Updated: Nov. 29, 2006, 11:31 AM ET

Coach's challenge

Every team confronts at least some adversity during the long NBA season. To illustrate a few of the hurdles faced in running a team, let's look at five coaches and five different challenges/dilemmas each now battles.

1. Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors
The challenge: The No. 1 pick playing time debate.

Andrea Bargnani barely played in the first nine games. When that happens, there's an automatic conflict with management. Management is saying, "Well, look, let's get our young players some playing time, we're not going to win a championship this year." But a coach wants to win THIS game. You've got to find a balance, and give him the playing time, and eventually he will become one of your better players. Lately, they've done a better job of giving him time. He's produced (including 16 points in 23 minutes in Tuesday's 94-77 win over the Hornets).

2. Scott Skiles, Chicago Bulls
The challenge: Dealing with a player who breaks team rules

In this case, a star player under a big contract. The dilemma is you need Ben Wallace, but you also need him to be a good example and think of the team first, and be a leader in your locker room. He's such a competitor, it's hard to discipline him, but you've got to do it. Because Wallace is a good guy and good teammate, they'll solve it.

3. Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks
The challenge: Dealing with a superstar

The superstar player, Stephon Marbury -- and he certainly is a superstar --is being asked to mold his game into what the coach wants him to do. But he's not being productive and the team is not winning. In fact, the team is doing better with the energy guys in there instead.

No easy answers here, but the great thing to remember about basketball is you start fresh at 0-0 each game. Marbury can be the star, but he can't hesitate, can't be afraid to make mistakes. Marbury (notwithstanding his 2-for-13 FG in Tuesday loss to Bulls) has the talent to do it.

4. George Karl, Denver Nuggets
The challenge: Succeeding with injuries

They lost Kenyon Martin, and Nene has been out, too. Last year, we [Ed note: Vandeweghe was then the Nuggets GM] went into the playoffs with 5 of our top 9 injured. But injuries have actually helped this year.

When George first joined us in Denver, he loved the quality and quantity of players and talent we had. But one of problems with talent is dividing up the minutes. When you have fewer choices, you're not fighting the urge to experiment, because of your limited options.

Injuries have solidified the lineup because it has taken the guesswork out. Eduardo Najera and Reggie Evans (averaging 8.7 rpg in 18.9 mpg) have stepped up big time, guys who rely on energy and dirty work. Even though the talent loss is huge, in some ways it has helped the Nuggets.

5. Don Nelson, Golden State Warriors
The challenge: Turning a losing mentality into a winning one

He has a tremendous talent at doing this. And he's doing it with an injury to arguably his best player, Baron Davis. Don has opened the game up in Golden State in a style that he's known for as one of the most creative coaches around. He puts his players in position to succeed.

An example of Nelson meeting the challenge is Monta Ellis -- a very talented young man who has never really flourished in part because he wasn't in the right system. But giving him a lot of freedom, and opening up the game, Nelson now has an emerging star (17.7 ppg) on his hands.

ESPN analyst Kiki Vandeweghe, who was the Nuggets GM for five years until last spring, played 13 NBA seasons, averaging 19.7 ppg for four teams from 1981-1993.

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Raptors Rock The Road
Jose Calderon
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
Jose Calderon's fancy footwork helped the Raptors earn their first road win, in a tough spot, too: Oklahoma City.



The Scoop On Ben's Band Battle
Scott Skiles

Ben Wallace had his best game of the season Tuesday. He made Bulls coach Scott Skiles and GM John Paxson look like geniuses, like they'd perfected the "wag the dog" theory. Afterwards, he didn't say much, wasn't much to say. He just, for the first time showed the Bulls fans why he's a better fit for the franchise's future than Eddy Curry. Headband or not.

But it was Skiles, who in the end, once it was over, put Headbandgate to rest -- by saying nothing about it. In the postgame all he talked about was Ben's energy. Talked about his center in the context of those like him in the game's history and how few of them there have been like Ben.

