Aaron Nelson

Pelicans Notes: Celtics Trade, Knox, Gentry, Trainer

The Celtics’ flameout in the postseason may have reduced the possibility of the Pelicans trading Anthony Davis to Boston, according to Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate. A package of forward Jayson Tatum and a handful of the Celtics’ first-round draft picks would have been considered a fair return for Davis, who can become a free agent after next season. However, Tatum regressed in his second season and struggled during the postseason, Kushner continues. Boston’s incentive to acquire Davis has diminished with the likely departure of Kyrie Irving and the lack of enough quality pieces around Davis after a potential trade to make a championship run, Kushner adds.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • The team’s front office has quietly gathered intelligence on the Knicks’ first-round pick, forward Kevin Knox, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. Knox averaged 12.8 PPG in his rookie campaign and improved his shooting percentage as the season went along. If the Knicks win the lottery, that pick plus Knox and other assets could be attractive to New Orleans. However, there’s no consensus within the Knicks organization about trading that pick, even for a shot at Davis, Begley adds.
  • Alvin Gentry’s personality is the main reason why new VP of basketball operations David Griffin retained him, Kushner reveals in a separate story. Gentry’s lighthearted, professional and charismatic persona held the locker room together after Davis’ trade request, and Gentry also deftly handled the situation in the media, Kushner continues. Gentry and Griffin developed a longstanding friendship when they worked together with the Suns, Kushner adds.
  • Griffin said new athletic trainer Aaron Nelson changed the way he approached scouting, as he detailed to The Athletic’s William Guillory. Griffin poached Nelson from the Suns staff. They have been friends since 1993. “As I watched Aaron and his staff do what they were doing, it changed the way I scouted players,” Griffin said. “It changed what I looked for in players. My devotion to what they were doing in terms of changing player bio-mechanics was really complete. It literally impacted every part of my career after that.”

Southwest Notes: Nene, Pelicans, Gay, Guards

Nene didn’t play in the Rockets first four playoff games but he saw action in the team’s closeout win over the Jazz and Game 1 loss to the Warriors, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes.

“It’s a man’s game and he’s a man,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Nene’s play. “He’s effective for limited minutes. We have to be careful with him because we like for him to last the whole time. But he was good.”

Nene only suited up in 42 games for the Rockets this season. He’s made all six of his attempts over the past two playoff games, giving Houston 22 minutes of solid play.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans have poached athletic trainer Aaron Nelson from the Suns, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports (Twitter link). Vice president of basketball operations David Griffin worked with Nelson while the two were in Phoenix together.
  • Rudy Gay is the only free agent of “significance” in San Antonio, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes in his Spurs offseason preview, adding that Gay would like to stay with the Spurs on a “team-friendly” deal. The combo forward made slightly over $10MM this past season.
  • The Spurs could look to trade either Bryn Forbes of Marco Belinelli, Deveney contends in the same piece. The team has a logjam at their guard spots and both Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have too much upside for Spurs to think about moving either of them. Deveney also adds that coach Gregg Popovich, who’s expected to sign a new deal with San Antonio, values Patty Mills as a leader, making his departure unlikely.

Western Notes: Dieng, George, Nelson, Williams

In an interesting pierce regarding former head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau‘s tenure with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic shares a story involving how the relegation of forward Gorgui Dieng to the bench was just one example of Thibodeau’s inability to effectively communicate and integrate with others in the organization.

Dieng, a starter for all 82 games in Minnesota during the 2016/17 season, Thibodeau’s first, showed up for training camp in 2017 expecting to continue starting, or at least have an opportunity to compete for a starting position with newly-signed Taj Gibson, a stalwart for Thibodeau during his days in Chicago coaching the Bulls. After all, Dieng had just signed a four-year, $62.8MM contract extension with the Timberwolves the previous summer.

However, before the first practice of camp, and without any communication of any kind from Thibodeau or any representative thereof, Dieng was relegated to the second unit by discovering a second-unit jersey hanging in his locker. Per Krawczynski, Dieng took the lack of communication as a sign of disrespect, one which he seemingly never got over during the course of Thibodeau’s tenure with the Timberwolves.

Rather, Dieng’s play suffered, as did his playing time, going from 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game in 2016/17 to averages of 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 16.9 MPG, with zero starts, during the 2017/18 campaign. With two seasons left on his current contract, Dieng, now 29, will look to return to the form he displayed during the 2016/17 season, as Gibson enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, his future with the Timberwolves still unknown.

There’s more news from the Western Conference this afternoon:

  • It’s clear from his decision to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder this summer that Paul George wants to be in Oklahoma City, but the question now becomes whether or not George is able and willing to overtake Russell Westbrook as the franchise’s marquee player, which Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes may be necessary if the Thunder ever want to reach their full potential with the team’s current core.
  • Pelicans‘ new general manager David Griffin is prioritizing hiring highly-respected trainer Aaron Nelson, currently the Suns’ Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance, away from Phoenix, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times. As his profile on the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association states, Nelson and his staff have built the Suns into an industry leader with a reputation for prolonging the careers of some of the game’s best players.
  • In other Suns’ news, 76ers’ assistant coach Monty Williams, a highly-regard head-coaching candidate this offseason for both Phoenix and the Lakers, had a “very positive” meeting with Suns’ brass on Friday (story). Williams, the first candidate to meet with the Suns’ front office since Igor Kokoskov‘s firing on Monday, is a top contender to be James Jones‘ pick for the team’s next head coach.