Part of the heat that’s surrounded Cavs coach David Blatt this year is media-driven, argues Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. His brusque manner with reporters has fueled a perhaps unprecedented level of criticism, Amico writes, but owner Dan Gilbert is in his corner one year after making the surprising hire. While we wait to see if Blatt can lead the Cavs to a 2-0 series lead on the Hawks tonight, here’s more from around the Central Division:
- Mario Hezonja makes sense for the Pistons at draft pick No. 8, and while he’s a streaky shooter who has a prickly demeanor with teammates, he doesn’t carry nearly the same risk as Darko Milicic did when the Pistons blew the No. 2 pick on him in 2003, writes Terry Foster of The Detroit News.
- Bucks GM John Hammond wants the team to build “organically” with a long-term approach and said Milwaukee will target size and shooting in the draft this year, as The Associated Press relays. “We’re still very much an unfinished product,” Hammond said. “We need to continue to add toughness and energy to our team, so we have multiple needs.”
- The Pacers on Tuesday will work out draft prospects Delon Wright, Marcus Thornton, Pat Connaughton, Jabril Trawick, Greg Whittington and Jonathan Holmes, the team announced. Thornton, a point guard from William & Mary, is not to be confused with the forward from Georgia by the same name who worked out for the Sixers, and of course he isn’t the six-year NBA veteran shooting guard who also goes by that name.
The Lakers will look at D’Angelo Russell for the No. 2 overall pick, but preliminary indications are that they’ll take either Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, depending on which one of those two is left after the Timberwolves pick, as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times hears. Trading the pick is also an option, GM Mitch Kupchak says, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News tweets. In any case, the choices at No. 2 are a bit better than the Lakers would have had if the lottery had gone according to form and the team had ended up with the fourth pick. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- Kings president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac said his team should be open to trading its draft pick, but in comments that Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays, he distanced himself from the mechanics of any such move. “I’m leaving that to my basketball people,” Divac said. It’s an odd statement from the team’s top basketball executive. In any case, Chad Ford of ESPN.com identified the Kings, who pick sixth, among the teams most likely to trade their top-10 pick, along with the Magic, Pistons, Heat and Hornets, as Ford wrote in a chat with readers.
- The Kings and the Pacers are the teams with the most interest in Willie Cauley-Stein, Ford adds in the same piece.
- Andrew Bogut is a fan of the way Steve Kerr handles his assistant coaches, as the big man tells Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group a year after assistant coaches were squarely in the spotlight for Golden State. The departures of assistants Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman from the Warriors bench last year were symbolic of the tumult near the end of Mark Jackson‘s time as Warriors coach. “In their own way, they all have free reign,” Bogut said of Kerr’s staff. “You see them talk to the media, which is something that wasn’t happening with us the last couple of years. There’s no agendas where a coach thinks, ‘Oh, he’s doing extra workouts with this guy, he’s trying to take my job, or vice-versa, or he’s trying to get himself a head-coaching job.’ We don’t have any of that. We have guys that say something when they need to say something and to be professional throughout.”
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was non-committal regarding whether or not Flip Saunders would coach the team next season, Brett Pollakoff of NBCSports.com relays. “It’s not definite,” Taylor said. “But in my mind, with the effort that he put in this year to bring this team along, it’s probably 90%. If he sees somebody and he changes his mind, he certainly could convince me. I think eventually I want a different coach, and I want him to be the GM. My guess is that he’ll go another year.” Taylor also indicated that the franchise landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft won’t change matters, Pollakoff adds. “I think that Flip will change [his mind] if he sees somebody in the coaching ranks that he really respects, and thinks in the long run that they will be the right guy for this team, then I think he’ll make that decision,” Taylor said.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Tim Salier, the Spurs‘ Sports and Entertainment Vice President of Franchise Business Operations, was named the 2015 NBA D-League Team Executive of the Year today, the team announced. “We are very pleased to honor Tim with the Team Executive of the Year Award in recognition of his tremendous contributions to the NBA D-League, the NBA and the Austin community,” said D-League president Malcolm Turner. “Under Tim’s leadership, the Austin Spurs have become a prime example of a how an NBA D-League team should be run to both benefit its NBA parent club and be independently successful.”
