Denver Nuggets

Southwest Notes: Green, Villanueva, Hunt

Jeff Green, who picked up his player option with the Grizzlies, will represent a cap hold of $9.45MM rather than $9.2MM for 2015/16 because he triggered a $250K bonus this season, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links). The incentive clause kicked in when Memphis picked up its 55th win, and he was in line for an additional $200K if the Grizzlies, who finished 55-27, had won 56 games, Pincus explains. The cap hit applies for next season because the league now considers it likely that Memphis will again win 55 games, though he won’t get the money if they don’t again hit that threshold. Here’s more from around the Southwest Division.

  • Charlie Villanueva would like to re-sign with the Mavericks, and while the team would welcome that, Dallas isn’t willing to pay more than the minimum, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.
  • The Mavs are close to a deal with former Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt that would make him the top assistant in Dallas to head coach Rick Carlisle, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The Pelicans have also been interested in Hunt as an assistant, Stein reported earlier.
  • Shooting guards Norman Powell of UCLA, Josh Richardson of Tennessee and Tyler Harvey of Eastern Washington are working out for the Mavs today, reports Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (on Twitter).
  • The Grizzlies will work out Southeast Missouri State forward Nino Johnson on Monday, sources tell Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia.

Western Notes: Lawson, Jazz, Gordon

If new Nuggets coach Michael Malone is to succeed in Denver, the team will need to part ways with point guard Ty Lawson, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post writes.My question to all these guys is going to be: How serious are you about winning? Do you like to win? Or do you hate to lose?” Malone said during his introductory press conference. Lawson doesn’t quite fit the mold of a player who’s truly serious about winning, Kiszla opines, and Malone won’t abide having to coax effort out of his players, which is an issue with the talented point guard. The Mavs are reportedly interested in Lawson, though he’s not at the top of the franchise’s priorities this offseason.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • DeMarcus Cousins, one of Malone’s former players with the Kings, is thrilled that his former coach was hired by the Nuggets, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays in a series of tweets. “I was extremely happy. I think he’s one of the better coaches in the league. He’s a great man,” Cousins said. “I learned a lot from him, and I’m just happy he’s getting an opportunity to do what he loves. Like I said, you can’t keep a good man down.
  • The Jazz have workouts scheduled Friday for Janis Berzins (Latvia), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Terrence Drisdom (Cal Poly Pomona), Skyler Halford (BYU), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona), and Rashad Madden (Arkansas), the team announced (on Twitter).
  • There was no way that Pelicans guard Eric Gordon would have landed a deal that would pay him more than the value of his $15,514,031 player option for 2015/16, so opting in was his only rational choice, Jimmy Smith of The Times Picayune opines.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan thinks that Kentucky forward Trey Lyles‘ versatility will pose a major matchup problem for defenders when he arrives in the NBA next season, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman writes. Lyles is a possibility for Oklahoma City, who own the No. 14 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Northwest Notes: Malone, Russell, Bjelica

Michael Malone sought Wednesday to dismiss the idea that he and Pete D’Alessandro had a poor relationship during their time as coach and GM, respectively, of the Kings, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes from Malone’s introductory press conference as coach of the Nuggets. D’Alessandro, whom the Nuggets hired to a front office position shortly before they hired the coach, and Malone reportedly weren’t on speaking terms before Malone’s firing in Sacramento, but Malone insists they’ve maintained a consistent dialogue, as Dempsey relays.

“Pete and I have always respected each other, have always gotten along,” Malone said. “It was just that sometimes, the environment that we were working in was not conducive to a healthy relationship.”

That apparent jab at the Kings aside, there’s more on the Nuggets amid the latest from around the Northwest Division:

  • Ohio State playmaker D’Angelo Russell is working out for the Timberwolves today, a visit that the team pushed for as its maintained that he’s a consideration for them with the No. 1 overall pick, reports Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Wolves draft-and-stash prospect Nemanja Bjelica has told the manager of his Turkish team that he wants to head to the NBA, and the Fenerbahce Ulker team official assumes that Bjelica, the Euroleague MVP, won’t be back with the club (video link; translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
  • Joel Freeland doesn’t expect the Blazers to tender him the nearly $3.767MM qualifying offer it would take for the club to make him a restricted free agent this summer, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group hears (Twitter link). If that’s the case, he’d become an unrestricted free agent, but while the native of England is reportedly drawing interest from overseas, he’s said he’d prefer to stay in the NBA.
  • Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke, with duties that entail the work of ownership as well as those usually assigned to a GM, is clearly the man who calls the shots in Denver, as Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post observes.

