It may seem a little early in the season for any NBA teams to make a coaching change, but it’s worth noting that each of the league’s 30 coaches have already survived twice as long this year as Mike Brown did with the Lakers a year ago. While there may not be any coaching or front office shake-ups right around the corner, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com examines situations of potential unrest around the league, offering up a few tidbits along the way. Let’s round them up….
- Despite leading the Jazz to a 1-12 start, coach Tyrone Corbin doesn’t appear to be in any danger, since the focus in Utah is on player development rather than wins and losses. Berger adds that there’s also no logical in-house candidate to serve as an interim coach now that former assistant Jeff Hornacek is in Phoenix.
- League sources question how much longer Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld “can remain in self-preservation mode,” says Berger.
- If the Wizards and Raptors continue losing, Randy Wittman and Dwane Casey could be in a dead heat for the first coach to be replaced. According to Berger, the feeling around the league is that new Toronto president Masai Ujiri would be quick to make a change and start putting his own stamp on the franchise if things go south for Casey and the Raptors.
- Cavaliers GM Chris Grant is on “shaky ground,” sources tell Berger. While coach Mike Brown may have pushed for the drafting of Anthony Bennett, Brown just signed a four-year contract with the team, so Grant’s seat is much hotter than his coach’s.
- Pelicans GM Dell Demps and Pistons GM Joe Dumars are among the other executives who could be in danger of losing their jobs if their respective teams aren’t in the playoff hunt, writes Berger.
The NBA held internal discussions about the Knicks‘ signing of Chris Smith and ultimately determined the move wasn’t in violation of circumventing the salary cap, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post. Previous reports have indicated rival agents believe the Knicks signed J.R. Smith and his younger brother as a package deal. However, a league official tells Berman that Chris is “one of those projects” who may not help immediately, but could develop into an NBA player.
Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- If the Knicks need to add a free agent, Smith may be the player released to make room, but so far the team has been content to stand pat despite frontcourt injuries. The latest player sidelined is Metta World Peace, who had fluid drained from his knee on Monday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York. However, the procedure was believed to be minor, and MWP is expected back on the court by the end of the week.
- Bobcats guard Ben Gordon tells K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that if the Bulls were to call him when he becomes a free agent next summer, he’d definitely listen. “I had a lot of success here, had a great time here,” Gordon said. “I’m not in position to rule anybody out.”
- According to John Wall, the Wizards’ players believe in Randy Wittman, who isn’t worried that his job is in danger. Michael Lee of the Washington Post has the details.
- Sam Amick of USA Today hears from a person with knowledge of the Wizards thinking that Wittman will still have the opportunity to right the ship in Washington before the team considers a change.
Despite the Knicks having their best year since the 1990s, their coach, Mike Woodson, is on the hot seat, writes ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan [subscription only]. Elhassan goes through five coaches entering the 2013/14 campaign on the hot seat, where their team's success could determine whether they're brought back for the 2014/15 season.
The other four coaches mentioned include Mike D'Antoni of the Lakers, Monty Williams of the Pelicans, Tyrone Corbin of the Jazz, and Randy Wittman of the Wizards.
Conversely, when Roderick Boone of Newsday spoke with new Nets coach Jason Kidd, the new face in Brooklyn told him there was "exciting nervousness" as the team entered training camp. It will be the first training camp for Kidd as a head coach and the first training camp he hasn't begun as a player since the summer before he entered the league in 1994.
Kidd went on to explain to Roderick why he's lucky to start as the coach with the veteran-laden Nets:
"The nice thing about this opportunity with this team is guys being able to sacrifice," Kidd told Boone, "and that's another thing with these guys. Maybe sacrifice a shot or two. Maybe even some of the younger guys will say, 'Yeah, I don't mind not playing the fourth quarter,' and that's sacrifice. It's less minutes and less shots and it gets us a win."
Here's more from around the top-heavy Atlantic division…
In an article he released yesterday, Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram cited that two point guards who interest the Mavericks include Jarrett Jack and the Grizzlies' Jerryd Bayless. The source also said that after the Clippers released Vinny Del Negro, the feeling in Mavs camp is that Chris Paul would likely stay in Los Angeles considering he'd be given significant control over the next coaching hire. With that being said, Dwight Howard continues to be the team's top priority. Here are few more miscellaneous notes from around the league:
- Though the future of Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins still remains uncertain, the impending free agent coach says that he's not worried about an extension or heading elsewhere and is currently focused on the playoffs, "I have a job…I'm happy with where we are and excited about what we're doing. That's my only concern. Everything else is irrelevant" (Teresa M. Walker of NBA.com).
