With the two Los Angeles teams bounced from the first round of the playoffs, the Pacific has one lone representative left in the Warriors. While Golden State figures out how to handle the Spurs, let's take a look at the rest of the division..
The Southeast Division champion Heat have plenty of time to chill in advance of their second-round opener, which won't be until Monday. The division's other playoff team is engaged in a much tougher first-round fight than Miami endured, as the Hawks are batting the Pacers in Game 5 tonight with the series tied 2-2. There's news on both the Heat and Hawks tonight, along with more from the Southeast:
Cavs fans worried about what the hiring of Mike Brown might mean for the team's potential pursuit of LeBron James in 2014 shouldn't put too much stock in the move one way or the other, says Chris Broussard in his latest ESPN.com piece (Insider-only link). Brown's return to Cleveland doesn't mean LeBron is coming back too, but it also shouldn't be a deterring factor, according to Broussard, who notes that there will be plenty of other factors in play over the next 14 months. The ESPN.com scribe explores that topic and a number of others in his article, so let's round up the highlights....
This week's edition of Darren Wolfson's Scoops column at 1500ESPN.com focuses on a couple other local teams before getting around to the Timberwolves. There are still a few notable T-Wolves tidbits within Wolfson's piece though, so let's check out the highlights....
The Suns' decision to name Lindsey Hunter their interim head coach after letting Alvin Gentry go has now resulted in the team losing two assistant coaches. According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, lead assistant Elston Turner and the Suns have agreed to part ways. The decision came on the heels of assistant Dan Majerle, upset that he didn't receive a shot at the head coaching job, leaving the organization.
Let's check in on a few more updates on the Suns and a handful of other Western Conference clubs....
It seems as if there has been some unease in the Suns' coaching ranks since Alvin Gentry and the club parted ways last week, with three assistant coaches having been worthy candidates for the interim job. Here's the latest on that situation, along with other notes out of Phoenix:
6:29pm: NBC/Comcast analyst Ric Bucher tweets that it is now a tough situation in Phoenix for Elston Turner, who he considers to have Tom Thibodeau-esque potential. After the Suns didn't allow him to follow Rick Adelman to Minnesota in 2011, Turner was passed over for the Blazers' job this summer and now has lost out to Hunter in Phoenix. Bucher speculates that based on the "dynamic" in Phoenix, it is hard to envision Turner or Majerle staying beyond their current contract obligations should Hunter remain at the helm.
12:55pm: Majerle isn't the only assistant coach on his way out of town, as player development coach Sean Rooks is leaving for a job overseas, Coro notes, adding that Rooks' move is unrelated to the other changes in Phoenix. Also, Elston Turner was absent from practice today, according to Coro (Twitter links).
11:08am: Majerle will likely leave the team after getting passed over for the interim job, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. A source indicates the same to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).
10:11am: The Suns have named assistant coach Lindsey Hunter as interim head coach, the team announced on its website. Hunter replaces Alvin Gentry, who parted ways with the team on Friday. The team went with Hunter over fellow Phoenix assistants Elston Turner, Igor Kokoskov and Dan Majerle.
Hunter was a front-office favorite, though owner Robert Sarver reportedly has an affinity for Turner. Suns players made a push for Majerle yesterday as the team was considering its internal candidates. Hunter was part of the final three in the running for the Magic head coaching job over the summer. His formal title with the Suns had been player development coordinator, a position he took over this season after joining the team's scouting department last year. He spent 17 years in the league as a player, retiring in 2010 to a player development role with the Bulls.
The Suns, in last place in the Western Conference with a 13-28 record, next play Wednesday against the Kings. The team wants to place greater focus on bringing along its young talent, so given Hunter's previous responsibilities with the club, the hiring makes sense. Phoenix brass reportedly felt Gentry wasn't the right man for its new emphasis on youth.
6:22pm: Mike Monroe of San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter) cites a plugged-in source who says that Hunter will be the team's interim coach. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic tweeted that that some of the Suns players spoke to the front office earlier today and lobbied for Dan Majerle to get the position, adding that their request has also been under consideration.
