Scott Skiles is still “very interested” in coaching again but isn’t pushing the issue, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes within his NBA AM piece. Skiles isn’t actively seeking or campaigning for a job with the Magic or any other team, nor would he insist on player personnel power or control if he were to become a team’s coach, league sources told Kyler, a reversal of the narratives from earlier.
Here’s the latest out of the Southwest Division:
- The second highest bid for the Hawks came in around $815MM, which includes the approximately $120MM worth of arena debt, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. The franchise is awaiting the NBA Board of Governors to approve the sale of the team to the Ressler Group for approximately $850MM, which also includes the arena debt amount.
- The Hornets are relieved that center Al Jefferson has decided not to opt out of his contract for next season and become a free agent, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Charlotte did not want to have to commit to a deal for Jefferson beyond this season, even at a reduced cost, Deveney adds. The organization hopes that the big man can give the Hornets another solid year while the team figures out what its frontcourt is going to look like in the future, adds the Sporting News scribe.
- Kemba Walker was glad to have had surgery during the season to repair a tear in his left knee, Matt Rochinski of NBA.com writes in his season recap for the Hornets‘ point guard. “[The surgery] was something that I had to do and I’m happy I got it done,” Walker said. “I’m feeling good. I won’t do anything different and will still have a pretty good summer [working out and getting stronger], so I’m looking forward to it.” Walker will be entering the second season of the four-year, $48MM extension he signed with the team last October.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Veteran guard Ben Gordon became the odd man out in the Magic‘s rotation once James Borrego took over as the team’s interim coach, Ken Hornack of FOX Sports Florida writes. Borrego preferred to see what the backcourt pairing of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton could accomplish, which left Gordon on the outside looking in, Hornack notes. Gordon’s $4.5MM salary for 2015/16 is non-guaranteed. In 56 games this season Gordon averaged 6.2 points and 1.1 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per contest.
Here’s more out of the Southeast Division:
- Hornets big man Cody Zeller had successful surgery today to repair damage to his right shoulder, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer reports (Twitter link). The 22-year-old appeared in 62 contests for Charlotte this season, averaging 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game. Zeller is expected to resume basketball activities in three months.
- Grant Hill‘s presence as part of the Hawks‘ new ownership group could aid GM Danny Ferry in retaining his position within the organization, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post opines (Twitter link). Ferry and Hill have ties through Duke University, which both men attended, Bontemps notes.
- Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press tweeted that Hill’s involvement with the Ressler group should provide a good indicator of how Kevin Garnett could function as part of the Wolves’ ownership when he retires. Garnett has acknowledged an interest in buying the Wolves at some point, and owner Glen Taylor said that his return as a player enhanced his chances of becoming a part-owner.
- Heat rookie point guard Shabazz Napier showed promise during his rookie season, but needs to be a more consistent player moving forward, Surya Fernandez of FOX Sports Florida writes in his profile of the player.
Bucks president Peter Feigin impressed upon bickering local and state government officials to wrap up a deal within the next 10 days to secure the public’s $250MM share of financing for a $500MM new arena for the team in Milwaukee, reports Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Without an arena, “the Bucks will be gone from the state of Wisconsin,” Feigin warned. Realistically, groundbreaking must take place by early this fall so that the arena remains on schedule to beat an NBA-imposed deadline, as Feigin told Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com for a story this weekend. Sources told Windhorst the NBA would indeed exercise its right to buy the franchise and seek to move it if construction doesn’t begin soon.
Here’s more out of the Eastern Conference:
- Despite the upgrade Tom Thibodeau would provide as coach, the Magic should pass on the longtime Bulls coach if it required the team to surrender its first round draft pick as compensation, Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel opines. Orlando previously traded for Stan Van Gundy, sending the Heat a second-rounder back in 2007 in return for the coach, Schmitz notes.
- 2014 second-rounder Jerami Grant turned out to be one of the Sixers‘ biggest surprises this season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. An undersized power forward in college, Grant adapted well when the team moved him to small forward, Pompey adds. “Whatever position they put me at, I think I will be fine with it,” Grant said. “But in the offseason, I’m definitely going to work on a lot of things that a four-man can do and what a three-man can do. I’m just going to work on my overall game.” In 65 games this season Grant averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per contest.
