Chris Finch

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Hawks, Finch, Knicks

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo briefly discussed his future with the team in a recent interview, explaining that his plans largely depend on whether Milwaukee is willing to make the necessary moves to contend.

“There are a lot of rumors. Everyone has opinions. But at the end of the day, I will do what is best for my family,” Antetokounmpo said in an interview with Swedish outlet Aftonbladet, as relayed by CBS Sports’ Jack Maloney. “I do not see why I could not be in Milwaukee for several years. As long as Milwaukee and I are on the same page when it comes to being one of the best teams in the league and winning championships, that’s fine. When it changes, it will not be good.

“It’s easy, I want to be a winner. I do not care about the money. My family is fine and I can take care of my children and grandchildren so that’s not the most important thing right now, it’s winning. As long as we can win and create a winning culture, it will be good.”

Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a five-year, $228MM super-max extension with the Bucks this offseason, but the Most Valuable Player could also opt to bypass the extension and test free agency next offseason. He’s coming off a campaign which saw him average a career-high 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game.

“I do not know what the plan is. It depends on what decisions they make,” Antetokounmpo continued. “If they make the right decision, I’ll be there for many years. If they do not, we’ll see. The NBA is business and we take it day by day. Hopefully we can succeed together.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:

  • The Hawks are expected to be “aggressive but smart” in free agency, a source tells Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta will seemingly prioritize the draft and adding more than one player in free agency, rather than spend for a star such as Fred VanVleet (unrestricted free agent) or Brandon Ingram (restricted free agent). “We’re not just going to pay a guy so we can look good on paper,” the source said.
  • Chris Finch is finalizing a deal to join Nick Nurse‘s coaching staff with the Raptors as an assistant, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Finch has a storied history with Nurse, Wojnarowski notes, with the veteran coach most recently spending time in Denver and New Orleans.
  • The Knicks are considering drafting Oregon’s Payton Pritchard with the No. 27 pick, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets. Pritchard averaged 20.5 points, 5.5 assists and 36.6 minutes per game last season, shooting 47% from the floor and 42% from deep. New York also has the No. 8 and No. 38 selections in the draft, which is set to be held on November 18.

Pacers Notes: Assistants, HC Finalists, Nurse, Bjorkgren

Though newly-hired Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren will have the opportunity to fill out his bench with assistants of his selection, the Pacers ownership and front office may provide some input, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). As Michael points out, Indiana became familiar with many coaches around the NBA during its expansive coaching search, so the team will have plenty of intel about possible candidates to share with Bjorkgren.

There’s more out of Indiana:

  • Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, and Heat assistant Dan Craig were among the other finalists for the Pacers’ head coaching job, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was ebullient in his praise for his former assistant coach Bjorkgren, releasing a statement via Toronto’s team Twitter. “Nate and I have known each other for 30 years,” Nurse said. “I’ll miss having him next to me on our bench, and I know the Raptors players and staff will miss working with him every day.”
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic unpacks the career of Bjorkgren, praising the new Pacers head coach’s apparent flexibility with regard to making offensive and defensive schemes fit his personnel.

Latest On Pacers’ Head Coaching Search

After conducting initial interviews with a lengthy list of head coaching candidates, the Pacers are expected to bring back three finalists to meet with team ownership before the end of the month, reports J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link).

It’s not clear yet which three candidates will be part of that group of finalists. However, Michael hears that Mike D’Antoni thinks he’ll be one of the three. Michael also believes that – despite reports he’ll join Tyronn Lue‘s staff in Los Angeles – Chauncey Billups remains in the running for Indiana’s top job and could be a finalist.

Pelicans assistant Chris Finch and former Grizzlies and Kings coach Dave Joerger look like other contenders to be finalists for the Pacers’ coaching vacancy. A report earlier this week indicated that Finch may be Indiana’s frontrunner, while Joerger was identified earlier this month as a strong contender for the position.

[UPDATE: Dave Joerger joining Sixers’ staff as assistant]

Heat assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn were reportedly scheduled to meet with the Pacers this week and may also still be in the mix.

For what it’s worth, Scott Agness of VigilantSports tweeted 12 days ago that the six names he continued to hear connected to the Pacers’ head coaching opening were D’Antoni, Billups, Finch, Joerger, Craig, and Quinn. It sounds likely that Indiana’s three finalists will come from that group, though the team has considered no shortage of other candidates, as our tracker shows.

Chris Finch Considered Frontrunner For Pacers Job

Pelicans assistant Chris Finch is considered the frontrunner for the Pacers coaching job, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweets. This is the first indication which way Indiana’s front office is leaning as it searches for Nate McMillan‘s replacement.

We’ve heard about about a number of candidates, including former head coaches Mike D’AntoniMike Brown, and Dave Joerger as well as top assistants around the league, including Darvin HamIme Udoka, and David Vanterpool. ESPN analyst and 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups also reportedly received an interview.

Joerger had been considered a strong contender for the job.

As Scott Agness of VigilantSports.com tweeted earlier this week, Heat assistants Chris Quinn and Dan Craig are next in line for interviews, O’Connor confirms.

Finch has also been mentioned as a candidate for the Rockets’ head coaching job. After the Pelicans parted ways with Alvin Gentry following the seeding games in Orlando, VP of basketball operations David Griffin spoke highly of Finch and indicated that he wanted to retain him, while acknowledging the assistant would draw interest from other teams as a head coaching prospect.

