Month: April 2017

Odds & Ends: West, Cousins, Ginobili, Celtics

David West seems content with the Pacers, as he tells Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, but the Hawks, armed with plenty of cap space, might be planning to make a run at him in free agency this summer, a source tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. That's not entirely surprising, since Atlanta is on track to have enough cap room for a pair of max free agents. The Hawks probably wouldn't make West their top priority, since they seem ready to go after Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but if they strike out on them, West might not be too far down the list. Here's more as we enter the final month before free agency starts:
  • Rival teams may have been behind a report that the Kings are ready to trade DeMarcus Cousins, Deveney hears, adding that the team's new owners have yet to decide what they want to do with the turbulent big man. Deveney wonders if the Kings might do some message-management of their own and have incoming coach Michael Malone talk up Cousins to increase his value.
  • As for Cousins, sources tell Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that he isn't looking for a trade (Twitter link).
  • Manu Ginobili's contract is up June 30th, but he told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News that he has no plans to retire. The 35-year-old seems likely to return to the Spurs and expects to take a paycut to do so, though he and agent Herb Rudoy aren't starting negotiations with the team until July 1st.
  • The Celtics attempted to acquire either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson at the trade deadline, but couldn't work out a deal with the Jazz for one of their big men, tweets Greg Dickerson of CSNNE.com. Boston is reportedly interested in Millsap as a free agent.
  • The Rockets plan to pursue Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but with the league telling teams to expect a $58.5 million salary cap and $71.5MM tax line next season, squeezing both onto the team will be nearly impossible, as HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram examines.
  • Kelvin Sampson would have been Brandon Jennings' choice to coach the Bucks, reports Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. The team hired Larry Drew instead, a choice that was definitely GM John Hammond's call, unlike the team's hiring of former coach Scott Skiles (Twitter links).

NBA Imposes Deadline For New Sacramento Arena

The NBA has the right to arrange for sale to another ownership group and move the Kings out of Sacramento if the team isn't playing in a new arena by 2017, Dale Kasler, Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee report. Vivek Ranadive and his partners, who officially assumed control of the team earlier today, have said they can have a new arena in place by 2016, but commissioner David Stern insisted the Ranadive group agree in writing to the deadline based on his misgivings about "very rosy predictions by both Seattle and Sacramento about the ease with which this building could take place."

Ranadive's spokesman said the owners are "absolutely confident" about their ability to deliver the arena on time. The league will force the Kings to meet several other benchmarks in the process of building the arena as well, including the completion of environmental reviews. If the team misses any of these deadlines, the league can engineer the team's move to another city. The group of Seattle investors that was competing to buy the team from the Maloof family agreed to a similar set of deadlines with the league.

The new Kings owners have plans for a $448MM downtown arena. The city will provide $258MM worth of funding, though that contribution could be subject to a public vote if an opposition group's petition drive is successful.

Ranadive and company own 65% of the team, and will soon own 72%, as Kasler reports. Ranadive is purchasing a 7% share that's being held in bankruptcy. Chris Hansen, the leader of the Seattle bidders, has canceled his deal to assume that share. Ranadive's $15MM price for the share is the same amount as Hansen's offer.

Dwight Howard Leaning Toward Rockets

Dwight Howard is leaning toward signing with the Rockets, but he'll meet with every potential suitor once free agency begins July 1st, according to HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy (Twitter links). The Rockets are increasingly optimistic about their chances to land the big man, though given the indecisiveness he's shown in the past, Houston may not be his preferred destination by July 10th, the first day he can sign a contract.

Officials from teams other than the Lakers can't talk to Howard until July 1st, but that doesn't preclude players on opposing teams from chatting with him and trying to influence his decision. Howard has already spoken with James Harden, sources tell Kennedy, who believes Howard and Rockets sharpshooter Chandler Parsons have spoken as well (Twitter link). A conversation with Parsons might have been somewhat odd, since there's a chance he might not be around if the Rockets end up with Howard. Parsons' $926,500 contract for next season, partially guaranteed for $600K, could wind up a casualty of the team's effort to clear cap space, as Salary Cap FAQ author Larry Coon surmised last month. Houston already appears to be shopping Thomas Robinson in an effort to make room for Howard. 

The Rockets, along with the Lakers, Mavericks and Hawks, appear to be the most fervent suitors of Howard, though Kennedy reported a couple of weeks ago that there's still mutual interest between Howard and the Nets. Brooklyn's salary cap limitations would make it almost impossible for him to wind up there, but if Howard is as open to pitches from teams as he seems to be, other clubs with cap room may get involved. 

Howard is eligible for a contract of up to four years and about $87.59MM if he signs with a team other than the Lakers. If he stays with the purple and gold, he could get up to five years and $117.95MM.

