Billy Donovan

Charania’s Latest: Pacers, Donovan, Bulls, Nurse, More

The Pacers have added another name to their list of head coaching candidates, having interview former Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan last week, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic.

While Donovan’s addition increases the number of candidates connected to the Pacers to a total of 18, Charania hears that the team is expected to only interview about a dozen contenders for the job. From there, the plan is for Indiana to trim its list approximately in half, then to conduct in-person interviews with the finalists.

Here are a few more notes and rumors from Charania’s latest column for The Athletic:

  • The Bulls continue to narrow down their head coaching pool and will likely meet with finalists soon, according to Charania, who hears that Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Wes Unseld Jr. are among the candidate who have had strong interviews so far.
  • The new multiyear contract extension signed last week by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is worth approximately $8MM per year, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid coaches, per Charania. Nurse’s previous deal was reportedly worth in the neighborhood of $3MM per year, but he has won a title and a Coach of the Year award since signing that contract in 2018.
  • Kawhi Leonard isn’t expecting the 2020/21 NBA season to get underway anytime soon, as Charania relays. “February, maybe?” Leonard said last week after the Clippers were eliminated from the postseason. “I’ve also heard March.”
  • In case you missed it, we also passed along items from Charania on the Sixers’ coaching search, the Clippers’ offseason, and Will Barton‘s injury.

D’Antoni, Donovan, Lue Believed To Be On Sixers’ Short List

The Sixers, led by general manager Elton Brand, have met with a handful of top candidates for their head coaching job and are expected to bring a short list of candidates to the Philadelphia area within the next 10 days for a second round of interviews, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Charania, Mike D’Antoni, Billy Donovan, and Tyronn Lue are expected to be on the 76ers’ short list and are “strongly vying” for the position.

The Sixers have been linked to several other potential candidates – including Dave Joerger, Darvin Ham, and Mike Brown – as they seek a replacement for Brett Brown. However, Lue was considered an early frontrunner for the position and D’Antoni and Donovan emerged as viable alternatives after they parted ways with their respective teams. It seems increasingly likely that Philadelphia’s next head coach will come from that trio.

Meanwhile, although a recent report suggested that the Sixers may be considering hiring a president of basketball operations to lead their front office, Charania says the organization remains committed to adding talent under Brand to “further strengthen the front office.” Brand, who is leading the head coaching search, continues to be the head of basketball operations in Philadelphia, according to Charania, who adds that the GM is well-respected by agents and executives around the NBA.

Sixers Expected To Interview D’Antoni, Donovan

The Sixers are expected to conduct interviews this week with Mike D’Antoni and Billy Donovan for their head coaching job, reports Jason Dumas of KRON4 News (Twitter link).

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer confirms that D’Antoni is set to interview with Philadelphia in the coming days, though he cautioned that – as of Tuesday – exact dates for D’Antoni’s meeting and others had yet to be finalized.

While one source who spoke to Pompey indicated that the 76ers’ job may be D’Antoni’s to lose, a team source tells The Inquirer that ownership won’t make any final decisions on which candidate it wants until interviews have been completed.

D’Antoni has also been linked to the Pacers’ head coaching vacancy, among others, so it’s possible that he and the Sixers are using one another for leverage — D’Antoni to create a bidding war for his services and the 76ers to lower the asking price of Tyronn Lue or another candidate. However, Pompey writes that Philadelphia’s interest in D’Antoni appears to be real.

It’s unclear if Philadelphia has a specific timeline in mind to finalize a hire, but with Lue’s Clippers no longer alive in the postseason, there should be few obstacles standing in the way of the Sixers interviewing any of the candidates reported to be on their list.

Thunder Offered Donovan Multiyear Deal Prior To Restart

The Thunder offered head coach Billy Donovan a multiyear contract extension prior to the NBA’s restart this summer, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The offer included two guaranteed seasons, Charania adds.

Donovan passed on that offer at the time and the two sides agreed to table discussions until the end of the season. On Tuesday, less than a week after Oklahoma City had been eliminated from the playoffs, word broke that Donovan and the team had mutually agreed to part ways rather than working out a new deal.

Charania’s report that the Thunder offered Donovan an extension doesn’t come as a major surprise — it always seemed as if the organization was interested in bringing back the head coach. But with a possible rebuild looming, the two sides weren’t necessarily aligned on a long-term fit. General manager Sam Presti said as much during his comments to the media following Donovan’s departure, as Brandon Rahbar of Daily Thunder details.

“It became apparent that we couldn’t provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career,” Presti said of Donovan.

Since parting ways with the Thunder, Donovan has been linked to head coaching openings in both Philadelphia and Chicago. However, we haven’t gotten a sense yet of how serious a candidate he is for those jobs, or whether he could emerge as an option for any of the other teams seeking a new coach.

Eastern Notes: Hampton, Donovan, Hornets, Wizards

2020 NBA draft prospect R.J. Hampton interviewed with Pistons general manager Troy Weaver a month ago, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.

Hampton, who spent this past season with the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL, told Sankofa he was encouraged by his conversation with the Pistons general manager. “You can tell he knows the game, you can tell he’s very detailed about the way he sees the game of basketball,” Hampton said. “That’s why he was very in-depth with his conversation. He seems like a really smart guy. Knows a lot about the game.”

