Billy Donovan

Western Notes: Capela, Brunson, Kings, Roberson

Clint Capela‘s thumb injury could cost him a $2MM bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. The Rockets center has a 2,000-minute criteria tied into the team reaching the Western Conference Finals and for a defensive rebounding percentage above 30%. He has another bonus for attempting 150 or more free throws and a free throw percentage above 65%. He is currently shooting 62.6% from the line. Through 42 games, Capela has played 1,436 minutes. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson and veteran Devin Harris will pick up the minutes vacated by backup point guard J.J. Barea, who suffered a torn Achilles on Friday, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Brunson played 30 minutes against the Warriors on Sunday but Harris will see his role expand as well. “He’s going to be ready and he’s going to be there for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Harris.
  • Kings assistant coaches under Dave Joerger are having their options for next season picked up by the front office, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets. That group includes Bryan Gates, Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Jason March, Duane Ticknor, Larry Lewis, Bobby Jackson, Phil Ricci and Dan Hartfield. It’s a way of aligning the contracts of the staff with Joerger’s deal. The surprising Kings are currently a game above .500.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac warned members of the executive board to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Divac made the pronouncement during a conference call with 13 members of the  executive board, along with lead owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac has been frustrated by internal complaints and used the forum to demand respect, Amick adds.
  • Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson remains sidelined indefinitely, coach Billy Donovan told Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman and other media members. “He’s worked hard, he’s doing all he needs to do but he’s still in the rehab process.”  Roberson suffered a season-ending left knee injury last January and suffered a setback in late November when an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture in the knee.

Western Notes: Favors, Cousins, Donovan, Lakers

Jazz forward Derrick Favors has seen his name surface in several trade rumors over the years, but the 27-year-old remains the longest-tenured player on the active roster. The latest rumor of Utah expressing interest in Bulls forward Jabari Parker once again brought forward the idea of trading Favors, who is taking everything with a grain of salt.

“I was telling one of the coaches, I could go back years and years ago and I can name each guy I was supposed to get traded for,” Favors said before the Jazz-Rockets game on Monday, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. “Every year, I can just name them so I have fun with it, I enjoy it.

“Definitely use it as motivation. But I have fun with it most of the time because most of the time I look forward to it, like ‘Who am I going to get traded for this year? Who they want me to get traded for? Where the rumors at?’ so I enjoy it.”

Favors’ awkward fit alongside Rudy Gobert could once again force the team to explore trading him, with the Georgia Tech product averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds per game this season. He’s started in 26 of 31 games so far and signed a two-year, $40MM deal to stay with the club this past free agency.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr has stressed patience on DeMarcus Cousins‘ eventual return, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes. Cousins suffered a torn Achilles this past January and remains several games away from returning. “We’re not right there. It’s still going to be some time,” Kerr said. “We’re going to be patient and continue to give DeMarcus the space he needs to prepare. When the time is right, we’ll have some things planned for him.”
  • Brett Dawson of The Athletic breaks down the Thunder‘s decision to pick up coach Billy Donovan‘s option for next season, detailing why the front office is happy with the direction Donovan is guiding the team. Oklahoma City holds the league’s fourth-best record at 20-10, including a stellar 12-3 home record, and has played with great enthusiasm and effort so far this season.
  • Rajon Rondo (hand) and Brandon Ingram (ankle) participated in full practice Thursday as they continue to work toward returning, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of The two players were assigned to the South Bay Lakers, G League team of the Lakers, this past week to help expedite their recoveries and allow them to practice further.

Thunder Pick Up Billy Donovan’s 2019/20 Option

The Thunder have exercised the fifth-year option on head coach Billy Donovan‘s contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The move will ensure that Donovan is locked up for the 2019/20 season.

Since being hired by the Thunder in 2015, Donovan has put together a 168-106 regular season record, leading the club to three consecutive playoff appearances. Oklahoma City reached the Western Conference Finals in Donovan’s first season, but has been eliminated in the first round in each of the two years since then.

As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), only three other NBA head coaches have more wins with a single team than Donovan since he entered the league in 2015 — Steve Kerr (Warriors), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), and Brad Stevens (Celtics). Dwane Casey won 166 games with the Raptors and 14 so far with the Pistons.

Reports at the time of Donovan’s hiring indicated that his five-year contract with the Thunder was worth approximately $30MM, so he’s in position to earn that entire amount.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Roberson, Curry, Gibson

With a mammoth luxury tax bill looming at the end of the year, the Thunder plan on sticking with 14 players on their roster to begin this season, reports Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

“Right now we’re going with what we have,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “If something changes, I’ve always said this with Sam (Presti) and Troy (Weaver), they’re always looking to improve, make our team better all the time… that would be something that if Sam decided to do that, we’d probably talk about that.”

As Horne notes, the decision to keep the roster at fourteen makes sense considering the Thunder would face major luxury tax implications with the signing of a fifteenth player.

