Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lowe on 3s & Uniform Strategy

In this view, the game is tilting toward uniformity, in both team strategy and the types of players each team will seek to execute that strategy.

That comes from Zach Lowe’s excellent piece (sorry, no need to be redundant) about the modern, analytics-inspired NBA trend of more three-point shooting. Lowe focuses on most of the key issues and gets enlightening quotes from authorities such as Jeff Van Gundy, Rod Thorn, and Shane Battier.

While fully appreciating how annoying it is when bloggers copy and paste URLs in an “I was already writing about this” sort of way, I’m going to use the Lowe piece as a launch pad to copy and paste some URLs in an “I was already writing about this” sort of way.

My focus is usually geared toward the declining relevance of low-post offense and the “uniformity” point advanced by Lowe (and apparently rejected — so far — by league officials as an important consideration) that so much copy-cat’ing (in this case, jacking tons of threes, particularly from the corners) might be bad for basketball.

Without further ado:

This one from 1/19/12 was my original piece that called for narrowing the lane as compensation to centers for the hand-check rules that made pick-and-roll so comparatively better an option for offenses.

This one from 10/24/12 calls for basically the same thing, with added emphasis on the point that by freeing up low-post play the league would introduce an additional avenue to success. Why not give more teams, built around a greater number of available helpful players, a chance?

This one from 1/18/13 — specifically, #14 — addresses an issue raised by Lowe: Isn’t it weird that the corner three is shorter than the above-the-break three?

This one from 2/9/13 is an appreciation of Carmelo Anthony’s awesomeness and how his throwback iso game runs counter to modern developments. It also calls for abolishing zone defense restrictions, along with narrowing the lane.

And this one from 8/24/13 focuses on SportsVu camera technology and the possibility that it will further regiment offensive strategy.

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by | December 17, 2013 · 12:15 PM

Friday Loss, Sunday Win, and a Closer Look at 4th Quarter Struggles

The Wolves three-game road trip — began on Friday, ends tomorrow night — spans the entire NBA spectrum. Friday night was at San Antonio, where the Spurs are the league’s gold standard of consistent excellence. Tonight was at Memphis, last year’s Western Conference finalist that has a new coach (Minnesota’s own Dave Joerger, who replaced Lionel Hollins) and –importantly — does not have the services of Marc Gasol, who is out with a sprained knee ligament. Tomorrow night is at Boston, where the Celtics are playing above their heads with an 11-14 record. Boston has a rebuilding roster and — despite the early success of Coach Brad Stevens — seems like a lock for the lottery. The mini tour includes the upper, middle, and lower classes of the current NBA, and in descending order.

The Spurs were 17-4 heading into the Minnesota matchup. Despite a stellar Kevin Love performance (42 points, 8-9 3pt field goals) the Wolves came up short. Love ran out of gas, trying to carry his team and go blow for blow with the Spurs Offensive Machine. Tony Parker, rested relative to Love, went to work in Winning Time. He navigated the Wolves defense to the tune of 12 points in the final 7:35. Parker scored 29 in the game and dished out 6 assists. When facing San Antonio — by far the league’s best-executing team offense — it’s always difficult to tell if they’re that good or you’re that bad. On Friday, the Wolves clearly struggled to defend. Their offense, without any help from so-far superstar scorer Kevin Martin (more on this later), was almost enough. But allowing 117 points will rarely result in a victory. The Wolves lost by 7. It was a splendid game to watch, but with a bittersweet result of defeat that seemed like wasting a special Kevin Love performance. The loss dropped the Wolves record down to 11-12, once again below .500.

Tonight was a far different matchup. At Memphis, the Wolves faced a Grizzlies team that was 2 games under .500 and struggling without its team MVP and leaguewide Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol. Behind more Kevin Love domination and a J.J. Barea scoring surge, the Wolves build a lead as high as 19 in the second quarter that fell down to 10 at the half. Barea was playing his usual style (dribble-happy, improvisational) and it was working for a while. He had 13 points on perfect 4-4 shooting (3-3 from downtown) in the first half.

