Basketball Season Coverage
By Aaron Torres on ©May 15th, 2018 @ 3:00pm
It’s the moment America has been waiting for…
Ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But if you’ll remember, a few weeks ago John Calipari announced that Kentucky was preparing to share details about a couple games at “destination locations.” And on Tuesday the first piece of that puzzle started to crystalize.
That’s because according to KSR’s Matt Jones, Kentucky has agreed to a two-game series with Utah starting next season. The first game will be played at Rupp Arena during the 2018-2019 campaign and the following game will be played in… are you ready for this… Vegas in the 2019-2020 season. That’s right, Vegas baby!
Of course with this scheduling announcement, it’s led to a number of different questions from Big Blue Nation today, with most of them focused on the same few themes: Is it too early to request time off from work? What hotel should I stay at? Is there any way I can fake my own death so my girlfriend doesn’t find out about this trip to Vegas?
Hey #BBN, we’re working on playing two regular-season games against Power Five teams at a destination spot for our fans in 2019-20. Hope to have details soon.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 1, 2018
Admittedly, I don’t have answers to most of those questions, but the one thing I can help you with is information on the latest opponent on Kentucky’s schedule. As KSR’s resident national college basketball analyst and (frankly) one of the few people anywhere outside Utah who actually watched the Utes last year, I can tell you a bit of what to expect when the Utes arrive at Rupp Arena next year.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2019 schedule’s newest opponent, Utah.
As a program they’ve actually be better than most people realize
Think of Utah as the West Coast version of say, Miami basketball. You don’t think of either school as a “power” or to be blunt, you probably don’t think much about either school at all. Yet each has had surprisingly success over the last couple years.
(Just to finish out the analogy, Miami has made three straight NCAA Tournaments – and no, I definitely didn’t know that until I typed it)
When it comes to Utah, did you know that the Utes have finished with at least 20 wins in five straight seasons, and finished in the Top 4 of the Pac-12 in each of the last four years? That’s something that only Arizona – and not UCLA, USC or Oregon – can claim.
The Utes have also made two NCAA Tournaments during that stretch, including a run to the 2015 Sweet 16, so they’re no strangers to postseason basketball or overall tournament success.
By Nick Roush on ©May 15th, 2018 @ 2:12pm
P.J. Washington turned heads in the Wildcats’ January trip to Knoxville. He bruised for 13 hard-fought points, until cramps took him out of the game for good in the second half. The Twitter audience could not stop talking about Washington, and not because of his moves or his injury; because of his shoes.
Washington wore a pair of all-blue Jordan XI’s, a color you cannot buy on the shelves in a shoe that’s coveted by sneaker-heads everywhere. People asked, “Where can I get those?” There’s only one man who can do it.
Billy Hobbs is the owner and artist behind True Blue Customs. The Lexington native has customized many of the shoes you’ll see the Wildcats wear on the court, from Washington’s XIs, to Nick Richards’ Jamaican Vs and Quade’s Philly kicks.
What started as a side job turned into his life’s work in 2015. Willie Cauley-Stein’s passion for art met his basketball craft with shoe customization. The two collaborated for a few different pairs, but one pair of XI’s changed the game when Willie did this in the NCAA Tournament:
“He was really into art. He wanted to talk about anything but basketball. It was kind of his release from basketball,” Hobbs said. “He wore those that night. I went to bed. Woke up the next morning and had like 10,000 followers.”
Since then, Hobbs has made shoes that have been in the World Series, he’s hooked up No. 1 draft picks and he’s put a few pairs on Coach Cal’s feet.
You can see Hobbs’ entire operation in this seven-minute interview with J. Kyle Mann, who you might know better as the remixer of Kentucky Joe’s songs.
By Nick Roush on ©May 15th, 2018 @ 1:15pm
Kentucky’s 2018-19 basketball schedule is becoming clearer.
After John Calipari teased a pair of destination games two weeks ago, this morning we discovered Kentucky will play Utah in a two-game series, beginning this year at Rupp Arena. Now that the Utes are on the schedule, here’s an unofficial look at who the Cats will play when in 2018-19.
|The Bahamas||Paradise Island||Atlantis||August 8-12|
|Big Blue Madness||Lexington||Rupp Arena||TBD
|Blue/White Game||Lexington||Rupp Arena||TBD
|Duke||Indianpolis||Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Champions Classic)||November 6|
|Monmouth||Lexington||Rupp Arena||November 28|
|UNC-Greensboro||Lexington||Rupp Arena||December 1|
|Seton Hall||New York City||Madison Square Garden (Citi Hoops Classic)||December 8|
|North Carolina||Chicago||United Center (CBS Sports Classic)||December 22|
|Louisville||Louisville||KFC Yum! Center||TBD|
|Big 12 Opponent||Lexington||Rupp Arena||SEC/Big 12 Challenge TBD|
It’s not yet official, but Big Blue Madness has been held during the Kentucky football Bye Week the last three years; that probably will not change next season. This fall’s Bye Week is October 12.
