We interrupt a bizarre NBA Finals series to bring you news from Memphis, where the Grizzlies have announced their next head coach: Taylor Jenkins. Who? Exactly! Jenkins, a 34-year-old Wharton grad with no college or pro playing experience, has spent 10 years in the coaching orbit of first the Spurs and then Mike Budenholzer’s teams. He has not been on everyone’s radar as a rising coach star -- at least that I’ve seen -- and I’d venture to say that, based on the reaction to his hire, most basketball fans outside of Atlanta and Milwaukee have never heard of him.
That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Not too many people had heard of Kenny Atkinson before the Nets hired him, and Gregg Popovich had no real coaching pedigree when he took over the Spurs decades ago. Even Nick Nurse, coach of the almost-world-champion Raptors, had a pretty small reputational footprint outside G League followers.
The eagle-eyed Chris Herrington notes that Memphis might now have the youngest power structure in the NBA -- maybe in NBA history. Jenkins is 34, new general manager Zach Kleiman is 30, and the franchisee Robert Pera is only 41. Herrington also wisely notes that all three of those people have similar backgrounds: they are young and white and never played beyond high school. There’s a potential homogenity issue as well as potential alienation with the players and fan base.
As always, judging coaching moves is a fool’s errand. Memphis was patient and hired someone who seems to fit with the rebuild program. It’s very hard to judge ... until roughly tip-off of the season opener, when we can begin lobbing critiques in earnest. As always.
The question on everyone’s minds right now is whether Game 5 was a surreal aberration and moment of pride for the Warriors, leading into a Game 6 clincher for the Raptors at Golden State, or whether the emotional upheaval found in Kevin Durant’s injury and Toronto’s dicey reaction to it will fuel the Warriors to actually win this series.
It could really go either way. We’ve seen the Raptors win twice in Oakland already, and convincingly. There is no specter of Durant returning now, and hope is a mighty cudgel. The Warriors are disarmed on that front. I would surmise that Kevon Looney is done for the series, despite his protestations. The Warriors’ front office is already on edge about messing with injured players. The Raptors can be forgiven for losing that game. It was a weird one. They’ll get it back.
The Warriors finally have a cause: win it for KD. With a mission and the Splash Brothers and having seen the panic in the Raptors’ eyes in those closing seconds of Game 5, when Kyle Lowry had a shot to win the NBA championship and hit the back of the backboard, they can do this.
It’s a fascinating question. Game 6 is Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Paul Flannery on how easy it is to forget Kevin Durant is a superstar, not a superhero. I wrote that Durant’s drive to prove himself defines his legacy.
SB Nation has a new video series called HIGH SCORE. The first episode looks at Klay Thompson’s single-game three-point attempts record.
Anonymous sports medicine folks in the NBA told Tom Haberstroh that the red flag in Durant’s injury is him playing 12 of the first 14 minutes of the game.
The enormous Durant injury ripple effects, something I’ve been loathe to consider.
Be excellent to each other.