Western Notes: Lakers, Duncan, Ginobili, Wolves

Mitch Kupchak admits that finding someone who can make an immediate impact as Kobe Bryant nears retirement factors into his approach to the offseason, as the Lakers GM tells Chris Mannix of SI.com. Climbing merely to mediocrity would be a dangerous proposition, Kupchak cautions.

“To some degree,” Kupchak said. “We feel we want to make significant progress from this year to next year. And if we can do that and not mortgage the future — in other words, with a player who is in free agency that’s a veteran — then yeah. It’s a factor because we do want and we need in this city to show progress. And we’ve not made the playoffs for two years running, I suppose you can do it a third year, but our fans are impatient, and they’re used to a good product, and that’s not what we want to do. And we know Kobe is not as happy when the town around him is not enough to win. But, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t do something that puts us in the middle of the pack for the next six or seven years. Because all that does is get you the eighth seed in the playoffs and a draft pick that’s not very good.”

There’s more on the Lakers amid the latest from the Western Conference:

  • Tony Parker is optimistic that both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will return to the Spurs for next season, though he admits that his hope that they indeed come back may cloud his ability to accurately predict what they’ll do, as Parker tells Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Regardless, Duncan said to Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com that the loss of more than $20MM that he alleges that a former financial adviser swindled him out of won’t play a role in his decision whether to return.
  • Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor dismissed any lingering doubt Wednesday, declaring that president of basketball operations Flip Saunders will continue as coach of the team for next season, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities relays (on Twitter).
  • The Pelicans would like to add former Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt as an assistant coach, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The Lakers have interest in trading the No. 27 pick to clear the salary that goes with it, and talk has also centered on the team packaging the pick with other assets in an offer for another pick higher in the order, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes within his mock draft.
  • Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton, N.C. State shooting guard Trevor Lacey, Iowa State shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, Tennessee Tech center Charles Jackson and UC Santa Barbara center Alan Williams were among those who worked out for the Wolves this week, Wolfson reports (Twitter link).

Draft Rumors: Towns, Okafor, Lakers, Hezonja

The gap between Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke center Jahlil Okafor has widened over the past few months to the point that it seems like a foregone conclusion that Towns will go No. 1 overall, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress writes amid his latest mock draft. That doesn’t mean it’s set in stone just yet, of course, but it does further the notion of Towns as the front-runner for the top pick, one that took hold during the NCAA Tournament. Givony also has Emmanuel Mudiay falling to the Nuggets at No. 7. Chad Ford of ESPN.com suggests in a chat with readers that the Nuggets would like to trade up in search of Mudiay at an earlier pick but have found little traction with the Kings, who hold the No. 6 pick, and others in trade talk involving Ty Lawson. Here’s more with the draft just one week and one day away:
  • The Lakers are worried that finding a quality big man via free agency or trade will be tougher than finding a guard who can score, as Ford reports in his new mock draft, citing it as an edge for Okafor as the team mulls what to do with the No. 2 pick. It appears that the Lakers are debating Okafor and Ohio State combo guard D’Angelo Russell if the Wolves pick Towns, Ford writes.
  • The stock of Arizona small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is rising, making him a sleeper lottery pick, Ford hears, writing in the same mock draft. Multiple sources told Ford that they believe Oregon shooting guard Joseph Young has a promise from a team picking late in the first round.
  • Agent Arn Tellem is negotiating with Barcelona of Spain to reduce the buyout clause in top-10 prospect Mario Hezonja‘s contract, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). The buyout is the equivalent of $2.27MM as it stands, well north of the $625K cap that NBA teams can shell out without it coming out of the player’s salary. Tellem is set to become an executive in the Pistons organization, and Detroit picks eighth.

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Oubre, Turner

New Nuggets coach Michael Malone bristled at the suggestion that he’s not suited to directing the sort of up-tempo attack that the Nuggets traditionally employ, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays in his full story and via Twitter. Malone cited the efficiency of his controlled Kings team but insisted that he can show another side in Denver.
“I know what they want,” Malone said, referring to Nuggets management. “They made it clear from Day 1 that they want to play fast.”
The Nuggets were believed to be seeking a coach who could come in and help GM Tim Connelly and his staff with draft prep, Dempsey wrote last week, but Malone made it clear that he’ll have little to do with the draft. “My conversation regarding that is: Good luck Tim,” Malone quipped, as Dempsey notes via Twitter. There’s more on Malone amid the latest from the Mile High City:
  • Malone’s deal with the Nuggets is a four-year arrangement, including a team option on the final season, Dempsey reports (Twitter link).
  • The new coach doesn’t expect the roster to be the same when next season begins, Dempsey notes in his full story, and that should indeed be his hope, as fellow Post scribe Benjamin Hochman opines, believing that no coach would be able to turn the current Nuggets into contenders.
  • Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre and Texas center Myles Turner were the headliners at today’s Nuggets workout, as the team detailed on Nuggets.com. Joining them are point guards T.J. McConnell of Arizona and Keifer Sykes of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Georgetown power forward Greg Whittington and Delaware State big man Kendall Gray, according to the team.
  • The Nuggets previously worked out Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson, as MLive’s David Mayo relays via Twitter.

