Poll: Best Fit For Pelicans Coaching Position?

May 29 at 6:22pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

With today’s announcement that Scott Skiles would be taking over as the new coach of the Magic, there are now currently three coaching vacancies in the NBA: the Bulls, the Nuggets, and the Pelicans. Two of those vacancies may already be filled, with the Bulls rumored to be nearing an arrangement with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, and Denver reportedly leaning toward removing the interim tag from coach Melvin Hunt. This potentially leaves New Orleans as the lone vacancy still in play for a new head coach.

New Orleans has already interviewed a number of candidates, including Skiles, and more interviews could be on the horizon. I’ve listed below a number of candidates who have either already been interviewed, been mentioned in connection with the post, or who could emerge as candidates in the near future. Take a gander at the list and cast your vote for who you believe would be the best man to lead Anthony Davis and company next season and beyond…

  • Vinny Del Negro: The former coach of the Bulls and the Clippers interviewed with the Pelicans earlier this week. He owns a career regular season record of 210-184, and a playoff record of 10-19. Del Negro last coached during the 2012/13 season with the Clippers, leading the team to a record of 56-26 before being fired and subsequently replaced by Doc Rivers.
  • Jeff Van Gundy: The Pelicans interviewed Van Gundy on Tuesday, but the meeting was described as being very preliminary, with the two sides beginning to familiarize themselves with one another.  One potential obstacle in bringing Van Gundy on board could be his reported desire for an arrangement similar to the one that brother Stan Van Gundy has with the Pistons in which he coaches and runs the front office. His career regular season coaching record is 430-318, and is 44-44 during the postseason.
  • Alvin Gentry: The Warriors assistant interviewed with the franchise last week, and will reportedly get a second interview after the NBA Finals are completed. Gentry is a veteran of parts of 12 seasons as an NBA head coach with the Heat, Pistons, Clippers and Suns. His career regular season record is 335-370, and his postseason mark is 12-9. Gentry has reportedly drawn interest from the Nuggets and Magic, and was reportedly a front-runner for the Bulls spot, though it would appear that post is Hoiberg’s to lose.
  • Tom Thibodeau: Prior to his ouster in Chicago, Thibodeau had been mentioned as a possibility for the vacancy, though the Pelicans were reportedly reluctant to give up draft pick compensation in return for Thibs. With Thibodeau free to join any team without compensation, rumors regarding a Thibodeau-Pelicans pairing could heat up. It’s unclear if the negative comments the Bulls’ front office made regarding their former coach’s lack of communication skills, and the well-documented difficulties between he and Chicago’s front office, will lower Thibodeau’s stock around the league. Thibs’ regular season record stands at 255-139, and his playoff mark is 23-28.
  • Mark Jackson: Jackson’s name hasn’t been mentioned in conjunction with the Pelicans coaching position just yet, but the former Warriors coach could certainly become a candidate in the near future. While Jackson’s communication skills and ability to get along with other coaches and front office personnel came into question after his ouster in Golden State, his 121-109 regular season record should warrant him getting another NBA coaching opportunity at some point. It was reported that Jackson would meet with the approval of Davis, which certainly doesn’t hurt Jackson’s sales pitch for the job.
  • Michael Malone: Malone has been out of work since being fired by the Kings in December. The coach was reportedly let go because the franchise wanted a faster paced offense, and Malone is known as being a hard-nosed defensive coach. His 39-67 coaching record is all that impressive, but he wasn’t working with a playoff-ready roster in the brutal Western Conference. Malone also reportedly had a good working relationship with center DeMarcus Cousins, who hasn’t cultivated a reputation of being easy to coach, which speaks voumes about Malone’s ability to relate to players. He is certainly a coach who should warrant another shot at a head coaching position, and New Orleans could be a solid match for both sides.
  • John Calipari: There were conflicting reports regarding Calipari’s potential interest in leaving Kentucky and returning to the NBA. While Calipari appears entrenched at Kentucky, the grind of recruiting, and desire to erase the sting of his 72-112 record while he was coaching the Nets, may nudge him back toward the pros. Plus, coaching Davis, a former player of his, wouldn’t be a bad way to start the next phase of Calipari’s coaching career.