As of now, the Pistons hold the seventh overall pick in the draft and will likely take the best player available. However, Sankofa notes that the Pistons could potentially move down and acquire another first-round selection.

If that’s the case, then the 6’5″ Hampton, who is projected to go in the early-to-late teens, might be on the Pistons’ radar. This season with the Breakers, Hampton averaged 8.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.4 APG in 15 games.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Billy Donovan and the Thunder parting ways on Tuesday adds a new layer to the Bulls’ coaching search, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. A source confirms to the Sun-Times that Chicago is interested in the former Oklahoma City head coach. Cowley goes on to compare Donovan’s coaching resume to former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, who is also a candidate for the Bulls’ job. Cowley argues that Donovan has overachieved in Oklahoma City, while Atkinson had not done the same in Brooklyn. Lastly, he adds that several former and current head coaches have told the Sun-Times that Atkinson has a growing reputation of being a self-promoter.
  • In his latest mailbag, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer explores if the Hornets could trade Nicolas Batum’s contract and potential draft options at No. 3 overall, among other topics. Bonnell believes that Batum, who is entering the final season of a five-year, $120MM deal, will likely stay in Charlotte. He details how the Hornets couldn’t trade Marvin Williams, who made $14MM last season — if Charlotte couldn’t move Williams’ contract, it will be hard to trade Batum, who will make $27MM next season.
  • The Wizards interviewed former Michigan State standout point guard Cassius Winston, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Hughes mentions that the 22-year-old point guard is a likely option for Washington with the 37th overall pick in the second round. Last season with the Spartans, Winston averaged 18.6 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

And-Ones: D. Johnson, Donovan, Macura, Free Agency

Former Thunder big man Dakari Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2015 draft, has re-signed with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association, he tells JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link).

Johnson, who will turn 25 later this month, appeared in 31 NBA games with Oklahoma City in 2017/18 and was eventually waived after being traded to Memphis in 2018. However, he’s coming off a strong season in China, having averaged 23.7 PPG, 14.5 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 29 CBA contests.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) has been told by multiple sources that Billy Donovan‘s preference is to continue coaching in the NBA rather than returning to college. Following his departure from Oklahoma City, Donovan is reportedly expected to draw interest from the Bulls and Sixers.
  • Former Hornets and Cavaliers guard J.P. Macura has signed with Turkish team Afyon Belediye, per an announcement from the club (hat tip to Sportando). Macura spent the 2018/19 season on a two-way contract with Charlotte and signed a 10-day deal with Cleveland in February 2020.
  • With the Pistons, Hawks, and Knicks poised to enter the 2020 offseason as three of the teams with the most cap flexibility, James L. Edwards III, Chris Kirschner, and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explore how those Eastern lottery clubs could potentially control free agency.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic examines the next big decisions and moves facing the four Western teams that were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, including whether the Thunder will trade Chris Paul and whether the Jazz should extend Rudy Gobert.

Billy Donovan, Thunder Part Ways

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, whose contract with Oklahoma City expired after his team was eliminated in the playoffs this season, will not be returning to the club for the 2020/21 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team issued a press release confirming that the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways.

After Donovan and his representatives could not come to terms on a new deal with the Thunder, both sides opted to move on. As ESPN’s Royce Young tweets, the break-up is more about the two sides not aligning on a long-term fit than any strong desire to make a change.

“We had planned to sit down at the end of the season and discuss the best way to move forward for both of us,” general manager Sam Presti said in a statement on Donovan. “After those discussions, it became apparent that we couldn’t provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career. Therefore, we close this chapter and reflect fondly on all that he has given to the team, organization and community.”

The fact that the club’s front office, led by Presti, anticipates an eventual rebuild helped put a damper on contract talks, Wojnarowski tweets. The Oklahoma City roster features several veterans that the team could soon be looking to move for future assets, especially with league revenues suffering as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Woj notes (Twitter link).

When the Thunder traded All-Stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the summer of 2019, expectations for the team were lower than they had been at any point in Donovan’s tenure with the club, and there was a league-wide belief that an OKC rebuild was imminent.

However, Donovan and new additions Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to a 44-28 record in 2019/20, good for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. The team eventually lost Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs to former Thunder MVP Westbrook and the Rockets.

Donovan sported a 243-157 (.608) record in his five seasons as Thunder head coach. The team made the postseason in each of those five years, though it only advanced beyond the first round once during that time, in 2016, prior to Kevin Durant‘s departure.

Donovan’s exit from Oklahoma City immediately makes him one of the more intriguing free agents on the head coaching market.

The Bulls, in the midst of finishing a first round of interviews with prospective candidates, are anticipated to be interested in Donovan’s services as a potential new head coach, according to Woj (Twitter link). The Sixers are also expected to pursue Donovan, per Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Paul, Jazz, Donovan, Wolves

Thunder star Chris Paul accelerated the team’s rebuild this season by exceeding expectations on and off the court, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports writes.

Paul, 35, embraced his role as a leader upon being traded from the Rockets last summer, taking young players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander under his wing and holding each of his teammates accountable to the fullest extent — much like Jimmy Butler has done with the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

“When I’m in, I’m in,” Paul said. “Y’all thought I was going to ask out or something. No, I liked the direction of the organization and I believe I can play a part in elevating this team. When I step on the court, I feel like I can compete with anybody and I wanted them to feel that way too.”

The Thunder finished with a 44-28 regular-season record, taking the Rockets to seven games before losing 104-102 in the final contest. Paul finished with a triple-double, recording 19 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

“We didn’t give a damn about anybody’s prediction going into any series. In any game, we expected to win,” Paul said after Game 7, as relayed by Haynes. “That’s how we played all season long, every game. We fought hard all year.”

Paul remains under contract for next season, with a $44.2MM player option in 2021/22, after playing a key role in the Thunder’s success this year. The team has multiple rotation players set to reach free agency, however, including starting forward Danilo Gallinari.

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • The Jazz‘s painful first-round defeat to the Nuggets won’t shake the team’s core confidence, Tony Jones of The Athletic details. Utah lost a hard-fought seven-game series to Denver, coming up short without one of their best scorers in Bojan Bogdanovic (20.2 PPG; season-ending wrist surgery). “We went from being an ‘unsalvageable’ team three months ago to this, and I don’t think anybody outside of us expected that,” Donovan Mitchell said. “I’m happy with the way we played, obviously not the result. Look man, like, we’ve got things that we know we can fix and like I said, we felt like we kind of gave (away) situations when we had control of the series and we let it get out of hand. … With Bojan coming back, not putting everything on Bojan, but with him coming back it’s another weapon. This won’t happen again.”
  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman ponders whether Billy Donovan wants to stick around as head coach of the Thunder for the future. Donovan’s contract with the franchise is set to expire, with the veteran coach coming off a successful season with the team this season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has previously made it clear that he hopes to have Donovan return, though that decision will ultimately be his to make.
  • Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam purchasing the Timberwolves would be redundant, Zach Harper of The Athletic opines. A recent report from Sportico indicated that Haslam was considering an offer for the Wolves, a team that’s attracted multiple interested bidders to date.

Northwest Notes: Clarkson, Murray, Timberwolves, Donovan, Paul

Jordan Clarkson enjoyed his stint with the Jazz this season, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll remain in Utah, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. Clarkson will be an unrestricted free agent and multiple suitors will be after his services, Todd points out. Clarkson was a sparkplug off the bench for a playoff team, averaging 15.6 PPG, and the Jazz will be first in line to make him an offer, Todd adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray can truly cement himself as a superstar if the Nuggets can overcome Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post opines. Following his huge performances in the opening round against Utah, Murray was held to 12 points in Game 1 of the Nuggets’ second-round series against the Clippers on Thursday.
  • The Timberwolves will stay open-minded as they mull what to do with the No. 1 overall pick, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas says all options are on the table, since there’s no surefire star in this year’s draft class. “We’re going to do incredible due diligence, whether it’s a point guard, whether it’s a big,” he said. “I’m 100 percent in the camp of ‘find the best player with the best upside.’ That’s the path we’re going to take.”
  • The futures of head coach Billy Donovan and point guard Chris Paul are the biggest questions looming over the Thunder, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Paul is under contract for two more seasons but OKC isn’t likely to attach draft picks to a potential deal, considering Paul’s strong season and playoff performances.

Thunder Notes: Dort, Paul, Donovan, Offseason

Of all the roster moves made in June and July when the NBA lifted its transaction moratorium, none may be bigger over the long term than the Thunder‘s revamped deal with swingman Luguentz Dort. A two-way player for most of the season, Dort was promoted to Oklahoma City’s 15-man roster in June, signing a four-year contract worth $5.4MM that will keep him under team control at the minimum through 2023.

Dort enjoyed the best game of his career on Wednesday vs. Houston, pouring in 30 points on 10-of-21 shooting (6-of-12 on threes) and locking up James Harden on defense, holding the former MVP to a series-low 17 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

Harden ultimately got the best of Dort in Game 7’s final minute, blocking a three-point shot that would given the Thunder the lead. Despite a disappointing first-round exit though, Dort projects to be part of Oklahoma City’s core for years to come.

Here’s more on the Thunder in the wake of the end of their season:

  • Chris Paul takes exception to describing his performance in 2019/20 as a “rejuvenation” or “resurgence,” since it suggests his play had fallen off in previous years, writes Royce Young of ESPN. Whatever you want to call it though, Paul’s play this season helped reshape the road map for the Thunder’s future, as Young explains — a full-scale rebuild no longer seems like the most obvious path for the franchise.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti has made it clear he’d like to have Billy Donovan continue coaching the club, but Donovan will have to decide whether he wants to remain in Oklahoma City, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who suggests that Donovan may want to hear the team’s plans for the next few years before making a new commitment. Donovan’s five-year contract with OKC expires this year.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks examines the Thunder’s looming offseason decisions, including whether or not to retain free agent Danilo Gallinari, whether to explore extensions with Dennis Schroder and/or Steven Adams, and what to do with their stash of future draft picks.