Right now, both Bryce Alford and K.J. McDaniels are on training camp contracts with the Thunder, so they’ll ultimately be waived if Horne’s report is accurate unless one of them impresses enough to force the Thunder into waiving someone with a guaranteed salary.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • In another piece for The Oklahoman, Horne writes that Thunder swingman Andre Roberson has been looking good in practice despite not yet being cleared for contact. Because he’s still rehabbing, he’s mostly limited to shooting drills at this point.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports that all indications out of Trail Blazers practice is that new addition Seth Curry is looking good. Teammates are praising his jump-shooting and playmaking ability, while coaches are impressed with his basketball intelligence and versatility.
  • According to Nick Friedell of ESPNTimberwolves forward Taj Gibson was surprised at Jimmy Butler‘s trade demand, saying, “I worked out with him all summer, so when I said what I meant, it was like a right hook. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t know. I thought — it looked like from everything things were going good.”

Andre Roberson May Not Return Until December?

Despite previously reporting that Thunder guard Andre Roberson said he was on track to be back for the start of the 2018/19 season, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman is now being told that Roberson is still a “couple months away” from his return and that he’s targeting the end of 2018 for a return to normalcy.

Roberson, 26, says he’ll return “when (he) feel(s) ready” after rupturing his left patellar tendon in January of this year. “I’m not really putting a particular timeline on it, but I want to come back to myself somewhere in, like, December,” Roberson said. “It would be great if it happened before Christmas. That’d be great, but like I said, not putting a timeline on it, just taking it a day at a time.”

“Knowing the history of this injury, not many people come back from it the same way,” Roberson added, but also noted that “in today’s day and era, in terms of technology, medicine and stuff like that, it’s totally different,” crediting the Thunder’s medical staff with helping him work his way back.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said the team is fine with Roberson taking his time to get right and that he wouldn’t rush to get Roberson back on the court, especially considering the severity of the type of injury suffered by Roberson.

That being said, the Thunder are still sure to be eager to get Roberson back on the court. As Dawson notes, the Thunder ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive rating last season before Roberson got hurt. Afterward, Oklahoma City saw its rating drop ten spots to fifteenth.

Western Notes: Lakers, Beyer, Grant, Morey

The Lakers front office felt they couldn’t fight fire with fire to overtake the Warriors, so their offseason acquisitions beyond LeBron James were aimed toward another approach, as Kevin Ding explains in an extensive piece posted on the team’s website. By signing Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley, the Lakers signaled that they want to rise to the top in a different way. “To try to play the Warriors in their own game is a trap,” GM Rob Pelinka told Ding. “No one is going to beat them at their own game. That’s why we wanted to add these elements: defense, toughness and depth—and try to look at areas where we’ll have an advantage.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder have added Bob Beyer to Billy Donovan‘s coaching staff, according to a team press release. Beyer spent the last four seasons on Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons staff, serving as the associate head coach the past two seasons. His NBA coaching experience dates back to the 2003/04 season as an assistant with the Raptors.
  • Thunder forward Jerami Grant anticipates a bigger role during the upcoming season after signing a multi-year contract, as he told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype in a Q&A session. Grant appeared in 81 games last season, averaging 8.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 20.3 MPG. He anticipates even more playing time with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. “I’m definitely excited to be able to play extensive minutes and play important minutes on a contender. Getting a chance to show what you can do while being part of an organization like this, being part of a team like this, it means a lot. They’ve shown a lot of trust in me by giving me this new contract and [and a bigger role].” Grant signed a three-year, $27MM contract to remain with OKC.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey is just as curious as anyone how DeMarcus Cousins will fit in with the Warriors, as he told radio host Dan Patrick in comments relayed by NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “They’ll probably figure out how to make it work, but it’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work. But we do that well and so do they, obviously. They’re gonna be a tough out again, obviously. They’re arguably the best team in NBA history,” Morey said.

Northwest Notes: Schroder, Lillard, Towns, Crowder

In an extended analytical piece, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer takes a look at how the Thunder‘s soon-to-be acquired point guard Dennis Schroder will fit with incumbent starter and All-Star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City’s backcourt.

Consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in passing metrics, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has regularly spoke about how he wants better ball movement on offense. But, as Donovan admits, “There’s a balance between [giving the ball to your stars] and then trying to play faster with more ball and player movement.”

Enter Schroder, who can create against a defense with his quickness perhaps better than any other point guard the Thunder have had in recent years outside of Westbrook, including Reggie Jackson.

