Alex Jensen

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Hayward, Lakers’ Coach, Clippers

After a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, it may seem like the Lakers would take whatever they can get in a trade this offseason for Russell Westbrook and his $47MM+ salary, but that’s not the case, Marc Stein writes at Substack.com. According to Stein, Los Angeles will have “more boundaries than advertised” when weighing potential Westbrook deals.

For one, the Lakers will seriously consider a player’s injury history as they explore the trade market for Westbrook. Given how costly injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis were in 2021/22, the team doesn’t want to bring on another high-priced veteran who has been unable to stay healthy in recent years.

In Stein’s view, that means the Lakers are unlikely to be very interested in a trade with the Hornets that includes Gordon Hayward, who has missed 61 of 154 regular season games in Charlotte over the last two years, plus both play-in games. If the Lakers and Hornets discuss Westbrook, it’s possible Hayward could be moved to a third team or Terry Rozier could be substituted as a headliner, but those scenarios would be less appealing from Charlotte’s perspective.

Here are a few more items on the NBA’s two L.A. teams:

  • Outside of the previously-reported big-name targets who are currently coaching other teams – including Nick Nurse, Doc Rivers, and Quin Snyder – the Lakers may consider candidates such as Scott Brooks, Terry Stotts, former Lakers coach Mike Brown, and Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for their head coaching vacancy, per Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.
  • According to Woike and Turner, people with knowledge of coaching situations around the NBA believe the Lakers‘ open coaching position isn’t looked upon especially favorably, due to concerns about possible front office meddling and the roster/cap situation. “Is the Lakers’ job that attractive?” one coaching agent said. “I’m not so sure it is. But someone will take the job.”
  • Getting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in their lineup next season will significantly increase the Clippers‘ ceiling, but there are still areas to improve if the team wants to ensure it’s a title contender, says Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group. Fortifying the point guard spot will be an offseason goal, and replacements will be necessary if key rotation players like Isaiah Hartenstein (UFA) and Nicolas Batum (player option) don’t return.
  • While Leonard’s and George’s injuries limited the Clippers‘ potential in 2021/22, their absences allowed a handful of young players to step in and grow up fast, Swanson writes in a separate story. Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Hartenstein, Amir Coffey, and Brandon Boston Jr. – all of whom are 25 or younger – had bigger roles than they would have if the team had been healthier, which could pay off for the club down the road.

Quin Snyder, Danuel House Enter Protocols

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced (via Twitter). Lead assistant Alex Jensen will serve as acting head coach when the club plays the Timberwolves on Sunday.

According to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links), Snyder was at the team’s morning shootaround. He’s currently feeling “alright,” Jensen said. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN also notes (via Twitter) that Snyder is the 18th head coach to enter health and safety protocols this season.

The Jazz will be playing without Donovan Mitchell (concussion), Rudy Gobert (calf) and Trent Forrest (ankle) in the contest. The team has been dealing with availability issues throughout the month, dropping to fourth in the Western Conference at 30-20. Utah owns just a 2-8 record in its last 10 games.

In addition to Snyder, forward Danuel House has also entered protocols. House is currently on his third 10-day contract with Utah. His first deal was signed via a hardship exception, so he’s currently on his second traditional 10-day contract.

Snyder is in his seventh season as Utah’s head coach. Following Sunday’s road game, the Jazz will return home for a six-game stint that starts with facing Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Wednesday.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Thomas, Wolves, Jensen

The Nuggets reshaped their rotation with the additions of forward Aaron Gordon and reserve center JaVale McGeeMike Singer of the Denver Post details Denver’s thinking behind the two acquisitions.

Singer cites the interest of Denver head coach Mike Malone in adding an experienced, rim-protecting playoff veteran in the post as the motivation behind adding McGee. The Nuggets are hopeful that McGee can help add some interior toughness against his old team, the Lakers.

The addition of Gordon makes sense as a solid “tweener” forward replacement for departed small forward Jerami Grant, capable of making an impact on both ends of the floor, Singer contends. The Nuggets did their due diligence in researching Gordon’s off-court fit as well as his on-court fit. Singer also notes that, because the team moved on from Gary Harris as part of the Gordon deal, Will Barton now appears destined to become the club’s starting shooting guard for the rest of the year.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz view new acquisition Matt Thomas as a keeper beyond this season, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (via Twitter). The 6’4″ shooting guard has a non-guaranteed $1.78MM salary for the 2021/22 season, but Utah doesn’t intend to waive him in the offseason. Thomas appeared in 26 games for the Raptors this season, averaging just 7.4 MPG.
  • The front office of the lowly Timberwolves, led by team president Gersson Rosas, opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. Jon Krawczynski and Britt Robson of The Athletic report that the Wolves wanted a power forward upgrade, but struggled to find a deal they liked. Minnesota is the worst team in the West with a 10-34 record. “We could’ve acquired those high-end guys today, but it’s short term,” Rosas said. “From a long-term perspective, we’re very excited about our young guys and what the future holds for them. That’s why we weren’t as active as we potentially could’ve been.”
  • Jazz assistant coach — and Utah Utes alum — Alex Jensen has withdrawn from consideration for the head coaching gig with his alma mater, according to Christopher Kamrani and Tony Jones of The Athletic“He had great conversations with [Utah Athletic Director] Mark Harlan and knows it is a very positive situation but the timing was not right,” a source told Kamrani and Jones.

Western Notes: Johnson, Redick, Blazers, Jensen

Mavericks forward James Johnson missed five games for Dallas due to both traveling for a family emergency and then needing to enter COVID-19 protocols, but the veteran enforcer rejoined the Mavericks for a team practice today, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com. Johnson can return to the hardwood tomorrow for the club’s game against the Timberwolves, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com (Twitter link) adds.

“We don’t get that much chemistry going on throughout this [COVID-19] thing, and how we have to be separated a lot,” Johnson noted of this unique 2020/21 season. “The times that we can get it are at practice and on the road, and I miss that.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Veteran Pelicans wing J.J. Redick is most likely to be bought out of his expiring $13MM contract after the trade deadline passes, and ink a deal with a team on the East Coast to be near his family, sources tell Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and forward Nassir Little have entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and are missing at least this evening’s contest against the Nets, Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets.
  • Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen has been given the go-ahead by the team to interview for the head coaching gig with his alma matter, the University of Utah, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). Brandon Judd of the Deseret News notes that Jensen, a former Utes player, has been on the Jazz’s bench since 2013.

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.