Brad Stevens

Atlantic Notes: CP3, Nash, Stevens, Hayward

After the Sixers were swept out of the first round of the 2020 playoffs, the team fired longtime head coach Brett Brown, who had survived several front office shakeups. But the on-court personnel could use some changes, too. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer makes the case for a Chris Paul trade.

Paul, an All-Star in 2020 during his first season with the Thunder, is scheduled to earn $41.3M and $44.2M in the final two years of his current contract. With the Sixers, the 35-year-old point guard could give All-Star guard/forward Ben Simmons more off-ball opportunities and serve as a first-rate facilitator for All-Star center Joel Embiid.

Pompey posits that current Sixers forward Tobias Harris or center Al Horford could be packaged (presumably along with future draft equity) into a deal for Paul.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • New Nets head coach Steve Nash acknowledges that he was brought on board with the franchise because of his interpersonal relationships and culture-building skills, rather than his knowledge of X’s and O’s. “I think they understand that my acumen for the game is strong and I can catch up on any of the tactical aspects,” Nash told Pelicans guard J.J. Redick in a recent edition of Redick’s The Old Man and the Three podcast (per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News). “I think they hired me because of my experience, the personality to work with these guys and help them grow and reach their potential and bring it all together.”
  • Following an emotional postgame locker room conversation, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens held a late-evening hotel meeting with four of his frustrated stars, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart met with Stevens to unpack their feelings following a Game 2 loss to the Heat that puts Boston in an 0-2 hole for the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is hoping to return to action for Game 3 on Saturday, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Hayward’s addition to the active roster would give Boston much-needed lineup flexibility and shooting help.

Celtics Notes: Raptors Series, Restart Campus, Langford

An intense seven-game war of attrition against the Raptors in the Eastern Semifinals helped prepare the Celtics for their conference finals matchup against the Heat, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com.

“We lost on a game-winner, we lost a double-overtime game [during the Raptors series], and while we are frustrated, [the Game 1 overtime loss to Miami is] just one game,” starting Celtics center Daniel Theis opined. “We’ve got to do our adjustments, and it’s easy; we’ve just got to get back in transition.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • The NBA’s Orlando restart campus atmosphere has more or less neutralized a home court advantage for higher-seeded teams, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today“Obviously, as much as the NBA has tried to make the home stuff matter, it just doesn’t,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens observed. “It has no impact, unfortunately.”
  • Celtics rookie shooting guard Romeo Langford left Game 2 of Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals series against Miami early with a right adductor strain. The team tweeted that he was doubtful to suit up again for the contest.
  • In case you missed it, we discussed the gradual progress of forward Gordon Hayward as he continues to rehabilitate from a right ankle sprain.

Celtics Extend Brad Stevens

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, currently in the midst of his seventh season with the club, isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The team has announced today that it has extended Stevens’s contract. The specifics of the new deal have not been divulged.

After leading Butler to two NCAA Finals games, Stevens was brought on board by Celtics president Danny Ainge to replace Doc Rivers in 2013, initially signing a six-year, $22MM deal. The team extended its head coach’s initial contract in 2016.

Stevens sports a 318-245 (.565) regular season record for Boston. He has led the club to six playoff appearances during his seven seasons, including two runs to the Eastern Conference Finals. This season’s team is locked into the third seed in the East with a 48-23 record. The club has one Orlando seeding game left ahead of the 2019/20 playoffs.

“Brad is one of the most intelligent and hard-working coaches in the game today,” Ainge raved. “We are honored to have him with us as we continue to pursue our next championship.”

Stevens is the second Eastern Conference head coach to receive a contract extension today, as the Pacers also reached a new deal with Nate McMillan.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Atlantic Notes: Kemba, Martin, Thibodeau, Milton

Following individual workouts in Boston ahead of traveling to the Orlando campus for the NBA’s season restart, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker‘s knee gave him “a little discomfort” and he was subsequently held out of practice Monday, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

Though Walker is expected to have an increased role in practice tomorrow, these early reports on the 30-year-old ahead of the season restart on July 30 in Orlando raise obvious red flags. Restrictions will be placed on Walker’s minutes in team scrimmages and any upcoming seeding games ahead of the NBA playoffs in mid-August.

Losing Walker for any amount of time would be a huge blow for Boston’s playoff hopes. Superstar forward Jayson Tatum and two-way force Jaylen Brown have clearly benefitted from Walker’s veteran leadership. In 50 games for the Celtics during the 2019/20 season, Walker is averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.1 RPG, while shooting 37.7% from three-point range and 86.7% from the free throw line. The 43-21 Celtics are the No. 3 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie Nets point guard Jeremiah Martin, who went undrafted out of Memphis in 2019, has been proving himself a valuable asset to the team, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I’d say Jeremiah Martin has been a surprise for us, his ability to compete,” interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. “That’s all we ask at this beginning stage, is to compete. Whether that’s knowing the plays, knowing different implementation, or having yourself ready every day.”
  • Head coach interviews for the Knicks are heating up, according to The New York Post’s Marc Berman. Tom Thibodeau remains the leader in the clubhouse for the gig, though Jason Kidd is nipping at his heels following a strong second interview. Kenny Atkinson also remains in the running for the position. The team conducted at least 11 three-hour second interviews that wrapped up yesterday.
  • Second-year Sixers guard Shake Milton has taken over starting point guard duties in team practices, moving All-Star Ben Simmons to the power forward slot and big man Al Horford to the bench, the significance of which has been unpacked by The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. Horford, 34, signed a splashy four-year, $97MM contract (worth up to $109MM with incentives) in 2019 free agency, but has underwhelmed during his first season of that deal. “I think [Milton] has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can, and he’s been doing an amazing job just running the team,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said of the move.

