Dario Saric

Atlantic Notes: J.R. Smith, Vogel, Saric, Embiid

J.R. Smith is having a strong playoff run for the Cavaliers, but he thinks back fondly on his time with the Knicks, as he reveals in a video for VICE Sports, pointing to his close friendship with Carmelo Anthony and the lure of Madison Square Garden (YouTube link). “Every person that plays in the NBA should experience playing in New York, at least once in your career,” Smith said. “To play at the mecca of basketball, at the Garden, every night, it’s probably the greatest decision I’ve ever made, to go to New York.” Smith, who can opt out of his contract this summer, spoke about his initial anger at the trade that sent him to Cleveland last January, but he also made it clear that he loves playing with LeBron James.

See more from New York amid the latest news from the Atlantic Division:

  • Frank Vogel‘s representatives gave positive signals to the Knicks when the team reached out to gauge his interest last week, a league source told Marc Berman of the New York Post, who nonetheless adds that the Grizzlies are a much more likely match for the ex-Pacers coach. Vogel is widely believed to be the favorite to take the Memphis job, as Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal wrote.
  • GM Bryan Colangelo wants to be reassured when he visits Dario Saric in Turkey later this month, but the Sixers expect the draft-and-stash prospect will join them for next season, and coach Brett Brown is particularly optimistic, as remarks he made Monday on The Comcast Network’s “Breakfast on Broad” show demonstrate. Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com has the transcription. “He so much wants to be a part of the 76ers organization when we speak,” Brown said. “I ended up sending him a photo of a young kid in the stands with a Saric jersey on, and the response is like what it is, ‘I can’t wait to get [to Philadelphia].’”
  • Still, financial incentive remains for Saric to wait to sign with the Sixers until 2017, when he’ll no longer be subject to the rookie scale, with one source who spoke to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer of the belief that Saric would be in line for a contract that pays him about $6MM a year. He’d get less than half that on a rookie scale deal.
  • Colangelo said on the same “Breakfast on Broad” program that the Sixers are encouraged by what they’ve seen from Joel Embiid as he continues to recover from last summer’s second surgery on his broken foot, Seltzer notes.
  • Willie Reed, who was away from the Nets for unexplained personal reasons at the end of the season, clearly wasn’t pleased with interim coach Tony Brown, but he likes new coach Kenny Atkinson and made it clear that he wants to re-sign with Brooklyn as he spoke Monday on the “Brown and Scoop” show on CBS Radio, as Anthony Parisi of NetsDaily relays.

And-Ones: Shaw, Saric, Jackson

Brian Shaw does not expect to interview for the Knicks head coaching job and speculates that interim coach Kurt Rambis will be retained, as Shaw said in an ESPN TV interview that was relayed by ESPN.com’s Ian Begley. The ex-Nuggets coach, who is considered a candidate for the Grizzlies’ head coaching opening as well as the Pacers’ job, told SportsCenter’s Hannah Storm that Rambis is a better fit. “Kurt Rambis is there,” Shaw said. “He’s very adept at running the triangle, and if Phil Jackson wanted a coach that’s going to run that system for him, he has a guy that’s there that he has confidence in. So I don’t see him bringing in somebody else who has the knowledge of that system when he already has somebody there.”

In other news and notes around the league:

  • Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown will fly to Turkey this month to meet with Dario Saric, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The 6’10” forward reportedly told his teammates in the Turkish Basketball League that he’ll opt out of his European contract and sign with the Sixers, who acquired his NBA rights during the 2014 draft. But Colangelo wants to find out for himself, as he told Pompey. “I don’t want to go on hearsay and what might have been said by him or what his friends are telling people he’s telling them,” he said. “I’d rather speak to the individual.”
  • Mark Jackson would be an ideal candidate to replace Frank Vogel as the Pacers coach, NBA.com’s David Aldridge opines in his latest Morning Tip column. He proved he could turn around a franchise in his last head coaching job with the Warriors and led Indiana to an NBA Finals appearance as a player, Aldridge points out. Jackson has also learned from his missteps with Golden State and will hire a more experienced staff and maintain better lines of communication with management, Aldridge contends.
  • The Jazz must decide this summer whether small forward Gordon Hayward fits in their long-term plans, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes in his offseason evaluation of the team. Hayward will likely seek a max deal that could approach $30MM per year next summer when he can opt out of his contract, but he didn’t show much growth this season, Marks continues. The Jazz must also sort out their point guard situation and add an athletic wing and reserve center, Marks adds.

