Cheeks is gone ... what do we do now?
By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network.com) - Even before you clicked on this extremely well-written article, you were probably aware of the many differences between San Antonio forward Tim Duncan and Pistons guard Brandon Jennings.
Here are just a few in case you've forgotten.
Duncan has a degree from Wake Forest. Jennings went pro at 18.
Duncan has won four NBA titles. Jennings has never made it out of the first round.
Duncan is listed at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds. Jennings stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs just under 170.
Jennings is still looking for his first All-Star invite. Duncan has been to the All-Star Game 14 times.
But here's one you may not have realized.
Since entering the league in 1997, Duncan has only played for one head coach, the blissfully charming Gregg Popovich. When Jennings takes the floor Monday night (ironically, the Pistons are hosting Duncan's Spurs), he'll be playing for his fourth coach in the last 13 months.
That's right. The Pistons canned Maurice Cheeks Sunday after just 50 games as head coach. And they didn't even bother to tell Jennings, who found out about the firing while making the rounds on Twitter. All Jennings could say to his 70,000 followers was, "Wait what?"
You'd think Jennings would be used to this by now. Last season when he was with the Bucks, the front office handed Scott Skiles his pink slip in early January. Assistant coach Jim Boylan coached out the rest of the season, leading Milwaukee to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
So where does Jennings go from here? Will the mid-season coaching change lead to a great second half or will he and his teammates falter under new leadership?
Luckily for fantasy owners, there's no shortage of information on this subject.
The reason we have so much information isn't quite as pleasant. It's because TONS of coaches have been fired over the last two seasons.
One of them was Lakers coach (at the time) Mike Brown. After a 1-4 start to the 2012-13 season, the Buss family gave him the heave-ho, opting for former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni instead of the more sensible choice, 11-time World Champion Phil Jackson.
After Brown's departure, things didn't really change much for Kobe Bryant. His scoring average improved marginally under D'Antoni (27.5 ppg up from 27.2 with Brown) though his assist numbers were noticeably higher (6.1 apg versus only 3.2 with Brown). Anyone who watched the Lakers would tell you that wasn't because of D'Antoni though: it was because Steve Nash missed half the year with a broken leg, forcing Bryant into point guard duty.
Jennings' own stats paint a similar picture. Last year after Skiles was forced out, Jennings compiled averages of 17.3 ppg and 7.0 apg in 48 contests. Those are awfully similar to the numbers he posted when Skiles was still the coach for the first 32 games (17.7 ppg, 5.8 apg).
John Wall's before and after stats in 2011-12 were even less convincing. When the Wizards bid farewell to coach Flip Saunders 17 games into the season, Wall was averaging 16.2 ppg, 7.2 apg and 4.0 turnovers per contest. After Randy Wittman took over, his averages essentially stayed the same (16.3 ppg, 8.3 apg, 3.8 turnovers per game).
So we've learned that coaching changes mean nothing, Jennings will forever average 17 ppg and I've wasted five minutes of everyone's life. Thanks a lot, Jesse.
Well, not exactly. Though Kobe, Jennings and Wall didn't seem to be affected by their new coaches, others have benefited greatly from a change in command.
Take Deron Williams, for example.
D-Will's unhappiness played a huge role in Avery Johnson's firing last season. With interim coach P.J. Carlesimo calling the shots in Brooklyn, Williams fared much better, improving his scoring average by almost four points per game (16.5 ppg to 20.2 ppg).
Johnson's departure was tame compared to Paul Westphal's messy exit in Sacramento. After starting the year 2-5 and nearly coming to blows with temperamental big man Boogie Cousins, Westphal was shown the door. Cousins played much better under Keith Smart, though those two didn't always get along either (13.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 38.6 percent shooting under Westphal versus 18.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 45.4 percent with Smart).
Carmelo Anthony (21.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg before Mike D'Antoni's resignation, 24.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg after) and Goran Dragic (14.1 ppg, 6.1 apg with Alvin Gentry as coach, 15.4 ppg, 8.7 apg after his firing) also played better after their coaches were kicked to the curb.
Of course, there's always an exception. LaMarcus Aldridge didn't look like the same player after Portland fired Nate McMillan late in the 2011-12 season. He averaged just 20.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg with Kaleb Canales as coach compared to 21.9 ppg and 8.3 rpg with McMillan at the helm.
In the end, it doesn't matter who's patrolling the sidelines. If Brandon Jennings wants to get to the next level, there's only one man who can take him there: Brandon Jennings.
Tim Duncan, who has never tweeted in his 37 years of existence, lets his game do the talking. Maybe Jennings should learn to do the same.
Just a thought.
02/10 19:05:39 ET