That should paint a clearer picture, but you’ll have to wait until later this summer to see the schedule in its entirety.
By Nick Roush on ©May 15th, 2018 @ 11:34am
The Kentucky basketball team will reportedly begin a two-game series with the Utah Utes this fall. According to Bill Riley of ESPN Radio Salt Lake City, Utah will travel to Rupp Arena this season. In 2019-20, the Cats will head west to play the Utes at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Two weeks ago, John Calipari hinted at a pair of potential destination games in the future. It looks like this is one of those destination games.
Hailing from the Pac-12, Utah has missed the previous two NCAA Tournaments. Larry Krystkowiak took them to the second round in 2016 before falling to Gonzaga, and to the Sweet 16 in 2015.
It will be just the second time Kentucky has played the Utes in the a regular season game since 1976. The last time the two played, Ramel “Smooth” Bradley squared up with Andrew Bogut in the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. More famously, the Comeback Cats took down Rick Majerus’ team 78-69 in the 1998 National Championship.
Tomorrow P.J. Washington will receive his first significant test of pre-draft season at the NBA Combine in Chicago. One of three Wildcats who have not signed with an agent, along with Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, the next four days will likely determine whether Washington stays at UK or goes to the NBA.
Leading into the combine, the buzz around the Washington camp feels like he’s leaning toward the draft. However, the mock drafters tend to believe he will be back at Kentucky for one more year.
In the latest ESPN mock draft, Jonathan Givony left him off the board. Givony told Kyle Tucker, “he has his work cut out for him,” as he attempts to climb out of the 30-50 range and into the first round. Givony has Washington slated as the 18th overall prospect in the 2019 draft.
Now another mock drafter believes he’ll be back for another year. Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated is already looking ahead to next year’s draft. He slates Washington at the 19th overall pick in 2019.
“Washington was at his best playing as a small-ball five this season, with freakish length that helps compensate for his lack of height. He’s presently testing the waters along with teammates Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, creating a bit of a quandary as far as playing time for whoever returns. Washington will have a chance to solidify his stock at the combine, but seems more likely to land in the early second round than the first, which could lead to another year of school. He doesn’t have crazy upside, but his skill level on the interior and explosiveness off the floor could make him a quality role player.”
Woo believes Washington will return if he is not a first round draft pick. Washington’s father said he will go to the NBA if the first round is guaranteed; beyond that, it’s still a toss-up.
We’ll receive more clarity from Washington and Vanderbilt after their four days in Chicago. Until then, check out the rest of Woo’s 2019 mock draft that only features one other Wildcat, Keldon Johnson.
Want to follow along as a group of former Kentucky Wildcats participate in the upcoming NBA combine?
Here’s how you can.
ESPN2 announced it will televise the “2018 NBA Draft Combine powered by Under Armour” from 3-7 p.m. ET, on Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18. That is eight hours of combine for you later this week.
Maria Taylor will host the two-day coverage, and will be joined by Jay Bilas, Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA Draft experts Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony, and front office expert Bobby Marks.
Viewers will be treated to interviews with NBA coaches and general managers in attendance, one-on-one interviews with draft prospects, free agency news and updates, and player breakdowns and mock drafts.
Of course, we will have all of the UK-related coverage for you here on Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com, so you don’t have clear your entire Thursday and Friday afternoon schedules to see Kevin Knox’s shuttle time. We’ll have that and more for you right here.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 14th, 2018 @ 1:00pm
ESPN released a new mock draft on Monday and it includes three former Kentucky Wildcats, but only one in the lottery.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is projected as UK’s top and only lottery pick. ESPN has Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 12 overall to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers could be looking at point guard as a position in need of supplementing, and the size, length and versatility of Gilgeous-Alexander could be attractive here considering the type of lineup flexibility he brings.
