Alright kids, before we get into this week’s edition of “Rampant Speculation,” let’s talk a little bit about JaMarcus Russell. I apologize for missing this while I was on vacation, but I laughed for 15 minutes straight after I just found out that Russell got arrested for sippin’ on some sizzurp. I even watched the entirety of the classic 36 Mafia video that portrayed strippers drinking syrup out of baby bottles, one of my favorite videos back in the days when I used to watch BET, which may or may not still be a channel.
No wonder a 3 mph gust could knock down Russell in the pocket; tough to stay upright when you’re tore up off a mixture of Codeine and Hennessey. No word if Russell was drinking out of baby bottles, but that has to be one of the most creative and strangely unsurprising ways an athlete has wasted his career and signing bonus. We’ve seen athletes taken down by the temptations of groupies, gambling, coke, alcohol, weed, speed and other hard drugs, but I think this is the first ever career destruction that can be traced directly to syrup. That we know of. Nice job, JaMarcus! At least we know you’re not just your standard, run of the mill over-eater.
OK, back to “Rampant Speculation,” featuring the Warriors’ future owner (we think), Larry Ellison.
When rich, powerful people come into new situations, they throw their weight around. How? By firing people and hiring new people. It seems fun, I’d like to try it some day. Too bad I lack connections, money and motivation. Oh well.
Try as he might, there isn’t much Ellison can do with the roster. He’s stuck with this band of soft, defense-phobic babies, unless he can get David Stern to wipe away the roster (the powerful, if rarely used, “Etch-A-Sketch” rule) so he can start over. Unfortunately, there’s very little chance of that happening.
We know who’s gone. Don Nelson is gone. Larry Riley is gone. Robert Rowell is gone. Since I have no idea what Ellison thinks about NBA front office structures, let’s ignore the Rowell position for now and concentrate on who Ellison may install as the new coach and GM. Also, there’s the question of the announcers. Tim Roye’s a good enough announcer, and nobody listens to basketball on the radio anyway unless forced. Really, have you tried to pay attention during an entire radio broadcast of an NBA or NHL game? It’s like reading a translated assembly manual written by authors in China (sorry if that makes me sound as racist as a Metro PCS commercial, but those things are impossible to understand). Roye’s job is probably safe.
But Bob Fitzgerald has to be shaking in his Tommy Bahama jeans right now as you read this. If Ellison reads the blogs (and I’m guessing a guy like him probably does, or at least has someone else do it for him — whassup Larry!), he’ll pick up on the fact that there are quite a few fans out there who don’t particularly like Fitz. Part of it is the incessant Notre Dame babbling, part of it is how he defends the Warriors at every turn and parrots every excuse the PR team tells him to: “Let me ask a question: when your top 5 players are injured, is that good for your team? Giggle giggle giggle, buy solar.”
Who are the top candidates for Mr. Ellison? I’m not sure what NBA connections he has, but here are some sort-of-educated guesses:
1. Jeff Van Gundy — The number 1 guy available for any job these days, although he seems content to play the personality guy to Mark Jackson’s robot on ABC/ESPN broadcasts for the time being. He’d take one look at this roster and immediately vomit unless he got at least $8M/year. Don’t see that happening, not yet anyway.
2. Mike Fratello — He’s more versatile than people think (as a coach, you dirty scoundrels…geez), and he’s still young enough to have NBA players listen to him for a couple seasons (which is pretty much the max for any coach other than Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan anyway). But the “retread” word definitely pops into your head here, doesn’t it? Seems like he’d be too expensive for the small splash he’d provide. He’d win games, however.
3. Brian Shaw — Bay Area guy, and he’s been learning from the most successful active professional coach in North America. And he’d certainly jump at any opportunity to be a head coach, since Derek Fisher is probably going to be the next head coach of the Lakers in a year or three.
4. Lenny Wilkens — If Ellison has a good sense of humor, he should hire Wilkens and immediately jumpstart a new “all-time wins record” marketing campaign. Even though Wilkens has expressed interest in coaching (surely in hopes of getting his record back from Nellie), this has almost no chance of happening. But it would be hilarious if Ellison did this.
1. Jerry West — Even though he’s about 84, there’s been too many whispers about Ellison bringing in West for it not to at least have a chance of happening. He’d need a right-hand man, though, and not Chris Wallace this time.
2. Kevin Pritchard — Sure, he’s an attention whore who got run out of Portland due more to personality conflicts than any move he made, but he’s certainly the most attractive option out there. Plus, after his tenure with the Blazers, you know the Warriors would soon be stocked up on small forwards.
3. Steve Kerr — He has name value, and you have to admit you never thought the Suns had a chance to make the Western Conference Finals considering the financial shackles Robert Sarver placed on the former 3-point specialist. He’d give up that cushy gig at TNT in a second if Ellison gave him a big enough offer.
4. Mike Dunleavy — I think Tim Kawakami threw this out there to get the comments going on his blog, but old rich guys just keep going back to Dunleavy. If this happened, there would be a few people wondering if Ellison was just Cohan 2.0. Let’s forget I mentioned his name.
1. Greg Papa — The word around these parts is that Fitz pretty much undercut Papa and stole the job from him years ago, but you’ll never hear Papa or Fitz confirm or deny this story publicly. Regardless, he’s a great play-by-play guy for the Raiders who’s even better doing basketball. He lives in the Bay Area and works regularly, but does he want to do “Chronicle Live” forever?
2. Tom Tolbert — There’s a chance Jim Barnett won’t be asked back either, and if so this would be an easy choice. Tolbert soared through the ranks in the early 2000’s until some executive realized that they couldn’t find any clips of him playing, and he was dumped in favor of a rotating door of “retired players du jour.” Tolbert wouldn’t be a huge fan of flying to all the road games, but a nice salary and the opportunity to also stay at KNBR would be too attractive to pass up.
3. Chris Webber — Don’t laugh. He knows the area, he’s been toiling away on NBA TV for a while (and while I hated him as a player, I have to admit he’s damn good as a broadcaster) and he’s never going to take the spotlight away from Chuck on TNT. Ellison may want to get C-Webb aboard before the Kings do.
4. Dave Flemming — Sure, he does baseball already, but he’s in the running for every job these days so you have to put him in here. Would he take the lead TV job with the Ellison-owned Warriors over waiting 20 years for Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper to retire/die? Perhaps, unless he’s waiting on a national job.
So there you have it. And Larry? Um, I mean, Mr. Ellison? If you have any openings in the PR department, or you need an assistant for your new GM, or if you just want to invite me into the owners suite to hang out and keep you company, I’m available.