Lionel Hollins

Coaching Rumors: Rockets, Lakers, Pacers

The major story on the coaching front is that the Pacers have parted ways with Frank Vogel, as we covered in detail here, but plenty more news is developing. Track the latest here:

9:31am updates:

  • Mike D’Antoni has already interviewed for the Rockets head coaching job, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com, advancing an earlier report that he would do so this week.
  • TNT broadcaster Kenny Smith, whom Stein heard may interview for the Rockets vacancy, said on “Inside the NBA” Wednesday that he’d like to coach under the right circumstances but made it clear that he enjoys his television job, as Stein relays.
  • The Rockets are focused on proven NBA head coaches and up-and-coming assistants, sources emphasized Wednesday as they spoke with Stein. That casts doubt on the viability of Smith and college coaches Shaka Smart and Bill Self, who also reportedly intrigue the Rockets.
  • It became apparent to former Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff that the team wouldn’t formally make him its head coach, and that’s what prompted him to withdraw from consideration for the post, Stein also writes.
  • Incoming Lakers head coach Luke Walton counts Brian Shaw among the assistant coaching candidates for his staff, but executive Jim Buss was opposed to Shaw as a head-coaching option and many around the league are skeptical that Buss wants a Phil Jackson disciple like Shaw around, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Shaw served as a Lakers assistant under Jackson.
  • Belief around the league is rising that the Pacers will let go of Vogel, Stein writes. President of basketball operations Larry Bird has a press conference scheduled for 10am Central today, and it appears likely he’ll lend clarity to Vogel’s future at that time. The coach’s contract with the Pacers has already expired, as Wojnarowski indicates, citing league sources. Many coaching contracts carry until the end of June, as player contracts do, but apparently that’s not the case with Vogel, who made approximately $2.5MM this past season, according to Wojnarowski. The Vertical scribe speculates that Vogel could double that annual salary in his next job. Bird had yet to speak with Vogel about a new contract as of late Wednesday, league sources told Wojnarowski.

Southwest Notes: Morey, Demps, Mavericks, Howard

Rockets coaching candidates had better be prepared to discuss defense and team chemistry in their job interviews, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. GM Daryl Morey offered few clues beyond that in a press conference this week as the team decides whether to replace interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Owner Leslie Alexander is a strong believer in an up-tempo attack with a heavy emphasis on 3-pointers, but Morey said running that system won’t be a prerequisite for the next coach. The Rockets are known as pioneers of analytics in the NBA, but none of Morey’s coaches has been a strong believer in numbers. Feigen notes that every coach Alexander has hired came to Houston with previous head coaching experience but adds that the organization targeted several assistants before hiring Kevin McHale and is expected to do so again. The writer mentions ex-head coaches Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins and Jeff Hornacek as possibilities, along with Adrian Griffin, Ettore Messina, Jay Larranaga and Jim Boylen.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans GM Dell Demps and his staff are preparing for the draft and free agency, even though the team hasn’t confirmed that Demps will keep his job, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate.
  • The Mavericks can offer one max contract to free agents this summer and possibly a second if Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons follow Deron Williams and opt out for next season, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Dallas entered the offseason expecting to have at least $32MM to spend, but that number could rise closer to $60MM if Nowitzki, Parsons and Williams all opt out. Bontemps notes that Dallas is counting on landing an elite free agent this summer after last year’s near miss with DeAndre Jordan. He adds that owner Mark Cuban is trying to surround Nowitzki, who’s likely to remain, with as much talent as possible before he retires.
  • Dwain Price of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram suggests Rockets center Dwight Howard is the first name on the Mavericks‘ free agent wish list. Price believes Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Chicago’s Pau Gasol and Atlanta’s Al Horford are other centers Dallas will target if it can’t land Howard.

And-Ones: Conley, Thompson, Dekker

Former Grizzlies and Nets coach Lionel Hollins said in a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview that Mike Conley will seek the best offer on the free-agent market, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Hollins doubts the Grizzlies point guard will accept a hometown discount to stay in Memphis, Bondy continues. The Knicks are among the teams expected to pursue Conley, the top guard on the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings“You have the hammer in your hand and you have to wield it because you may never get it again,” Hollins said in the interview. “The reality is you have to do what’s best for your family and the future. And if somebody comes around and offers Michael $18MM and Memphis can’t match, I think you have to make those decisions from that perspective.”