Prospect Profile: Jahlil Okafor

May 29 at 5:00pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Jahlil Okafor arrived in Durham with a huge set of expectations placed on his broad, young shoulders. He was the projected 2015 No. 1 overall pick by many experts prior to his first jump ball at Duke, and the 19-year-old certainly didn’t disappoint in his lone collegiate season. Okafor departs campus as a national champion, but not necessarily the top ranked player in this year’s crop of draftees.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Okafor averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 30.1 minutes per contest across 38 games. His shooting numbers were .664/.000/.510. He earned Freshman of the Year honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and was a consensus first team All-American. Okafor led the ACC in PER (30.7), field goal percentage (.664), offensive rebounds (134), field goals made (279), and total points (657).

Despite all of his collegiate success, Okafor lost his grip on being the consensus top rated prospect as the season wore on. This wasn’t because Okafor failed to deliver on his promise or was viewed as any less of a franchise-type player at the next level. It was simply a result of Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns exceeding his preseason projections and rocketing up the prospect rankings. Towns is regarded as the better athlete and defender, and NBA personnel believe he has a higher upside than Okafor, which in turn explains the slight dip in the Duke big man’s positioning in many mock drafts.

Measuring a stout 6’11, 270 pounds, possessing a 7’5″ wingspan, and a 9’2.5″ standing reach, Okafor is a prototypical center who should be able to step into the NBA paint area and immediately make his presence felt during his rookie campaign. He also moves very well for his size and has excellent hands for a big man. Okafor should develop into an absolute monster after spending some time working on his strength and conditioning with NBA trainers and coaches. The 19-year-old is easily the most polished big man in this year’s crop of draft hopefuls.

The freshman did the bulk of his damage this season with his back to the basket, which is certainly becoming a rare skill in today’s game, where more and more big men try and make their living from the perimeter. Okafor has the size needed to establish deep post position and the strength to move players around inside the paint once he catches the ball, showing an incredibly rare combination of power, quickness and finesse, writes Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.

Okafor didn’t get many opportunities to work while facing the basket at Duke. This was more a factor of how college defenses operate in regard to spacing than the center not being able to operate off of the dribble or sink a mid-range jump shot. In fact, for his size, Okafor is an exceptional ball-handler who can get to the rack with aplomb, thanks to his superior footwork and ability to create something out of nothing. He is also devastating in the pick-and-roll as well as in transition. While he may not be quite as fast as Towns, Okafor certainly won’t be slowing down his teammates on the break anytime soon.

The big man is adept as utilizing shot-fakes and drew a foul on over 18% of his post-possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology, Givony notes. However, Okafor didn’t maximize these opportunities, only sinking 51% of his shots from the charity stripe. Unless the “hack-a-Shaq” trend in the NBA is reduced through a rule change, a move the league has considered, Okafor may find himself riding the pine during the fourth quarters of close contests if his success rate doesn’t improve.

In addition to his scoring ability, Okafor is an excellent ball distributor and possesses an outstanding basketball IQ. He is adept at passing his way out of double-teams and has a knack for finding open teammates on the perimeter. Okafor is also a very effective offensive rebounder, pulling down 3.5 per game. Unfortunately, his board work isn’t as solid on the defensive end, where he averaged 6.5 per 40 minutes, one of the worst rates among the big men in this year’s draft, Givony writes. While I certainly expect Okafor to improve in this area once he gets to the NBA, it is an area of concern nevertheless.

While Okafor’s offensive skills draw raves, it is on the defensive end where the chinks in his armor begin to show. To put it bluntly, Okafor is not a good defender, and he will be taken advantage of on a nightly basis during his rookie season, and possibly beyond, if he doesn’t dedicate some serious practice time toward improving. Okafor does have the skill and frame to become a solid defender in the post, but he far too often appeared disinterested and nonchalant this year when his team wasn’t trying to score.