Things got uglier in the second half, but the Wolves never quite surrendered their lead. It dropped to just 2 points more than once. Mike Conley was having his way on offense (28 points on 12-20 shooting) before injuring his knee and leaving the game with just 3:54 to play. I don’t know the extent of the injury, but he did go to the locker room. It was 95-92 with just over two minutes to go when Pek — on consecutive possessions — drew fouls on Zach Randolph. Each time he converted both free throws. Paired with some timely defensive stops, the win was sealed up.

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Wolves at Memphis: Soul to Squeeze?

The Timberwolves (11-12) take on the Memphis Grizzlies (10-12) today in Memphis. The game is at 5 P.M Central and can be seen on FSN (you), LP (me), or listened to on 830 WCCO.

The Wolves have won two of their last three. They’re coming off of a tough loss at San Antonio on Friday, in which Kevin Love was the main attraction. Love put up 42 & 14 whilst shooting 8-9 from downtown in the Wolves 117-110 loss to San Antonio. Kevin Martin had his second straight sub-par game. He scored 14 but shot only 4-12 and played bad defense. 

Tonight, the style of play is likely to look very different. Memphis is a grind-it-out, defensive-minded team that will try to stop the Wolves uptempo game.

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Timberwolves vs. Spurs: What to Watch For

Greetings, Timberwolves fans.

Tonight the Wolves take on the San Antonio Spurs  in San Antonio at 7:30 P.M. CST. Watch the game on FSN (you, probably) or NBA League Pass (me). Or listen to it on 830-AM.

The Wolves are back to .500, with a season record of 11-11. They are currently on a two-game winning streak, having beaten the Pistons soundly on Tuesday in Detroit and eking out a win over Philadelphia on Wednesday at home.

Tonight’s game was supposed to be the second between the Wolves and Spurs this season, but the first–The Ill-Fated Wolves Home Game in Mexico City That Never Was–was postponed on Dec. 4 because Mexico City Arena went up in smoke.

(Eds. Note: This really was an NBA pre-game scene. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an iPhone pic from the Snoop Dogg Puff Puff Pass tour.)

Anyway, the postponed game has not yet been rescheduled, but it will apparently be played in Minneapolis rather than Mexico (yay!).

Tonight’s Matchup

Extending its winning streak to three tonight in San Antonio will not be easy for Minnesota.

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Good Cop/Bad Cop (WOLVES 106, 76ers 99)


Good Cop: Wolves win! The Timberwolves beat the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 106-99 at Target Center on a bitter-cold, not-yet-actually-Winter’s night. The victory ups their record to 11-11, back to .500 around the season’s quarter mark.

Bad Cop: The win came against Philly, one of the league’s least talented teams and front runners for Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 Draft. Philly traded away Jrue Holiday for a rookie with a torn ACL. They are sitting their other rookie (and best guard) with a cryptically-explained skin condition. (Cough, #tanking, cough.) Oh, and the Wolves barely won. They allowed 39 points in the first quarter. Read that last sentence again. To quote Rick Adelman, “Obviously the first quarter was awful. They’re a young team. We told them exactly what they were going to do… They just got going and got us on our heels.”

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Spurs-Wolves Smoked Out, Postponed


A very weird night for the Timberwolves and Spurs who traveled to Mexico City for a basketball game, but couldn’t play it because the arena got so smoky that it had to be evacuated. The game will be rescheduled and played at Target Center. (This was a “home game” in Mexico for the Wolves from Minnesota.)

What happened after the game in Mexico is anyone’s best guess. I offer the above Photoshop as one possibility.

Next one is at home on Saturday against LeBron James (and Michael Beasley!) and the Miami Heat.

In Case You Missed It: Check out our State Of The Wolves post at

We’ll check in later this week with more.