For that reason -- for the fact that Skiles took the high road and the Ben Wallace returned -- for the first time this season in the United Center, the Bulls' locker room smelled different: it smelled like winning.

-- Scoop Jackson at the United Center




Observation Deck: Any Given Tuesday

PARITY PARODY: With the Bobcats winning in Jersey, the Grizzlies winning in Denver, the Raptors winning in Oklahoma City and the Bucks beating the Lakers in L.A., all on Tuesday night, it's clear that the longer this season goes, the goofier it gets. -- Royce Webb

CONGRATULATIONS! The Celtics are now all alone in first place in the Atlantic Division, and hold the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, thanks to their spectacular 5-8 record. You go, Green.

GOOD CLIP: Shaun Livingston showed what a productive player he can be in the first quarter at Sacramento. Scoring off of drives, runners, and even perimeter shots. Plus crisp passes and good activity on the glass. He was the best player on the floor. It can serve as a nice reference point for when he is coasting through a game. -- David Thorpe

PAU SUB: I know how much the Grizz miss Pau Gasol, but his injury opened a door for Lawrence Roberts to prove he is an NBA player. He has. -- Thorpe




Wallace, Bulls Looking Better

Circus leaves town ... or did it?



Ball Statement
Stephon Marbury
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Stephon Marbury missed 11 of his 13 shots Tuesday in the loss to Chicago. "I don't have the ball as much as I normally do . . . I'm used to having the ball. It's an adjustment. You have no choice; we have to make the adjustment."



Extreme Behavior
Michael Redd

Tuesday's Best
Bucks guard Michael Redd: Kobe who? Redd drops 45 points on the Lakers in a 109-105 win at Staples Center. Kareem's the only other Buck to do that in LA. Meanwhile, No. 24 was busy missing 16 of his 23 attempts.

Kevin Martin

Tuesday's Worst
Kings guard Kevin Martin: The pride of Zanesville, Ohio enters Tuesday game averaging 24.9 ppg. Then things get zany -- he shoots 1-for-8, commits three turnovers in 22 fruitless minutes. Ron Artest's big game bails out the Kings, who never lose to the Clips.

Quotes of the Day
"I remember Jerry Sloan gave me his size 15s. I couldn't wear them and they were very hard to sell."
-- Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who used to sneak into Bulls games at the old Chicago Stadium and wait outside, hoping a player would give him sneakers.

See how all 176 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres



Sloan Riding Coach Class
Jerry Sloan

David (Seattle): What are the odds Jerry Sloan finally wins Coach of the Year this season?

Marc Stein: Better than they've ever been. Reason being: People are talking about this so much. Not only is Utah off to an insane start, two straight losses notwithstanding, but I read about Jerry's COY drought every day. His campaign started earlier than anyone else's. Fact is, though, that he deserves one of these before he retires. He's one of my favorites. He's been doing it the same way for two decades and there's nobody else like him.

The full Marc Stein chat Insider



Caron's Carom
Caron Butler

The Wizards defeated the Hawks 96-95 on the strength of Caron Butler's old-school three-point play -- a driving layup followed by a free throw -- that broke a 93-93 tie with 1:04 to play.

That final free throw made by Butler was his 15th in 15 attempts during the game. Only three other players in NBA history have been perfect from the line, with 15 or more attempts, in a one-point win: Detroit's Richard Hamilton (20-for-20) in 2004; Washington's Jerry Stackhouse (15-for-15) in 2003; and Chicago's Chet Walker (16-for-16) in 1971.

More from Elias



News And Notes

Eddie House and Josh Boone, both sidelined by injuries that have prevented them from playing this season, are close to making their Nets debuts.

• Denver F Nene was inactive for the ninth straight game with a right knee contusion. Nuggets coach George Karl thought he'd be ready in the next few days.

-- The Associated Press

 

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