Although the Hornets fired him as head coach following the 2017/18 season, Steve Clifford still had a good relationship with general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Michael Jordan, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Those ties resulted in Clifford getting his old job back after Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson pulled out of an agreement to coach the team.
“You want to evolve and get better at what you do,” Clifford said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “I have coached a lot more games than I had when I was here the first time and worked with another team. You learn a lot from that.”
Clifford was brought in to fix a defense that ranked 22nd in the league this season, and he told reporters that will be an emphasis. Clifford doesn’t plan major changes to the offense, which will continue with a fast-paced philosophy led by LaMelo Ball.
“We are going to play offensively with a very similar emphasis that they have played with the last couple of years,” Clifford said. “Offense starts with playing through the strengths of your best players and Ball is a great talent with a passion for the game and a flair for playing in the open court and we want to take advantage of that.”
There’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- Acquiring Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks from the Knicks will give the Pistons greater flexibility next offseason, observes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Detroit will have team options on both players for 2023/24 and can create $19MM in cap room by letting them go. With Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo both on expiring contracts, Kelly Olynyk holding a $3MM partial guarantee and DeAndre Jordan‘s $7.9MM in dead money coming off the books, the Pistons should have north of $45MM in cap space for 2023, Edwards writes.
- Celtics guard Marcus Smart barely notices anymore when he’s the subject of trade talks, tweets basketball writer Mark Murphy. “Every year my name is in talks, and I’m still here,” Smart said. “I’m still the longest tenured Celtic. So I take it as a compliment. It means you’re valued pretty high and if your name is talked about people want you. But I don’t pay much attention.”
- The Raptors are expected to target centers in free agency with Isaiah Hartenstein and Thomas Bryant being players to watch, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
- Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines the Sixers‘ options in free agency and looks at how James Harden‘s option decision will impact the team’s cap situation.