And-Ones: Johnson, Saric, Cousins, Taylor

It cost Joe Johnson $2,585,519 to get into this year’s playoffs, as Andrew Keh of The New York Times examines. That’s $3MM, the amount Johnson gave up when he negotiated a buyout from the Nets in late February, minus the $414,481 he’s making on the contract he signed with the Heat, who currently hold a 2-1 advantage in their series with the Hornets“This is what I was looking forward to,” said Johnson, who was immediately inserted into Miami’s starting lineup and averaged 13.4 points per game after the move. Johnson’s coaches and teammates appreciate the versatility and decision-making skills he has added to the Heat’s offense. “Joe has brought an offensive threat that we haven’t had,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “His pick-and-roll offense is something that’s hard to guard because he’s great at keeping guys on his back and creating two-on-one-type situations for us.”

There’s more news tonight from around the world of basketball:

  • Croatian star Dario Saric has reportedly told teammates that he will leave Europe and head to Philadelphia over the offseason, tweets international journalist David Pick. The Sixers acquired his rights in a 2014 draft-night trade with the Magic.
  • The Kings‘ best strategy is to rebuild around center DeMarcus Cousins, ABC analyst Jalen Rose told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. People within the Kings organization reportedly sense that GM Vlade Divac is willing to gauge the trade market for Cousins after another nonplayoff season and repeated discipline problems. “You can’t deal him,” Rose said. “He’s been an All-Star player, one of the top bigs in the game. You have to build around him.” Rose went through the Kings’ recent draft and personnel missteps before turning his attention to the team’s coaching vacancy. “The situation definitely needs an overhaul,” he said, “and it’s hard to say who would be a really good coach because I think they’ve gone through 10 in the last nine years, or something like that.” Sacramento has had eight coaches since the start of the 2006/07 season.
  • Wolves owner Glen Taylor moved quickly to get the leaders he wanted, notes Jerry Zgoda of The Star-Tribune. A week after announcing the jobs were open, Minnesota brought in Tom Thibodeau as coach and president of basketball operations and Scott Layden as GM. “I liked his answer to one of the first questions I asked: What are the things most important to you?” Taylor said of Thibodeau. “The first thing he said was, ‘I want to be the coach of an NBA championship team. That’s my goal in life.’” Taylor said Thibodeau will make the final decisions on some matters and Layden will do so on others, adding that the protocol is spelled out clearly.

Sixers Rumors: Saric, Brand, Embiid

The Sixers continue to receive signs that Croatian star Dario Saric will be part of their roster next season, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Player-development assistant Chris Babcock recently spent eight days with Saric, who is playing for Anadolu Efes in Turkey. The trip left Philadelphia officials confident that Saric is ready to join the NBA. “Obviously, decisions are going to have to be made on his part,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “But we like what we see and we believe he likes what he sees.” Philadelphia acquired the rights to the 6’10” power forward in a 2014 draft-day trade with Orlando.

There’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Elton Brand saw his first game action Friday since signing with the Sixers January 4th, writes Derek Bodner of Philadelphia magazine. With injuries to Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel leaving Philadelphia short-handed, Brand played 13 minutes, scoring eight points and collecting four rebounds. “Contrary to reports, I was thinking I was going to play all season when I got here,” said Brand, who will turn 37 next week. “But you see guys like Carl [Landry], Richaun [Holmes], guys working so hard, I didn’t mind not playing.” Okafor and Noel are both listed as day-to-day, so it’s uncertain how much more court time Brand can expect.
  • Injured center Joel Embiid has returned from Qatar and participated in Friday’s pre-game workout, Bodner writes in the same piece. Embiid visited Aspetar, a Middle Eastern orthopedic and sports medicine hospital, to help with the rehab process on his surgically repaired right foot. Bodner included a video of Embiid’s pre-game routine with his story.
  • Embiid’s long recovery time presents another reason for concern, notes Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The normal recovery period for tarsal navicular surgery is six months, but GM Sam Hinkie has already said Embiid won’t be ready for summer league action, even though it will have been 11 months since the operation.