Okafor is adequate in one-on-one situations in the paint as a defender. It is when he is forced to rotate on pick-and-rolls, and when he is required to step out of the paint, that his flaws are truly exposed. This is going to be an issue in the pros, where teams will scheme to draw Okafor out of his comfort zone and force him to switch on defense. He won’t be able to stay in front of wing players, which will in turn leave his teammates exposed as opponents attack the rim.

Despite his defensive shortcomings, Okafor is as close to a sure thing as any team will find in this year’s NBA Draft. Both DraftExpress and ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) rank the big man as the No. 2 overall prospect behind Towns. While there is certainly a chance that Minnesota will snag him with the No. 1 overall pick this June, the more likely scenario has him ending up with the Lakers at No. 2. Whichever order he and Towns are selected, there is no doubt that the two will be compared to each other for the length of their respective careers. Okafor may be the more NBA-ready of the two bigs right now, but he’ll need to become a better defender and rebounder if he wishes to be on the more favorable end of any debates regarding who should have been selected with the top pick in the 2015 draft.

Magic Hire Scott Skiles As Coach

May 29 at 3:41pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Magic have hired Scott Skiles as their new head coach, the team announced in a press release. Skiles replaces interim coach James Borrego, who took over the team after former coach Jacque Vaughn was fired. The arrangement is a four year one, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports! tweets. The 51-year-old owns a career regular season coaching record of 443-433, and has a career playoff record of 18-24. He has been a head coach for the Suns, Bulls, and most recently, the Bucks.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Scott clearly distinguished himself as a tremendous fit,” said Orlando GM Rob Hennigan. “Our young roster will benefit greatly from Scott’s extensive head coaching experience and commitment to teaching smart, physical, unselfish basketball. We believe in Scott’s ability to establish a culture of winning habits and accountability that will help guide our team in a positive direction.”

As we began our search, our internal discussions centered on finding a head coach with a solid resume of NBA head coaching experience, great  leadership qualities, a motivating communication style,  and someone with a strong strategic acumen,” said Magic CEO Alex Martins. “We feel Scott brings a balanced approach in all those qualities and we look forward, with great confidence, to him leading our young men in helping us reach our collective goal of sustainable success.”

Skiles was named the front-runner earlier this week, and he was reportedly the preferred choice of the Magic’s ownership, which has been enamored with him since his stint as a player for the franchise back in the 1990s. The former point guard also fit the criteria that Hennigan had set for the team’s next coach, which included having a successful résumé as a coach, and having a strong background on emphasizing defense and accountability.

One subplot that bears watching regarding Skiles is his relationship with forward Tobias Harris, who will be eligible this offseason to become a restricted free agent, provided Orlando tenders him a qualifying offer worth $4,433,683. Skiles reportedly did not have a good relationship with Harris when the duo were together with the Bucks. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders did note that league sources informed him there is no lingering issue between the two sides, and that Harris would like to continue to be a part of what the team is building.

The Magic had also interviewed Clippers assistant Mike Woodson for the position. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had also been rumored to be in contention for the post, though the team was leery of providing Chicago with compensation prior to Thibs being let go. Scott Brooks, formerly coach of the Thunder, had also been mentioned as a possibility, though Brooks is reportedly contemplating taking next season off. Alvin Gentry was another name reportedly in the mix as well.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Heat, Draft, Magic

May 29 at 3:05pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Hawks aren’t quite sure what went wrong in the conference finals, where the Cavs dismantled them in four games, but coach and acting GM Mike Budenholzer tells Grantland’s Zach Lowe that he wants continuity to be a major part of the team’s improvement. Atlanta is apparently sold on its chances to re-sign Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, but Lowe isn’t so sure the Hawks can afford them both. “You can bet” that Atlanta’s front office would consider a sign-and-trade deal involving Millsap and fellow free agent Greg Monroe, Lowe writes, adding that rival executives get the sense that Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy is eager to climb up the standings next season. Shams Charania of RealGM reported back in December that Atlanta planned to pursue Monroe. There’s more on the Hawks amid the latest from the Southeast Division:

  • Lowe, in the same piece, identifies Gary Neal as a “name to watch” for the Hawks in the event the team goes under the cap and has the $2.814MM room exception to spend, though that’s likely just an educated guess. Neal, who finished up the season with the Timberwolves, used to play under Budenholzer, then a Spurs assistant coach, in San Antonio.
  • Small forwards Justise Winslow from Duke and Stanley Johnson from Arizona as well as former Washington center Robert Upshaw were among the players the Heat interviewed at the combine this month, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel notes. Heat personnel were also in attendance at an agent-run workout involving Johnson and Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre, while Florida big man Chris Walker and shooting guard Michael Frazier are expected to work out later for Miami, Winderman adds.
  • Florida Gulf Coast point guard Brett Comer worked out with the Heat earlier this week, as he told Seth Soffian of The News-Press.
  • The Magic reportedly expect to hire Scott Skiles, but Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel believes a relatively unappealing Magic roster and Tom Thibodeau‘s failure to get along with Bulls management make it tough to envision Thibs in Orlando even if Skiles doesn’t end up in the job.

Offseason Outlook: Indiana Pacers

May 29 at 2:08pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Guaranteed Contracts

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

  • None

Options

Restricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

Unrestricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (11th overall)
  • 2nd Round (43rd overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $36,022,711
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $0
  • Options: $28,114,031
  • Cap Holds: $23,077,435
  • Total: $87,214,177

The Pacers could, with relative ease, bank on the returned health of Paul George to lift them back into contention for the Eastern Conference title in 2016 after a year’s absence. They probably wouldn’t have a hard time convincing the Hornets to return Lance Stephenson to Indiana, either, a move that would allow the Pacers to trot out the same starting five on opening night this fall as they did in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. It nonetheless appears as though the team has decided that the core that led the team to back-to-back conference finals appearances isn’t the group most capable of taking the Pacers where they want to go from here.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks

Courtesy USA Today Sports Images

President of basketball operations Larry Bird dropped not-too-subtle hints at season’s end that he’d like Roy Hibbert to opt out, even refusing to rule out the idea of benching the two-time All-Star. Bird made it clear he wants to play at a faster pace and abandon the plodding approach in which the team has featured two traditional big men on the floor most of the time. Hibbert would have to give up more than $15.514MM to acquiesce to Bird’s wishes, and the David Falk client has given no indication that he’s about to do that. Hibbert would ostensibly become a trade candidate as soon as he picked up that option, though finding a taker for that sort of salary would be a challenge. The 28-year-old would have value to teams in need of a rim protector, but whether the value to any of them would be quantified by a monetary sum of greater than $15.514MM remains to be seen.

The Pacers seem somewhat more welcoming toward their other starting big man with an eight-figure player option for next season. The Pacers were open to the idea of trading David West for a first-rounder off and on during the season, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe heard, but the impending return of Paul for the stretch run and the open alley to a playoff berth ultimately led the team to stand pat, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com reported. Bird said he has a gut feeling that West will opt in. That would jibe with what sources told Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders at the trade deadline, when they said West was likely to do so. That would open the possibility that the Pacers could again entertain the idea of trading West, perhaps to the Raptors, who reportedly pursued West before the deadline. West averaged just 11.7 points per game this past season, his lowest scoring average in 10 years. The Pacers could try to offset his declining offensive production if they incorporate him as a small ball center in their new up-tempo attack, but if Indiana is anxious to take a different approach, moving on from West, a prototype of the traditional power forward, would make sense.