In other news around the league:

  • Jason Thompson‘s struggle to grasp the complexities of the Warriors’ schemes was a major factor why he was waived, according to Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com. Thompson lost his roster spot in favor of center Anderson Varejao, who was signed on Monday. The team needed more depth in the middle because of injury concerns, but Strauss also believes Thompson’s lack of an advanced feel for the game made him the odd man out.
  • The Rockets recalled rookie small forward Sam Dekker from the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the team tweets. Dekker, who underwent back surgery three months ago, made his season debut with the Vipers on Friday night, as Adam Johnson of the D-League Digest details. Dekker’s recall was simply to participate in a practice, as he will return to play a few more games with the Vipers, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter link).
  • Center Tibor Pleiss was recalled by the Jazz from the D-League’s Idaho Stampede on Monday, according to the team’s website. Pleiss, a 7’3” center, has appeared in 12 games with the Jazz and 15 more for the Stampede this season.
  • Point guard Dwight Buycks will join the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, international journalist David Pick tweets. Buycks signed with Fujian Sturgeons in the Chinese Basketball Association in September and was among the league leaders in assists, Pick adds. Buycks played 14 games with the Raptors during the 2013/14 season and six more with the Lakers last season after signing a 10-day contract in April. He was also on the Lakers’ summer-league squad.

Atlantic Notes: Zeller, Jackson, Biyombo

Mike Conley, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was disappointed that the Nets fired Lionel Hollins, who had coached Conley during his tenure with the Grizzlies, Andy Vasquez of The Record relays (via Twitter). The point guard also noted that Hollins’ presence would have been a major reason to consider signing with Brooklyn this offseason, Vasquez adds. Conley is slotted fifth in Hoops Rumors’ latest free agent power rankings. Here’s more regarding the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks’ players say they are also to blame for the team’s woes, not just former coach Derek Fisher, Neil Best of Newsday writes. “I think sometimes coaches get blamed, but it’s just about everybody,” said point guard Jose Calderon. “He was the guy let go but at the end of the day we are all together, from the top to the bottom of the staff, players, everybody. It’s tough to see him go like that because maybe we weren’t winning games lately, but it’s tough to see somebody go like that. It’s on us to turn this around or not and we’ve been saying that for a couple of weeks now.”
  • Celtics big man Tyler Zeller has become a valuable contributor recently after playing sparingly the past few weeks, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com notes. “A true pro, a guy who’s been on the bad end of the stick and hasn’t really played that much,” Thomas said of Zeller. “Every time his name is called he’s ready, and that’s the definition of a true professional right there. He puts the work in each and every day, and he’s a great teammate.” Boston reportedly contacted the Hawks about a potential deal for center Al Horford before Zeller’s recent success.
  • Knicks team president Phil Jackson has an opt out clause in his contract that he can exercise after the 2016/17 season, Chris Broussard of ESPN.com notes (Twitter link). A “strong belief” persists that Jackson will wind up back with the Lakers organization and fiancee Jeanie Buss in the future, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
  • Bismack Biyombo has been a solid addition to the Raptors this season and he is providing better value than Amir Johnson, who departed as a free agent this past offseason, is for the Celtics, Ben Golliver of SI.com opines. Johnson is earning $12MM this season in Boston while Biyombo is due $2.814MM from the Raptors.
  • Well before the arrival of Kristaps Porzingis, Italian big man Danilo Gallinari was considered the future of the Knicks franchise, but the team instead dealt him as part of a package to acquire Carmelo Anthony. The combo forward says he still has fond memories of his time in New York despite the team trading him away, George Willis of The New York Post writes. “It was tough for me because I got injured right away and had back surgery,” Gallinari said. “But it’s great when you’re a young player and you have the chance to play in a city like New York. My first two years were very intense and the third year we started winning and when you’re winning, New York is a lot of fun.” The Celtics are reportedly interested in acquiring Gallinari, but the Nuggets have rebuffed them so far.

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.”

