Top 12 Hardest Players To Coach in the NBA

When they’re not getting physical and confrontational with referees or other players on the court, they are getting in the face of their own head coaches on the bench. More often than not, the more talented a player is, the more hard-headed they come. This can make talented players awfully difficult to coach. The paradoxical reason for this is because good players are often stubborn and set on their own ways, and understandably so. Good players rarely think they are wrong. Good players got to where they got because they have relied heavily on their own natural instincts and judgment levels their entire careers, so, when somebody with a higher amount of power, such as a referee or head coach, tells them that they are wrong, it doesn’t always end peacefully.

Since, coaches and referees have more authority than players do, a referee can easily call a foul on a player with the blow of a whistle, penalizing them and rewarding their opponents. Or head coaches can sit a player down if they do not do what they are supposed to do, and whether a player thinks he is right or not, he has no choice but to obey him.

With this limited amount of power, the only thing a player can do is retaliate if they feel like they are justified in what they have done. Also, in the defense of many players in the league, they are not always wrong. Sometimes they are right and sent to the doghouse or disciplined for the wrong reasons. Players want to feel like they are being utilized right and if a coach is limiting their freedom, it is easy to see how there can be a disconnect between players and coaches. Snapping back at anyone is not the most pleasant thing to watch and no one likes confrontation, but in the heat of the battle, it is easy to see how a hot-tempered exchange could happen.

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12 Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics

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Isaiah Thomas has now played for three teams in less than two years. This past summer, Isaiah Thomas signed a multi-year contract with the Phoenix Suns. However, the Suns traded him just four months into the season to the Boston Celtics. You would have thought that the Suns would have kept Thomas after trading Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat, however, they decided to ship Thomas out as well. Despite his efficient numbers, Thomas is not the type of team player that creates for others, which is important for someone to be able to do if they are less than 6 feet tall and a major defensive liability.

11 Nick Young – Los Angeles Lakers

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Nick Young has always been one of the best shooters in the league. He can get hotter faster than most in the league can, so no one questions his offensive talent. However, Young makes the game a lot more difficult than it needs to be with his unnecessary fadeaways and tunnel vision that ignores his own teammates on the floor. If Young could create for others the way that he can create his own jump shot, he could easily be an All Star with his talent. However, Young finds himself riding the pine for the lowly Los Angeles Lakers.

10 J.R. Smith – Cleveland Cavaliers

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You love him and you hate him at the same time. You love him because he is one of those players that you secretly root for even though he can be a complete knucklehead sometimes on and off the court. And yet, he has broken your heart more than once. However, now that Smith has changed sceneries from New York to Cleveland, it is possible that he will know his place and his role a lot better than he did in New York, where they had multiple coaches over his time there.

9 Rudy Gay – Sacramento Kings

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Rudy Gay takes some of the most inefficient shots in the NBA. Possessed with great size and athleticism, there is no reason why Rudy Gay could not be a perennial All-Star. However, his love for long two-pointers and fadeaway 20 footers, makes him one of the most difficult players in the NBA to coach. The dilemma for coaches is that Gay is so talented, it is hard to sit him because you never know when he was going to go off, but more often than not, those nights are too far inbetween one another.

8 Lance Stephenson – Charlotte Hornets

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From blowing into LeBron’s ear to his shimmy’s after he makes a difficult shot, Lance is an entertainer and a passionate spirit. However, that doesn’t always bode well for his relationship with his head coachesm when what they want to see is a bit more professionalism and an even keel attitude that gives no leverage or motivation to his opponents. Therefore, despite leading the league in triple doubles last year, Stephenson now finds himself riding the bench on his new team.

7 Deron Williams – Brooklyn Nets

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Deron will forever be known as the player that got Jerry Sloan fired from his historic run as the head coach of the Utah Jazz. Despite his sizeable salary, Williams now rides the bench for the Brooklyn Nets. Head coaches typically give in to superstars, but not coach Lionel Hollins. Hollins is old school, so if you do not play his way, you are not going to play at all. And for Deron Williams, that means sitting on the bench for someone less talented than him in Jarrett Jack.

6 Josh Smith – Houston Rockets

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Do you honestly think NBA coaches believe Josh Smith is a stretch four that can shoot 3-pointers? I’m not so sure any general manager or head coach in the league thinks that anymore, yet he continually shoots 3-pointer after 3-pointer as if he is Kyle Korver. Ever since Josh Smith left the Detroit Pistons, they have turned the entire club around and are now on pace to make the playoffs. Smith fits the classic definition of the Ewing Effect, where teams get better without you than with you.

5 Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony was supposed to be the savior of Gotham, instead he has brought this entire franchise down. The Knicks have put their entire hopes on the back of Carmelo Anthony, but he has failed to be the type of leader that is necessary to lead a team to the championship, let alone the playoffs. During Carmelo’s time with the Knicks, they got rid of Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, and now he is with Derek Fisher. Furthermore, many believe that it was Melo that forced the Knicks to get rid of Jeremy Lin, who was the one bright spot for the Knicks. At a certain point, the Knicks have to stop blaming everyone else for their problems and start looking at the one constant problem that is still on their team.

4 LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

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What in the world is LeBron James doing on this list? LeBron may be the only player in the NBA that has more power than any of the coaches that he has ever had. His new coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers is David Blatt, but it is obvious to everyone who the real coach and general manager is of the team. LeBron is the one that essentially re-made this Cavs roster, including the recent addition of Kendrick Perkins. What that means is that if LeBron is the one that has brought all these players together, he also has control over how they are used.

3 DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings

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DeMarcus Cousins has grown up a little bit since the past summer, but his temper trantrums still make him a bit difficult to coach because of his volatile attitude. Coaching has as much to do with rallying the troops as it does with executing the plays, however, Cousins has been a poor leader on an emotional level. Cousins supposedly had a good relationship with Mike Malone, but that doesn’t mean that he will have as good of a relationship with newly hired coach George Karl. Karl is as stubborn and old school as they come, and it is only a matter of time before they start butting heads.

2 Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers

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Much like LeBron James, Kobe has as much power over a coach as a coach has over a player. In fact, the only coach he may have never had more power over is Phil Jackson, and even then there were plenty of times where Kobe was defiant with the Zen Master on the court. Remember the games where he refused to shoot the ball, in order to make a point that it wasn’t his shooting that was costing the Lakers playoff games? Kobe would lose a game in order to make his point clear. He is as hard headed as they come, something that helped him in the beginning of his career, but is costing the Lakers greatly today.

1 Rajon Rondo – Dallas Mavericks

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Rondo’s latest shouting match with head coach Rick Carlisle is another reminder of how much of a challenge it is to coach the stubborn point guard. Rondo is considered one the smartest players in the game, almost an extension of a head coach on the floor. But what that inevitably means is that if Rondo and his coach disagree with a play or have different opinions over what to do, Rondo is going to do things his way. This led to a heated exchange between Carlisle and Rondo recently that eventually led to a one game suspension for Rondo for conduct that was detrimental to the team.

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