- David Harrison, a former Pacers first-rounder, is looking to make a comeback to the NBA, and he has hired Zachary Charles of 3pt Sports Management for representation, Cameron Chung of The Sports Agent Blog reports. Charles made it clear that Harrison’s return is not about money, saying, “[Harrison] would play for free. He’s back in love with he game and just wants an opportunity to play. At the end of the day, he’s a 7′ center with a nice jump shot and dominating post moves. He’s a great guy who deserves a shot and his first shot unfairly taken from him. He’s looking at the NBA Summer League, D-League, and overseas.“
- Kiki Vandeweghe, the league’s senior vice-president of basketball operations, said that the NBA is unlikely to pass any sort of draft lottery reform to prevent tanking this offseason, Zach Lowe of Grantland writes. “I don’t see anything happening in the immediate future,” Vandeweghe said. “We will continue to study it.”
Shooting guard J.R. Smith has made the most of his time with the Cavs and is still working toward changing the perception of him around the NBA, Tom Withers of The Associated Press writes. “I’m generally a good person, that’s what the people who know me tell me anyway,” said Smith. “I’m just being me in a better situation. Unfortunately, this picture of me got painted early in my career, so it’s pretty much taken me nine to 10 years to get over it. To be in this situation with these guys, going this far and to be playing this well, it’s a dream come true.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the NBA’s Central Division:
- When asked his evaluation of the 2015 NBA Draft class, Pacers president Larry Bird said, “I’d like to take a couple home with me. The talent pool this year is very good. There are a lot of good players out there, so all of us sitting up here tonight should be happy about that,” Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star relays. In the same piece, Buckner runs down the list of prospects who have interviewed and worked out for the franchise thus far.
- Matthew Dellavedova has received his fair share of criticism this season as the Cavs‘ backup point guard, but the team’s faith in the Australian is paying off in the playoffs, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. Dellavedova can become a restricted free agent this summer if Cleveland tenders him a qualifying offer worth $1,147,276.
- Arizona forward Stanley Johnson believes that he would be a great fit alongside the Pistons‘ current personnel, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press relays. “I know Reggie [Jackson] and I know Andre [Drummond] really well,” Johnson said. “They’ve reached out to me and they’ve told me obviously that’s where the team needs the help at. I think I’m a good player and I can help out in that way. I think with the position I play it’s wide open for me to come in there and do something special.“
The Pacers are intrigued by Murray State guard Cameron Payne, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star reports. Payne, who worked out for Indiana on Monday, has zoomed up to No. 11 — where the Pacers are currently slotted — on Chad Ford’s ESPN Insider Big Board. He’s No. 20 on Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress prospect list. “We followed him all year,” Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird told Buckner. “We know he can shoot it, he can drive it. He’s a playmaker. His size is against him a little bit but he’s a nice little player. He didn’t play against top schools but that doesn’t mean he can’t play.” Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Joseph Young (Oregon) Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse) and Richaun Holmes (Bowling Green) also worked out for the Pacers on Monday, according to Buckner. Payne hopes to jump into the top 10 in the draft, as he recently told Hoops Rumors’ Zach Links in a Q&A session.
In other news around the league:
- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak does not anticipate having three rookies on his roster next season, even if the team retains its lottery pick, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reports. The Lakers must stay in the top five when the lottery results are announced or they will have to convey their first-rounder to the Sixers. They also have the No. 27 and No. 34 overall picks but Kupchak may trade at least one of them. “It may be a little much to add three more young players,” Kupchak told the team’s beat reporters. Kupchak added that the team could bring in as many as 80 players for workouts, Oram adds.
- New Jersey native and top prospect Karl-Anthony Towns would be thrilled to be drafted by the Knicks since he grew up as a fan of the team, he told Steve Serby of the New York Post in a Q&A session. “It would be an honor, not only as a player, but as a Knicks fan, to be able to play for that organization,” Towns said. “It’s gonna be, I guess a childhood dream — rooting for the Knicks all this time, and the next thing you know, you hear an organization call your name to go out there and give it your best shot. I think it would very cool, and really very honored and blessed to be able to play for them.”