The fact that he is 6-6 (with a 7-foot wingspan), instinctual defensively and unselfish makes him easy to slot in alongside virtually any type of player. His offense has made significant strides as the season has moved on, helping him surprisingly emerge as arguably Kentucky’s best long-term prospect. [ESPN]
Kevin Knox is next with a slight drop from his previous projection. Knox is now slotted at No. 15 overall to the Washington Wizards, one spot out of the lottery.
With Markieff Morris approaching the final year of his contract, the Wizards could very well start thinking of supplementing their power forward position with a player who fits the modern game.
Knox didn’t have an efficient freshman season, partially due to playing out of position, but there’s a significant market in the NBA for combo forwards in his mold who can make an open shot, defend multiple positions and offer offensive versatility. He’s one of the youngest players in this draft, so he still has plenty of room to grow. [ESPN]
Hamidou Diallo is the only other Wildcat expected to hear his name called on draft night. ESPN thinks he is a second-round pick, projected at No. 40 overall to the Brooklyn Nets.
UK’s three other NBA hopefuls — PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel — are not among the top 60 prospects in the class.
You’ve known about EJ Montgomery’s commitment to Kentucky for over a month, but now his addition to the class is officially official.
Montgomery signed his National Letter of Intent with the university, sealing his place in UK’s 2018 class and on next year’s roster. He becomes the fourth member of the class, joining Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, although more could join via reclassification.
Power Forward | 6-10 | 215 lbs.
Marietta, Ga. | Wheeler HS
AAU: Atlanta Celtics
|ESPN||No. 14 | 5 PF||Top247||No. 6 | 1 PF|
|Rivals||No. 10 | 2 PF||247 Comp.||No. 9 | 2 PF|
John Calipari said of his new power forward, “I hope our fans understand just how good EJ is and how excited we are to have him. You’re talking about a skilled big man who can affect the game in a number of ways. EJ is the type of position-less player the game is moving towards. He can play just about anywhere and make plays on the perimeter with his skills and versatility, yet he’s got the length and the ability to finish in the post as well as anyone in this class. What I love about him is he models his game after Anthony Davis, one of the best we’ve ever had, but wants to be his own player and carve out his legacy.”
Montgomery said, “My goals for picking a school was to find a program that could push me as a player to reach my dream and as a person to grow; a school that made sure me and my family’s dreams became their dreams and that would push me to be my best. I’ve found that with Coach Cal and the University of Kentucky,” Montgomery said. “I’m proud to be a part of the Big Blue Nation where the standard is excellence, which is what my mother and father have instilled in me.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 13th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
From the time he first set foot on campus, John Calipari has been arguably the most dominant recruiter in college basketball. It’s a reputation he’s had since his time at Massachusetts, and later, Memphis.
Raking in top-five talent hasn’t just become possible under Coach Cal, it has become the norm. Kentucky has managed the No. 1 or No. 2 overall recruiting class in the nation in every season since 2009, securing a top-two overall prospect in five of those years.
The massive recruiting victories have been fun to see over the years. That being said, where Calipari has been most impressive has been his ability to find diamonds in the rough a little bit further down the board.
In his first year at Kentucky, Coach Cal signed Eric Bledsoe, a four-star point guard from Birmingham, Alabama. Listed as 247 Sports’ No. 68 player in the class of 2009, Bledsoe only held offers from Memphis, Florida, Cincinnati, and Alabama. The minute Kentucky came calling, he joined the top recruiting class in the nation led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
His lone season at Kentucky, he averaged 11.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest. After declaring for the NBA Draft, he was taken with the No. 18 overall pick, where he has slowly worked his way up the totem pole to stardom. After averaging just no more than eight points per contest in his first three seasons, Bledsoe has averaged over 17 points per game over the last five seasons and accumulated a total of $62,104,069 career salary.
In 2012, four-star center Willie Cauley-Stein signed with Kentucky over Alabama, Florida, and Kansas State, his only other offers. Listed as the No. 43 overall prospect, the 6-foot-11 center out of Olathe, Kansas accumulated 843 career points, 655 rebounds, and 233 blocks at Kentucky. His junior year, Cauley-Stein worked his way to consensus first-team All-American honors and the No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. By the end of his college career, WCS was known as the most elite defender in college basketball with the ability to defend all five positions on the floor. Oh, and he had some pretty ridiculous dunks, too.
In 2014, John Calipari pulled in both Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, two widely underrated players in the class. Though many services finally gave him a five-star bump, Booker finished as a four-star prospect and No. 29 overall according to Rivals.com. When he first started receiving interest from the Cats, Booker was ranked down in the mid-40s as a consensus four-star prospect, known for solid shooting ability and below-average defensive skills. Almost immediately, Booker was the perfect shooting spark off the bench, and he worked his way into draft lottery position in just one season.