- Erik Spoelstra was pleased about James Jones' decision to not opt out at the end of this year and thus return to the Heat next season, says Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida (Sulia link). Spoelstra: "It's great news…J.J. is a Miami Heat guy. (He and Udonis Haslem), they're special. All of our guys are special in this organization, but they're Miami-bred guys. They're Miami true and blue."
- Ken Berger of CBS Sports tweeted that Jeff Hornacek interviewed with the Bobcats today and that Steve Clifford is headed for his next interview with the Suns, respectively.
- If there's any coach that isn't confident about his team making significant improvements next season, it's definitely not Wizards head coach Randy Wittman, who told CSN Washington: "It doesn't matter with the No. 3 pick. If we could stay healthy and come together as we did last year, have a full season right from the start, we should put ourselves in that (playoff) position…It doesn't matter if we pick eighth, third or 30th" (J. Michael of CSN Washington).
- Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside sheds some light on Mike Singletary (not to be confused with the current NFL assistant coach), who has been making waves for his standout play overseas. The 6'6 swingman, who recently won the NBDL title with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, has been playing for Barako Bull Energy Cola – a PBA team currently participating in a tournament in Dubai. With his solid production in the D-League (10.1 PPG and 4.9 RPG along with 41% shooting from long range in 49 games) and his experience with competitive international play, Schlosser thinks that the next step would involve an NBA summer league invite and is curious to see what kind of opportunities Singletary could find heading up to the start of NBA training camp in the fall.
In his Weekend Dime column, ESPN.com's Marc Stein takes us on a ride around the NBA coaching carousel. You must be this tall to check out the highlights..
- According to sources, Stan Van Gundy's availability already has the Clippers highly intrigued. That doesn't bode well for coach Vinny Del Negro, who might not even be able to save his job with a deep playoff run.
- No team in coaching circles is rated as more likely to make a change than the Pistons. Sources consistently say that Lawrence Frank is going to be ousted when the season is over based on the lack of responsiveness from his players. It would be a big surprise at this stage if the Pistons aren't soon in the market for a coach and they make target a former player.
- One coaching source says that it is "very likely" that Lionel Hollins will get a new deal from the Grizzlies after the playoffs. Word is that they'll still probably keep him in the event of a first round exit.
- More than one source says that Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap is a coach in potential jeopardy, which undoubtedly stems from Michael Jordan's recent promise to season-ticket holders that major offseason changes are on the way. Stein doesn't think that the criticism for Dunlap is fair considering the group that he has to work with.
- Sources continue to link Kelvin Sampson to the Bucks' opening, but interim coach Jim Boylan could get the full-time gig still.
- One source with knowledge of the Suns said this week that Lindsey Hunter has a "good shot" to become the permanent head coach at season's end.
- Byron Scott is believed to have the support of the front office, but there is a growing sense in Cleveland that owner Dan Gilbert will make a change regardless. The coach had had to deal with the absences of Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, and Dion Waiters throughout the year.
- Wizards coach Randy Wittman appears to be safe and he should have less to worry about that the aforementioned coaches on the hot seat.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has a new column in which he touches on a variety of topics from around the NBA and elsewhere in the basketball world. Here are the highlights:
- Wizards head coach Randy Wittman talks to Zillgitt about the difficulty of keeping the locker room engaged as Washington heads towards another losing season.
- Zillgitt takes a look at the Rockets' offense, which has vaulted them into the thick of the playoff race behind the explosive play of James Harden.
- Zillgitt also gives an update on the status of Royce White, who has struggled in the D-League but does not concern the Rockets organization.
- The Magic received excellent value in return for J.J. Redick, Zillgitt writes. He praises the aquisition of cheap, young assets in Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris, as well as a capable veteran with an expiring contract in Beno Udrih.
- Many international players in the NBA are looking ahead to FIBA's Eurobasket tournament this summer, Zillgitt writes.
We're about a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season, which is enough of a sample size that we can say certain teams have underperformed so far. Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today take a look at the coaching situations for a few of those teams in their latest piece, examining whether any head coaches are in danger of being let go. We touched on Dwane Casey's situation with the Raptors in a post this morning, but here are the rest of Amick's and Zillgitt's updates:
- After Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard yesterday that Alvin Gentry wasn't on the hot seat, Amick and Zillgitt spoke to Sarver as well. Sarver's vote of confidence in this case was even stronger, as he told USA Today that Gentry's job is safe for the rest of the season.
