Alex Rucker

Atlantic Notes: Nash, Nets, Celtics, Sixers

On Wednesday, the Nets officially introduced Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as their new head coach. The 46-year-old, who has no prior coaching experience, will try to get Brooklyn to the NBA Finals with a healthy roster next season.

The Nets’ new head coach spoke about his lack of experience and the criticism he’s received at his introductory press conference. “Well, I did skip the line, frankly,” Nash said (h/t Tim Bontemps of ESPN). “But at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.”

It will be interesting to see how the 46-year-old Nash leads a Nets team that features Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving next season at the Barclays Center.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Jacque Vaughn, who was the Nets’ interim coach after the team fired Kenny Atkinson in March, will be staying with the organization as Nash’s lead assistant. Despite missing many notable players down in the bubble, Vaughn had the Nets playing hard in the seeding games and playoffs. That effort did not go unnoticed by Nash, who is excited to work with Vaughn. “I think Jacque’s qualities speak for themselves,” Nash said (h/t Nets Daily). “He is an incredibly high character individual, extremely hard-working, prepared, and he is an all-around top human being so to have people like that to work with every day is incredible.”
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has returned to the bubble in Orlando and is in quarantine until Friday, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Hayward suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round of the playoffs last month against the Sixers. While the veteran forward’s return timeline is unclear and his quarantine period isn’t over, he’s allowed to leave his room once per day for exercise and rehab, according to Washburn.
  • Before the Sixers hire a new head coach, they need to address their front office issues, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. As previously reported, multiple league sources do not expect Alex Rucker, who is the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, to return next season. Pompey adds that Rucker played a role behind-the-scenes in decision-making as the team leaned heavily on analytics. In addition to Rucker, assistant general manager Ned Cohen and VP of strategy Sergi Oliva were reportedly also involved in decision-making. There has been nothing as of yet on the futures of Cohen and Oliva.

Sixers Notes: Arena, Brown, Rucker, Embiid, Simmons

The Sixers are possibly looking at building a new basketball arena at Penn’s Landing, according to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer’s report also indicates that the team is lobbying local officials about a plan to have taxpayer support help finance the construction.

The Sixers currently play at the Wells Fargo Center, which is shared with the city’s NHL franchise — Philadelphia Flyers. However, they reportedly want to leave the Wells Fargo Center by 2031.

“The 76ers have long enjoyed a strong relationship with Comcast-Spectacor, but the organization is exploring all options for when its lease ends at Wells Fargo Center in 2031, including a potential arena development at Penn’s Landing,” a Sixers spokesperson said.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Earlier this week, the Sixers fired Brett Brown as their head coach after seven years. The firing came off the heels of Philadelphia being swept in four games by the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Nevertheless, Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports opines that Brown was the wrong scapegoat for the Sixers’ lingering issues. He points out that the 59-year-old was the only stable force in an organization that had three different general managers and 102 different players on the roster during Brown’s tenure.
  • In addition to seeking a new head coach, the Sixers may be in the market for a new executive vice president of basketball operations. Alex Rucker, who currently holds that title, is not expected to be back with the team next season, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Sixers general manager Elton Brand was asked on Tuesday about Rucker’s future. “I’m doing a thorough assessment of our front office,” he said. “I don’t want to pinpoint Alex as a scapegoat or anything like that. Our group has to get stronger, we know that. “So I’m taking time to assess where we are and how we get better. We failed, and we’re not happy about it, actually pissed about it.” Rucker was hired in 2016 from the Raptors to be Philadelphia’s analytics manager during the Bryan Colangelo regime. From there, he was promoted to senior VP of analytics and strategy in August 2018.
  • In his latest newsletter, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about the Sixers’ intentions to meet with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to seek their opinions on what the team needs. “I’m going to talk with Jo and Ben about the game and how they see it and what’s going to help them and how to complement them,” Brand said earlier this week. “I’m not going to put the pressure of ‘You wanted this new coach’ or ‘You wanted that player’ on them, just have some clear, candid conversations with them, absolutely, as I think I should.”

Zanik, Rosas Receive Second Interviews For Sixers’ Post

Jazz assistant GM Justin Zanik and Rockets VP Gersson Rosas have earned second interviews for the Sixers’ GM opening, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Philadelphia’s ownership group dined with Zanik on Sunday and will do the same with Rosas on Monday. The ownership group will also hold second interviews with internal candidates on Thursday and Friday, Pompey adds in another tweet. The news was confirmed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Warriors assistant GM and director of player personnel Larry Harris was also recently interviewed for the vacancy, though there’s no indication if he’ll receive another interview.

Some of the internal candidates for the job who were reportedly interviewed this month include former Sixers player Elton Brand, Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen and Alex Rucker.

The organization has been operating without a GM since Bryan Colangelo departed in June amid charges of releasing sensitive information on Twitter.

The Sixers initially targeted big-name NBA GMs and presidents like Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but have since cast a wider net, focusing more on executives who would view the Philadelphia job as a promotion rather than a lateral move.

Sixers Add Four Names To GM Search

The Sixers are expanding the list of candidates for their vacant GM job and will interview four more prospects next week, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Former Sixers player Elton Brand is joined on the list by fellow team executives Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen and Alex Rucker.

Philadelphia began interviews for the opening this week after receiving permission to talk with Larry Harris of the Warriors, Gersson Rosas of the Rockets and Justin Zanik of the Jazz. The organization has been operating without a GM since Bryan Colangelo departed in June amid charges of releasing sensitive information on Twitter. Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas was scheduled to interview as well, but decided to decline the opportunity, Pompey adds (Twitter link).

Brand played for five teams in a 17-year NBA career, finishing up with the Sixers in 2016. He is vice president of basketball operations in Philadelphia and serves as GM for the Delaware Blue Coats, the organization’s G League affiliate. Cohen is the Sixers’ assistant GM, Eversley is senior VP of player personnel and Rucker is senior VP of analytics and strategy. All four were promoted to their current positions after Colangelo left.

Latest On Sixers’ GM Search, Front Office

11:40am: The Sixers have issued a press release officially announcing the promotions noted below.

11:17am: While the Sixers are identifying new general manager candidates to meet and interview, the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of leaving its interim front office structure in place to start the 2018/19 season, managing partner Josh Harris tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“We prefer to find an elite talent who can lead us, but we aren’t going to compromise,” Harris said.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown has served as the team’s interim head of basketball operations since Bryan Colangelo‘s ouster in June, but several members of Philadelphia’s front office besides Brown have been very involved in personnel decisions during the offseason.

Those key voices include Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley, and Elton Brand, all of whom are receiving promotions, Wojnarowski reports. Cohen will become an assistant general manager, Eversley will be the senior VP of player personnel, and Brand will be named the VP of basketball operations. Alex Rucker will also receive a promotion, according to Wojnarowski, who says Rucker will become the 76ers’ senior VP of analytics and strategy.

According to Wojnarowski, after initially targeting top general managers around the NBA – such as Daryl Morey of the Rockets – the Sixers have been gathering information on up-and-coming candidates in recent weeks. In other words, the new pool of contenders figures to include execs who would be more readily willing to make the move to Philadelphia.

Reports have indicated that the Sixers aren’t necessarily looking for a new general manager who will make all the final decisions on his own, but rather a candidate who is willing to collaborate with those existing voices in the front office on personnel moves. While Harris would love to find that executive as soon as possible and doesn’t want Brown to hang onto the head of basketball operations title for the long term, he tells Wojnarowski that the club is very comfortable with the current management group.

“I think we have one of the best, if not the best, situation in the NBA – particularly for the leader of a front office,” Harris said. “We have great young players, lots of cap space and stable ownership willing to invest and spend in the team. We’re going to be patient and try to find the right person. The next year is going to be incredibly important for us, and we have a real desire to find the right person now – but if not, we are incredibly comfortable with the existing staff and we’ll move forward from there.”