Jeff Van Gundy picking Rockets to win NBA title

Dwight Howard RocketsAnyone who has listened to Jeff Van Gundy call NBA games for ABC/ESPN this season or heard him providing analysis on the radio knows that the former Houston Rockets coach is a big backer of his former team.

Van Gundy has long supported Dwight Howard as a defensive stalwart and has believed in the Rockets all season long. He stood by them even when they had some struggles early in the season. So it’s not too much of a surprise to hear that JVG is picking the Rockets to win the NBA championship.

“I’m going to pick the Western Conference winner, and I’m going to stick with Houston,” Van Gundy said during a conference call, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“They play fast, they score easily, and they have a talent in James Harden who is as hard to guard as anybody not named Kevin Durant or LeBron James,” Van Gundy said. “They have a center (Dwight Howard) who gives them a force in the paint, who can rebound, and then they have one of the best competitors in (point guard Patrick) Beverley; I just love his mentality in attacking each and every opponent. I think Houston has as good a chance as anyone to come out of the West.”

The Rockets are the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and face Portland in the first round. If they’re lucky enough to advance, the road will be tough; they wouldn’t have home court against the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers. But that’s not stopping JVG from sticking with Houston.

“I really do believe the Western Conference winner will win it, and I have to stick with who I think will win the West. You could convince me about San Antonio and Oklahoma City and the Clippers as well, because all of them are really good.”

Even if Houston is not the team to win it all, this is pretty noteworthy because Van Gundy thinks the Miami Heat will be unseated as champs. The Heat are looking for their fourth straight Finals appearance and third straight title. Accomplishing both goals would be extremely difficult and impressive.

Jeff Van Gundy hopes Derrick Rose’s son has better knees than Derrick

Derrick-Rose-sonDerrick Rose watched Sunday’s game between his Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks with his infant son PJ. Rose and his little boy were shown during ABC’s broadcast several times, and Jeff Van Gundy called him the “cutest little guy.” He also made a comment that Rose probably won’t find all that entertaining.

“I hope he has better knees than his dad,” Van Gundy said.

As you know, Rose is recovering from MCL surgery after missing the entire 2012-2013 season with a torn ACL. He has appeared in just 49 games over the last three seasons and still has a long road to recovery. Considering he is only 25 years old and was expected to be one of the best players in the NBA for years, the injuries are obviously a major concern.

Rose has been criticized by other NBA players for his injuries, so I’m sure it will go in one ear and out the other. Van Gundy has never really been one to filter himself, and I’m sure he didn’t have any ill intent when he made the comment. Still, it was kind of rough.

H/T The Big Lead

Jeff Van Gundy nervous in Gregg Popovich interview, gets a hug (Video)

Gregg Popovich hug Jeff Van GundyJeff Van Gundy knew about Gregg Popovich’s reputation for being uncooperative and rude during in-game interviews, so he was understandably nervous heading into his interview with the San Antonio Spurs coach on Wednesday night.

As Van Gundy articulated those thoughts during the interview, Pop intimidated him by demanding to know what the question was, causing Van Gundy to continue backing down. But Jeff eventually got around to the question — which was to explore Pop’s feelings — and that led the Spurs coach to break down and give Van Gundy a big ol hug.

That Pop, he’s such a sweetie. Of course, it probably helped that his Spurs were crushing the Mavericks, but that was still nice.

Video via @cjzero

Jeff Van Gundy calls out Dwight Howard

While many media members buddy up with Dwight Howard because of his outgoing personality, Jeff Van Gundy is not falling for the act. Van Gundy believes that Howard got his brother, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, fired in Orlando, and he’s not afraid to call out Howard when he feels it is necessary.

During the second quarter of Friday’s Oklahoma City Thunder-Los Angeles Lakers game, Van Gundy called out Howard on several accounts. His criticism was inspired by a possession in which the Lakers’ reserves shared the ball on an offensive possession, which is different from the way the starters operate.

“Did you see how the ball moved?” Van Gundy asked rhetorically. “There was no agenda. There was no pouting if they didn’t touch it. The ball just moved freely. And when the ball moves freely, everyone feels good.

“And let’s face it, let’s not beat around the bush: Some of Dwight Howard’s comments about having to play together? Those are veiled shots at Kobe Bryant,” said Van Gundy. “And to me, I would have much rather seen Howard go into the locker room and say, ‘Hey, listen, I think we need to do this, this, and this.’

“You don’t go in the media and take veiled shots at Kobe Bryant! I guarantee he thought the grass was greener other than Orlando. Now he’s disenchanted with his offensive role [on the Lakers] it seems. When’s the guy going to be happy?”

The “veiled shots” to which Van Gundy is referring came after the Lakers lost to the Clippers earlier this month.