As for Ulis, he finished as ESPN’s No. 25 recruit in the class of 2014, though he was ranked anywhere from the late-30s to the early 50s for the majority of his junior and senior campaigns. At 5-foot-9, 145-pounds, analysts believed there were major doubts that Ulis could compete against elite division-one talent due to his size. As a sophomore, Ulis not only became the best point guard in college basketball, but arguably the best at the position in Kentucky basketball history.
Already considered one of the top scorers in the league, Booker is now climbing toward greatness in the NBA. He already has a 70-point game, sits behind just LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard for the most points in NBA history for a teenager, the third-youngest player to score 4,000 career points, etc. When his contract expires next offseason, Booker is going to be a very, very rich man.
Ulis has had his ups and downs, but he has carved his role as a solid point guard for the Suns, starting in over half of the team’s games this year. He averaged nearly eight points and over four assists in just 23 minutes per contest last season, including a very impressive run to end the year. He also has two years left on his contract, meaning he still has a lot of time to take another step up in the league, similar to Eric Bledsoe in his early days as a professional.
This past season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came in as a consensus four-star expected to be nothing more than a solid role player off the bench. Listed as ESPN’s No. 35 prospect in the nation, Florida, Syracuse, Texas, and UNLV were his only other offers out of high school. Most anticipated at least two or three years of him at UK. As the year progressed, however, SGA developed into Kentucky’s most consistent scoring weapon and one of the top point guards in college basketball. He’s expected to be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft with the potential to be an instant-impact player in the league.
Jemarl Baker sat out his freshman year with an injury, but current and former Wildcats say he was easily the best shooter on the team last year and could be a major weapon from the perimeter for the Cats this season. Some compared him to Ray Allen out of high school.
Similar to Gilgeous-Alexander, Baker was a consensus four-star prospect, with 247 Sports ranking him as low as No. 73 overall. No one knows how good he will end up being, but early reports are impressive.
Almost a year ago to the day, Kentucky reached out to Keldon Johnson, the No. 33 player in the class of 2018, who as a junior averaged 21.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.4 steals per contest. Now, Johnson is a consensus five-star prospect, with his highest rating coming from ESPN as the No. 7 recruit in the class. Those that have seen him play in person believe he will almost certainly be Kentucky’s best player next season. The media has finally given him the respect he deserves, but Calipari was on him well before he was considered elite.
Tyler Herro, 247 Sports’ 35th best recruit in 2018, is considered one of the smoothest scorers in the nation with immediate-impact ability next season at Kentucky. Zion Williamson told KSR at the Jordan Brand Classic that he was the most underrated recruit in the nation. After seeing him in person against some of the best competition in America, there’s little doubt in my mind Herro elite potential, especially on offense. He’s garnered Devin Booker comparisons, and I don’t necessarily think that’s unfair.
DJ Jeffries is currently listed as the No. 53 overall prospect in the class of 2019, though those that have seen him play say he will be shooting up the rankings, as well.
He’s had his misses, but more often than not, Coach Cal has converted on the lower-tier talent.
Duke has had four-star prospects over the years in Quinn Cook, the Plumlee brothers, and Amile Jefferson, among others, but none developed into sure-fire NBA talent. Even with the elite guys(*cough* Jahil Okafor *cough*), Duke’s NBA prospects have been massively underwhelming. Aside from Kyrie Irving (who played a whopping 11 games at Duke), Jayson Tatum (exceeded expectations), and Brandon Ingram (potential, still a work in progress) Coach K has underwhelmed when it comes to putting his guys in position to thrive in the NBA.
North Carolina has been solid at developing lower-ranked talent (Luke Maye), but that’s mainly because Roy Williams rarely pulls in elite prospects (Tony Bradley was UNC’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade). Kansas has had a few lower-tier hits that thrived at the college level (Devonte Graham, Frank Mason, Udoka Azubuike, etc.) and a few more studs that have been sure-fire pros (Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid), but it still falls short to Kentucky’s track record. Are there any other schools that combine the underrated gems and elite like Coach Cal and Kentucky? I can’t think of any.
Calipari is known for the elite five-stars and NBA-ready prospects. His critics say he only has to roll the balls out in practice because the players are so good and don’t need coaching (something we have proven wrong time and time again).
Where he doesn’t get enough credit, however, is finding and developing lesser-known talent into excellent college and NBA players.