- Dwyane Wade isn’t in a rush to make a decision regarding his player option worth $16,125,000, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes. The veteran also indicated that the 2015/16 campaign isn’t likely to be his last in the league, Reynolds adds. “I don’t sit on my hands,” Wade said. “Obviously, everything’s about life after [basketball] and seeing what you want to do as well. So this is a perfect time to figure it out. I signed my deal the way I did for a reason … and the organization did it for a reason. It’s my option. I’ll decide when the time is right. Everyone knows I always try to do what’s best for the organization, but I also have to do what’s best for Dwyane Wade as well.” This conflicts with earlier statements from Wade that he intended to opt in for next season.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Josh Smith‘s father complimented the Rockets for welcoming his son, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 (second Twitter link). “I cannot speak too much about how well this organization has accepted us as a family and him as a player,” Pete Smith said. “It’s an awesome thing. Now I know what the NBA is all about.” Houston claimed Smith on waivers in December after he was let go by the Pistons. He will become a free agent this summer.
There’s more from around the world of basketball:
- The Rockets have cut ties with D-League coach Nevada Smith of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The Vipers are coming off a 27-23 record in Smith’s second season running the team.
- Scott Skiles has tried to campaign a little for the Magic head coaching job, but he wants a measure of personnel control, sources tell Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. He doesn’t want to replace GM Rob Hennigan, but rather seeks approval over player personnel moves, a job that currently rests with Magic CEO Alex Martins, Kyler explains. Meanwhile, Kyler figures that Michael Malone will interview for both the Magic and the Nuggets coaching jobs, but sources tell him that Malone isn’t as high on either team’s list as some other candidates are. Neither Vinny Del Negro nor Billy Donovan is expected to get serious consideration for either job, Kyler also writes.
- NBA owners refuse to address the problem of tanking, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. He noted that owners passed on a chance to address the issue during a meeting in New York last week. They also nixed proposed reforms to the draft lottery process in October. He speculated that owners might be delaying action until they can study the effects of an upcoming $24 billion television deal and the escalation of the salary cap.
If the Wolves win the lottery and land the top pick in the NBA draft, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are the only players whom the team should seriously consider using the selection on, opines Joel Brigham in a collaborative piece for Basketball Insiders. Point guard may be a position of need, considering Ricky Rubio‘s history of injuries, but the team has already indicated it will take a best-player-available approach when using its selection rather than drafting for need.
“I think when you’re a lottery-type team, you have to take the best player available,” President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders said. “If you’re there, you probably got there because you lost, and you’re probably still a little ways away. There’s not probably one player, really, that you think, wherever you’re at, ‘Hey, if I take that position, he can help me.’ The better chance you have of improving the team is to take whoever the best player you evaluate is there.”
Minnesota finished the season with a record of 16-66, which gives the team the best chance at winning the lottery and a 46.5% chance at landing one of the top two picks, as our 2015 Lottery Odds page indicates.
Here’s more from around the league:
- If the Knicks win the lottery, Towns should be the selection, Tommy Beer opines in the same piece for Basketball Insiders. Beer believes Towns could be the defensive anchor that New York hasn’t had since it traded Tyson Chandler to the Mavs. The Kentucky product averaged 2.3 blocks while playing only 21 minutes per game during his lone college season.
- The Warriors have recalled Ognjen Kuzmic from their D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, according to a team press release. To date this season, the center has appeared in 16 games for Golden State, averaging 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 4.5 minutes per game.
- The Magic showed flashes of potential, but ultimately they turned in another sub-par season. Center Nikola Vucevic believes it’s time the team takes the next step, Denton writes in a seperate piece. “Now, we’ve got to accept the fact that we’ve got to change this and turn this thing around. Rebuilding was fine for two or even three years, but we’ve got to find a way to turn it around because [youth] is not an excuse anymore,” said Vucevic, who led the Magic in points and rebounds this season. “So we’ve got to find a way to turn this thing around quickly.’’