Luis Scola is a few months older than West, but he’s coming off a bounceback year statistically and the interest that Bird expressed in keeping him is mutual. Scola nonetheless referred to a “huge gap” when he spoke recently to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports, presumably a reference to the deficit between what the George Bass client thinks he’s worth and what the Pacers are willing to pay. The guaranteed money on the books for the Pacers would come only about $3MM shy of the projected $67.1MM cap if Hibbert and West opt in, which would mean the team would almost certainly operate above the cap in that scenario, barring any trades that clear sizable chunks of salary.  So, Indiana would be free to use Scola’s Bird Rights for a deal that I’d speculate would be for no more than the equivalent of the $5.464MM non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception. If either Hibbert, West or both opt out, it gets trickier, since re-signing Scola almost certainly wouldn’t be Indiana’s first priority for the resulting cap flexibility, and the Pacers might have to renounce Scola’s rights to sign a more attractive free agent. There would be no rule against the Pacers re-signing Scola if they renounce him, but they’d be limited to either their leftover cap space or the $2.814MM room exception.

Chris Copeland, another ostensibly viable option at power forward, is also set for free agency this summer, and the Pacers can reserve the right to match all competing bids for him if they tender a qualifying offer of more than $3.9MM. The 31-year-old combo forward carries intrigue as a stretch four, but his three-point shooting fell off sharply, to 31.1% this season after he had made 42.0% his first two seasons in the league, and his playing time essentially vanished after mid-January. A frightening incident in which he was allegedly stabbed outside a New York City nightclub in April left him with multiple injuries and prematurely ended his season. It seemed unlikely that the Pacers would make the qualifying offer before he was hurt, and now, with questions about his health, it seems out of the question.

The Pacers seem much more enthusiastic about one of the players they signed to replace Stephenson than they do about any of their big men. Coach Frank Vogel said in March that the team’s plan all along was for a long-term partnership with Rodney Stuckey, whom the then-cash-strapped Pacers signed to a one-year deal for the minimum this past summer, and Bird singled out the combo guard for praise a few weeks later. In April, Bird stressed the importance of re-signing him and expressed optimism that it would happen. Stuckey would like to stay, though his Non-Bird rights only allow the Pacers to give him up to 120% of the minimum salary next season without using cap space or another exception. The longtime former Piston would seem a prime candidate for most if not all of the $5.464MM mid-level if Indiana stays over the cap this summer.

Stuckey averaged more points per game as a sixth man than he did as a starter, so if the Pacers want to keep him in the role he played best, they’ll have to settle on a starting shooting guard. Bird seems high on C.J. Miles, who scored a career-high 13.5 points per game this past season and was the 12th-best defender at the position according to ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus metric, though Basketball-Reference’s Box Plus/Minus counts him as a minus defender. It would be difficult for the Pacers to add starting-caliber talent through free agency if Hibbert and West opt in, so Miles is probably the guy unless the Pacers can work a trade. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders wrote in February that the Raptors had considered dealing away Terrence Ross in the same report in which he identified Toronto as a suitor for West. Ross, as much of a shooting guard as he is a small forward, would fill Indiana’s starting two-guard spot while swinging to the three in small-ball sets, and exchanging a big man for a wing player would jibe with the team’s changing philosophy. Still, the Raptors maintain faith in Ross, their former eighth overall pick, and chances are he sticks in Toronto at least through the summer, as Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun wrote recently.

It would be challenging for the Pacers to come up with a player who could start at the two right away with the 11th pick, though Kentucky sharpshooter Devin Booker could make a strong case for himself. The Pacers would love to move up, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, though aside from Mario Hezonja, there aren’t really any shooting guards they could grab toward the top of the draft. It’s no secret that Bird is enamored with center Willie Cauley-Stein, not after the Kentucky center let slip that Bird considers him a “$100MM player,” and with his combination of strong defense and offensive rebounding, perhaps the Pacers view him as a potential replacement for Hibbert.