Clippers Rumors: Del Negro, CP3, Scott

Chris Paul is reportedly upset about the perception that he engineered the ouster of coach Vinny Del Negro, but the former Clippers coach and the team agree that CP3 wasn't involved. We've got more details on that, as well as the latest on a search for Del Negro's replacement: 

  • Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks tells Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com that the dismissal of Del Negro was "an organizational decision from the top down." Sacks confirmed to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times that he, Sterling, team president Andy Roeser, and director of basketball operations Eric Miller all agreed that Del Negro should go.
  • Del Negro echoed those comments, telling Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld that Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the one who made the final decision to part ways with him. Del Negro will probably take next season off, but remains open to coaching again.
  • Sacks tried to make it clear that he doesn't believe players should have power when it comes to major decisions for the team. "I don't think players should be consulted on any decisions personnel-wise once we decide on something," Sacks said to Turner. "Do we, in the course of talking to our players, get some input? Sure. But all decisions are made strictly by us — 100%. There's no wavering. There's no gray area there."
  • If Paul had gone to the team's brass to lobby for Del Negro to keep his job, management would have tried to change his mind on the issue, a source tells Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, furthering the point that the decision wasn't in CP3's hands (Twitter links).
  • Turner adds Byron Scott to the list of coaching candidates with whom the team has had preliminary discussions, one that already included Brian Shaw, Jeff Van Gundy and Alvin Gentry.

Union Zeroes In On Steve Mills To Replace Hunter

Former Madison Square Garden president Steve Mills is the top candidate to become the next executive director of the players union, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The position has been vacant since the All-Star break, when the union let go of longtime chief Billy Hunter. Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game reported last week that the union had expressed interest in Mills, who also served as an executive vice president of the Knicks and has worked for the league. Part of that interest stems from Mills' knowledge of the other side of the negotiating table.

Hunter had been running the players association for 17 years, so the process of hiring his successor is a new one for most, if not all, involved. Agent Arn Tellem, speaking at the time of Hunter's ouster, advised the players to take their time in making the decision, and it appears they've heeded his suggestion. Names that have been linked to the open job include NHL Players Association executive director and former baseball union chief Don Fehr, as well as B. Todd Jones, the Minnesota attorney general and acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Hunter's controversial dismissal prompted him to file suit earlier this month against the union, president Derek Fisher, and Fisher's publicist, alleging defamation and breach of contract, among other charges. None of the parties named in the suit have responded, and no court date has been set.

Mills is currently CEO of Athletes & Entertainers Wealth Management Group. Union attorney Ron Klempner is serving as interim executive director while the search continues, though it's unclear whether he'll be considered to permanently take over the post.

Masai Ujiri Accepts Raptors GM Job

7:27pm: The Raptors officially announced Ujiri as their new GM. The team sent out a press release including comment from Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Raptors.

"We feel very lucky to have Masai in our organization. He is a proven judge of talent and we look for him to be a big part of creating a winning atmosphere, leading us to the playoffs and, ultimately, delivering NBA championships for Toronto," Leiweke said. "I would also like to publicly thank the Kroenkes in Denver for being such a class organization that they would allow Masai to pursue his dream. They put him first in all of our discussions."

The Nuggets also released statements from team president Josh Kroenke as well as Ujiri.

4:27pm: Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has decided to accept the Raptors' GM job, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).  The well-respected exec received a five-year offer from Toronto earlier this week.

It's believed that Ujiri will earn $15MM over the course of the deal, good for a $3MM average annual value.  Ujiri gave the Nuggets an opportunity to match the deal, but that apparently wasn't in the cards.  His deal was set to expire at the end of June.

Ujiri is coming off a tremendous season in Denver as the Nuggets finished with their best regular season record in franchise history, excluding their ABA days.  The GM was given the league's 2013 Executive of the Year award for his work.

The spot became open in Toronto earlier this month when the club decided to transition former GM Bryan Colangelo over to a business role.  While there were bright spots for the club during Colagelo's tenure at the helm, they never quite met expectations during his seven year tenure at the helm.  

Colangelo told Hoops Rumors in a conference call that he was willing to offer his advice in the club's search for his successor, but it's not clear if he was ever asked.  The Raptors were linked to Kevin Pritchard and Troy Weaver as well, but reportedly had a strong preference for Ujiri.