Hiring a head coach outweighs everything else for the Magic during the upcoming offseason, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
“It’s essential for us,” GM Rob Hennigan said. “We’re at a critical point now. Again, we believe in the talent on this team. We know we’re a young team. We know we have a long way to go. But, again, finding that right coach, that right person to push us in the right direction, to prod us in the right direction — it’s imperative.”
Robbins notes that the team is strongly inclined to hire someone with extensive NBA head-coaching experience. While the Magic haven’t named any potential candidates, Robbins names Scott Skiles and Tom Thibodeau as likely candidates this offseason.
Here’s more from Orlando:
- All indications are that a contract extension for Hennigan will be in place relatively soon, writes Robbins in the same piece.
- The team should generate additional cap space and make a simultaneous run at Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, opines Robbins in the same piece. Orlando has slightly under $38.9MM in guaranteed salary on the books for the 2015/16 season, as our Salary Commitment page indicates.
- Tobias Harris, who scored 17.1 points per game this season, will be a restricted free agent this offseason. The 22-year-old has tried to not worry about his future, John Denton of NBA.com writes. “You get a little nervous at times, but I think everything is going to work out for me I wanted to go out and have a successful year and a great year and I think I’ve put in the work. It’s in the teams hands with whatever wants to be done,’’ Harris said. “All I can do is really sit back and be patient at this time.’’ The forward has been linked to the Knicks, but if Orlando extends him a qualifying offer, it can match any offer sheet he signs.
- Elfrid Payton played in every game this season and the rookie has shown he belongs in the NBA, opines Denton in the same piece. Payton averaged 8.9 points per game and sported a 13.8 player efficiency rating this season.
The Magic made some positive strides this season and have a solid young core in place for the future, Kyle Hightower of The Associated Press writes. When discussing what would need to be altered to make the team a contender, GM Rob Hennigan said, “Our focus is on getting better. We want to be a playoff team. We’re not trying to be a lottery team — that’s counter to our goals. This season has been frustrating. It has, I think if you ask our players, our coaches, myself— we expect more. We’re also realistic about how young we are…We think with their development and some pieces added here and there we will start to turn this thing.”
Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Restricted free agent Tobias Harris characterized his end of season meeting with Hennigan as being productive, Hightower adds. “Talk went good,” Harris said. “Only God knows what’s next. I can’t control the future. None of us can. I’ll leave it up to management to decide what the overall plan is and go from there. We didn’t really talk too much about [his contract], just about the season…He just told me not to worry about it and he’s proud of the year I had.“
- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was complimentary of swingman Henry Walker, whose $1,110,602 salary for next season is non-guaranteed, as was relayed by the team’s official Twitter account. “With a full off-season with us I feel like his player development can continue,” Spoelstra said. Walker appeared in 24 games for the Heat this season, averaging 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per outing.
- Spoelstra also relayed that the Heat are enamored with Goran Dragic and Luol Deng, both of whom have player options to decide upon this offseason, and that the organization wants both players to return next season, Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post writes. “We love them; Hopefully they love us,” Spoelstra said. “I love working with them and our staff loved working with them. They’re two pros. From an objective point of view, they’re not difficult guys to work with. They’re absolute pros, the kind of guys you want to build your team around, the guys you want to go to work with, the guys you want to be in a foxhole with.“
Al Jefferson indicated earlier today that he would likely opt in and remain with the Hornets next season. Swingman Gerald Henderson also has player option for 2015/16, his being worth $6MM, but Henderson says that he hasn’t thought about free agency yet, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. The 27-year-old did say that he would prefer to remain with Charlotte, Bonnell adds. Henderson appeared in 80 games for the Hornets this season, averaging 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 28.9 minutes per contest.
Here’s the latest from the Southeast Division:
- After a difficult first campaign with the Hornets, Lance Stephenson vowed to return next season much improved and with his confidence back, Bonnell notes. “My 3-point percentage was the lowest ever in history. That’s terrible,” Stephenson said. “It’s confidence – just wanting the shot to go in so bad and then you lose your confidence. That plays a major part when you don’t have confidence in your shot. This summer I’m going to find my confidence.” Stephenson’s 17.1% three-point accuracy wasn’t quite the worst ever, but it was a sharp drop from last season’s 35.2%.