- International prospect Mouhammadou Jaiteh made a strong impression at the draft combine, NetsDaily.com tweets. The 6’11” center has moved up to the No. 34 on Ford’s board and No. 35 spot on Givony’s list.
The Pistons‘ final draft strategy depends on how the lottery shakes out this coming Tuesday, but the team knows it needs to target a starting forward and some depth at center, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. “We can make assumptions and part of the actual draft process is trying to figure out plans for other teams and what their needs may be versus available players in the draft,” GM Jeff Bower said. “As you try to slot it out, you do make educated guesses on what a team need or interest may be based on the workouts and the information flow of interest around the prospects. We’ll try to have a handle on it because it’s good to know what other people will like. Normally more than one team likes the same player and you try to have yourself positioned to get that player or a group of players that you’re very comfortable with.”
Here’s more news from around the Central Division:
- Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein sat down at the draft combine with the Pistons, and he said that the team talked to him about playing alongside center Andre Drummond, Keith Langlois of NBA.com tweets.
- Cauley-Stein said he has a workout scheduled with the Pacers, as do Arkansas forward Bobby Portis, Quinn Cook of Duke, Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison, and Maryland’s Dez Wells, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star relays (Twitter links).
- Kentucky forward Trey Lyles interviewed with the Pacers while in Chicago for the combine, Buckner tweets. Of his meeting, Lyles said, “I met with them yesterday. It was pretty cool. It would be fun to play there but you know wherever I go, I’ll be fine with.“
The frontrunner to replace Tom Thibodeau if he is let go by the Bulls as expected, is reportedly Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. This interest in Hoiberg isn’t a recent development, since according to league sources the team had already spoken with Hoiberg about his potential interest in coming to Chicago earlier this season, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv relays. It’s unclear if Hoiberg’s health concerns would prevent him from accepting the position if offered, but he certainly hopes to join the pro coaching ranks at some point. “He has always said from day one that his lifelong goal has been to coach in the NBA,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said of Holberg. “It’s for him to decide when that part of his life he wants to activate. Now it’s just strictly a decision for him and their family personally, not what he wants to do because he’s made that clear. [The NBA is] what he wants to do. It’s a matter of when he wants to do it.”
Here’s what else is happening around the Central Division:
- The Pacers interviewed a number of former Kentucky players at the draft combine, Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star tweets. Indiana sat down with Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker, Buckner notes.
- Cauley-Stein said that Pacers president Larry Bird told him, “I think you’re a $100MM player,” Buckner relays (Twitter links). Booker wasn’t given a dollar value by the team, but did note that there was a “great vibe” during his interview, Buckner adds.
- The Pacers will hold their first pre-draft workout this Monday, and in attendance will be Cameron Payne, Olivier Hanlan, Jerian Grant, Rakeem Christmas, Richaun Holmes, and Joseph Young, Buckner tweets.
- Lastly from Buckner (via Twitter), the Pacers will be one of the teams attending a private workout in Los Angeles next Friday for forward Kevon Looney and guard Norman Powell.
- Looney met with the Pistons while at the draft combine, Keith Langlois of NBA.com reports (Twitter links). Also meeting with Detroit was Booker, who believes his outside shooting would be the perfect complement to Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, Langlois adds.
With the 2015 NBA Draft combine in full swing, two players whose performances in the five-on-five events have elevated their draft stock are Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas and North Carolina’s J.P. Tokoto, Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) relays. When discussing Christmas’ potential one NBA GM told Ford, “He had an advantage [over his combine competition] as a four-year senior. But that wasn’t what set him apart. I felt he showed that he could disrupt shots, attack the rim and play bigger than I felt he did at Syracuse. There aren’t many centers in this draft after the lottery, and I think he’ll draw a lot of interest for teams in the late first and early second.”