Kings Dismiss Keith Smart

FRIDAY, 7:18pm: The Kings have officially announced that Smart won't be back, via press release. The team has reportedly already reached an agreement with Malone to succeed Smart as coach, and the official word on his hiring is expected to take place on Monday, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 7:49pm: According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Keith Smart will not be retained as the head coach of the Kings. It isn't much of a surprise considering that team ownership has apparently had their sights set on Warriors assistant Michael Malone, and Amick writes that Malone could be officially hired as early as this Monday. While there hasn't been an official press release yet, Amick clarifies that majority owner Vivek Ranadive had notified Smart of the franchise's plans to part ways with him shortly after the NBA Board of Governors approved the Sacramento-based investment group's purchase of the Kings just a few days ago (Twitter link). 

Ironically, this is the second time that Smart has been relieved of his head coaching duties after a change in team ownership, as Amick looked back at the time when the 48-year-old coach was let go in Golden State shortly after Joe Lacob, Peter Gruber, and Ranadive had purchased the Warriors. Smart is confident that he'll find another opportunity in the NBA next season. 

Several Candidates Emerge For Nuggets GM Job

Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke's strong relationship with Masai Ujiri was the primary force behind the outgoing Denver GM's hesitation to accept Toronto's five-year, $15MM offer to jump to the Raptors front office, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Nuggets were willing to give Ujiri a deal worth $1.2MM a year, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. Still, none of it was enough to convince Ujiri to stay, and now the Nuggets are the team looking for a new GM. There's early talk about several who could eventually get the job, as we detail below:

  • Nuggets assistant GM Pete D'Alessandro and director of player personnel Mike Bratz are viable options, sources tell Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • Wojnarowski speculates that the Nuggets could promote D'Alessandro or go after Cavaliers assistant GM David Griffin. The Nuggets offered Griffin the job in 2010, but he turned them down, leading Denver to turn to Ujiri.
  • Other executives who figure to be top candidates include Gersson Rosas of the Rockets, Bobby Marks of the Nets, Tim Connelly of the Pelicans, Wes Wilcox of the Hawks and Scott Perry of the Magic, according to Wojnarowski.
  • The Nuggets could have some competition if they want to go with D'Alessandro, since Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, the leading candidate to take the GM job in Sacramento, would like to hire him to work in the Kings front office, Amick reports (Twitter link). 
  • Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk interviewed well with the Kings, Amick tweets, arguing that Schlenk could be a fit in Denver if it doesn't work out for him in Sacramento.
  • Assistant GMs Tommy Sheppard of the Wizards and Jeff Weltman of the Bucks have ties to the Nuggets and bear watching as the Nuggets' search takes place, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

Bucks Hire Larry Drew

5:55pm: Drew's deal will cover four years and is worth $10MM, sources tell ESPN's Chris Broussard.

4:29pm: The Bucks have hired Larry Drew to be their next coach, GM John Hammond tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).  Drew was one of three finalists for the gig but the Bobcats' hiring of Steve Clifford left it as a two-horse race between Drew and Kelvin Sampson.

In three seasons as the Hawks' head coach, Drew compiled a 128-102 record and took the club to the playoffs all three years, including the conference semifinals in 2010-11.  Drew's contract was set to expire on June 30th, but he has long been expected to be replaced as coach.  Atlanta recently found their new man in Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer

"After a thorough search and interview process, it was clear to us that Larry's track record in Atlanta, along with his experience as an assistant coach and player, make him the right choice to lead our club," Hammond said in a statement. "We look forward to what he will bring this franchise and we welcome him and his family to Milwaukee." 

Drew's deal will give him a guaranteed three years with a team option for year four, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), as well as Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Before he wound up with the Bucks, there appeared to have been mutual interest between Drew and the Pistons, who are still searching for their next head coach.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Raptors Likely To Keep Dwane Casey

The Raptors have a new GM, luring Masai Ujiri from the Nuggets with a five-year, $15MM offer, but it appears they'll keep their coach. Ujiri will likely allow coach Dwane Casey to remain in his job, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Casey is entering the final season of his contract and is a favorite of former GM Bryan Colangelo, who was reassigned. If Colangelo had kept his GM post, he said he would have hung on to Casey as well.

Despite the apparent status quo decision on the coach, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun believes the arrival of Ujiri signals a shakeup is coming in the Raptors front office (Twitter link). It's not exactly clear what those changes would entail, though Wolstat thinks Ujiri won't hesitate to go against Colangelo's wishes, even as the ex-GM retains an advisory role in the team's basketball operations department.

Though Casey may keep his job for the coming season, he could wind up in the same lame-duck situation as Larry Drew endured with the Hawks this past season. Drew's departure from Atlanta was rumored almost from the moment Danny Ferry took over as GM last summer. The defensive-minded Casey is 57-91 in two seasons as Raptors coach, and went 53-69 in parts of two seasons coaching the Timberwolves. Toronto finished in the middle of the pack defensively this year, giving up 98.7 points per game, 17th most in the NBA.

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