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State of the Wolves

Mark Remme and the folks at are running a monthly series called “State Of The Wolves.” They were kind enough to invite us to contribute this month. Go check it out.

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by | December 4, 2013 · 11:01 AM

Is it time to press the panic button?


This is not how they wanted to enter the holiday. Having lost four of their past five games and with a brutal four-game stretch after Thanksgiving, the Timberwolves needed to win at home against the Denver Nuggets. Although Brian Shaw’s team came in riding a three-game winning streak (to say nothing of the 57 games they won last season, before significant off-season shakeups) and had already beaten the Wolves once this year, it was a game that Minnesota needed to win if it wanted to continue the early-season positivity giving rise to expectations of an overdue playoff berth.

As you probably already know, the Wolves did not win. In what was possibly the worst defensive performance of the season the Wolves lost 117-110 on the Target Center floor against a team that they’ll almost definitely need to be better than, in order to crack the Top 8 of the Western Conference. In the game’s early stages, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler made shots. Some were contested better than others. But as the game went on, the Wolves defense softened up considerably, allowing a mixed bag of wide open threes and wide open layups and dunks. Denver ended the game 8 for 16 from downtown. In the fourth quarter, they didn’t have to rely on threes as they managed to get to the rim almost at will. Three consecutive crunchtime possessions ended with Denver dunks.

After the game, Adelman lamented the surprisingly-poor effort:

“I was just really disappointed with our effort — the first half especially. We just, defensively, we allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. Everything we had on the board, they did. We gotta figure out what we’re gonna do from this point forward because you can’t defend like that. We can’t have the energy coming into a home game like that.”

“We were so passive. We have to get more aggressively physical if we’re gonna play in this league.”

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KG’s Final Farewell? – Wolves vs Nets, 7:00 CST

Wolves (7-6) host Nets (3-8) tonight. With Brooklyn missing its two best players (Deron Williams & Brook Lopez) it’s absolutely a game that Minnesota should win.

But in terms of reasons to watch, this one’s easy. Kevin Garnett is back in town and in the lineup, possible for the last time ever at Target Center.

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by | November 22, 2013 · 1:54 PM

Wolves-Wiz Preview: The Wittman’s Last Stand Edition

The Wolves play at Washington tonight (6:00 CST, FSN Plus), where former Minnesota coach Randy Wittman has his team off to a more-than-disappointing 2-7 start. Wizards players and fans (and coaches, I suppose) expected this to be the first winning season of the John Wall (or Post Gilbert Arenas, if you prefer) Era. They finished last season strong, they have star talent surrounded by competent role fillers, and they even made a short-term move to trade for Marcin Gortat after Emeka Okafor got hurt.

But the wins haven’t followed, Randy Wittman’s seat is burning hot, and the Wizards are holding players only meetings. I’ve sat through what I thought was Wittman’s Last Stand; his last ever game coaching the Timberwolves. It was a cold, quiet night in Downtown Minneapolis and the only thing breaking the sound of Baron Davis three-point swishes was a steady supply of “FIE-YER WITT-MAN!” from various pockets of Target Center seats. (The few that were filled.)

It’s not a pretty place for a franchise to be. We’ve been there.

The good news for Wizards fans: It can only get better from here. (Well, unless your next key move is to hire David Kahn to handle personnel decisions.)

It goes without saying that the Wolves view this as a winnable game; much more so than tomorrow’s matchup at home versus a rested, title-contending Clippers team. I don’t cheer for people to get fired from their jobs, but in the case of Wittman’s Wizards, that team should definitely be playing better than it is, and Wittman’s history suggests he’s doing more harm than good.

Enjoy the game.


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INTEL REPORT: Warriors at Timberwolves (The Klay Thompson Edition)

Klay Thompson has one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA

Klay Thompson has one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA

The 3-1 Golden State Warriors are in ‘Sota to take on the 3-1 Timberwolves tonight at Target Center. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can see it on FSN or NBA League Pass.