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Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Dunleavy reportedly on Nets’ coaching candidates list

Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Dunleavy reportedly are two of the names on the Brooklyn Nets’ list of potential head coaches. The Nets fired Avery Johnson on Thursday, just 28 games into the season. Assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo was promoted to interim head coach, but the team is believed to have its eyes on some other candidates.

At the top of the team’s list is Phil Jackson, who is said to be open to hearing their offer. Jackson reportedly was prepared to accept the Lakers job until it was given to Mike D’Antoni. He famously is only interested in coaching teams he believe can win a championship. The 14-14 Nets likely will not fit that criteria, so we doubt he will seriously consider the position, though CBS Sports’ Ken Berger says Jackson is “intrigued” by the job.

Van Gundy is said to be high on the Nets’ list if they are unable to get Jackson. ESPN New York says the Nets hold Van Gundy “in high regard” and consider him a serious candidate for the job. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski says Van Gundy is interested in the position, but he will not talk to the team until after the season out of respect for the current coach. The Nets were turned down by Van Gundy before hiring Johnson in 2010.

In addition to Van Gundy, Wojnarowski mentioned Kelvin Sampson as a potential candidate for the job. Sampson served as the Rockets’ head coach while Kevin McHale took a personal leave of absence last month. The New York Times’ Howard Beck says Sampson’s name has been discussed, but he is not viewed as a “significant candidate.”

Beck mentioned former Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy as a candidate (as did ESPN New York). Dunleavy lobbied for the job on his radio show.

“First off, I’m from Brooklyn, so if ever given the opportunity to coach a team from Brooklyn, it would be a dream come true,” Dunleavy said on his SiriusXM show, via the New York Times. “Right now, to the best of my understanding, is that P. J. has been given the job on an interim basis — I’m not sure with the opportunity to keep it or not — but he’s a friend of mine, he’s a good coach and I wish him all the best in what he’s doing right now.”

Both ESPN New York and the Times mention Larry Brown as a potential candidate, citing his relationship with Billy King. Brown is currently in his first season as coach at SMU. Nate McMillan and Flip Saunders have also been mentioned as candidates for the job.

The Nets beat the Bobcats at home 97-81 on Friday in their first game under Carlesimo.

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Van Gundy: Northern Illinois doesn’t belong in BCS bowl game

jeff-van-gundy-red-glassesJeff Van Gundy is the latest pundit to say that Northern Illinois shouldn’t be playing in a BCS bowl game.

The former NBA coach and current NBA analyst’s comments were prompted by a promo for the Orange Bowl between Northern Illinois and Florida State that was read by his broadcasting partner, Mike Breen, during the Clippers-Nuggets game on Christmas.

“How flawed is that BCS system that Northern Illinois is in that bowl?” Van Gundy asked rhetorically. “Oklahoma — you’re telling me they’re not better? If you put Northern Illinois into the Big 12 … Louisville is in [the Sugar Bowl] … come on, that’s ridiculous.”

Van Gundy went on to say that a team’s conference should carry more weight.

“I’m happy for Northern Illinois. They’ve had a great year. I’m just saying, if you want the best teams, you’ve got to give the leagues they play in … you put Northern Illinois in the SEC, you think they’re coming out unscathed?”

What’s funny is that Van Gundy was ripping the BCS for the exact opposite reason most people criticize it for. Most people complain that the BCS is too elitist and doesn’t give a chance to the smaller-conference teams the way the NCAA basketball tournament does.

I generally hold a similar opinion to Van Gundy, but I guess we’ll find out on January 1 whether or not Northern Illinois belongs with the big boys. We do know one thing: Van Gundy is sure to set off a reaction among Huskies fans the way Kirk Herbstreit did.

Jeff Van Gundy wants to brand floppers with ‘F’ on jersey

Jeff Van Gundy is an opinionated guy, and he hates flopping. When you start talking about flopping with him, you’re going to get some strong thoughts.

The former NBA coach and current ABC/ESPN commentator was talking about the NBA’s new anti-flopping rule with Mike Breen during Friday’s Heat-Hornets preseason game. Players will be subjected to fines for flopping, and they could even be suspended if they are caught flopping too frequently.

“I was reading something the other day that said they didn’t think anybody would be suspended this year. Me? I think some of these guys will be suspended after one game because they flop so often,” said Van Gundy.

“Reggie Evans, if he plays 20 minutes in a game, he can’t help himself — he’s going to get the warning and the six in one game!

“And I don’t understand why [the NBA won't make the flop violations public]. Why not call these guys out? That’s a flop, and he’s a flopper. I think they should, and I think they should put the flopping “F” on their uniform too.”

Classic Van Gundy. Who else (besides his brother) would suggest branding violators scarlet letter-style? Some players like Dirk Nowitzki think the new rules are crap, but Van Gundy likes it. Hey, if fines don’t work, maybe public shaming will be the only way to rid flopping from the game.

Big thanks to @CJZero for the story/video

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE