Coaching hot seats and pressure from ownership or the media doesn’t always involve winning an NBA title, although it probably does for the Los Angeles Lakers after their high profile additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard or the Boston Celtics, with 2012-2013 being the last chance to get something meaningful out of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Sometimes, it’s about being expected to keep on a certain path and take another step, one further than last season – Make the playoffs, win a playoff series, at least make noises of contending for a title. Sometimes, making the place seem worthwhile so you can keep your star player is enough of an achievement.
Doc Rivers is signed on a $7 million a year deal that goes until 2016, but missing out on the NBA finals once again while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett get older by a year, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to win left for this core group, shrinking by one member as Ray Allen chose the Miami Heat over another year under Rivers and next to Rajon Rondo.
The day of splitting up the package or just waiting for these guys to ride off onto retirement on Rondo’s back keeps getting closer for Danny Ainge. Adding Jason Terry to the mix just means they haven’t given up on a second title ring.
New York Knicks
There’s not a day without pressure in New York, so there’s nothing new about this. Jeremy Lin got traded away, so the focus is back on Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to lead this team into more than just a first round defeat. The Knicks did a decent job in the offseason except for Lin, adding Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer to add depth to this team, hoping Kidd doesn’t fall apart and continue to put up incredibly low numbers for yet another year. This isn’t about the head coach’s job being on the line (always is on the line), but about the trade machine starting to work if the Knicks don’t make it past the first round of the postseason once again.
This is no longer a team built for the future. After keeping Roy Hibbert with a short big time contract, signing a four year, $58 million contract, the Pacers need to take another step in the Eastern conference, meaning reach the Finals. The Miami Heat are the only team that’s clearly better while the Chicago Bulls are simply waiting for Rose to comeback. It’s time to take the Celtics’ spot as the next best team in the East, putting a lot of pressure on Paul George, the most talented player in this bunch, to take his game to another level, which means averaging more than 12 points per game.
No one is expecting the Bucks to win an NBA title or even the Eastern conference, but Scott Skiles needs to deliver a postseason appearance after two years of underachieving. The Bucks did have a sort of breakout season in 2009-2010, but Andrew Bogut didn’t make the second leap they expected him to and decided that this is now a guard team, giving Brandon Jennings a Monta Ellis to team up with in the back-court. The team has size in the paint but probably will struggle to produce points from their front-court, unless John Henson has a brilliantly unexpected rookie season.
Instead of taking another step and making the Western Conference finals, the Memphis Grizzlies fizzled offensively in the first round of the postseason, losing to the Los Angeles Clippers. They’ve lost O.J. Mayo to the Dallas Mavericks, but you have to expect at least a conference semifinal from this team and more consistency, hopefully with Zach Randolph healthy for the full season alongside Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. They did manage to keep both Arthur and Speights. No one is expecting this to be a year to build upon. The Grizzlies need to be a force out West, hopefully as close as possible to the Lakers and the Thunder.
No more excuses. The Minnesota Timberwolves would have made the playoffs last season if Ricky Rubio wouldn’t have torn his ACL. He’ll probably be back in December, maybe sooner. Kevin Love isn’t waiting around for another ‘almost’ season. They added Chase Budinger but more importantly Andrei Kirilenko after spending a season back in Russia. The West is always deep and tough, but not making the playoffs this season might cause their best player to start demanding a trade.
Los Angeles Clippers
One main reason the Clippers need to keep their current (newly found) culture of winning, after reaching the Conference semifinal last season – Keep Chris Paul. Paul’s contract ends in 2013, and without giving him a sense that this is the LA team worth staying and playing for, it’ll just be two-three step backwards for the franchise that never seems to fully get it right for too long. They have added Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford to the mix, while hoping the DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin take another step forward which has nothing to do with their athletic skills.
Los Angeles Lakers
The easiest pick to make – Add Steve Nash, a future hall of fame point guard who is still, at 38 years of age, the best or second best passer in the NBA (10.7 assists last season) and Dwight Howard, the best center in the NBA to form an even more impressive front-court duo than before alongside Pau Gasol (hopefully a little less sulking than last season) to the main ingredient which is a hungry as ever yet declining Kobe Bryant and you have expectations going through the roof. Nothing less than a title will satisfy anyone in Laker-Land after the moves made during the summer, somehow also improving the depth of their bench with Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks.