When great expectations and poor performances collide, fans, coaches and even players find themselves at the ledge. That uneasy place where the temperature is always rising and the sky is always falling. Here’s a look at who’s on the ledge this week:
The Saints are on the ledge over what is quickly coming to be known as “Bounty-Gate”, alleging that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his players and subordinates coordinated a program that rewarded game changing defensive plays of both the legal and illegal variety. Not only is it a circumvention of salary cap rules, more importantly it’s a reward for the type of violence that the NFL has been punishing its players especially hard for over the last few years. The league will be heavily scrutinized over how they choose to punish this, and the ramifications could likely affect Williams current job with the Rams, his former team in Washington and of course the Saints. Punishment is likely to be harsh and swift on this one. Until then, Williams, the Saints, the Redskins, Sean Payton and many others will wait at the ledge.
UCLA and Ben Howland
Last week’s Sports Illustrated expose of Howland’s hands off approach and the out of control program that resulted won’t be the only reason he’ll likely be gone at season’s end, but it will surely be the easiest. Just a few short seasons ago Howland and UCLA had the Final Four looking like their birthright and Howland himself looked ready to challenge John Calipari as the master of the “one and done” player. Now on the brink of their second straight season out of the tourney looking in, Howland is likely counting down his final days and final paychecks and Reeves Nelson, the villain of the SI Story, looks ready to challenge Chris Washburn in the annals of college hoops stars behaving badly.
They may not be there for long, but by now Mavs fans have surely realized what the rest of us have been seeing all along this season. That is that the Mavs are making a less than genuine, borderline fraudulent effort at defending their title. Now that the euphoria of last year’s championship has had some time to wear off and Lamar Odom’s welcome has had time to wear out, it’s time to concede that in allowing Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and others to walk and replacing them with Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West and Yi amongst others, this season was over before it started in Dallas.
Maybe the gamble will pay off in Dallas and they’ll land Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard in free agency. This year though, the Mavs are making the least genuine effort at a title defense that the NBA has possibly ever seen.