SATURDAY, 2:18pm: The Suns are conducting interviews today, but have yet to name an interim coach, tweets Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. They have a little time to deliberate, since their next game is Wednesday against the Kings, and they don't practice until tomorrow, as Coro notes. In addition to Hunter and Turner, fellow Suns assistant coach Igor Kokoskov is a candidate as well, according to Coro (Twitter link).
FRIDAY, 12:08pm: Alvin Gentry and the Suns have agreed to part ways, reports John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix (via Twitter). According to Gambadoro, Gentry met with owner Robert Sarver and president Lon Babby this morning. The Suns' brass would like to focus on player development and the team's younger players, and didn't think Gentry was the ideal choice for that approach (Twitter links).
The top candidates to replace Gentry as the Suns' interim coach are assistants Lindsey Hunter and Elston Turner, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Wojnarowski notes that Hunter was installed by the team's front office, and is viewed as a potential future head coach, meaning the club may have preferred to give him a clean slate to take over in the offseason. Turner, meanwhile, is a favorite of Sarver's (Twitter links).
Given the Suns' place in the standings, the decision to part ways with Gentry isn't a huge surprise -- Phoenix's 13-28 mark puts them last in the Western Conference. Still, it was just last month that Sarver asserted Gentry's job was safe. Ian Thomsen of SI.com also argued earlier this week that the coach wasn't the problem in Phoenix, though even Thomsen acknowledged that Gentry was likely the next coach on the hot seat.
In three full seasons and two half seasons with the Suns, Gentry compiled a 158-144 record, including a 54-win season in 2009/10.
AUGUST 1, 7:29pm: The field of finalists has been trimmed to two, with Steve Clifford and Elston Turner out of the running, Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports. That leaves Terry Stotts and Kaleb Canales as the two remaining candidates.
JULY 26, 12:25pm: The second round of interviews will include owner Paul Allen and will begin on Tuesday, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Haynes also hasn't heard anything about a fifth candidate being in the mix.
JULY 25, 5:34pm: There could be a fifth "mystery" candidate involved, according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian. While his identity is unknown, the fifth candidate is not represented by Warren LeGarie, the agent for GM Neil Olshey, or Steve Kauffman, another prominent agent in coaching circles. If the Blazers go with the fifth candidate, it would be late in the process, Quick hears, so it appears he's regarded as a fallback option (All Twitter links).
3:14pm: The final four candidates for the Blazers' opening are Terry Stotts, Elston Turner, Steve Clifford, and Kaleb Canales, reports Jason Quick of the Oregonian (via Twitter). The team will conduct a second round of interviews next week with the remaining contenders, according to Quick (Twitter link).
3:07pm: After an offseason in which he interviewed for a number of head coach positions, Brian Shaw will be returning to Indiana as an assistant. According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian (via Twitter), Shaw and Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey spoke today and decided that the Portland coaching job wasn't a fit for the Pacers assistant, who also interviewed with the Magic and Bobcats.
As for the Blazers, even with Shaw out of the running, there are still plenty of candidates for the club's head coach position. Quick confirms that the team has interviewed at least the following candidates so far: Warriors assistant Michael Malone, Mavericks assistant Terry Stotts; Grizzlies assistant David Joerger; former Magic assistant Steve Clifford, Suns assistant Elston Turner, Hawks assistant Lester Conner; Heat assistant David Fizdale, Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, and former Knicks and Suns assistant Phil Weber.
Fizdale has withdrawn from consideration, while Clifford is nearing a deal to join the Bulls as an assistant, says Quick.
It's been a busy day for the Timberwolves, who finalized their deal with Alexey Shved, and agreed to a three-team deal that appears to clear the way for an agreement with Andrei Kirilenko. They're also likely to put the finishing touches on contracts for Brandon Roy and Greg Stiemsma by next week, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Wednesday was active for the Trail Blazers, too, as we heard they've narrowed their list of head coaching candidates. We've got more on both Northwest Division teams right here: