Alex Jensen

Northwest Notes: Blazers, ‘Melo, Nuggets, Wolves, Jazz

Star point guard Damian Lillard attempted to recruit Carmelo Anthony to the Trail Blazers before the 10-time All-Star was traded to Oklahoma City in 2017 and then again before ‘Melo signed with Houston in 2018.

With Anthony once again on the lookout for a new team, Lillard has made peace with the fact that the veteran forward probably isn’t coming to Portland, as he said during an appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast (video link via ESPN). After Lillard detailed his previous recruiting efforts, he was asked if he’s “not putting [his] hand out again.”

“The team or me,” Lillard responded. “I’m like, ‘He ain’t coming here.’ He deserves to be in the league, but he ain’t coming here.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Free agent point guard Isaiah Taylor is working out for the Nuggets in Denver this week, league sources tell Harrison Wind of BSN Denver (Twitter link). After spending the 2017/18 season with Atlanta, Taylor was pushing for a spot on Cleveland’s roster last fall when he suffered a stress fracture in his leg and was subsequently waived. Now healthy, Taylor has also worked out for the Suns and Celtics, according to Wind.
  • The Timberwolves announced this week in a press release that Sam Newman-Beck will assume head coaching duties for their G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves. Newman-Beck, who was an assistant for the Erie BayHawks last season, previously spent eight years (2010-18) in Minnesota as a coaching associate/video scouting director.
  • Bryan Bailey, who was previously on the Salt Lake City Stars’ staff in the G League, has been hired as an assistant by the Jazz, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jones adds (via Twitter) that Johnnie Bryant and Alex Jensen will continue to be Utah’s lead assistants, with Lamar Skeeter, Zach Guthrie, and Vince Legarza sharing the third assistant role and rotating on the bench.

Grizzlies To Interview Tibbetts For Coaching Job

The Grizzlies have been granted permission to interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching vacancy, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Tibbetts has been on other teams’ lists recently during their head coaching searches. He was expected to be interviewed by the Cavaliers, but they chose Michigan coach John Beilein before that potential meeting. Tibbetts interviewed with the Suns before they selected Monty Williams. He was also one of four finalists for the Hawks job last summer that went to Lloyd Pierce.

Memphis, which parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff after the season, has already interviewed at least three other candidates for the job — former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t filled its head coaching vacancy.

Cavaliers Hire J.B. Bickerstaff As Associate Head Coach

The Cavaliers have hired J.B. Bickerstaff as associate head coach, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. A target of multiple franchises this offseason for a coaching role (including the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers and Kings), Bickerstaff will be tasked with helping new head coach John Beilein make the transition to the NBA.

Bickerstaff, who will now be one of the league’s top paid assistant coaches, is a former head coach of both the Rockets (interim) and Grizzlies. He is also the son of former NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who now serves as a Senior Basketball Advisor for the Cavaliers.

As we relayed last week, the Cavaliers also still plan to hire at least one other person to join Beilein’s staff, potentially from the pool of other candidates that interviewed for the head coaching position, including Alex Jensen (Utah), Jamahl Mosley (Dallas), Jordi Fernandez (Denver), and Nate Tibbetts (Portland).

Bickerstaff, Other Candidates Could Join Beilein’s Staff

New Cavaliers coach John Beilein is expected to meet with former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff to gauge Bickerstaff’s interest in becoming his associate head coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Bickerstaff met with Cleveland’s front office and was also a candidate for the Lakers job before they hired Frank Vogel.

Bickerstaff may not be the only candidate the Cavaliers interviewed who could potentially join Beilein’s staff. They will likely hire at least one other from that pool, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports.

Cleveland stunned the basketball world on Monday by plucking the 66-year-old Beilein out of the college ranks and naming the University of Michigan head man as its head coach.

GM Koby Altman conducted an extensive search, interviewing at least 10 other candidates, mostly NBA assistants. Among that group, Alex Jensen (Utah), Jamahl Mosley (Dallas) and Jordi Fernandez (Denver) are candidates to wind up on Beilein’s staff, as is Nate Tibbetts (Portland), who was expected to get an interview until the Cavs focused on the Wolverines coach.

Beilein is on board with having seasoned NBA assistants on the bench, Vardon continues, but wants to chat with potential candidates to find out which would be the best fits.

Vardon also added these nuggets in his story:

  • There was already mutual interest between the Cavs and Beilein when assistant GM and West Virginia alum Mike Gansey visited his former college coach at the Final Four in Minneapolis on April 6. Beilein was not viewed as a leading candidate for the job at the time mainly because the Cleveland brass doubted Beilein would leave Michigan.
  • Altman and his staff quietly interviewed Beilein last week. Later in the week, Beilein met with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who lives in suburban Detroit. Beilein emerged as the Cavs’ choice after that meeting.
  • The youth and fluidity of the Cavs’ roster intrigued Beilein. It gives Beilein a chance to mold the team to his liking, as he’s done previously in his college stops.

Latest On Suns’, Cavs’ Head Coaching Searches

The Suns met with Monty Williams for a second time on Wednesday night, with team owner Robert Sarver in attendance for the interview, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), league sources say the Suns’ job will be Williams’ if he wants it, and the possibility of a union between the two sides is one that’s gaining real momentum.

However, Williams is in high demand this spring, having also interviewed with the Lakers. Plus, he’d likely be a strong candidate to replace Brett Brown in Philadelphia if the Sixers bow out in the second round and the team decides to make a change on the sidelines. In other words, Williams can afford to be deliberate about his next move.

For what it’s worth, the Suns have yet to formally put an offer on the table to Williams, according to Wojnarowski. Stein and Woj both confirm that Williams is Phoenix’s top target, so the club may be waiting to see if the Lakers make him an offer that can be countered, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic hypothesized earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers – one of the other four teams in the market for a new head coach – continued their search this week by interviewing former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Tuesday, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Vardon also reported that Jazz assistant Alex Jensen would be interviewing with the Cavaliers later in the week — that meeting will take place on Friday, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

The Cavs are being patient as they go through the interview process, and appear likely to meet with their finalists for a second round of interviews once they’ve talked to all the candidates once. Stein reports (via Twitter) that Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, who met with Cleveland earlier in the process, is expected to advance to the next round.

Grizzlies Interview Alex Jensen For Head Coaching Job

After a front office shakeup that saw top decision-maker Chris Wallace re-assigned to the scouting department, the Grizzlies have taken their time addressing their head coaching vacancy. However, we can now add at least one name to their list of candidates.

Jazz assistant Alex Jensen was in Memphis today to interview for the Grizzlies’ head coaching position, league sources tell Tony Jones and Omari Sankofa II of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jensen becomes the first known candidate to replace J.B. Bickerstaff, who was dismissed by Memphis nearly three weeks ago.

Jensen, who has been on the coaching staff in Utah since 2013, has also been identified this month as a candidate for the Cavaliers‘ head coaching job. Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported today (via Twitter) that Jensen’s interview with the Cavs will take place later this week.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Prior to joining the Jazz, Jensen served as the head coach of the G League’s Canton Charge from 2011-13. He has also worked with the German national team in recent years, serving as an assistant coach for the squad since 2015.

Cavs To Interview Jazz Assistant Alex Jensen

The Cavaliers requested and were granted permission to interview Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for their head coaching position, league sources tell Joe Vardon and Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to the Athletic duo, the meeting is expected to take place sometime next week.

The news doesn’t come as a surprise, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this month that the Cavs were expected to meet with Jensen sometime after Utah’s season ended. The Jazz fell to the Rockets on Wednesday night, bringing their first-round series – and their season – to a close.

As Vardon observes (via Twitter), Jensen is one of many candidates with pre-existing ties to Cleveland — he served as the head coach of the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate from 2011-13 before joining the Jazz.

Of the Cavaliers’ other head coaching targets, Jamahl Mosley and Nate Tibbetts were previously a part of coaching staffs in Cleveland, while J.B. Bickerstaff‘s father Bernie Bickerstaff was also a Cavs assistant a few years ago.

Heat assistant Juwan Howard and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool are among the other coaches who have either interviewed for the Cavs’ job or will do so soon.

Cavs To Interview Juwan Howard, Jamahl Mosley, Others

1:32pm: The Cavs also plan to interview Utah’s Alex Jensen and Portland’s David Vanterpool when their teams are done with the playoffs, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link).

12:55pm: Heat assistant Juwan Howard and Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley will be the first two candidates to interview for the Cavaliers‘ head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Both interviews are expected this week.

Cavs GM Koby Altman plans to go through a long list of candidates before hiring a replacement for Larry Drew, Woj adds. The team will start with assistant coaches on teams that didn’t reach the playoffs.

Howard has been part of Erik Spoelstra’s staff in Miami since retiring from the NBA in 2013. Mosley was an assistant in Cleveland for four seasons before leaving for Denver in 2014.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Tolliver, Jensen

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has been sidelined with a left popliteus strain since March 16, but has ramped up his on-court work as he nears a potential return, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. McCollum still wasn’t ready to commit to a specific return date, but sounded optimistic that he won’t be on the shelf for much longer.

“I think, having did some stuff today, I’m going to see how my body reacts, try to get through this week, see where I’m at and kind of go from there,” McCollum said on Wednesday. “When I first got hurt there were some dates that I kind of circled and I’m getting close to them, so I’ll see how I feel. But the biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m symptom-free, make sure I don’t have any lingering issues before I step back on the court.”

With four games left in the season, Portland has a two-game cushion on Utah for the No. 4 seed. The Blazers will finish their season against the Nuggets (twice), the Lakers, and the Kings as they look to secure home court advantage for the first round — it remains to be seen whether McCollum will be able to get back for any of those games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers recorded their 50th win on Wednesday night, which means that injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially earned a $1.25MM bonus. As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details, Portland is now on the hook for another $2.19MM in tax costs, though that number will decrease a little when Maurice Harkless fails to shoot 35% on threes. Nurkic’s cap hit for 2019/20 will rise from $12MM to $13.25MM, since that 50-win bonus is now considered “likely” for next season.
  • When the Timberwolves faced the Mavericks last night, Anthony Tolliver could have been playing against the Wolves rather than for them, notes Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that he thinks Minnesota should have accepted Dallas’ trade offer of J.J. Barea and a second-round pick. Wolfson has previously reported that the Thunder and Raptors offered second-round picks attached to Patrick Patterson and C.J. Miles, respectively, for Tolliver, but those deals would’ve taken the Wolves into the tax.
  • In a discussion at The Athletic, Britt Robson and Jon Krawczynski look ahead to the Timberwolves’ offseason, examining the return from the Jimmy Butler trade, Ryan Saunders‘ future, and much more.
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen interviewed for the head coaching position at BYU this week, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) first identified Jensen as a potential frontrunner for BYU.

Larry Drew Unlikely To Coach Cavs Long-Term

The Cavaliers have begun searching for a permanent head coach for 2019/20 and beyond, and Larry Drew isn’t believed to be a serious candidate, according to a report from Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. While Drew has served as Cleveland’s interim coach since Tyronn Lue‘s dismissal earlier this season, he’s unsure he’d want to return next season and doesn’t appear likely to be asked, per Vardon and Lloyd.

“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” said Drew, who has dealt with a constant stream of injuries since Lue’s ouster, guiding the Cavs to a 9-34 record.

According to Vardon and Lloyd, the Cavaliers will likely seek a first-time NBA head coach who has experience developing players and/or coaching in the G League. The club hasn’t yet begun reaching out to candidates or their agents, since the search is still in its infancy. However, The Athletic duo identifies six candidates who have ties to the Cavs or GM Koby Altman and could be fits. Those six candidates are:

  • Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez
  • Hornets assistant Steve Hetzel
  • Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin
  • Hawks assistant Chris Jent
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen

It’s not entirely clear whether Vardon and Lloyd are just speculating based on the criteria outlined by the Cavs and Altman’s history with those coaches, or if they have inside info on the club’s wish list. Either way, it seems safe to assume that at least a few of those assistants will receive consideration from Cleveland.

For now, Drew is still running the show and the 60-year-old coach admits that he’s happy Lue was let go early in the season — not because he wanted to supplant Lue, but because he believes the Cavs’ struggles this year would have been hard on the team’s former head coach, who battled stress and health issues last season.

“I wouldn’t want to see him go through this,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t want him to go through it from a physical and mental standpoint after some of the things that he went through. He deserves better after having won a championship. He deserves much, much better.”

When the Cavs initially replaced Lue with Drew, he resisted taking on the title of interim head coach until the team gave him a raise and a small financial guarantee for next season. Several months later, he still doesn’t sound like someone who wanted the job to begin with, as Vardon and Lloyd relay.

“I wasn’t looking to do this. I was not looking to do this at all,” Drew said. “But it happened. Ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.”