Nuggets Hire Michael Malone

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

6:44pm: The move is official, the Nuggets announced in a press release. 

1:03pm: The Nuggets and Michael Malone have reached agreement on a deal that will make him the team’s new head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Malone won over GM Tim Connelly and team president Josh Kroenke in his interviews, convincing the Nuggets to pivot from interim coach Melvin Hunt, who had earlier emerged as the favorite to keep the job, as Wojnarowski details. The move is somewhat surprising, given Denver’s hiring of former Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro to a front office position last week. Reports painted conflicting pictures of whether it was D’Alessandro or Kings owner Vivek Ranadive who was the catalyst for Sacramento’s decision to fire Malone as Kings coach in December. Denver’s desire for an up-tempo attack also conflicts with Malone’s defense-first style.

Long-ago Nuggets coach Mike D’Antoni also reportedly interviewed for the Nuggets job, and Wojnarowski earlier this month referred to him as a strong candidate, along with Malone and Hunt. Wizards assistant Don Newman and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool also reportedly interviewed, but Malone was the only one reported to have interviewed twice.

Malone had the Kings off to a 9-5 start, but a bout of viral meningitis for DeMarcus Cousins sent the team into a tailspin, and the Kings fired Malone with their record at 11-13. The coach remained an in-demand commodity, joining the Timberwolves to assist them in an informal capacity at least three different times this past season. The Magic were expected to consider him for their vacancy, a prospect in which he apparently had interest, but it didn’t appear as though Orlando, which ultimately hired Scott Skiles, regarded Malone as highly as it did other candidates.

The Kings were only 39-67 in Malone’s season and change at the helm, though he was well-regarded as an assistant before taking the Sacramento job. He worked as the top aide to Mike Brown with the Cavs, Monty Williams in New Orleans and Mark Jackson in Golden State before ending up with the Kings.

Denver is coming off two disappointing seasons after a 57-win campaign in 2012/13. The Nuggets let go of coach George Karl, who’s now in Malone’s old job in Sacramento, after that season, replacing him with Brian Shaw, but the move didn’t pan out, and Denver fired Shaw on March 3rd. Hunt connected with players as the interim coach, clearing winning their support as he compiled a 10-13 record in his brief time with the team, a higher winning percentage than the club had during the 2014/15 season under Shaw, who went 20-39 this year.

The coaching choice resolves one part of a muddied picture for the Nuggets, with Hoops Rumors readers who voted in a recent poll having been split on whether Hunt, D’Antoni or Malone would end up with the job. The Nuggets will now likely turn their eyes to what Kroenke called “a period of transition” ahead as major changes seem on the horizon for the roster, as I examined in a look at the team’s offseason.

The news also brings an apparent end to NBA head coaching changes this offseason. Denver’s vacancy was the last during a spring and summer in which the Bulls, Magic, Pelicans and Thunder also replaced their bench bosses.

Draft Notes: Lakers, Mudiay, Nuggets

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News that the team, which owns the second overall pick in the draft, is not going to pick a player based on whether or not he meshes well with Kobe Bryant. “We’re not going to pick a player because he can play with Kobe, likes Kobe or dislikes Kobe,” Kupchak said. “We’re going to pick the player that can have the longest and best career.” Bryant has signaled that next season will be his last as an NBA player. The Lakers hope their No. 2 pick can lead the franchise following Bryant’s eventual retirement, Medina writes. “Kobe is going to impart a work ethic in training camp that will be beneficial to any player we bring,” Kupchak said. The Lakers are expected to take either Jahill Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns.