It was in many ways a lost year for Indiana, as the team had to navigate injuries to George, who missed all but six games, Hill, sidelined for nearly half the season, and others. The Pacers might have stood a chance to remain near the top of the Eastern Conference despite their failure to find common ground on contract proposals with Lance Stephenson last summer if they had been healthy, but once George went down, they had no shot. That they were still alive, and in control of their own destiny, for a playoff spot on the last night of the season was a remarkable accomplishment, but it seems Bird and company are convinced that a simple return to health wouldn’t be enough to lift them into true title contention. It would be fair to argue that the existing Pacers core stands as much chance as any in the East of keeping LeBron James from a sixth straight Finals appearance next season, but wisdom also lies in a bold approach rather than the hope that they catch the four-time MVP on four off nights out of seven.

Cap Footnotes

1 — Hibbert’s cap hold if he opts out would be the lesser of $23,271,047 and the NBA’s maximum salary for a player with seven years of experience. It would most likely be the latter.
2 — West’s cap hold would be $18,900,000 if he opts out.
3 — Whittington’s cap hold would be $845,059 if the Pacers elect not to tender a qualifying offer.
4 — See our glossary entry on cap holds for an explanation of why Bynum technically remains on the books.

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post.

Draft Notes: Vaughn, Randle, Heat, Sixers

May 29 at 1:14pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The draft is less than four weeks away, and Hoops Rumors has you covered. Check out our full log of draft news right here. Our Eddie Scarito runs down the first round in his Mock Draft, and we dive deeper into key figures with our Prospect Profile series. We’ve gained insight from a wide array of prospects through their interviews with our Zach Links, and, as always, we’ll pass along the latest news, including these reports on team workouts:

  • UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn will work out Monday for the Lakers and will soon do so with the Warriors, Suns and Spurs, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
  • Chasson Randle auditioned for the Thunder and also plans to show off for the Sixers, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). The Celtics have already worked out the two-guard from Stanford, as we noted earlier.
  • Shooting guards K.T. Harrell of Auburn and Josh Richardson of Tennessee worked out Thursday for the Heat, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears.
  • The Sixers are taking a look today at Delaware State big man Kendall Gray, sources told Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (on Twitter), and they’re doing the same with Arizona point guard T.J. McConnellKeith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
  • Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas is working out for the Spurs today and already got a look from the Mavericks, Pompey reveals in a separate piece.

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May 29 at 12:29pm CDT By Chuck Myron

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Suns Notes: Hornacek, Draft, Bledsoe

May 29 at 11:31am CDT By Chuck Myron

Jeff Hornacek indicated that if the timing was right, he would consider taking the coaching job at Iowa State, but he made it clear that he hopes to remain coach of the Suns for a long time, as he said on The Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday (transcription via Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com). Fred Hoiberg, currently the coach at the school, which he and Hornacek attended, has long been linked to the now-vacant Bulls job. Here’s more from the Valley of the Sun:

  • Today’s Suns predraft workout participants are Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, North Carolina’s J.P. Tokoto, Bowling Green’s Richaun Holmes, Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan, Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard and Virginia’s Darion Atkins, sources tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (Twitter link). Grant and Holmes shared more about themselves in recent conversations with Zach Links of Hoops Rumors.
  • The Suns have let go of assistant coach Kenny Gattison and are transitioning Nate Bjorkgren, the coach of their D-League affiliate, into a player development role, sources tell Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link).
  • Phoenix offered only four years and $29MM to Eric Bledsoe in the fall of 2013 when the sides were negotiating an extension shortly after the Suns acquired him from the Clippers, league sources told Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Bledsoe, a Rich Paul client, wisely turned that down and garnered his five-year, $70MM deal this past fall.