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Hollins, Mills, ‘Melo

DeMar DeRozan has made no secret of his affection for Toronto, and he tells Michael Lee of The Washington Post that just because the Raptors have a history of star players leaving doesn’t mean he’ll follow suit. DeRozan is poised to turn down his player option worth only slightly more than $10MM and hit free agency this summer.

“One thing I never did was look at anybody else, what they did or what they followed, honestly,” DeRozan said to Lee. “I always stuck to what I believe in and what I’m comfortable with. If I see a hundred people walking left, that don’t necessarily mean I’m going to walk left. I may see this clear path and want to stay right.”

See more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets higher-ups were angry about the way former coach Lionel Hollins would pin blame on his players, sources tell Brian Lewis of the New York Post, and several sources who spoke with Andy Vasquez of The Record couldn’t identify a single player on the team who was fond of Hollins. Many players thought the coach talked down to them and found it hard to respect him because of that, Vasquez writes.
  • Knicks GM Steve Mills is very much involved with player personnel in his role under team president Phil Jackson, as agents tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Mills is the go-to guy when they talk to someone from the Knicks. James Dolan has done little meddling with Jackson around, and the team hasn’t had substantive talks regarding a Carmelo Anthony trade this year, Deveney adds.
  • Nerlens Noel has long been a fan of Ish Smith, but the point guard has helped Jahlil Okafor‘s offensive game, too, observes Keith Bodner of Philadelphia magazine. The No. 3 overall pick has put up impressive numbers, albeit in a small sample size, since the Sixers traded for Smith on December 24th, as Bodner examines.

Eastern Notes: Brown, James, Pistons

Nets forward Thaddeus Young pulled no punches when discussing the difference in playing for interim coach Tony Brown versus former coach Lionel Hollins, who was fired on Sunday, Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily relays (via Twitter). When asked his feelings about suiting up for Brown, Young said, “When your coach is not panicking and he’s staying positive and he’s continued to motivate us, it’s huge for us as far as an energy standpoint. It makes us continue to want to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn’t keep us thinking about what happened before as much. But Tony’s mentality is, forget what happened before this and let’s try to push and try to win this game. That’s huge for us as a team. It says a lot that he believes in us, that he wants us to compete.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Cavs shooting guard J.R. Smith notes that the team’s excellent work ethic comes from following the example set by LeBron James, whose dedication has rubbed off on his teammates, as Marc Narducci of HoopsHype relays. When asked what it has been like to play alongside James, Smith told Narducci, “For one, he elevates everybody’s game and holds everybody to a higher standard. He makes you hold yourself to a higher standard. This is the first team I have been on where everybody stays after practice to work on their game. Everybody wants to be better every single day and a lot of that has to do with him. He is a credit to that. He holds himself to a high standard. We see how hard he works each and every day. If your best player is working twice as hard as the next person, it gives you enthusiasm and drive to work harder.”
  • Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy is using the Spurs’ track record of consistency as an organization as a model for how he wants to build Detroit’s roster, John Niyo of The Detroit News writes. “I do think, looking forward, one of things we’ve talked about in trying to build this team is we have a chance for continuity,” Van Gundy said. “And I think you see it when you see a team like San Antonio, that over time it allows you to build on what you’re doing.”

Nets Notes: Johnson, Prokhorov, Calipari, Bargnani

Joe Johnson didn’t know about the Nets’ firing of Lionel Hollins until he found out about it on TV, Johnson said today to reporters, including Andy Vasquez of The Record (Twitter link). Still, no indications existed as of late Sunday that the former All-Star has any interest in a buyout from the team, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said today that he began to consider the firing of Hollins and reassignment of GM Billy King a month and a half ago, notes Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com, and Prokhorov added that when he finally made the call, it was a “very easy” decision, notes Andrew Keh of The New York Times. See more on the changes in Brooklyn:

  • Prokhorov, who pledged a more active role with the Nets, said he plans to meet with every candidate for the team’s vacancies, as Brian Fleurantin of NetsDaily relays in within a transcript of the owner’s press conference today.
  • The owner also reiterated that he has no plans to sell the team, cited a desire for chemistry between the next GM and coach, and said, curiously, that, “I’m sure for the next season, we’ll be, I hope, [a] championship contender,” Fleurantin notes.
  • Nets CEO Brett Yormark told WFAN radio today that he hasn’t spoken with John Calipari about rejoining the team “yet,” observes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Yormark has reportedly wanted to make a strong pitch to Calipari, though the CEO is apparently not heavily involved in the team’s search.
  • Italian team Olimpia Milano plans a run at Andrea Bargnani, a native of Italy, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Milano would love to somehow acquire him by January 28th, when the Eurocup’s transfer window closes, but that’s highly unlikely, and a move during the summer, when Bargnani can opt out of his contract with the Nets, is more realistic, Carchia notes.

