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.
Richard Hamilton was one name linked to the Timberwolves as they consider adding a wing, but he’s far from the team’s only potential target. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that Evan Turner has fans among the Wolves front office, and that the 76ers would be open to moving him. In a piece for the Star Tribune, Jerry Zgoda also mentions Turner and identifies a few other possible options.
With that aside, let’s take a look at what else is going on around the Western Conference:
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports takes a look at the Nuggets’ offseason, starting with Josh Kroenke’s agonizing decision to fire Coach of the Year George Karl.
- ESPN’s David Thorpe examines Omer Asik‘s trade value and explores a few potential trades involving the Rockets’ center (Insiders only).
- Earlier this week, we noted that there has been mutual interest between the Jazz and free agent guard Jamaal Tinsley, although nothing appeared to be imminent. Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune was able to relay some of head coach Tyrone Corbin‘s comments today regarding the 35-year-old point guard: “He’s a guy that’s on the list…We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. He’s a guy we’re comfortable with. I really respect what he brings to the team. We’ll look and see if it’s the right fit going forward.”
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter) doesn’t expect the Spurs to make any roster cuts until after the team’s road trip ends in Miami on Saturday. McDonald also points out that although San Antonio only has to make one more roster cut, they could possibly opt for two.
- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich drew a parallel between Manu Ginobili and new addition Marco Belinelli: “I consider him to have the same mindset as Manu, which means I’m going to have to be patient as I’ve learned with Manu. Manu taught me to shut up and just watch him play a little more, which is a good thing. And Marco is going to be the same way. They both have the same passion for the game. They have no fear, which most of the time is good, but sometimes it can bite you. But I would rather have that than somebody who is timid” (NBA.com via the Associated Press).
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
Wolves president of basketball ops Flip Saunders consulted coach Rick Adelman this summer as the team was debating the merits of signing J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Martin. It was Martin, Adelman's former player on the Rockets and the only one of the trio who signed with Minnesota, who stood out to the longtime coach.
"All of them could help us," Adelman said, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune notes. "Anybody who could make a shot was going to help us. But Kevin I knew so well and I knew he’s going to get you 20 points every time he steps on the floor."
Zgoda passes along more from Adelman on his decision to return to the bench this season and his working relationship with Saunders, and we have more on Minnesota's rivals in the Northwest:
- Blazers GM Neil Olshey was testy with reporters when asked about LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors at media day today, as Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge notes. For his part, Aldridge reiterated that he's not angling to get out of Portland. Golliver has a complete transcript of Olshey's media day comments here.
- Olshey and Blazers coach Terry Stotts both expect the team to make the playoffs this season, as Mike Tokito of The Oregonian observes.
- Tyrone Corbin, entering the final season of his contract with the Jazz, will be judged on how well the team's players develop this season rather than wins and losses, opines Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.
- We rounded up the latest from the Nuggets earlier this evening, including the team's addition of Kyle Fogg to its training camp roster.
Tyrone Corbin is entering his fourth year as the coach of the Jazz. We mentioned earlier ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan's belief Corbin is on the coaching hot seat this season, with front court nucleus Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson gone in free agency to the Hawks and Bobcats, respectively.
Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune profiles Corbin as he enters the final year of his contract with the Jazz "where an extension is unlikely." Corbin will shepherd an inexperienced group unlikely to cause much of a ruckus in the tough Western Conference. His place as part of the rebuilding Jazz is murky, at best.
Here's what else is happening around the Northwest division on a jam-packed Saturday night as NBA training camps finally open…
- The Deseret News' Jody Genessy details the 20 training camp Jazz invites, including Justin Holiday, the older brother (Twitter) of Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday.
- Justin Holiday, Genessy adds via Twitter, is one of 7 players who will be in Jazz camp with non-guaranteed deals, as well as the 13 players (Twitter) already with guaranteed deals.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune details the five major issues facing the Timberwolves as they enter training camp. The primary issue is health with their nucleus of Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, all missing time last season as the 'Wolves again failed to reach the playoffs.
- Zgoda also goes through the uncertain contract status of power forward Derrick Williams. If the 'Wolves don't exercise their option paying him $6.33MM next season, the former No. 2 overall pick will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
- With the 'Wolves facing a lot of contract unknowns in the near future Williams place with them is uncertain.
- The Timberwolves' Chase Budinger may miss 6-8 weeks as swelling and discomfort continue in the same left knee that sidelined him for all but five games last season, Zgoda reported earlier today. An MRI revealed, according to coach Flip Saunders, "a little something in there." The news comes fresh after Budinger re-signed with the 'Wolves for three years and $15MM this summer.
- Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman asked Thunder players Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka what nicknames they'd put on their jerseys if the NBA allowed the practice.
- Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that the Nuggets have hired Jim Clibanoff as Director of Scouting. Previously, Clibanoff ran a respected private scouting service.
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…
The Jazz took a step back competitively this summer to open up playing time for their younger guys, and GM Dennis Lindsey promises Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune that the team won't reverse course.
"… We are not running away from the decisions we made," Lindsey said. "We are looking to embrace this and we will embrace it — all the challenges of being so young. I believe we have the talent and character to move forward — incrementally. We are very much looking forward to the start of the journey with this young core group."
Lindsey passed along a couple of other noteworthy tidbits in his conversation with Luhm, and we'll round them up here along with an update on a member of last year's Jazz team:
- The GM explained why the team abandoned its hunt for an annual playoff berth. "We were O.K. with being playoff-competitive as long as we had [salary cap] flexibility, too," he said. "But if we had invested in our veteran players, we were going to lose that flexibility, especially with some other [contract] extensions coming up."