Bulls Rumors: Hoiberg, Thibodeau, Reinsdorf

May 29 at 10:29am CDT By Chuck Myron

Those in Tom Thibodeau‘s inner circle heard that the Bulls and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg reached an understanding that he would accept an offer from Chicago, prompting the team to fire Thibs, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. GM Gar Forman has been “obsessive” about hiring Hoiberg, according to Wojnarowski, who details Thibodeau’s failings to act more diplomatically in a Bulls organization that’s hostile to those who don’t give deference to management, Wojnarowski believes. Here’s more on the coaching change in Chicago:

  • Several close to Thibodeau have suggested that he sit out this coming season, when the Bulls will continue to pay him toward the nearly $9MM left on his contract, and wait for the NBA coaching vacancies of 2016/17, tweets K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
  • One NBA coach likened the way the Bulls let go of Thibodeau to a crucifixion while another insinuated that owner Jerry Reinsdorf stabbed the coach in the back, according to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. Indeed, Thibodeau confidants told Wojnarowski that the coach was especially hurt by Reinsdorf’s comment in the statement the team released to announce the firing, having deeply valued his relationship with the owner.
  • Forman and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson weren’t the only ones in the organization who didn’t get along with Thibodeau, as Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com heard from staffers whose attitudes toward Thibs ranged from apathy to loathing.

Scott Skiles, Magic Negotiating Toward Deal

May 29 at 10:01am CDT By Eddie Scarito

10:01am: The Magic expect, in addition to hope, that they will soon reach a deal with Skiles, Stein writes in a full story.

FRIDAY, 9:38am: Skiles and the Magic have begun to talk contract, and Orlando hopes to reach a deal as soon as today, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

THURSDAY, 8:21am: The Magic are convinced that Skiles is the guy they want and the sides are on the verge of negotiating a contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Skiles and the Magic will continue to converse today in Orlando, Wojnarowski adds, though the Magic apparently have competition for Skiles from the Pelicans. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel suggests that Skiles will have to meet with the DeVos family, who own the Magic, before receiving an offer, as is typical with Magic head coaching searches, though the owners already like Skiles, as Wojnarowski noted earlier.

SATURDAY, 11:09am: Scott Skiles has emerged as the front-runner to become the next head coach of the Magic, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan has discussed the opening with several possible candidates, but Skiles has clearly separated himself in the process, league sources told Wojnarowski. Although the team hasn’t been in a rush to make a coaching hire, discussions could soon advance into contract negotiations, Wojnarowski relays.

The 51-year-old Skiles is the preferred choice of the Magic’s ownership, which has been enamored with him since his stint as a player for the franchise back in the 1990s, the Yahoo! scribe notes. The former point guard also fits the criteria that Hennigan has set for the team’s next head coach, which includes having a successful résumé as a coach, and having a strong background on emphasizing defense and accountability, Wojnarowski adds.

Skiles owns a career regular season coaching record of 443-433, and has a career playoff record of 18-24. He has been a head coach for the Suns, Bulls, and most recently, the Bucks. The former player has developed a solid reputation of turning bad teams into competitive ones, and improving his team’s defensive numbers, Wojnarowski writes. But Skiles also carries with him the reputation for burning out his teams and eventually wearing out his welcome.

One other subplot that bears watching regarding Skiles is his relationship with Magic forward Tobias Harris, who will be eligible this offseason to become a restricted free agent, provided Orlando tenders him a qualifying offer worth $4,433,683. Skiles reportedly did not have a good relationship with Harris when the duo were together with the Bucks, so that could be a situation worth watching if Skiles is indeed hired by the franchise, Wojnarowski adds. The Yahoo! scribe also estimates that Harris will likely command a salary in the $12-$14MM range on his next deal.

The Magic’s coaching vacancy has also been linked to current Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, though recent reports stating that the Orlando job is Thibodeau’s for the taking are said to be off-base. The Bulls are widely expected to demand significant assets in return for letting Thibodeau walk away from his contract, which runs two more seasons, and another report indicated that Orlando would be willing to give up one or two second-round picks for the right to hire coach Thibs. But Wojnarowski’s sources have informed him that the Magic don’t want to give up any compensation in return for Chicago’s current head coach.

Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks has also been mentioned as a possibility, though Brooks is reportedly contemplating taking next season off. Alvin Gentry is another name reportedly in the mix as well.