Here’s more draft-related news:

  • Emmanuel Mudiay will work out for the Sixers, who own the third overall pick, on Tuesday, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets.
  • Gilvydas Biruta (Rhode Island), Trey Lyles (Kentucky), D.J. Newbill (Penn State), Cameron Payne (Murray State) and Serbia guard Nikola Radicevic will all work out on Monday for the Nuggets, who own the seventh and 57th overall picks, the team announced in a press release.
  • Former UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn had a private workout for the Hawks and will work out for the Timberwolves Monday, followed by showcases for the Mavs, Spurs  and Celtics, Zagoria also tweets.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jazz, Oubre, Booker

The Nuggets may be looking to deal for another lottery pick, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Dempsey says Denver, which holds the No. 7 selection, may target a slightly lower pick, possibly No. 8 from the Pistons. He notes Detroit’s need for a small forward and writes that the Nuggets have players to offer. Denver has worked out just one point guard so far — Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant — but Murray State’s Cameron Payne is due in Monday, along with Serbian Nikola Radicevic. The Nuggets are also trying to schedule a visit from Emmanuel Mudiay, who has been widely regarded as a top four selection.

There’s more as Northwest teams prepare for the draft:

  • Six more players are scheduled for workouts with the Jazz Monday, the team tweeted. Due in are Stanford’s Anthony Brown, California-Davis’ Corey Hawkins, Temple’s Jesse Morgan, Harvard’s Wesley Saunders, Bobby Parks Jr. of the Philippines and Mateusz Ponitka of Poland.
  • Kansas’ Kelly Oubre was filled with confidence during Sunday’s workout with the Jazz, tweets Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Oubre compared himself to NBA stars Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, saying, “I feel like I can be as good as or better than those guys.” Oubre also had a message for NBA teams considering him in the draft: “Whoever calls my name on draft night, I’m going to help them win a championship.” (Twitter link).
  • Kentucky’s Devin Booker is a potential draft steal for the Thunder, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma finished 22nd in three-point shooting last season and could use a perimeter sniper like Booker. “I know Oklahoma would be a good fit for me,” Booker said. “A lot of good looks with Russell [Westbrook] and KD [Kevin Durant] there. So that’d be nice to have. A few people have said things to me about that’d just be a good fit for me. So we’ll see what happens.”

Pete D’Alessandro Leaves Kings For Nuggets

FRIDAY, 6:38pm: D’Alessandro has been officially named as the Nuggets’ Senior Vice President of Business and Team Operations, the team announced in a press release. “As KSE has evolved as a company, my role and duties within the company have evolved as well,” team president Josh Kroenke said. “Pete’s addition to our Operations team is a natural product of that evolution and his experiences over his professional career have put him in a unique position to assist me in multiple areas ranging from league operations to team budgeting.  I look forward to his assistance in creating additional synergy between our Business and Team Operations to help take our organization to another level on and off the playing floor.  All Basketball Operations remain the same and all Player Personnel inquiries should continue to be directed to [GM] Tim Connelly.

1:57pm: D’Alessandro’s move back to the Nuggets wouldn’t have a negative effect on Malone’s candidacy, sources tell Wojnarowski for a full story. D’Alessandro wouldn’t be working closely with whomever the team hires as coach, according to Wojnarowski, who writes that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive forced D’Alessandro into dismissing Malone as Sacramento’s coach.

D’Alessandro, who went as far as to talk contract terms with St. John’s, will answer to Kroenke in his job with the Nuggets, and Connelly will be able to consult him as a resource, Wojnarowski writes.

WEDNESDAY, 12:14pm: Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro has accepted an offer to join the Nuggets front office, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. He’ll work in a supporting role under team president Josh Kroenke with both the Nuggets and the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links). Nuggets GM Tim Connelly is apparently on board with the idea, as Wojnarowski refers to him in another tweet as a “huge proponent” of the move. D’Alessandro, who worked for the Nuggets until leaving for the Kings two years ago, had the opportunity to join St. John’s University as athletics director but chose to return to Denver instead, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link).

The move is an ominous sign for the candidacy of Michael Malone for the Nuggets coaching job, notes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). D’Alessandro was in charge of Sacramento’s front office when the Kings fired Malone in December. The Kings hired Vlade Divac as vice president of basketball and franchise operations in March, shifting control of player personnel to him and away from D’Alessandro. The departure of adviser Chris Mullin for the St. John’s coaching job reportedly restored some power to D’Alessandro, but it nonetheless appears as though it wasn’t enough to convince him to stay in Sacramento.

The now 46-year-old D’Alessandro served in Denver’s front office under GM Masai Ujiri for three years after he was the assistant GM for the Warriors for three seasons prior to that. The Nuggets were reportedly leaning toward hiring him as GM in 2013 when he instead jumped to the Kings.