It hasn't exactly gotten ugly, but the fact that there are already divorce talks coming between the Portland Trail Blazers and starting center J.J. Hickson says enough.
Portland general manager Neil Olshey told Jason Quick of The Oregonian that he doesn't envision having the funds or the minutes to justify keeping the free-agent-to-be in the Northwest past this summer.
For us to make a jump next season, JJ can’t be our starting center,’’ Olshey said. “I’m not saying he can’t be part of the roster, but we need to find a starting-caliber center who protects the rim and gets defensive rebounds at a high rate and that has a presence."
Regardless of how well Hickson's enjoyed his time with the franchise, this isn't likely to be anything along the lines of catastrophic news for him.
He'd be the first to agree that he shouldn't be their starting center. He's managed respectable numbers (12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game), but the natural power forward admitted that he "definitely was playing out of position" this season.
At the end of the day, Hickson got what every NBA player wants. The front office has been up front with him on its decision, with far less harsh language than some of Hickson's peers have heard from their coaches.
Mike D'Antoni vs. Pau Gasol
Gasol entered the season hoping to bounce back from a frustrating 2011-12 campaign. With the season just days away from its conclusion, he'd gladly trade this season for last.
And that's something that Lakers frontman D'Antoni won't ever let Gasol forget, despite the fact that his own system has only compounded Gasol's struggles.
D'Antoni opened his Lakers' tenure by trying to force Gasol to thrive in a stretch forward role that he'd never filled in his previous 11 seasons, four of which included All-Star nods. Unwilling to adapt to his roster, D'Antoni banished Gasol to his second team.
When prodded for his reasons behind benching Gasol in a fourth quarter earlier this season, D'Antoni quipped "I was thinking I'd like to win this game," (via T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times).
The pair shared a meal in an attempted fresh start, but Gasol said that "Nothing significant has happened; it's probably even gone a little backwards."
He added he felt that his new coach was "messing with my season" and that he felt hurt that "this unique opportunity we have with such good players is not being maximized."
Tom Thibodeau vs. Joakim Noah
The Chicago Bulls coach has had enough to deal with this season with former MVP Derrick Rose's will-he-or-won't-he return talks. In an effort to keep his team entrenched in the playoff picture, he's asked for some of the league's heaviest workloads from his pair of All-Stars: Luol Deng (39.2 minutes per game) and Noah (37.5).
So when he opted to ride reserves Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed instead of a healthy Noah for the final 23 minutes of an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 19 speculation ran rampant on a feud between player and coach (via Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com).
Thibodeau didn't chastise his star center publicly; that's not his way of doing business. But he only fueled the rumor mill by calling the move simply a "coach's decision."
Noah later admitted that he had more than a hand in creating that coach's decision. He admitted that he "was pissed off" about a third-quarter benching and "probably said some things that I shouldn't have said," (via Friedell).
Mike Woodson vs. Carmelo Anthony
It's probably getting a bit foggy now, what with the New York Knicks riding a league-best 13-game winning streak and Anthony serving as the main catalyst behind the surge.
But things weren't always so smooth for the Knicks this season. New York limped into the All-Star break losers in three of its last four games, then came out of the long weekend with back-to-back losses.
After the Toronto Raptors defeated the Knicks for the second time in a little more than a week, Woodson was beside himself. And the player drawing his ire was none other than his MVP candidate, Anthony, who passed up shots on two crucial late-game possessions in what wound up being a two-point loss for New York (via Frank Isola of the New York Daily News).
"He got rid of it too soon," the coach said when Anthony passed up a post isolation with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry late in the game. Woodson felt his star "had an opportunity to drive it right away to the rim and let it go." He saw Anthony's decision to feed Tyson Chandler near the basket off of a play designed for Anthony to attack "the same way," although the coach could have felt better about Anthony's decision had Chandler converted his subsequent free throws.
For his credit, Anthony took no hard feelings from Woodson's criticisms calling his late-game performance "bad execution on my behalf."
Larry Drew, Keith Smart Suspend Their Stars
Sometimes coaches feel that words aren't enough. Sometimes players leave them no other choice.
Drew, head man of the Atlanta Hawks, was handed the unenviable task of channeling the enigmatic Josh Smith into the All-Star player he has the talent to become.
And Drew only added to the challenge when he found an undisclosed Smith infraction during a Hawks practice worthy of a one-game suspension (via Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution).
But the Drew-Smith saga was something that Smart, coach of the Sacramento Kings, would have traded for in a heartbeat.
Not only did Smith and Drew have something to look forward to beyond the regular season, something Smart's Kings stopped hoping for months ago, but Smith was a model citizen compared to Smart's brightest star.
DeMarcus Cousins (17.1 points per game, 9.9 rebounds) is unquestionably Smart's premier player. He's also staring at a guaranteed loss if he ever winds up on the spin-off game show "Are You More Mature Than A Fifth Grader"?
Cousins and Smart butted heads during halftime of a Sacramento loss to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season. The altercation never became physical, but did get heated enough to warrant an "indefinite" suspension for Cousins (via Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today).
That indefinite period lasted no more than a single game, certainly a byproduct of Sacramento's dreadful reserve frontcourt.
Of course, maybe the Sacramento front office knew something then that none of us did. It wasn't the last time that Smart frustrated his players after all (via James Ham of CowbellKingdom.com).