The Dubs are the darlings of the NBA so far this season, and it’s easy to see why: They’re third in the League in points per game, and are first in assists per game. They have fun players in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who can fill it up from pretty much anywhere inside the 612 area code. Andre Iguodala makes big dunks, and–this is a first for the Warriors–defends well.  David Lee flows to the tune of about 20 & 10 nightly. Andrew Bogut isn’t Andris Biedrins. (Eds. Note: Bogut also belongs on that “Dark Alley” team that was occasionally referenced in Grantland’s NBA Preview marathon, with fellow toughs Lance Stephenson and David West, inter alia.)

The starting lineups should look like this:

PG – Ricky Rubio vs. Stephen Curry

SG – Kevin Martin vs. Klay Thompson

SF – Corey Brewer vs. Andre Iguodala

PF – Kevin Love vs. David Lee

C – Zod Pekovic vs. Andrew Bogut

Yes, it will be a high-scoring game.

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Photo Diary: A Road Trip to Quicken Loans Arena


Inside The Q

For the second straight season, Punch-Drunk Wolves attended a Timberwolves road game. Last year was easy: Pat lived in Washington D.C., where — you know — an NBA team plays. He moved to Pittsburgh in the off-season. While The Steel City has no professional basketball, it’s just a two-hour drive from Cleveland, where the Cavaliers play. Since we’re both outspoken fans of Kyrie Lee Irving, and predraft boosters of Anthony Bennett, it seemed only logical to plan a trip to see the Wolves play the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena.

The following is a collection of photos I snapped of the journey. Continue reading


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INTEL REPORT: Thunder vs. Timberwolves

If you see this man in Minneapolis tonight, don't look directly at his shirt or you might go blind.

If you see this man in Minneapolis tonight, don’t look directly at his shirt or you might go blind.

The undefeated Minnesota Timberwolves, fresh off of a season-opening victory in overtime against the Orlando Magic, take on a more formidable opponent in the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at Target Center.

You should watch it if you want to see how the team responds to the trouble it had putting away a lesser opponent, and to see how they stack up against one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

No, Russell Westbrook won’t be walking through that door–check that, maybe he’ll be walking through that door (I’m not sure if he’s traveling with the team, but if he is, just look for the athletic-looking guy limping around in borderline absurd technicolor hipster garb–you can’t miss him.)

A few quick dashes about tonight’s tilt before my lunch break ends:

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Timberwolves Season Preview: The Trent and Mikey Version


Pek is so money. But does he know it?

The NBA season is less than 24 hours away. The Timberwolves begin theirs on Wednesday Night versus the Magic. For the past six months we’ve relied on secondary sources to satisfy our appetite for pro basketball:

The Timberwolves-less playoffs and Miami’s championship repeat. David Kahn’s departure and Flip Saunders’s arrival. The draft. The Vegas League. Free agency and welcoming Kevin Martin to Minnesota (and welcoming Corey Brewer *back* to Minnesota). Pek’s new contract. Rick Adelman’s eventual, inconspicuous announcement that he will return to coach another season. Media Day. And, most recently, the training camp and preseason.

Beginning this week we can get back to the real stuff — the primary stuff. The games that actually matter.

In Case You Missed Them: There are a ton of great preview pieces out there. Hardwood Paroxysm and SB Nation put together comprehensive collections of team-by-team previews. Kevin Pelton forecast the Wolves season for ESPN Insider. (SCHOENE!) Bill and Jalen recorded short videos for The Grantland Channel for each team, which have been highly entertaining and mostly insightful. Bethlehem Shoals posted 30 Teams, 30 Questions preview for GQ that you have to check out. And the great Britt Robson has commenced a three-part NBA Preview at MinnPost, to include a Wolves-specific piece on Wednesday.

The bottom line is, if you want to be familiar with the issues facing the Timberwolves or any other team heading into the 2013-14 season, the information is out there for you.

