Eastern Notes: Atkinson, Cavs, Wizards, Wagner, Hawks, More

Discussing the Cavaliers‘ head coaching search this week on an episode of the No Cap Room podcast (YouTube link), Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports described Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as the candidate who “seems to be the leader in the clubhouse right now.” Atkinson has also been linked to another coaching search this spring, according to Fischer.

“Kenny Atkinson was definitely a name involved in the Wizards‘ search,” Fischer said. “… There was definitely expectation around the league that Kenny’s next job would be one of those more developmental teams on the up-and-up, which in theory Cleveland still kind of is, but there are obvious expectations there now. So that would be a much different circumstance – probably a better circumstance, I would say – for Kenny Atkinson, to shed that ‘I’m a rebuild guy’ label.”

Fischer confirms that James Borrego of the Pelicans and Johnnie Bryant of the Knicks are a couple more assistant coaches who are candidates for the Cavaliers’ job, citing Bryant’s connection to Donovan Mitchell dating back to their time in Utah together.

According to Fischer, former Sacramento head coach Dave Joerger is another candidate who will receive consideration from Cleveland. Joerger was hired by the Bucks as an assistant coach after Doc Rivers joined the team earlier this year.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Franz Wagner won’t soon forget his performance in Orlando’s Game 7 first-round loss to Cleveland (six points on 1-of-15 shooting), but his goal is to turn it into a learning experience rather than beating himself up about it, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “That’s going to stick with me all summer,” Wagner said. “Hopefully, I can use it as motivation and fuel that the right way.” As Beede observes, Wagner will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, and while the Magic will likely look to lock him up, it remains to be seen whether the team is prepared to go up to the max to get something done before the 22-year-old’s fourth NBA season.
  • In a 2024 draft class considered to lack star power, whichever player is selected with the No. 1 overall pick will benefit from not being asked to single-handedly turn a franchise around. As Marc J. Spears of ESPN pointed out on the Hawks Report podcast (link via Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the No. 1 pick will be joining a Hawks roster that features more talent than a typical club drafting in that spot. Even if Atlanta trades one of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason, the team would still have one former All-Star in its backcourt, along with promising 22-year-old Jalen Johnson at forward.
  • The WNBA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted this week to approve an expansion franchise for Toronto, while the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 29-1 in favor of the move, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Unsurprisingly, as Wojnarowski details, the only opposing vote belonged to the Knicks, who sued the Raptors last season and remain engaged in a legal battle with their Atlantic rivals. Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum is spearheading Toronto’s new WNBA franchise.
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