 

Atlantic Notes: Allen, Langford, Knicks, Sixers

Nets starting center Jarrett Allen has accepted his recent benching in fourth quarters, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Coach Kenny Atkinson has favored $40MM backup center DeAndre Jordan to close out games.

“You get the feeling of what’s going to happen when you hit around the eight-minute mark, whether you’re going to go in or not,” Allen told Lewis. “If they’re vibing then go ahead and let them vibe, let them go out and win it. So I’m not tripping over that.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie Celtics shooting guard Romeo Langford has closed out three Boston victories thus far in February as a defensive stopper, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. The 6’4″ wing out of Indiana, the No. 14 pick in the 2019 lottery, appreciates the faith that coach Brad Stevens has in Langford’s growing abilities on that side of the ball. “It’s good that (Stevens) already, like, trusts me,” Langord said. “So I’ve just got to go out there and deliver.”
  • As the Knicks continue to rework their public perception under newly-hired brand consultant Steve Stoute, they may try to improve relations with past New York heroes, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. “As a New York fan, as a friend of Charles Oakley, as somebody a part of the Knicks organization, of course, I would love to see that subsided and bring that back,” Stoute mentioned in an appearance on ESPN’s First Take.
  • The Sixers have underperformed relative to preseason expectations this year, but the dynamic between All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons may not be the root of the issue, per ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry. Goldsberry points to their club’s unending roster churn over the years and a lack of sharpshooting depth as the prime culprits. That said, at 35-22, the Sixers sit just 1.5 games behind the 36-20 Heat in competing for a top-four Eastern Conference playoff seed.

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Atlantic Notes: Anunoby, Kanter, Embiid, VanVleet

Much like they did with current All-Star Pascal Siakam and swingman Norman Powell, the Raptors are determined to turn erratic third-year forward OG Anunoby into a consistent, high-level contributor, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

“I think he needs more reps,” coach Nick Nurse reflected. “He needs some more chances to go out there and develop his game, and that’s got to be on me a little bit.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers center Joel Embiid hopes to resume his All-Star season on the floor next week, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Embiid underwent surgery January 10 to repair a torn radial collateral ligament in his left ring finger.
  • Due to a right hip contusion, Celtics center Enes Kanter will not return to action until at least Tuesday against the Heat, Brad Stevens relayed to Boston’s team Twitter account (link). In just 18.5 minutes per night, Kanter has produced impressive averages of 9.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 60.2% field goal shooting.
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, an unrestricted free agent in 2020, could be a great fit for the Knicks, Greg Joyce of the New York Post suggests. VanVleet, the best point guard in a limited free agent class, should be in line for a major pay upgrade from the two-year, $18MM contract he signed in 2018.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Stevens, Temple, Robinson

The improved play of 2019 Knicks free agent signee Julius Randle since Mike Miller became the team’s interim head coach can be attributed to several factors, The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov observes.

“I’m just playing with confidence,” Randle said. “I try to take things on a game-by-game focus, not really worried about the big picture of things when it comes to that.” Randle’s jump-shooting accuracy has improved for the Knicks lately. He has been less prone to on-court mistakes, and has been penetrating inside more instead of settling.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

Celtics Notes: Kemba, Stevens, Injuries, Tacko

New Celtics point guard Kemba Walker is excited to see what his team can achieve on the court when they reach full health. Currently, injuries to Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier are precluding Walker — and fans — from bearing witness to what that could look like.

“Man, we haven’t had our full roster yet,” Walker lamented, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “I can’t wait for it. It’s been unfortunate. But when we do …” Their 19-7 record slots the Celtics at the No. 2 seed in the East, by percentage points over the Heat.

There’s more out of TD Garden:

  • Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins, the starting center on the squad’s last title team in 2008, has picked Boston head coach Brad Stevens as a frontrunner for 2020 NBA Coach of the Year honors, as NBC Sports Boston’s Justin Leger documents. Perkins singled out Stevens’ “next man up” ethos in the wake of Boston’s myriad injuries thus far. Granted, Perkins achieved his biggest career success in Boston, but he also has three former head coaches elsewhere in the league: Doc Rivers on the Clippers, Alvin Gentry on the Pelicans, and Scott Brooks on the Wizards. Perkins’ former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is the lead assistant coach on Rivers’ staff.
  • 7’5″ two-way rookie center Tacko Fall‘s regular season home debut last night offered an interesting look into the team’s dynamic chemistry, NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg notes. Fall is averaging 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds across his first two NBA games.
  • The latest injury update on Gordon Hayward is significantly more promising than Marcus Smart‘s current status. Coach Brad Stevens doubts Hayward’s lingering foot injury will be a long-term issue, and an MRI taken Thursday showed no structural damage. Smart, meanwhile, has missed the past four games with an eye infection. Stevens revealed a troubling anecdote from his medical staff. “The last report I got (from the training staff), they didn’t think they’ve seen one this bad,” Stevens said, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.