Here at PDW, we’ll outline the basic discussion topics and add our two cents on the upcoming Timberwolves season. As always, thanks for reading.

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Finalizing the Wolves Roster

Personnel Decisions

Competition for the Wolves’ last couple roster spots has captured the attention of the very hardest core fans. (Eds. Note: See, for example, here and here, excellent analysis by Canis Hoopus’ Eric in Madison, a valued commenter here at Punch-Drunk Wolves.)

There has been some debate recently about how the Wolves should round out the bottom end of their roster: Should it be be Jeffers or Brown? Does Hummel’s preseason performance merit a roster spot? Is A.J. Price necessary to keep on the roster, really, when you already have three other point guards? And just how strong is Othyeus “Yolomite” Jeffers’ pimp hand, really?

We now have a better understanding of the Wolves’ takes on these issues.

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The Epic Tales of Gus Johnson

Bullets 70-71 Home Gus Johnson, Pistons 10-28-1970

At TrueHoop, Curtis Harris shares an epic tale about Gus Johnson trying to cram on Wilt Chamberlain, only to get his self a dislocated shoulder.  Click on the link to check it out.

Hey, speaking of cool stories about Gus Johnson…

From Earl The Pearl’s biography:

Gus was hip, too. He had a gold star in one of his front teeth, wore great clothes, had style, sported a Fu Manchu goatee–I think he was the first player in the league to wear one–so all of the black cats on the team gravitated to him. Although he walked with a slight limp, he even made his walk look cool. Gus had a 48-inch vertical jump and could leap so high he could pick a quarter off the top of the backboard. He was a street cat, known to knock guys out and shit. But he was lovable, too. Still, you didn’t mess with him. Gus was very charismatic. He just drew people to him, and I like that. He had a funny way of talking. When we went out to restaurants he had this thing about trying to speak all proper, like he would say in his real deep voice, “Give me one of them excellent steaks and cover it with some of that War Chester Shire sauce.”

Gus Johnson: We salute you. Per the Harris piece, Johnson died way too young to a brain tumor in 1987.


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by | September 24, 2013 · 8:41 PM

INBOX: Are the Heat still hated? (Now with more Ricky Buckets and Master P)

beas & lebron

The Heat welcome back the affable-but-troubled Mike Beasley. Does this pickup, along with the Greg Oden signing, flip the script on whether to cheer for the Heat?

Andy G: In I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman devotes a chapter to hating rock bands.  He runs through a list of every band he’s ever hated, explains the specific point in his life, and why that particular group evoked irrationally negative feelings from him.  The chapter is largely focused on The Eagles.  In the end, Klosterman forms the discomfiting conclusion that he now no longer possesses the capacity to hate rock bands.  Even The Eagles.  (He included the band three different times on his list.)

He explains why this is problematic:

Being emotionally fragile is an important part of being a successful critic; it’s an integral element to being engaged with mainstream art, assuming you aspire to write about it in public.  If you hate everything, you’re a banal asshole . . . but if you don’t hate anything, you’re boring.  You’re useless.  And you end up writing about why you can no longer generate fake feelings that other people digest as real.

Klosterman goes on to explain his “brain’s unwillingness to hold an unexplained opinion,” and articulates a general feeling that I’ve struggled with on this blog.  Caring about sports — or art — is not a rational exercise.  Hating a professional athlete or sports team is as dumb as hating a rock band.  Hating a professional athlete is as irrational as loving one.  Those are emotions far too strong to hold for people that don’t even know that you exist.

Reading that chapter reminded me of the Miami Heat and its best player, LeBron James.

I hated The Decision. I hated LeBron’s *decision* itself to overlap his talents with Dwyane Wade’s, I hated the primetime stomach-punch to Cleveland, and I hated the Kobe rip-off, “taking my talents” delivery pitch. I hated everything about LeBron exercising his rights as a free agent.

