NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy discussed some NBA topics in a conference call Tuesday, previewing the NBA Finals on ABC. Gundy, a former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach, has been mentioned as a candidate for several coaching vacancies. Here are a few of his responses:
What does the Thunder need to do to get back to the Finals next year other than having a healthy Russell Westbrook.
Well, I think the positive of Westbrook getting hurt, and there's not many positives, is, A, I think everyone who was critical of Westbrook found out just how good and important he was. B, I think it gave them a better evaluation tool going forward about how good some of their younger players like Reggie Jackson could be. I was impressed with what he was able to do, and I think they have got to be excited about his future.
I think the Kevin Martin issue, do they sign him back? How do they fortify that bench? Is it Kevin Martin or is it younger players like (Jeremy) Lamb who they already have and spend their money someplace else.
But other than Westbrook getting back healthy and that resolvement of the Martin situation, I think they will be back in the Finals, if healthy, and I think they will be the favorite to win it all.
How would you evaluate where you are regarding a possible return to coaching against staying in broadcasting?
Well, you know, I think when you're talking about broadcasting, I'll never feel as comfortable broadcasting as I do in coaching because I'm just not — I'm still a novice at it. Thankfully I work with the Tim Duncan of broadcasting in Mike Breen; his understated greatness really helps out a novice like myself.
You know, as far as coaching, in particular, listen, if anything ever makes sense for a team and for myself where there is a fit of vision and values, I'd obviously consider it. And ESPN has been, you know, so generous in allowing me to do that.
But I also realize just how good I have it with the job I have right now. I don't take that for granted. I enjoy working with the people I work with. I enjoy being around the game. I've just been a big beneficiary of Mike and Tim (Corrigan), the producer, to help me try to get a little bit better every year.
Do you see the Finals playing out as a physical battle or San Antonio, if they are going to win, they have to be physical like Indiana was?
Well, I just don't think too many teams play big anymore, so they can't really be physical, and the NBA rules really don't allow it as much. But I think the beauty of San Antonio's roster construction is that they can play big with (Tiago) Splitter and (Tim) Duncan, or they can downsize ... with Matt Bonner and (Boris) Diaw. So I think that flexibility gives them the ability to adapt to whatever the game situation calls for.
The hardest thing in the NBA is to find, you know, the best player that you can build around or best players, and in San Antonio's case, it's Duncan, (Tony) Parker and to a lesser extent now, (Manu) Ginobili. And then it's as important — and this is where San Antonio has thrived: It's surrounding them with the pieces that specific roles that you need to win, and they have done a remarkable job. (General manager) R.C. Buford and his staff, to me, have done a remarkable job in picking the right guys to go around the best players.
I wanted to ask you about Heat forward Chris Andersen. Can you describe the value of the Xfactorness of the Birdman?
Do I have to call him “Birdman”? All right, I'm going to stay with Andersen. Well, listen, he plays really hard and with great energy, and he does it every night. And energy and effort is an NBA skill. Consistent energy and effort is hard to find in big guys, and then the added skill that he has is, he can catch and finish. He has good hands. He finishes at the rim. And he has some things he doesn't do as well obviously. He doesn't play huge minutes, but his minutes that he does play are impactful. It was a big, big acquisition when they got him — everybody saw it as a gamble when they did it — and it's turned into a stroke of genius.