injury put those dreams on hold. He averaged 10.8 points and 11.5 before he got hurt. Varejao, who's looking forward to playing for Brazil in the Olympic Games in London, missed the appeared in only 31 games last season before tearing a tendon in his right foot that required surgery. The Cavs finished 21-45 and could very use some ping pong balls in the NBA Lottery to further improve their team.
The Nene trade to Washington signaled a change in the franchise's direction. Although the Wizards are likely to land another good draft pick, having Nene around changed the culture of the team. Losing was no longer acceptable.
According to the Washington Post, John Wall felt like the level of professionalism kicked in high gear as soon as the Brazilian center/power forward came over from Denver in a three-team deal that sent Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers and JaVale McGee, who was known for his bloopers, to Denver.
“It was the right decision. We had a lot of jokes and stuff going around the locker room, but (now) the energy is more serious, everybody is being on time, taking things more serious, being professional about everything,” Wall said.
Perhaps some time soon a plan will be devised so that the Sacramento Kings stay in the city but who knows what going on in the minds of the city politicians and the Maloofs. Perhaps it's time for the team to part ways with Francisco Garcia, a seven-year veteran who had one of his worst seasons this year for the lottery-bound team.
Garcia saw action in 49 games but his minutes, points and shooting percentages from the field and beyond the arc dramatically dropped. Garcia's role in the team could be as a role model to keep the youngsters straight but I'm sure that's not what's on the mind of a player that plays defense and is a respectable threat to come off the bench for a playoff team and put some points up.
The New Jersey Nets or Brooklyn Nets, whatever you want to call them now, needs as many chips as possible to retain Deron Williams. One of those chips was Brook Lopez. The center appeared in just five games and was shut down just to make sure he fully healed himself. Lopez missed New Jersey's first 32 games of the season with a broken foot he suffered during the final preseason game against the New York Knicks.
The franchise that has had more bad luck than good on its side then saw Lopez sprain his right ankle and miss 10 games. That injury actually aggravated the right foot, this the decision to pull the curtain.
A new arena awaits Lopez in Brooklyn, hopefully he'll have his point guard feeding him for some easy baskets in the paint.
As the season winded down in Detroit, Charlie Villanueva finally started to see some time on the court, playing the Pistons' last seven games, finally dusting off his sneakers after sitting idle on the bench , a decision made by coach Lawrence Frank once Villanueva was ready to contribute.
Villanueva played well during the stretch and was pain-free from that ankle injury that cost him almost the entire season. The Pistons could either trade him or use their amnesty clause by releasing him and avoiding a hit on their salary cap.
Barea: “We have a lot of guys that don't care”
Who knows if J.J. Barea regrets signing with Minnesota knowing the situation that he was coming into: a franchise that had not made the playoffs since 2004, a team synonymous with losing.
Well the former point guard of the defending world champions Dallas Mavericks let his team have it after a loss to Golden State in which the T-Wolves led 55-39 at the half Sunday but lost 93-88.
Barea didn't name any names but sensed that his team didn't care any more, according to the Star Tribune.
"We've got problems here. We have a lot of guys that don't care. On a basketball team, when you have a bunch of guys who don't care, it's tough to win games. We're going to keep getting (losses) here until we get players that care about winning, about the team, about the fans,” Barea said.
"We come in here after the game and (act like) nothing happened. That's what happens to a losing team. ... It wasn't my best game. I did OK, but it wasn't one of my best. There are a bunch of us here who care and play hard. But there is a bunch that don't care. We just have to change that."
Bobcats – Worst Ever in NBA History
If Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats were in a soccer division, they would have been relegated to playing in a rec league by now.
The Bobcats lost their 23rd straight game last night against the Knicks, finishing with the worst winning percentage in the history of the game. The lockout shortened season did not stop them from finishing 7-59 (.106), taking those honors away from the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers squad that finished 9-73 (.110).
The good news. They earned the most ping pong balls in the lottery.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.