- Evan Fournier is eligible to sign an extension this summer, and the swingman loves playing for the Magic, but he acknowledged that contract extensions are usually reserved for star players, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel tweets.
- Dwyane Wade says that he won’t be recruiting Luol Deng and Goran Dragic to remain with the Heat next season, Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post tweets. “Nope,” Wade said about playing recruiter. “They know. If they want to be here, they’ll be here.” Both Deng and Dragic possess player options for the 2015/16 campaign.
- Magic GM Rob Hennigan fully expects restricted free agent Tobias Harris to be with Orlando next season, John Denton of Orlando Magic.com relays (Twitter link). “I’ve said all along that we don’t envision a scenario where Tobias isn’t with us next season,” stated the GM.
10:50am: For his part, Brooks remains optimistic, telling reporters today that he expects to return for next season, as Royce Young of ESPN.com tweets.
7:51am: Several league sources close to Thunder coach Scott Brooks have expressed doubt about his job security as the Thunder are expected to “spend time evaluating the partnership” with the coach before committing to him for another season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Magic and Nuggets would have significant interest in Brooks if he became available, sources told Wojnarowski. Oklahoma City’s contract with Brooks runs through 2016/17, with a team option on the final season, Wojnarowski adds.
Thunder GM Sam Presti has long been friends with University of Florida coach Billy Donovan, according to Wojnarowski. Donovan is another Nuggets and Magic candidate who has an increasing desire to coach in the NBA, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported a couple of weeks ago. League sources who spoke with Wojnarowski brought up the possibility of Presti targeting Donovan should the Thunder let go of Brooks.
Injury-plagued Oklahoma City went 45-37 and remained alive for a playoff berth until the final night of the regular season, but the Thunder missed the postseason for the first time since 2009. Brooks took over midway through that season, and in spite of the Thunder’s fast rise to title contention, the coach has come under fire from critics for his in-game strategy. The Thunder organization has largely remained supportive, but negotiations in the 2012 offseason on a four-year extension worth about $18MM were difficult, according to Wojnarowski, even though Oklahoma City was fresh off a trip to the NBA Finals. The Blazers were among several teams with interest in swooping in to hire Brooks then if those talks fell apart, Wojnarowski notes.
Many in the Thunder organization like Brooks, who has close relationship with management and players alike, Wojnarowski writes. Still, the specter of Kevin Durant‘s contract, which expires after next season, clouds the Thunder’s future. Durant, the league’s reigning MVP and scoring champ, played in only 27 games this season largely because of a broken foot, precipitating the Thunder’s slide down the standings.
Scott Brooks appears to be in trouble with the Thunder, but there are at least two coachiing jobs already up for grabs, with the Magic and Nuggets having interim bosses in place. Here’s the latest as the annual period of coaching unrest tips off:
- Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls are “widely expected” to part ways after Chicago’s season ends, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes within a larger look at the coaching landscape. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote in January that the relationship between Thibs and the front office is “beyond repair,” but no definitive decision has been made, and Thibodeau is under contract through 2016/17. Johnson wrote this week that Thibodeau wouldn’t walk away from the team if the choice were solely up to him.
- Orlando indeed has interest in Thibodeau should he become available, Stein writes. Several league sources suggested to Chris Mannix of SI.com in February that the Magic might pursue Thibodeau.
- The Magic have said that they’ll interview interim coach James Borrego, and some sources insist to Stein there’s a chance that Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt will have a chance to remain in the job, but sources told Stein this week that neither team is expected to retain its interim boss.
- Conflicting reports have emerged on whether the Magic have spoken with Scott Skiles. Sources tell Stein that Orlando has held informal discussions with its former point guard, while Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel later tweeted that no such talks have taken place. Still, Robbins believes they eventually will, and Skiles and Magic CEO Alex Martins have a strong relationship, Stein notes.
- The Pelicans told coach Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps before the season that they had to make the playoffs to keep their jobs, regardless of whether the team suffered a rash of injuries, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). New Orleans qualified for the postseason with a win Wednesday.