The End of an Era?

  • By Andrew Taylor, Day 147, 2020

By Skip 'Hack' Morrissey - Beat Writer
Las Vegas Tribune

As the Scorpions edged closer to wrapping up their first-round series against the Skyhawks the team’s normally media friendly GM Bedouin took the extraordinary step of removing himself from the team’s orbit. This was not, as some have suggested, because of the $30k fine he received from the league during that series, a fine he knew was coming as soon as he started speaking to me about the referees. It was, according to trusted sources within the organization, an attempt to insulate the team from the rumours and innuendo that have surrounded his contract status. “He was horrified that he had become the story, rather than the team, as they attempted to defend their championship. He was deeply concerned that it could become a considerable distraction if not contained.”

But as the Scorpions second round series against the Fireballs progressed the absence of the GM from road games, or the locker room at home, seemed to have the opposite effect. The rumours accelerated and more alarmingly they metastasised; now the GM was actively disengaged from the team’s championship defence. Team sources privately laughed this off, saying this was far from the case and revealing that it was Bedouin who raised the idea of attempting to use a zone defence to nullify the Fireballs strength from beyond the arc after a disappointing game 1. One rumour that I can verify as true is that Bedouin did indeed throw a chair through his office window after game 7, I’ve seen the photos. Hardly the sign of a man who is disengaged.

The day after a disappointing game 7 loss ended the Scorpions season Bedouin and Rowland spent the day conducting exit interviews with his players, spending considerable time with the 7 who would be returning next season. After the exit interviews the two, both out of contract, sat down for their own debrief which reportedly continued well into the wee small hours of the morning. Only after these meeting, the final piece of business for the season, were concluded did Bedouin meet today with team ownership to discuss his own contract status.

Shortly after the meeting hit the 6 hour mark the team released a statement that there would be a press conference that evening. And so there we were, myself and more than 100 of my colleagues, waiting on Bedouin. Just like we had almost 4 years ago in the early weeks of the 2017 season. Almost an hour after the press conference was scheduled to begin the man himself slides through a side door and bounds up on stage. The roar of the crowd is instantly silenced as Bedouin approaches the podium. But instead of taking his usual place beside it he removes the microphone from its stand and takes a seat on the edge the stage barely a meter from the front row of reporters. The team PR employee that shadows him is nowhere to be seen.

“You don’t mind if I sit down here do you. In an informal kind of mood. I like this like a intimate little jazz gig or something.” He shakes his head at his own reference.

“Anyway sorry I’m late folks. Meetings go long sometimes. It certainly wasn’t anticipated so I do apologize. Now before we start I just want to get one thing clear. I know you want to talk about my contract status. I really don’t because I’ve spent nine hours talking about it today already, but I get it. And we’ll get there. But how about we start with any questions people might have about the conference finals. I know I stood you guys up the other night but I went and listened to some Limp Bizkit, Break Stuff is a great track, and I got it out of my system so I’m happy to take those questions now. So fire away folks.”