Four things about Heat Hatred:

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Exploring the Timberwolves 2013-14 Vulnerabilities

Ricky's Summer Camp

Ricky’s Summer Camp

We’re t-minus 10 days from the beginning of Timberwolves training camp, and it’s time to begin musing about the upcoming season.

We know the big news from the offseason:

  • Flip Saunders is now running the show, with Milt Newton riding shotgun and Bobby Jackson in the mix too. David Kahn is gone.
  • Rick Adelman and Nik Pekovic are back.
  • Love and Budinger are reportedly healthy. Word on the street is that Love is in shape. If true, this is a very good thing.
  • Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin are in.
  • Luke Ridnour is gone. So is Andrei Kirilenko. (Mikhail Prokhorov apparently made AK an offer he couldn’t refuse. Can’t really blame him.)
  • J.J. Barea’s still here, and as far as I know, he’s also still divorced. Alexey Shved is still here, and as far as I know, he’s still partying. (Eds. Note:  I actually don’t know that, I just like to think he is.)
  • Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng got drafted.
  • AJ Price might come to camp and compete for prime real estate at the end of the Wolves’ bench.
  • Ricky Rubio has been bicycling and kayaking through Europe. He took a break recently to play for Spain in Eurobasket.
  • Oh, and Derrick Williams still has a pulse. (Eds. Note: That is confirmed based on his tweets, unless someone’s ghost-tweeting from his Twitter. Whether or not he has improved his footwork to a semi-competent level remains unconfirmed.)

All in all, this year’s team has the makings of a good one….(more below the fold)

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The ’98 Finals and 4 Categories of Defense

payton vs jordan

I found myself watching the 1998 Finals last night. Game 6 was on, Bulls versus Jazz, “The Shot,” you know the one. Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman were mixing shoulder bumps with hip checks, Jordan was scoring tons of points, nothing else was on, and since my journey to catch up on 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in as many weeks was complete (just in time for an epic episode), I figured there was nothing better to do.

Holy cow, the game has changed in the past decade and a half.

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Serotinal Musings


Monday Night Football is playing its opening-weekend double header.  My hay fever is in full swing.  If I had kids, they’d be just starting their school year.

It’s late summer, the NBA’s dead zone, and we’re a full three weeks away from the start of training camp.  There isn’t a whole lot to kick around at Punch-Drunk Wolves.

But we’ll try our best.

Wolves Welcome Coach Bobby Jackson

The Timberwolves announced that former point guard, Bobby Jackson, was hired as a player development coach.  Phil Ervin has the story at FSN.  Local fans remember Jackson better as star Golden Gopher than reserve Timberwolf.  He was the dynamic point guard on the erased-but-not-forgotten 1997 Gophers squad that won the Big Ten.  Led by Jackson and Coach Clem Haskins, they also reached the Final Four; the first and only in school history.  Had Eric Harris not gotten hurt, they may have cut down the nets.

Jackson gave a short, but interesting, interview to Mark Remme of

It’s a learning experience for me.  How to draw up practices, how to draw up plays, how to run practices, how to manage players, watching [Rick Adelman] interact with players during game situations, everything’s a learning process.  Working out with the guys, helping develop them.  And also learning when not to work too hard, and when to shut it down a little bit.  So everything’s a learning experience for me because, again, I’m young.  I don’t know all the things yet.  I kinda got an idea how to be a coach, but I still got a lot of things I gotta work on to become a great young coach.

That’s pretty candid, isn’t it?

Jackson played a dozen seasons in the NBA.  Some of those were for the early-aughts Kings; one of the league’s best in the entire decade.  He’s 40 years old.  He’s already been an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings.  On one hand, I think he’s short changing himself.  Clearly, he’s qualified to be an assistant coach at any level.  On the other, it’s refreshingly humble when compared to recent retirees, like Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd, who immediately landed head-coaching gigs without a lick of coaching experience.  Bobby Jackson, in that short interview anyway, seems geared up for a long career in coaching.

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