- Lindsey emphasizes a collaborative approach in the front office, which also includes VP of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor and newly hired assistant GM Justin Zanik. Coach Tyrone Corbin has a say, too, and his input was critical in swaying the team to trade for Trey Burke on draft night, Lindsey says.
- Travis Leslie was briefly a member of the Jazz last season, though he didn't appear in a game. He signed with JSF Nanterre in France last month, but comments the team's head coach recently made suggest that Leslie could once more make a quick exit, notes Gabriel Pantel-Jouve of Catch & Shoot (translation via HoopsHype).
A well-deserved congratulations to the Heat for winning the NBA Championship as well as the Spurs for putting up a hard fought series. As we wrap up one of the more memorable Finals matchups in recent history, here are some of tonight's news and notes out of the Western Conference:
- Paul Coro of AZ Central says that Suns GM Ryan McDonough could use one of his three draft picks on an international player under contract and keep him overseas for more seasoning before bringing him over. Coro adds that if Phoenix doesn't select a center with their fifth overall pick, it could certainly be a targeted position with their 30th.
- Given their draft history, Eddie Sefko of SportsDayDFW thinks that the Mavericks will either trade this year's pick or draft an international player with the intent of keeping him overseas as to not take up any of this summer's salary cap space. If they do keep the pick, Sefko thinks that they'll look at either Michael Carter-Williams or Dennis Schroeder. In a separate piece, Sefko boldly predicts that the Mavs will wind up with Dwight Howard this offseason.
- Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is excited to have Jerry Sloan involved with the franchise again, writes Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times thinks that the Clippers going after Doc Rivers at the expense of a first round pick is a no-brainer.
The coaching carousel this offseason is personified by Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek. The former Jazz player was a smart shooting guard next to Hall-of-Famer John Stockton, in the backcourt of some consistently excellent Jazz teams. But even with less than three years of experience on the Jazz bench, he's become a go-to interview for teams with a coaching vacancy.
Brad Rock of the Salt Lake City Desert News opines on Hornacek's bonafides as a head coach somewhere in the league, while current head coach Tyrone Corbin is also in a state of flux, but appears set to return to the sidelines next season after a vote of confidence from general manager Dennis Lindsey. In a summer of discontent for 29 NBA teams (and the city of Seattle), there are still plenty of question marks, like Hornacek, with uncertain, yet bright futures. Like the next item on our list…
- Greg Oden continues to impress those who have seen him workout, with the latest being predraft workout partner and former Ohio State forward, Deshaun Thomas, who told the The Oregonian's Jason Quick the former number one pick, "looks unbelievable." We've already shared Mary Schmitt Boyer's assessment that Oden looks terrific. A number of Eastern Conference teams have already targeted the rehabilitating center and it appears only a matter of time before he's back in the league.
- Speaking of comebacks, what are the Celtics going to do this offseason? Steve Bulpett at the Boston Herald did an informal survey of general managers at the predraft combine in Chicago on Friday, and they were as undecided as most observers. Some believe the Celtics may make another go of it with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, while others think they could blow the whole thing up and trade their franchise mainstays since the summer of 2007 for younger players and draft picks.
- The Thunder aren't undecided; they're title contenders now, and Barry Tramel writes at the Oklahoman that the Thunder are unlikely to make any splashy moves this offseason with about $66.12MM in salary for 10 players next season. The time for the young team to win is now.
- Also, the Oklahoman's staff answered four different questions about the Thunder's 2012/13 season, the most tenuous one being: was the Thunder's season a failure?
Earlier, we heard that Tyrone Corbin's job was safe after GM Dennis Lindsey showed public support for the Jazz head coach. Brad Rock of the Deseret News examines the situation a step further, noting that Utah had finished off the season winning nine of their remaining 12 games in addition to Corbin's ability to do so with much of the roster's status up in the air for next season and beyond. Here's more of what we've heard out of Salt Lake City tonight:
- Marvin Williams tells Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune that he hasn’t thought about his 2013-14 player option, but made sure to mention that he loves playing for the Jazz, coach Corbin, his teammates, and the city (Twitter links)
- DeMarre Carroll has made it known that he wants to return to Utah next season, writes Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune.
- Luhm also notes that the team could take a closer look at point guard Jerel McNeal – a repeat 10-day contract signee late in the season – with Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, and Earl Watson set to become free agents.
- Kurt Kragthorpe, another Tribune columnist, wrote that should both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap leave via free agency this summer, the former would be missed more.
Although there have been a handful of newly created head coaching vacancies in the NBA, don't expect the Jazz to join the list anytime soon. Despite Utah coming up just two wins shy of a postseason berth, general manager Dennis Lindsey offered a strong endorsement of head coach Tyrone Corbin, reaffirming that he's "our coach" and has full support from team ownership (Jody Genessy of the Deseret News tweets). Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter) also noted Lindsey's support, hearing that Corbin is seen as the right person to lead the team and is growing as a coach.
After being swept in the 2011-12 playoffs, the Jazz returned this season competitively in the hunt for a return to the playoffs. While Utah held the seventh seed in the Western Conference as far as mid-February, a 3-12 record from late February into late March pushed them to ninth – where they would ultimately finish the season. Still, as Oram mentions, Lindsey believes that Corbin deserves credit for working with nine impending free agents and four quality big men.
According to Genessy, team brass will wait until next week to evaluate this year's performances and shortcomings.