Time, energy, and the rigorous NBA schedule have conspired to prevent us from bringing you news from around the league for a couple weeks, so let's correct that omission today. Here are the latest must-have stories from The Association.
Knicks Hire Morgan Freeman As Head Coach
After a 3-13 start to their 2013-14 campaign the New York Knicks surprised nobody by firing embattled coach Mike Woodson on Tuesday. The shock of the day came when Knicks owner James Dolan took to the podium to talk about the dismissal and introduce Woodson's immediate replacement.
"We liked Mike. We appreciate the job he did for us. But facts are facts; this is not a 3-win team. We had to solve that problem, figure out what was going wrong.
"When your team is built around talent like Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, and J.R. Smith it's pretty obvious that your issues are not structural. There's no possible hole there. We built airtight. Logic dictates the problem must be motivation. Mike was a good coach but he wasn't motivating these guys properly. So we sat down to find the best motivator out there. And come on, who is better than Morgan Freeman? This guy could motivate a turtle to win the pole vault."
When questioned about Freeman's basketball experience or capacity to coach at any level, let alone the NBA, Dolan responded, "What's to know? The guys will take care of playing basketball. Morgan will just talk to them. He doesn't even have to make up anything new. Just use the stuff he's already said in movies. I mean, have you heard him?"
At that point Dolan ushered Coach Freeman to the microphone to say a few words. After offering reporters the cryptic caution that it only seemed like they had each other over the same barrel and repeatedly calling upon a non-existent "Ms. Lerner" for the first question, Freeman opened the floor. A partial transcript follows.
On what he'd say to the team in order to turn around their miserable start:
"It's a choice that each of us must face - to remain ordinary, pathetic, beat-down, coasting through a miserable existence, like sheep herded by fate, or you can take control of your own destiny and join us, releasing the caged wolf you have inside."
On Carmelo Anthony and his controversial score-first approach to the game:
"There are no perfect men, only perfect intentions."
On developing a relationship with mercurial super-sub Smith:
"All I ask is that you do your work to the best of your abilities, and with good heart."
On the remaining potential of 31-year-old former All-Star Stoudemire:
"I believe that you measure yourself by the people that measure themselves by you."
His thoughts on first-year Knick Bargnani, criticized at times for passive play:
"Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back. But step back too far and you ain't fighting at all."
On how he'd handle NBA refs. What if, for instance, Bennett Salvatore whistled him for an unjust technical. How would he respond?
"F*** you, Sally!"
After 15 minutes of replies during which most media members alternated between laughing and nodding sagely, Freeman called for the final question. Asked whether he'd actually be able to reverse the Knicks' woeful fortunes, Freeman offered:
"People want me to do everything for them. What they don't realize is that they have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle."
At that point Freeman left the podium to an uncharacteristic round of applause from the New York media corps.
Terms of Freeman's contract remain undisclosed but rumors put the figure in the $30 million per year range.
Woodson posted a 75-47 record over three seasons with the Knicks.
Jason Kidd Spills Jumbotron On Floor, Delays Season
On the heels of an incident last Wednesday in which he spilled a drink on the court as a delaying tactic in the midst of a 99-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd is at it again. In the fourth quarter of a tough game against the visiting Denver Nuggets Tuesday night, Kidd "accidentally" dropped the Barclay Center scoreboard on the court, mandating major structural and cosmetic repairs to the arena and effectively postponing the season for the 5-12 Nets.
The incident began as Brooklyn called a timeout while trailing the Nuggets 104-79 with 5:58 left in the final period. Video tape shows that as Kidd's players approached the bench, he mouthed the words "hit me" to reserve point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor can then be seen making demonstrable, yet incidental, contact with his head coach.
After the pointed brush Kidd flew backwards off the playing floor, backpedaled seemingly out of control through 2 concourses and up 3 flights of stairs, fell up a maintenance ladder, tumbled willy-nilly along a catwalk, and found himself in possession of a hacksaw that he claimed he always carries beneath his suit coat "for luck". The force of the impact caused him to vibrate the saw blade repeatedly against the posts attaching the scoreboard to the arena ceiling. This residual vibration occurred three separate times, once for each support, in counter-clockwise order. With the third support severed the weight of the scoreboard became too much for the remaining post to bear and the entire, three-ton apparatus crashed to mid-court, obliterating the Nets logo and causing serious damage to the surface and the floor beneath. The game was terminated immediately and the future of Brooklyn's season remains in doubt.
When questioned about the incident in the locker room, Kidd explained, "This is just one of those things that happens in the course of a season. It's nobody's fault, really, just two guys bumping into each other. It's sad, you know, that we...uh...won't be playing for a while. Nobody wanted that. We were just about to turn it around."
No word yet on when, or if, Brooklyn's season will resume.
Spurs Reach Final Level, Finish Game
Continuing the scoreboard theme, both the San Antonio Spurs and their fans were stunned on Monday night as a dramatic finish to a 102-100 victory over the Atlanta Hawks gave way to an even more dramatic aftermath.
The contest ended in regulation as Tim Duncan hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the foul line to secure the victory for the Spurs. In the normal course of events Duncan's shot would have been replayed multiple times on the screen at the AT&T Center. In a bizarre turn, the scoreboard began to flicker, displaying the game-winning shot on the left side of the screen while the right side filled with symbols and integers. The display emitted a series of whistles in descending pitch and finished with an audible pop before the words "Game Over" appeared in multi-colored, block lettering across the screen.
As Duncan and Coach Gregg Popovich watched the scoreboard alongside the announced crowd of 17,318, veteran referee Dick Bavetta approached the pair.
"That's it. You won," Bavetta said.
Popovich replied, "I know we won. Tim hit the shot."
"No," replied Bavetta, "You didn't just win the game, you won the league. There are no more levels after this."
"You mean it's over? We're done?" asked Popovich.
"Well, unless you want to start again from the beginning."
Duncan interjected, "No way we're doing that, Coach. It'd take way too long."
Popovich put his arm around Duncan as the two exited the court to scattered applause from their befuddled fans. "We did good, Tim. They kept saying we'd get old, but it took the kill screen to finish us."
Duncan muttered, "I guess. It seems like we should get our quarter back or something."
Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has confirmed that with the Spurs stepping away from the game for now, the Seattle Supersonics will finally get a chance to play. Providing, of course, their mom doesn't make them come home for dinner first.