- Like the Raptors, the Suns may explore an on-court change rather than a coaching move, with Michael Beasley a candidate to be involved — according to USA Today, there's some disagreement between the team and player about what his role should be. However, Sarver still hopes Beasley will work things out in Phoenix: "We're working with him. He's working hard, and we still expect to be able to (salvage the situation)."
- The Wizards are still paying their last head coach, Flip Saunders, so they're unlikely to replace Randy Wittman this year, since it would mean paying three different coaches.
- Pistons owner Tom Gores has high expectations for his club, and wants to see some progress toward the playoffs this year in Detroit, making it a potential make-or-break season for Lawrence Frank.
- Keith Smart's job with the Kings appears safe, though team president Geoff Petrie's future isn't quite so clear.
- The Nets still have faith in Avery Johnson and expect some peaks and valleys with the team's overhauled roster. However, there's an expectation that the team will not only qualify for the postseason but be in position to "make an impact once they get there."
- Despite a slow start for the Pacers, there's still hope in Indiana that Frank Vogel is around to coach the team for years to come.
MONDAY, 10:11am: The Wizards officially announced today that they'll retain Randy Wittman as head coach, according to a team release. The team didn't release terms of the contract, but according to previous reports, it will be for two years.
"We are excited to bring Randy back as head coach and give him the opportunity to build on the positive momentum that the team showed under his leadership last season," said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. "We were very pleased with the development of our young players and the commitment to winning he instilled despite taking over the team under difficult circumstances."
FRIDAY, 3:46pm: The Wizards are finalizing details on a two-year contract that will make interim coach Randy Wittman the team's permanent head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. An announcement is planned for next week, according to Wojnarowski, who adds that Wittman's relative affordability was a factor in the Wizards' decision not to explore the coaching free agent market.
THURSDAY, 9:09pm: The Wizards plan to retain head coach Randy Wittman, even though no official announcement is expected anytime soon, league sources told Ric Bucher of ESPN The Magazine.
Wittman, already under contract for next season, was tabbed as interim coach after Washington fired Flip Saunders following a 2-15 start. While the club plans to keep the 52-year-old, sources said that there has been no indication that the Wizards plan to extend his contract.
Even though there are a number of high-profile coaches available, the Wizards haven't expressed interest in interviewing any outside candidates. The Wizards might have considered a big-name hire but didn't believe that it would be worth the cost during a rebuilding phase.
With the eighth, 37th, and 56th selections in this upcoming NBA Draft, the Raptors could potentially draft three rookies in addition to bringing last year's draft pick, Jonas Valanciunas, into the fold for next season. Stephen Brotherston of HoopsWorld spoke with GM Bryan Colangelo, who is looking to explore multiple scenarios with his second round picks. Colangelo admits that bringing in three rookies may not be the best scenario, and that he will consider packaging picks in order to move up the draft board or possibly make a second round selection with the intention of developing that prospect in Europe for a few years. Here's more of what we're hearing from around the league this evening, including an update of the Bobcats head coaching search.
- ESPN's Chris Broussard tweeted that the Bobcats will narrow their list of coaches after they interview Lakers assistant coach Quin Snyder next week and that a decision will be made after the conclusion of the NBA pre-draft camp.
- Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress presents his video scouting report of University of Washington's Tony Wroten with some input from Wroten's former coach, Lorenzo Romar. Schmitz lists Wroten's size, athleticism, rebounding rate for a guard, defensive instincts, and ability to get to the basket off the dribble among his strengths, while his decision making, shooting touch, defensive consistency, and ability to go right have room for improvement. He is currently projected to be this year's 25th pick according to DraftExpress.
- LaMarcus Aldridge is feeling much better after recently suffering from a potentially fatal blood virus, and personally thanked the Trail Blazers fans for their support.
- Chris Broussard (via Twitter) polled 22 league executives on who they would trade between Russell Westbrook and James Harden if one of them had to be dealt for financial reasons. 14 would prefer to deal Westbrook, while eight would deal Harden.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Bobcats are contemplating a team color change. While team spokesman B.J. Evans reiterated that the possible change would neither increase or decrease the chances of considering a new name, Bonnell mentions that there have been some rumblings about the franchise eventually re-acquiring the Hornets nickname from New Orleans. Tom Benson, who recently purchased the New Orleans Hornets, reportedly wants to re-name the team once the sale closes, thus opening the door to such a possibility.
- Wizards insider Michael Lee of the Washington Post provides his take on the team's decision to retain head coach Randy Wittman, who went 18-31 after replacing Flip Saunders during this year's lockout shortened season.