Sixers Notes: Colangelo, Saric, Noel, Smith

The Sixers don’t expect to be active at this season’s trade deadline, but team executive Jerry Colangelo wouldn’t rule out making a move if the right opportunity came along, Brian Seltzer of NBA.com relays. “In terms of trade, we’re not actively out there looking to make a trade,” said Colangelo.  “But, you always have to be open. Things happen usually right around All-Star break.  There’s a week or 10 days when there’s a lot of discussion.  It may lead to nothing, and I think right now we’re kind of content to say there are too many question marks about certain players, health, and so forth that you have to be very careful.  You have to be very selective.  Timing’s everything.

We had a meeting [Tuesday] morning about the next five years of trade targets, and the next five years of free agency, and what that looks like, and how to put the pieces in place that can give you a chance to make, not just a first move on the chessboard, but the last move,” GM Sam Hinkie added. That’s really critical. I know that sounds sort of far off.  Someone like me has to be willing to look around the bend at how we can actually get to where we’re trying to go.”

Here’s more from Philly:

  • The addition of point guard Ish Smith has improved the play of the team’s outside shooters, a development directly related to Smith’s attacking style of play, Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com writes. “It gives us the opportunity to knock down shots,” Isaiah Canaan said. “With [Smith’s] speed, the defense has to take away his layups or the lob to Nerlens [Noel]. So with everybody running into the paint to lock in on him, it frees us up on our side to knock down shots. We tell him just find us and we’ll make them.
  • The team has maintained constant communication with draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric, who has stated that he intends to join the Sixers next season, tweets Camerato.
  • Philadelphia is still attempting to successfully blend the talents of big men Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, a process that would be easier if Noel could play power forward more effectively, according to Colangelo, notes Tom Moore of Calkins Media (Twitter links). The executive admitted that the franchise would need to make a decision regarding its big men for the future, Moore relays.

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Saric, Williams

DeMar DeRozan has been trying to silence his doubters since entering the NBA as the No. 9 overall pick in 2009, and the Raptors shooting guard readily admits to being motivated by any negativity he comes across, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca writes. “Man, there’s been so much stuff, honestly,” DeRozan told Lewenberg. “I could write a book [with] how much stuff was said. ‘He’ll just be an average player, he’ll never…’. There’s so many things you could start [with]. It’s crazy. But you can’t look at it and get sad or cry about it, you’ve got to use that as motivation. At the end of the day, the same people who probably said this, or whatever it was, you feel better knowing they’re eating their words. And that’s what it’s all about. You can’t get mad. I understand. I take all that frustration out when I’m working out in the summer, try to come back and prove everybody wrong.” DeRozan was recently added to the Eastern Conference’s 2016 NBA All-Star squad as a reserve.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Philadelphia magazine’s Derek Bodner opines that Sixers draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric should make an immediate impact on the court if he indeed joins the NBA next season. Bodner pegs Saric’s role as the team’s sixth man and his creativity on offense is something the roster sorely needs. Saric has indicated that he intends to join Philadelphia for the 2016/17 campaign.
  • Former Nets point guard Deron Williams is surprised at how quickly things turned south for the franchise after his departure, Andy Vasquez of The Record relays. “I figured they’d be a lot better,” Williams said regarding the Nets. “But I know they’ve struggled with some injuries and things like that that have definitely hurt them, and the coaching change and [former GM] Billy [King] getting let go, so there’s a lot of things going on over there right now.
  • Williams also noted that he didn’t expect the Nets would fire coach Lionel Hollins when they did, Vasquez adds. “I was a little surprised,” Williams said, “because Lionel’s only been there a year and a half. I thought he’d get a little bit more of a chance, but that’s the nature of this business. You see how things are going around the league, not just there. You look at — David Blatt got fired and he was supposed to be coaching the All-Star game, so it’s just the nature of this business.”

Sixers Notes: D’Antoni, Porzingis, Saric

Sixers coach Brett Brown is excited about the team’s addition of Mike D’Antoni as associate head coach, saying of D’Antoni, “He’s a hell of a resource and a hell of a coach. I think we’re all going to benefit,Ian Begley of ESPN.com relays. Brown noted that he had wanted to add an experienced coach to his staff for some time, and the suggestion about hiring D’Antoni came from newly hired team executive Jerry Colangelo, Begley writes. “We started sharing names, and he mentioned the name Mike D’Antoni. I said, ‘Do you think he would do it? That’s a hell of a name,‘” Brown said. “Less than 24 hours later, he came and said, ‘Mike is yours.’ And so the speed of it caught me way off guard.