Turns out the former UK big man won’t be playing for North Carolina after all.
Despite his family’s connection to the area, it seems the folks in Chapel Hill have lost interest in Sacha Killeya-Jones, according to 247Sports:
Multiple sources confirmed to Inside Carolina on Saturday that the Tar Heels are no longer pursuing the 6-10 Kentucky transfer.
Killeya-Jones took visits to N.C. State and Wake Forest this past week, per a source, and had been aiming to visit UNC – until the Tar Heels withdrew from his recruitment.
Sacha’s original recruitment came down to UK and UNC. The Cats won out, perhaps due to the ongoing NCAA investigation of UNC at the time. It seems pretty clear now that Killeya-Jones wants to suit up for the Tar Heels, so it’s sad to see him have to move on from that.
But at least we won’t have to see a former Cat taking marching orders from Roy Williams.
By Nick Roush on ©May 12th, 2018 @ 10:00pm
One former Cat is happy to praise another Kentucky Wildcat.
The Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox made an appearance on the latest episode of The Ringer NBA Show. He talked about his first year in the league, what it’s like to go through NBA Draft process and many other goofy topics, but what’s most intriguing are his comments about the Kentucky Wildcats in this year’s NBA Draft.
Few people know the players better than him. Fox watched most of Kentucky’s games and played against the team in pick-up games last summer. He knew right away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be a star.
“Shai played his self into the lottery,” Fox said. “I could’ve told you before the season. Shai is just really smooth. He came into his own in the middle of the season.”
He’s only known Gilgeous-Alexander for about a year. He’s played with Jarred Vanderbilt since they were in fourth grade. Despite last season’s injury problems, Fox believes Vanderbilt is the best rebounder he’s ever seen on a basketball court.
“For him, once he gets healthy, he’s the best rebounder I’ve ever seen; seen, played with, played against. He’s 6’9.” He can really handle the ball. He can play point guard if you really need him to. But he can go get the rebound and push the ball down the floor with anybody.”
Even though we only saw Vanderbilt in limited action, the numbers do not lie. Bryan Kolbrasky compiled the following total rebounding percentage numbers with some of college basketball’s best.
- Jarred Vanderbilt — 25.7%
- Joel Embiid —21.7%
- De’Andre Ayton — 21.4%
- Mo Bamba — 20.2%
- Anthony Davis — 19.0%
- Robert Williams — 18.9%
- Karl Anthony-Towns — 18.5%
Currently declared for the NBA Draft, Vanderbilt received an invitation to next week’s NBA Combine, but it’s unclear if injuries will allow him to participate. His future remains unclear, but Fox clearly believes nobody rebounds better than Vanderbilt.
You can see the entire interview below, or listen to The Ringer NBA Show here.
By Nick Roush on ©May 12th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Not long after point guard Tyrese Maxey committed to Kentucky on Wednesday, he revealed in a USA Today blog that he actually committed to John Calipari three weeks earlier.
His initial commitment to Kentucky did not go over too smoothly. The first time he tried to call Calipari, the coach was asleep. How late did he try to call Coach Cal? That’s what Curtis Burch asked at the Nike EYBL in Atlanta.
“It was around 9:30,” Maxey said. “You know he’s old, so he goes to sleep early.”
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) May 12, 2018
This confirms what many expected: Coach Cal is not a night owl.
After posting 27-6-6 in a one-point Friday night win, Maxey’s team lost by six in their first game of the day. Stay tuned for more updates from all of UK’s targets.
Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel may have been the lone Wildcat to not receive an invite to the NBA Combine, but there is still interest around the league in the 6-foot-9 sharpshooter.
The Utah Jazz will bring Gabriel in tomorrow for a personal workout.
Also on the workout list? Controversial former Louisville forward Brian Bowen.
Pre-draft workouts start tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/mSbeeMcvEN
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) May 11, 2018
As a sophomore, Gabriel averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on nearly 40-percent from beyond the arc.
As of today, the Wildcat forward is not listed on any draft boards for 2018. Because he did not hire an agent, Gabriel will be able to return to Kentucky at any point.
PJ Washington has reportedly already worked out with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, and will likely keep his name in the draft if he receives a first-round guarantee.
We have yet to hear of any NBA workouts for Jarred Vanderbilt, though he did receive an invite to the NBA Combine.