Q – We saw an almost totally new defensive scheme after the first game of the series. Can you tell us a little about the reasoning for the change?
A – Sure, essentially I was pretty confident we’d lose if we kept letting them hit fifty 3-point shots per game. Actually that may not be an accurate statistic, it might have been more. It certainly felt like it. But more seriously coach and I sat down that night and watched the game back as we do after every playoff game and I kind of half-jokingly suggested that we may as well try some zone, cause nothing else was working. Next day I show up at shoot around and they’re running a zone defence clinic. But you know what, all due credit to Coach McLain, he made that shit happen.
Q – Do you think in hindsight that you might have shown your hand too early. It certainly seemed like the Fireballs adapted to the change the longer the series went on.
A – Would you have preferred that we wait till we were down 3-0 before we made the change. It’s a playoff series, adjustments get made. And then adjustments to those adjustments. And then adjustments to those adjustments to adjustments. An endless fucking rabbit hole of adjustments. Go far enough and you’ll see Alice and the Cheshire Cat. So yes, the Fireballs adjusted, but that was always gonna happen. Rudy’s been here before you know.
Q – You looked in control after game 5, what do you think happened?
A – We lost two games in a row and when you’re in a best of 7 series that wraps things up. Look I don’t think it was any one thing in particular. Winning game 6 in LA was always gonna be a challenge. Losing Keeling exposed our lack of depth on the wing. Dontay picking up a few cheap fouls in Game 7. Difference between winning and losing can be a thousand little things. And the little things didn’t go our way this time.
Q – Do you think ultimately it was their shooting from deep, or the team’s failure to defend consistently, that was the difference?
A – Little bit of A, little bit of B. You aren’t gonna win many series when your opponent shoots 3s at 50% in volume. But our defence wasn’t quite there all year long and that didn’t suddenly change this series.
Q – It seemed a little like the Fireballs were almost the worst possible team you could have faced. Fast paced, lots of shooting from the outside. Obviously your team is built very differently. How do you deal with that clash of styles?
A – That works both ways though. They wanted to run us off our feet and bury us under a deluge of threes. We wanted to slow them down, out execute and stop them on defence. Neither vision is necessarily better. But in this series, they executed their vision more effectively. The defensive part of our equation was missing, and the numbers just didn’t add up.
Q – Would you have preferred to have faced the Rockets?
A – They slaughtered us a few times this year, but as you all know this team was built to beat the Rockets and break their stranglehold on the conference. Maybe that would have been a better matchup, I don’t know.
Q – Do you consider this year a failure, given the team’s inability to return to the finals?
A – Yes…No…I really don’t know yet. We had a good year, but I’m not sure I ever felt that we had the horses to get it done. And that’s not a knock on the players or Rowland. It’s my job to provide the horses and I think maybe I didn’t get it done this year. At least not compared to last year.
Q – Can you elaborate on that?
A – We didn’t get a few of the players I had targeted in the offseason. Not getting the signatures, that’s on me. I traded for Mrob, and I’m not sure that was a net positive for the team. Mrob did everything we asked of him, he certainly didn’t play badly. And what he brought to the locker room was special. But the move left us a little shallower. And that probably played a part in this series.
The room was silent for a while as the reporters consult their notes. Finally a reporter raises his hand.
Q – Do you think you could have gotten past the Stars?
A – Okay clearly we’re pretty close to tapping out on this vein of inquiry. Let’s just say this. We played the stars twice this year, and neither game provided any encouraging signs. But hey, that’s why we play the games. Regardless we didn’t get past the Fireballs and they’ve earnt that opportunity to compete for the championship. I think what our guys need to focus on is that the last time we were here in this spot. In 2018 we went down on a buzzer beater attempt in game 7 of the conference finals. The next year we won it all. That’s got to be the roadmap for this team moving forwards.
Bedouin laughed at his accidental pushing of the conversation towards the topic he’s been avoiding for weeks.
“and I guess that brings us to the moving forwards bit. Have at guys.”
The room erupted with seemingly every reporter in the room firing off a question at the same time.
“Folks let’s try to act like adults here. One at a time.”
Q – How did your meeting with ownership go today.
A – Great. It was a really positive meeting. We talked a lot about the journey we’ve undertaken, the success we’ve achieved and the path forward. And I’ll say that the contract offer they placed in front of me was the possibly the best compliment I have ever received. You get a very tangible sense of how you’re valued by your colleagues based on the number of zeros, and I felt super fucking valued.
Q – So the rumours were just rumours, you’ll be returning as GM in 2021?
A – The rumours were just rumours. I’ve said all along that I was 100% committed to our title defence and that I would discuss my contract status with the team following the season. That is true, the length of the meeting and the cheque I wrote the owners today to replace my office window should be testament to that. But at the same time, that is the only thing I signed during that meeting.
An audible gasp was followed by a long silence. Which I finally broke.
Q – Are you saying you won’t be returning to the Scorpions?
A – That’s correct Skip. Today after hours of discussion with ownership I declined their very generous offer. Technically I’m no longer an employee of the organization, which is why you don’t see my PR friend lurking somewhere nearby.
Q – Given what you’ve said about the nature of the offer, why have you decided to leave Las Vegas.
A – In basketball, as in life, things change. This team has to change, just as it has every year since I arrived here. And over the last week as I was largely away from the team I really missed them. I think there’s a great deal of truth in what Tim said a week or so ago. When you go through something like a championship run with people you form a bond, it’s hard to describe. But this team does need to change, this dinosaur needs to evolve or perish. And I wasn’t sure I could be 100% committed to that process. This is a beautiful game, but at my level it’s a business. And when I start viewing my players as friends, rather than as assets to the organization then my effectiveness is compromised. And I think it might be. It’s funny I realized yesterday that I felt quite similar in 2006 and 2007 in Oakland. Maybe I’m a little more self-aware now. I’m certainly a great deal older. But as you all know, back then I ultimately walked away from the game.
Q – That doesn’t sound very much like the Trader Bed we know.
A – Not a question, that’s a statement, but I get where you’re coming from. Look maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age. Maybe I’m a little smarter. But this team needs a new, fresh set of eyes in the General Manger role. This team doesn’t need wholesale change, just a few moves. The right moves. And I’m not sure that I’m the best person for that job and I don’t want to sign a contract that I don’t feel I can 100% deliver on. I owe this organization, and this city much more than that. They gave me an opportunity after I flat out embarrassed myself at the end with the Tritons. I’m forever grateful.
Q – What do you think your legacy here will be?
A – I’d like to think that I have restored pride to the organization and established a set of grand expectations within our fans. Our fans are first rate, and they deserve a first-rate team. They should demand a first-rate team. But in the fullness of time I’m sure my legacy will be 1 championship, 2 conference finals and a 132-84 record. Time reduces us all to numbers in the end.
Q – Would you like to say anything to the fans?
A – Absolutely. I want to thank the people of Las Vegas for their support through the last four years. It went fast. It’s meant a lot to me. I’ve had a great great ride….
Q – Are you quoting Any Given Sunday?
Bedouin laughs.
A – I’d say paraphrasing. But look, do you know what the actual direct translation of Bedouin is? It means desert dweller. And that’s how I really feel. I made a home here. Formed bonds here. And no matter where I go, I’ll be keeping a place here. This is a special town.
Q – Given that you’ll be leaving the organization what does this mean for Coach McLain, who is also out of contract.
A – Look I’m not going to say that Rowland and I haven’t discussed our respective futures with each other. Old guys like us tend to do that. I have all the respect in the world for that man, and for what he has achieved during his lengthy career. He’s right up there in any conversation about the greatest coaches in our league’s history. I’m so happy that he won another ring here to stop that idiotic conversation that he could only win with Jerry. But as I said I have all the respect in the world for him, which is why I’ll keep our conversations between us. I’m sure he’ll speak to you in his own time.
Q – So what is next for you?
A – Well when I said I was late because of a meeting that went long and that it was unexpected. I more meant that the meeting was unexpected. Shortly after I left my meeting today with our excellent ownership group I received a phone call from out East. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. Interesting enough that my agent joined us on the call, and then their lawyers, and then my lawyers. And at the end of that conversation I ultimately agreed to a 4-year deal to become the inaugural GM of the Baltimore Bullets organization.
At that point the crowd erupted, everyone was either yelling out a question or looking at the person next to them in shock. Bedouin and I made eye contact and he just smiled and shrugged. And then he dropped his microphone gently to the stage.