Brown also mentioned that the team spent several days recruiting D’Antoni, and the former head coach was asked why he would want to join a rebuilding team like Philadelphia, to which D’Antoni responded, “I’m bored, I miss the game,” Begley adds.

Here’s more from Philly:

  • Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis has observed the early season difficulties Sixers center Jahlil Okafor has endured and feels fortunate that Philadelphia chose the Duke big man, allowing New York to swoop in and select him at No. 4 overall, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “That would be tough,’’ Porzingis said of playing for a losing squad like the Sixers. “That’s basketball sometimes. Losing like that is very tough. I’ve been on a losing team last season, the first part of the season. It’s really tough. The negativity is always there. It’s not a good feeling. You mentally grow as you go through those tough times.’’
  • Porzingis appreciates the fact that the Knicks surrounded him with veteran leaders, a perk that Okafor doesn’t currently possess in Philadelphia, Berman adds. “I’m in a really good situation,’’ Porzingis said. “Having veterans around me to help me out on and off the court. He’s in a tough situation. I’m sure he’ll find a way to make his team win and get better as a player and how to be smarter off the court.’’ The Sixers are working toward correcting this deficiency, and are reportedly considering signing Elton Brand or Shane Battier.
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric, in an interview with SlamNRoll.com, re-iterated his intention to join the Sixers next season. “I’m always in touch with the people of Philadelphia, I always talk with GM Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown,” Saric said. “We talk about a lot of things that have to do with me and the 76ers. Before I was drafted, I promised to Efes that I will come here for two years and of course I promised to Philadelphia that after [this] period of time, I will go to them. It is a certain procedure that I feel I have to pass through.

Sam Hinkie On Colangelo, Marshall, Free Agents

GM Sam Hinkie pledged to remain with the Sixers, quelling rumors that he’s looking to leave the organization following the arrival of Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations, as Hinkie said as part of an in-depth interview with Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. “Our owners made it very clear they want me leading us long-term,” Hinkie said. “Adding one more voice will make the conversation richer. Might it be challenging at times? I’m sure it will be. But making big decisions shouldn’t be easy — it shouldn’t be that you have an idea, and you get to execute it without anyone questioning it.” The entire interview is certainly worth a read, and below are some of the highlights:

  • The GM said the team was off in its prediction that Kendall Marshall would be ready to play on opening night, with the point guard finally set to make his season debut this evening, Lowe relays. “We predicted it wrong,” Hinkie said. “That’s my fault. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll make more.”
  • The Sixers believe Marshall can provide veteran leadership for younger players like Jahlil Okafor, as well as stabilize the point guard position, Lowe notes. “This has been hard,” Hinkie says. “We haven’t been proud of this kind of start. We had strong desires for a point guard who could help us play at a high tempo, and get our best players the ball in positions where they could be successful. We want someone to throw a post entry pass. We thought Kendall was that guy.
  • Discussing why he has eschewed signing free agents who would have cost more, but likely would have helped the team win more games in the short term, in favor of adding younger players making the minimum salary, Hinkie told Lowe, “We could have chosen safer options. Many in the world would have us choose safer options — keep this player, instead of taking a gamble on a player whose name you don’t know. But when that player becomes Robert Covington, people are excited. We’ve chosen that sort of thing very often.
  • Hinkie acknowledged to Lowe that the Sixers reached out to free agents Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler this past summer, but the lack of an existing star player hamstrung those efforts. “The most challenging part is to go from zero stars to one,” Hinkie said. “After the Clippers got Blake Griffin, Chris Paul is a possibility. After the Rockets had James Harden, Dwight Howard is a possibility. After the Cavaliers have Kyrie Irving, LeBron coming back is a possibility.
  • The GM stands by the organization’s decision to select Joel Embiid and Dario Saric during the 2014 NBA draft, despite the knowledge that the duo would not be immediately available to contribute, Lowe notes. “That night showed tremendous courage on the part of our organization to have a longer view, and to do everything we could to get the best players,” Hinkie told the ESPN scribe. “Those were not easy decisions.”
  • Hinkie also maintains that the team selected point guard Elfrid Payton with every intention of keeping him, and that it wasn’t a move designed to pry assets away from the Magic, who were known to be high on Payton entering the draft, Lowe relays. “That’s such a high-stakes gamble that it strikes me as reckless,” said Hinkie. “I’m a lot of things, but I’m not reckless.

