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Why new Lakers coach JJ Redick won't be the next Steve Kerr

Danny Emerman, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

Two lists came to mind after the Los Angeles Lakers hired JJ Redick as their next head coach.

List 1: Steve Nash, Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, Vinny Del Negro, Isiah Thomas and Doc Rivers.

List 2: Paul Silas, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, David Blatt, Luke Walton, Frank Vogel and Darvin Ham.

Neither looks good for Redick, the former Duke star and NBA veteran turned media personality.

The first is a collection of former NBA players turned head coaches without any prior coaching experience in the past 25 years. Doc Rivers has had a decades-long career, but Kerr — and his four championship rings — is the clear standout in a group of mostly flameouts or short stints.

The second group is every coach who has been fired while coaching LeBron James. The only head coaches James has had in his career who haven’t been canned are Tyronn Lue and Erik Spoelstra, whom he tried to nudge out in 2010.

Being a first-time head coach in the NBA is very hard. Coaching James as a first-time coach sounds downright fatal.

Redick might have more success navigating things with his “Mind The Gap” podcast co-host than other former James coaches. But that won’t mean it’ll be easy when the Lakers go through a losing streak, when James decides to send cryptic messages on social media, when James soaks up credit but not blame, when the team looks to James — not Redick — in the huddle.

When Kerr took over the Warriors in 2014, he inherited a championship-ready roster and took them over the top. He’d gained experience as a general manager and in ownership with the Phoenix Suns and had won five titles playing for Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.

Redick, meanwhile, had a very long and successful career but didn’t have nearly the exposure to coaching greatness Kerr did. After retiring, he didn’t learn the perspective of a front office executive-coach relationship, instead planting the seeds of a possible basketball media empire. He’ll inherit a Lakers team — centered around a 39-year-old James and an oft-injured Anthony Davis — that’s been the seventh seed in the West each of the past two seasons.

Redick knows the ins and outs of the game as well as anyone. He should be able to relate to the players in the locker room seamlessly. He clearly has a passion for coaching and very well might turn into the next great one.

But if he does, it’ll be in the face of the history of untried former players and James’ track record of coaching instability.

A Bay Area championship drought?

The craziest stat to come out of the Boston Celtics’ 2024 NBA championship win was that it broke a city-wide “drought” of five years — the second-longest in Boston sports history since each four major professional sports teams existed.

Five years. That’s all.

Between the Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins, Boston has held an astounding 13 championship parades this century. Cue the duckboats.

The Bay Area, with more teams than Boston, has won seven — the Warriors’ Steph Curry dynasty and the Giants’ Even Year magic.

Some rough back-of-the-napkin math reveals the Bay Area has had two 10-plus year droughts since the Warriors moved to San Francisco in 1962: from 1995 to 2010 and from 1962 to 1972.

 

The 49ers must be considered the team closest to bringing the Bay its next title. Baseball’s parity and new playoff structure mean the Giants might have the next-best odds. As long as Steph Curry’s on the Warriors, Golden State has a chance.

Golden State’s magical 2022 run saved the Bay from what would’ve been its third-longest championship drought. Another one could be on the horizon.

Mazzulla ball

If you ever wondered, “What if Gabe Kapler coached in the NBA?” check out Joe Mazzulla’s interview on the Lowe Post podcast.

What a twist it is that the new face of the analytics movement is the jiu-jitsu sparring, “The Town” binging, “shared mental model”-ing and Jericho-to-Jersulem disciple.

Caruso off the table

The Bulls traded Alex Caruso to Oklahoma City for Josh Giddey in a move that makes little sense for Chicago. It also hurts the Warriors.

The Warriors reportedly made a pass at the defensive-minded guard at the trade deadline, and his ability as a superstar role player made him an obvious fit.

One reason the Warriors and Bulls lined up as potential trade partners — mainly around Zach LaVine and his prohibitive contract — was because Caruso could be added to a deal to sweeten the pot. Now, that’s out of the question.

For Caruso, the Bulls valued Giddey, flaws and all, over whatever package Golden State offered. That could be a common theme this summer; unless the Warriors put Jonathan Kuminga on the table, they probably won’t have the assets to swing meaningful trades.

Malik Monk doesn’t set the market

The free agent market Klay Thompson is set to enter is already losing one shooting guard he may have been competing with for a contract.

The Kings agreed to re-sign Monk for four years, $78 million, with a player option. But don’t look to that contract as a precedent for what Thompson will be looking at.

Those figures are the maximum the Kings could have offered to Monk based on contractual rules and salary cap restrictions. It’s quite possible Monk returned to Sacramento for less money than a team like the Magic or 76ers would’ve offered him.

Paul George, DeMar DeRozan and Thompson are now the top shooting guards expected to be available in free agency. Their incumbent teams and aspirational clubs with cap space — Philadelphia, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio — will drive their prices up (although the Caruso trade probably eliminates the Thunder from being interested in Thompson).

Monk, at an average annual value of less than $20 million, is a steal for Sacramento. It doesn’t preclude Thompson from exceeding it — wherever he lands.

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