Here’s the latest news regarding the 2015 NBA Draft:
- Another player who may have improved his draft stock according Ford was Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison. “I haven’t been a big fan of his all year,” one GM told Ford. “But if you take all of that away, he was one of the two or three best players here. He played under control, made some great passes, got to the line relentlessly [7-for-8] and just played with confidence. It was a very good showing.“
- There were some scouts who questioned if Tokoto was ready to make the jump from college to the pros, but for his part the player has no regrets about his decision, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel writes. “I’m past that,” Tokoto said of worrying about his choice. “All that really matters is if my family and I are comfortable with my decision. I know I made the right decision. With the teams I’m interviewing with, the question about my jump shot comes up. To go out and have a game like this…I told them, ‘I’ve been working on it and I’m going to shoot jump shots.’“
- Oregon guard Joseph Young worked out for the Pacers on Thursday, and he has upcoming workouts scheduled with the Blazers and Spurs, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com tweets.
- Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter) also lauded the performances of Harrison and Christmas, while also adding Louisville’s Terry Rozier and Bowling Green’s Richaun Holmes to the list of players who stood out at the combine.
Iman Shumpert has been a significant factor in the Cavaliers‘ success since he was acquired in what was a season-altering trade for Cleveland, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. With the guard averaging 12.6 points in the series against the Bulls, Shumpert is dispelling notions that he’s strictly a defensive player, Zillgitt adds. “As long as we win, I don’t really care,” Shumpert told Zillgitt about being overlooked as a scorer. “I feel like the right people see what’s going on. Everybody around the league knows what’s going on. If you really understand basketball, you know what’s going on. I don’t take it personally, and I don’t search for credit. I just search for wins.” Shumpert is set to become a restricted free agent this summer.
Here’s more out of the Central Division:
- The Bucks interviewed Texas big man Myles Turner, who is a potential lottery pick, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Regarding Milwaukee, Turner said, “They’re long and athletic right now, they’re young. They’ve got coach [Jason] Kidd and I like his plan and his vision in place. Everything I just said describes me — young, long, athletic. So I’d fit well.”
- The 6’11” Turner met with Pistons team executives today as well, Vincent Ellis of The Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter link). Turner also interviewed with the Pacers, notes Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star (via Twitter). The big man said that the Pacers told him they were focused on changing their style of play, Buckner notes.
- The Pacers interviewed Arizona freshman forward Stanley Johnson today, Buckner tweets. Johnson calls Pacers forward, and former Wildcat Solomon Hill, one of his closest friends in the NBA, Buckner adds. Johnson also sat down with representatives from the Pistons, Ellis tweets.
- All signs are pointing to Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney leaving Chicago after the season to join coach Chris Mullin‘s staff at St. John’s University, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets.
Former University of Washington center Robert Upshaw registered perhaps the most impressive numbers as the NBA measured prospects today at the predraft combine in Chicago. He checked in a 7 feet tall and had the greatest standing reach (9’5″), wingspan (7’5.5″), hand length and hand width, notes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). Washington dismissed Upshaw in January for a violation of team rules, but his size will surely make teams think twice. The 21-year-old is the No. 30 prospect with both Chad Ford of ESPN.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. Here’s more from the combine:
- D’Angelo Russell is interviewing with the Lakers and Pacers today and the Sixers on Thursday, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links). The combo guard told Pompey he prefers to play the point and would love to play for the Sixers.
- Stanley Johnson, whom the Sixers are hesitant to peg as either a shooting guard or small forward, already interviewed with Philadelphia today, Pompey tweets.
- Shooting guard Devin Booker and center Myles Turner are also speaking with the Pacers today, tweets Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. Check out our full profile on Booker here and our profile on Turner here.
- Sam Dekker‘s athleticism stood out as he went through ball-handling and shooting drills Tuesday, as Ford observes in an Insider-only piece. His shooting was solid but not overwhelming, according to Ford, who sees the small forward from Wisconsin going between the 10th and 15th picks.
- GMs who spoke with Ford on Tuesday have shooting guard R.J. Hunter ranked as high as No. 12 and as low as No. 21, as Ford writes in the same piece. The NCAA tournament hero is No. 21 in Ford’s ranking.
- Brazilian prospect George Lucas registered a 7-foot wingspan today, the longest ever recorded for a point guard in the DraftExpress database, as DraftExpress contributor Derek Bodner points out (Twitter link). Lucas, who also goes by George de Paula, is slated to be one of the participants in five-on-five drills this week, as shown on the full list of five-on-five participants that Ford shared via Twitter.