Atlantic Notes: Saric, Rondo, Williams

Sixers draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric‘s father confirmed that the forward intends to opt out of his deal with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes after the season in order to join the NBA, Vedran Modrić of Eurohopes relays (h/t to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando). Philadelphia apparently wanted to bring Saric over for 2015/16, and the player shared that desire, according to a report by international journalist David Pick, but his contract contained no escape clause for this season. Saric’s father has reportedly been pushing the Sixers away from his son, but the younger Saric has denied that his father is exerting undue influence upon him regarding his playing career.

Saric was non-committal back in June when he was asked about the possibility of him playing in the NBA in 2016/17.  “Next season? I don’t know and I can’t speak about that because I don’t know yet the situation, how things are going to work out,” Saric said at the time. “I can say that I’m happy here at Efes and I’m also happy that people from Philadelphia came here and want me there. That’s all I can tell you right now. I don’t have any information or any feeling regarding what could happen. I’m just focused on the rest of the season. If I stay here or if I go to the NBA, I will be happy [either way]. I don’t know what could happen this summer or next summer. Now it’s not the time to talk about that.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is thankful for all of the support he received from the team’s fanbase during his years in Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com writes. “They know the game. That’s what impressed me most about being in Boston,” Rondo told Blakely. “They know the game. They appreciate it. They’re the best fans. Whenever I was out in public, they always showed me great love, great appreciation. The fans always showed love, even my first year when we lost 18 straight. They’ve been the best fans I ever played for.
  • Nets coach Lionel Hollins isn’t surprised by Deron Williams‘ solid play for the Mavericks this season, with Hollins noting that Williams needed to get away from the bright lights of New York in order to succeed, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “He’s played well. I said he’d play well, he’d be more comfortable out of New York,’’ Hollins said. “I said that he’d go down and play in a little different system, but mainly be out of New York and be away from the New York spotlight and expectations that were really unnatural. So I expected him to play better.’’

Atlantic Notes: Fredette, Saric, Prokhorov, Celtics

Jimmer Fredette is working with Knicks D-League GM Allan Houston on shooting and the triangle offense, but he said he hasn’t heard from Knicks team president Phil Jackson or coach Derek Fisher, observes Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Fredette downplays the notion that he’s gunning for the team’s open NBA roster spot, though he acknowledges that roster construction plays into his decision-making, as Zagoria relays. It wasn’t a certainty that Fredette would join the Westchester Knicks when he signed with the D-League, but when the Jazz affiliate took Jeff Ayres No. 2 in Saturday’s D-League draft, Westchester was free to pounce on Fredette with pick No. 2, a move that was apparently designed chiefly to draw fans. See more from around the Atlantic Division:
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric wished he could have joined the Sixers this past offseason and confirmed to the Croatian outlet Vecernji list that he intends to sign with Philadelphia when his overseas contract allows him to this coming summer (translation via Matt Lombardo of NJ.com). Saric, the 12th pick of the 2014 draft, added that he’s in constant communication with Sixers officials.
  • The NBA blocked Mikhail Prokhorov’s plan to borrow money against his share of the Nets to purchase the minority portion that Bruce Ratner owns because it would give the team more than $250MM in debt, sources told Josh Kosman and Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. NBA teams can’t borrow more than that amount without a waiver. So, Prokhorov and Ratner are attempting to restructure the deal that would give Prokhorov 100% of the team, the Post scribes write, and it’s still on track to be complete by year’s end, a league source tells NetsDaily.
  • The Celtics recalled Jordan Mickey and James Young from the D-League, the team announced. They received some extra practice reps while with the farm team after the C’s assigned them Tuesday. Keep tabs on all this year’s D-League assignments and recalls with our tracker, which we’ll be updating throughout the season.

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