Only time will tell whether or not Westbrook and Schroder will be able to play together, but if they can, Donovan will be able to install more pace and ball-movement concepts featuring multiple ball handlers running the show, rather than relying on Westbrook alone, which should help the Thunder be less one-dimensional against the better Western Conference teams come playoff time.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • While the Trail Blazers may not have been able to bring in as much talent as they had hoped for during this summer’s free agency period in an effort to improve upon last season, Damian Lillard says that he’s ready and excited for the upcoming season and that he has a “deeper connection” with the city of Portland that goes beyond basketball, per Sean Meagher of The Oregonian.
  • As part of a Wolves’ mailbag, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic opines that although the relationship between Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves could obviously use some work right now, the opportunity for repair remains, as Towns likely would have cancelled his recent basketball camp in the Twin Cities had he already completely written off Minnesota as a long-term home.
  • After struggling on-court to adjust to a new role and new teammates at the beginning of last season and coping off-court with the death of his mother from cancer, Jae Crowder finally feels at home with the Jazz, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” Crowder told The Tribune. “It was hard being thrown into the fire. But, from Day One, the locker room and my teammates [in Utah] were great. The coaching staff was great. … It helped build toughness.”

Northwest Notes: Noel, Thomas, Favors, Blazers

Five years removed from being drafted No. 6 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, newly-acquired Thunder big man Nerlens Noel is looking to rehabilitate both his game and reputation in Oklahoma City, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.

A one-and-done talent at college powerhouse Kentucky, Noel is aware of the rumors surrounding his game – that he’s a talented but unwilling to work – but he’s ready to come out this season and turn things around.

The Thunder are ready for that too, which is why head coach Billy Donovan and All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George all made recruiting pitches to Noel on the first night of free agency.

“I’m excited about having him,” Donovan said. “He’s early in his career, and I know his career probably hasn’t evolved into what he’d hoped when he was a rookie. But he’s still very young, and he’s still got a lot of time to continue to get better.”

Noel has yet to have much of any success at the NBA level so far. He sat out his first season in Philadelphia recovering from injury and then saw his playing time dwindle after the Sixers drafted up-and-coming star Joel Embiid. But now that Noel feels he has a new home where winning is a priority, he is ready to prove his worth.

“You want to be in a situation where you’re wanted on a team that really wants to win,” Noel said. “That means the utmost to me, and that’s what my game is. I don’t think playing on teams that are really headed in the other direction complements me as well or makes me look as good as I might want to.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Armed with deep motivation after having his career curtailed by injury, Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas is eager to play for a team who wanted him, reports Christopher Dempsey of Thomas, who played for head coach Mike Malone in Sacramento during his breakout season in 2013-14, credits Malone’s trust in him as a key to his continued success.
  • Per Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.comJazz forward Derrick Favors is looking for an increased role on offense next season. During his free agent meeting with Utah’s front office, the two parties spoke about getting Favors more cuts to the basket and playing out of pick-and-roll or dribble-handoffs more often.
  • The Trail Blazers have made a couple of minor roster moves in the past day or so, deciding to retain guard Wade Baldwin and part ways with center Georgios Papagiannis.

Adrian Griffin Reaches Agreement To Join Raptors’ Staff

Thunder assistant coach Adrian Griffin has agreed to join the Raptors’ staff as the lead assistant to new head coach Nick Nurse, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reports.

Griffin served as an assistant to Billy Donovan the past two seasons. Griffin, who had a nine-year playing career, has also coached with the Bucks, Bulls and Magic.

Griffin interviewed for head coaching openings with the Rockets and Magic prior to joining Donovan’s staff.

Presti: Billy Donovan Will Return For Thunder

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan will continue coaching the team next season, general manager Sam Presti confirmed today to reporters, including Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). According to Dawson (Twitter link), Presti expressed enthusiasm about the idea of Donovan returning to coach a similar core of players in 2018/19.

“I think the biggest opportunity for him is in the continuity.” Presti said of Donovan. “Continuity is his best friend going forward.”

Presti addressed a few other topics during his session with reporters, including how the Thunder might achieve that continuity, so let’s round up a few highlights…

  • Presti acknowledges that the Thunder are disappointed with the overall result of the 2017/18 season. “And we should be,” he added (Twitter link via Dawson).
  • Paul George was a “tremendous fit” for the Thunder, according to Presti, who said it feels like the standout forward has been with the team for more than year (Twitter link via Dawson). Presti added that he feels good about OKC’s relationship with George and has been “really encouraged” by the conversations the club has had with him (Twitter links via Dawson).
  • Presti praised Carmelo Anthony‘s willingness to make sacrifices for the Thunder during the regular season, but said it will be up to Anthony whether that role is one he wants to continue in (Twitter link via Dawson). Carmelo is considered extremely likely to pick up his $28MM player option.
  • The Thunder would be “really excited” if they’re able to bring back unrestricted free agent Jerami Grant next season, according to Presti (Twitter link).
  • More from Presti on the Thunder’s roster outlook for next season: “The opportunity to potentially have [Russell] Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams, all three of those guys in their prime years, is extremely exciting for us” (Twitter link via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman).