1. Will Kim Hughes be considered for the head coaching job next summer?
The short answer to this one is it depends. If the Clippers play great over the course of the next 33 games, then of course he'll be considered. If they play about the same, or a little better or worse, then probably not. Interim coaches are almost always just that - interim coaches. Kurt Rambis went 24-13 for the Lakers in 1999 - and then waited 11 seasons to get another chance to be a head coach. Talking to club president Andy Roeser today, he seems intent on giving Hughes a chance. Bill Plaschke made an excellent point in his column yesterday - the job is attractive now with a solid core in place and Griffin debuting in nine months. This summer would be an opportune time to go after a high profile coach. But for now, we're in Kim Hughes' audition.
2. Will GM Mike Dunleavy Sr. be looking over Hughes shoulder, breathing down his neck?
3. What will be different with Hughes as coach?
Everyone insists that he will not. Dunleavy said flat out that it's Hughes' team now, that the coach has to be in charge, and that he'll only provide input if asked. When a reporter asked Hughes if he would consult with Dunleavy about the game plan against the Spurs tomorrow night he non-chalantly said 'No'. In fact, if people were worried that Dunleavy would have trouble letting go, the Hughes era is getting off to a good start - GMMDsr is away on a scouting trip for the Spurs game and is tied up through All Star break with various things, so he won't even be at Hughes' first several games. Besides, Dunleavy is 6'2" and Hughes is 6'10" - he can't look over his shoulder without a step ladder.
The Clippers will run more. Hughes will call fewer plays from the sideline. These are the things he said today in Playa Vista, and in fac we saw it in a game he coached last season against Denver while MDsr was away from the team. With 12 seconds remaining and the Clippers down one, the Clippers didn't call a time out - almost unheard of in today's NBA, and certainly not a possibility under MDsr. It didn't work out that time as the team ended up settling for a Marcus Camby three and lost the game, but he showed us a lot about his philosophy in that game. He likes to attack defenses before they are set. That means transition, that means fewer play calls, that means a more wide open style. It should be fun.
4. If Dunleavy is really stepping down to focus on GM stuff, can we expect trade activity soon?
In a word, yes. This is a subject for a much longer post, but for now suffice it to say that the Clippers are well aware that they are close, but not quite there, as far as being able to offer a maximum free agent contract to LeBron James in the summer. Would LeBron really consider the Clippers? Maybe not, but he's LeBron James, so if there's even a 1% chance, you have to be in a position to make him that offer, and they get that. It doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a deal by the Feb. 18 deadline. The Clippers could wait until the season's over to make the deals that free up space. But looking at the roster, either Al Thornton or Sebasitan Telfair or both are likely gone before free agency begins on July 1.
5. Will GMMDsr trade Marcus Camby now that he doesn't have to coach the team?
Camby could be traded, but MDsr insists that it's not more likely just because of this move. The conventional wisdom is that the GM thinks long term while the coach thinks short term. The fact is that the Clippers don't have much of a chance at the playoffs, so short term is not a big issue. But neither are they in a hurry to move Camby, since cap space is as valuable to the Clippers as it is to everyone else. I got the distinct impression today that the Clippers are going to hang onto Camby unless someone blows them away with an offer. Look at it this way - if good teams want Camby to help with their playoff run, what are they going to offer? Not a player of value, because that would hurt their playoff run when their motivation is to improve. They could offer picks, but good teams have bad picks. The Clippers aren't trading Marcus Camby for a late first rounder.