New York Notes: King, Westphal, Murry

Former Nets GM Billy King was reassigned today and part of his new role will include advising ownership in the search for his own successor, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports. The situation is quite odd, considering King was pushed out of the job by owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Wojnarowski writes. It’s not unusual for an exiting executive to help in the search for a replacement, however. As Wojnarowski points out, former Nets GM Rod Thorn had played a part in hiring King upon Thorn’s departure from the Nets in 2010, but the difference in that example is that Thorn had resigned from his position and was not forced out, Wojnarowski adds.

Here’s more news from a busy day out of the Big Apple:

  • Respected and longtime coach Paul Westphal will no longer serve as an assistant coach for the Nets in the wake of Lionel Hollinsfiring earlier today, Westphal’s wife, Cindy, writes on Facebook (h/t Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily). After parts of 10 seasons as a head coach, Westphal had no desire to coach again until Hollins approached him to be his top guy with the Nets, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com wrote in 2014. Westphal’s loyalty to Hollins was too strong to allow him to stay with Brooklyn, Puccio writes.
  • The Knicks, who have reportedly been shopping for backcourt help, scouted shooting guard Toure’ Murry at the D-League Showcase event in Santa Cruz, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets. Of course, it’s important to note that nearly every team is scouting someone at the event and that does not necessarily mean a deal is imminent, as Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor tweets. Murry is averaging 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game with the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ D-League affiliate. Murry, whom the Jazz mulled signing in December, played in 51 games with the Knicks in 2013/14, his rookie season.
  • It likely doesn’t matter whom the Nets hire as their next head coach because the organization is still paying for mistakes made in the early days of moving to Brooklyn, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. The Nets’ history of acquiring flashy names such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson has had long-term consequences, Bontemps adds. There is no one in the organization that is capable of stepping into the general manager’s job at the moment, according to Bontemps.

Reactions To Nets Shakeup

Former Nets coach Lionel Hollins told Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link) that he received a call from former GM Billy King, who was reassigned today, telling him that he had been let go, but expressed gratitude nonetheless. Hollins, as Mazzeo points out, still has one and a half years left on his contract.

“I’m thankful to Billy and Mikhail [Prokhorov] and Dmitry [Razumov] for the opportunity to have coached the Nets,” Hollins told Mazzeo. “I’m disappointed to where it didn’t work out to where we didn’t have playoff success and fans weren’t celebrating in the streets of Brooklyn.”

Here is more news and reactions to Brooklyn’s decision to fire Hollins and reassign King:

  • Nets assistant GM Frank Zanin will be retained, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reports (on Twitter). Zanin has been involved with most of the day-to-day team business, including trade talks, according to Mannix.
  • Still, it’s unclear who would be answering the phones if a team called regarding trade talk, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post hears after speaking with multiple sources (Twitter link).
  • While the timing of the moves was surprising to some, considering how close the trade deadline is, some executives around the league were always surprised King was able to keep his job with Brooklyn for as long as he did, Ian Begley of ESPN.com passes along (on Twitter).
  • Nets CEO Brett Yormark, who is reportedly enamored with John Calipari, is someone who is having his voice heard more now within the organization, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets.
  • Tom Thibodeau would be an ideal fit as the next coach for the Nets because of his ability to maximize players’ talents on defense, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News writes in a list of top candidates to replace Hollins. Thibodeau is seen as a logical choice for other potential openings and will come at a hefty price, Deveney adds. Among other names Deveney mentions as top candidates are: Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Patrick Ewing.
  • Prokhorov did not like Hollins’ public criticism of players, NetsDaily tweets.
  • Former Hawks GM Danny Ferry, who interviewed with the Nets before the job went to King, is still unemployed and has some baggage, but it’s worth noting his father, Bob, is a Nets scout, Bondy tweets.

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