By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
OAKLAND- This is the year of change and controversy for the players and teams in the (NBA) National Basketball Association but not one for African American head coaches.
The NBA started on June 6, 1946 that was seventy three years ago. Believe it or not there have also been seventy three Black head coaches, that is one per year. This year the number remains at nine at the beginning of 2019-20 season.
This year only one head coach changed position, a lateral move, Monty Williams moved from the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers to the Phoenix Suns. This is the major difference with the NBA and other professional sports, Black coaches will most likely get another chance to perfect their coaching skills.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers might finally get his championship in Los Angeles with the rebuilt powerful Southern California team. Rivers would be only the second African American head coach to win multiple championships, along with Boston Celtic K.C. Jones.
The Lakers and Clippers will battle for the city of Los Angeles and most likely the NBA Championship with the “King,” LeBron James and Anthony Davis in purple and gold. Right across the Staples Center hallway Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be wearing Clippers red, white, and blue uniforms. Let the games begin.
The league opened the season without their new marquee player, rookie, Zion Williamson from Duke University playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. He will miss at least six weeks with a knee injury. The Pelicans with Zion just made it tougher to win the Western Conference and NBA Title in 2019.
The Golden State Warriors had to give up their five time Western Conference Championship crown and three NBA Titles to the upstart Toronto Raptors and free agent Kawhi Leonard last summer.
It may not be over yet in the Bay Area and many fans will be surprised by the way the blue and gold play in 2019. They (Warriors) may have lost Kevin Durant to Brooklyn, Iggy- Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to retirement and Klay Thompson to injury, and may not play a game until 2020.
The Warriors still have All Stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and utility man Alec Burks. The Dubs-their nickname, have gotten younger and faster and will not play isolation ball. The only problem with Golden State is their lack of size and that could haunt them in the Western Conference.
This will be interesting to watch.
The Houston Rockets have their new Batman and Robin team and might have to find another ball to keep James Harden and Russell Westbrook happy on the floor.
The Rockets may never win the title under head coach Mike D’Antoni because Houston refuses to play defense. He wants the Rockets to score under ten seconds this year with Russell. Defense wins Championship and Houston might always have a problem.
The Portland Trailblazers just can’t get respect center Pau Gasol will be a year older and a step slower. Oakland’s born and breed guard Damian Lillard will once again be the leader with C.J. McCollum by his side. If this team were in the Eastern Conference they would be in title series every year.
In the East the Atlantic Division will be a free for all with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors. All four teams should make the playoffs this year and all four teams could win the Eastern Conference Finals.
The other team that might come out of the Eastern Conference should be the Milwaukee Bucks with the Lopez twins, twin towers at center and (MVP) Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis learned a lesson last year in the playoffs and should be ready this year to push his team to another level. The Bucks did not make any major trades this year so the Milwaukee administration must think they can win the NBA Title with the players they have.
The Bucks and 76ers will most likely to face each other for the Eastern Conference title as both teams have matured. Philadelphia’s Center Joel Embiid will carry them with forward Ben Simmons finding a jump shot and guard Tobias Harris becoming the floor general.
The stealth bomber team in the East will be the Brooklyn Nets even without newly acquired Kevin Durant this year on (I.R.) injured reserve. Kyrie Irving may have finally found a home, playing on the floor with a new freedom to create scores.
The pressure to win every night in Boston maybe a thing of the past. Irving should finally bloom with his new Brooklyn teammates. Irving will spread the floor and responsibilities of leadership around this time.
The Boston Celtics let Irving go to Brooklyn and they might become a better shooting team and discipled team at the end of games. They still have work to do at the center position with older slower veteran Enes Kanter.
The Celtics just have to score more to make up for this hole. Still do not like their head coach, Brad Stevens because he has had multiple chances to win the Eastern Conference with the best team in the Atlantic Division.
The Toronto Raptors maybe a lost team without Kawhi Leonard at center. Can Serge Ibaka take Kawhi’s place? Only time will tell. Toronto got a steal from Golden State with Patrick McCaw a pure shooter.
Pascal Siakem will have to improve on last years outstanding year and Kyle Lowery has to direct this team with measured aggression. The Raptors will find out how difficult it is to repeat.
Back in the west teams will not want to play in altitude this year because of the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets improvement. The Nuggets are strong up the middle with centers Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee, and Nikola Jokic, love the way shooting guard Malik Beasley plays on the floor.
The Jazz will use team defense to wear teams down in the 4th quarter. Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Portland all have to go through the Rocky Mountains to win the Western Division.
The League also had to deal with the on-going sovereignty protest in Asia. The Hong Kong-Mainland China political crises this past pre-season will not be leaving the basketball landscape any time soon. The NBA has to come to terms with the Chinese basketball fan, the Mainland Chinese Government and American free speech.
The National Basketball Association has to do a better job with thirty teams and nine African American head coaches, 73 Black head coaches in 73 years, that is one per year. Remember the first Black head coach did not get a job until 1966 in Boston with Bill Russell. That was twenty years after the league opened.
Enjoy the 2019 basketball season but lets start demanding change on the floor and in the front office.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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