Gabriel, Washington, and Gabriel have until May 30 to make a final decision.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 11th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
Just two days ago, the National Basketball Coaches Association selected Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey as their coach of the year for the 2017-18 season. The former Kentucky Wildcat led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 victories during the regular season and secured the No. 1 seed in the East, where they eventually lost in the conference semifinals to the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
Today, after seven years with the organization, the Raptors relieved Casey of his coaching duties.
“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take,” Toronto team president Masai Ujiri said in a press release. “As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level. We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him and we wish him nothing but the best in the future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”
When he took over the franchise, they were a bottom-feeding team in the East with little hope for the future. Through several big trades, free agent signings, and draft decisions, Casey and president/GM Masai Ujiri helped build the Raptors from scratch into one of the most consistently successful teams in the conference.
In his seven years in Toronto, Casey improved on the team’s record from the year before in all but one season. He led the team to over 48 wins and the NBA Playoffs in each of the last five years, with an average of 52 victories in the regular season in that span. In each of the last three seasons, the Raptors reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals, including an ECF birth in 2016.
I don’t think Dwane Casey covered himself in glory in the series against the Cavs, but it’s a harsh decision to fire a coach who just won 59 games and has won an average of 52 games over the last five years with a team led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 11, 2018
And still, despite being one of the top coaches in the NBA and well-respected by his peers, it wasn’t enough to keep his job.
Being destroyed year after year in the postseason (three in a row, to be exact) by arguably the greatest player of all time in LeBron James will hurt anyone’s confidence. With a chip on his shoulder, James is one of the most unstoppable players to ever step on a basketball court, making even the greatest of teams and coaches vulnerable to defeat.
In fact, it’s a pretty common trend in the league for GMs to get scared of the wrath of King James and fire their head coach soon after a loss in the playoffs.
NBA coaches who lost to LeBron James in the playoffs and no longer coached the team within 2 years: pic.twitter.com/OfJNUq5OJP
— Ranger Wob (@World_Wide_Wob) May 11, 2018
And not only has Casey been fired, there is a very strong chance he is replaced by another coach that is notorious for his early exits in the postseason in the hands of none other than LeBron James.
Former Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer (who lost to James in the playoffs in back-to-back years just two and three years ago) has emerged as the favorite to take over as Toronto’s next head coach, per Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, among others.
Watch out for Mike Budenholzer as the next Raptors head coach… https://t.co/UrVpQIpcIP
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 11, 2018
Marc Stein of the New York Times confirmed the rumors, adding that Casey will be an immediate candidate for one of the other major coaching vacancies throughout the league.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri has strong interest in former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, according to coaching sources. Dwane Casey, meanwhile, is likely to emerge as a contender for one or two of the league's other four vacancies.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 11, 2018
And though it’s great there is a ton of interest around the league in the former Wildcat, there won’t be many other situations better than the one Casey had in Toronto. He already had two stars in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, a developing bruising big in Jonas Valanciunas, and a solid bench at his disposal. With a few changes, the foundation was there for success well into the future, but the Raptors front office played scared for a guy that may not even be playing in the East after this season. Whoops.
And in a lot of ways, it was the players that fell short in the big stage, not Casey. The latest free-agent head coach had his struggles, specifically when it came to in-game momentum management, but DeRozan and Lowry have developed a reputation for coming up short in the playoffs. In five years of postseason action, DeRozan and Lowry have combined for ONE total playoff run shooting higher than 50-percent from the field. In fact, despite averaging over 20 points per game over the last five years, DeRozan has never shot over 43-percent in the playoffs, with both averaging a combined five turnovers per contest in that span.
Instead of looking to upgrade the talent around DeRozan or Lowry, whether it be trading away bad salaries ($65 million to Serge Ibaka or $32 million to Norman Powell) to clear up cap space for free agency or to find young and talented wing via the draft or trade, they fired one of the best in the business. To make it all worse, it will likely be for a guy that will almost certainly do no better than Casey going forward.
I don’t get the NBA sometimes.
We have another UK basketball game for you to add to your calendar.
Kentucky will play the Spartans of UNC Greensboro in Rupp Arena on Saturday, December 1, 2018.
The Spartans went 27-7 and 15-3 in the Southern Conference in 2017-18 under head coach Wes Miller, who is set to coach the team for a seventh season. UNCG won the Southern Conference crown a year ago and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, but fell in the first round to Gonzaga in Boise. (We were at that game.)
UNCG returns four of its top five scorers from a year ago and will likely be picked to repeat in the Southern Conference.
Its addition to UK’s schedule continues Calipari’s theme of playing conference champs.