Dave Joerger A Strong Contender For Pacers’ Coaching Job

The Pacers are meeting with head coaching candidates this week and next, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that former Grizzlies and Kings coach Dave Joerger has met with the team and is considered a “strong contender” for the position.

Wojnarowski says that Pelicans assistant Chris Finch is among the candidates to meet with Indiana, and adds that Chauncey Billups will also get an interview.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst previously reported that the Pacers had talked to over 20 candidates about their head coaching job, but it’s possible those conversations were informal in nature, and that the team is now narrowing down the field as it conducts more in-depth interviews.

While we don’t know the full list of the 20+ candidates who have talked to the Pacers, Finch’s name is the 19th we’ve heard linked to the job, as our head coaching search tracker shows. Indiana’s interest in Joerger and Billups had been previously reported.

After parting ways with Nate McMillan, Pacers management talked about wanting to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game and has the ability to connect with younger players.

Texas Notes: Rockets, Porzingis, Houston Coaching Search

Following a disappointing second-round playoff exit and the departure of coach Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets are faced with some serious questions about their future this offseason. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report spoke with rival NBA executives about Houston’s offseason options. Significant makeover suggestions include trades of All-Star guards James Harden or Russell Westbrook, both 31.

“Everything should be on the table, including moving Harden,” an Eastern Conference executive told Pincus.

“The Knicks might be one of the only teams that could be a fit for Westbrook,” a different Eastern Conference executive said. “Not sure if there are any others.”

The Rockets could absorb several of New York’s expiring veteran contracts in a deal.

Sam Cassell, Alvin Gentry, Kenny Atkinson, Chris Finch, Ime Udoka, David Vanterpool and even former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy have been floated as possibilities for the team’s new head coach.

There are more NBA notes out of the Lone Star State:

  • Former Mavericks team doctor T.O. Souryal is fairly optimistic about the long-term health of star big man Kristaps Porzingis, per Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “[Porzingis] seems to have come back from his ACL [tear] stronger than ever, so that injury’s behind us now,” Souryal opined. “Each one of these injuries should be taken on its own merit.”
  • The Rockets‘ far-ranging search for a new head coach, conducted by GM Daryl Morey, is examined by Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko specifically unpacks the resumes of current Pelicans assistant Chris Finch and former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.
  • As we previously relayed, a pair of Texas teams are reportedly in the running for the services of veteran Real Madrid point guard Facundo Campazzo. The Spurs and Mavericks will be competing with the Timberwolves to add the 2017 EuroCup Defensive Player of the Year.

Rockets Notes: D’Antoni, Morey, House, Gordon

Mike D’Antoni wants to continue coaching, but his time in Houston may be over, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. D’Antoni, 69, is now a free agent on the coaching market after his Rockets were ousted from the playoffs Saturday night. He hasn’t ruled out staying with his current team, but was unable to reach an extension last summer, leading to a public battle with management.

Sources tell Amick that there’s interest in D’Antoni from the Pacers, who recently fired Nate McMillan. However, Indiana is looking at other candidates as well, and D’Antoni’s hiring wouldn’t be a sure thing. There have also been rumors that he might be headed to New Orleans and a reunion with VP of basketball operations David Griffin, whom he once worked with in Phoenix, but Amick hears that D’Antoni isn’t a serious contender for the Pelicans job.

D’Antoni has been successful in his four years with the Rockets, posting a 217-101 record and leading the team to at least the second round of the playoffs each season. But Amick adds that hard feelings remain from last year’s failed talks involving D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, and owner Tilman Fertitta, general manager Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown.

Amick notes that ABC/ESPN analyst and former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy is considered a candidate if the job opens up again. Tim MacMahon of ESPN also mentions Van Gundy, along with ex-Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, who has a championship on his resume with the Rockets’ G League affiliate in Rio Grande.

There’s more Rockets news this morning:

  • Morey’s job remains safe, despite the playoff ouster and an early-season tweet that cost the organization millions in sponsorship deals and damaged the NBA’s relationship with China, high-ranking Rockets sources tell MacMahon. Morey reportedly plans to continue the small-ball experiment next season as he believes it’s the best way to maximize the talents of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
  • Rockets players haven’t said much publicly about the Danuel House incident since he was forced to leave the Disney World campus following an alleged violation of league rules, but Harden called it a “distraction” in a post-game interview. (video link from Ben DuBose of USA Today’s The Rockets Wire). “Very, very disappointing. It affected us,” Harden said. “Obviously, we still have to go out there and play a basketball game, and play a series. But it affected us. Obviously, it’s a distraction. He was a huge part of our rotation.”
  • Saturday’s loss means the final year of Eric Gordon‘s contract will remain non-guaranteed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The four-year extension Gordon signed in September includes a provision that guarantees his $20.9MM salary for 2023/24 if he makes an All-Star team or the Rockets win a championship.

Latest On Alvin Gentry’s Firing

The decision to fire head coach Alvin Gentry was especially difficult for Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin because of their long relationship, writes Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com. Griffin, who previously worked with Gentry in Phoenix, insisted the move wasn’t a result of the team’s disappointing 2-6 record in seeding games.

“I’ve known Alvin for more than 15 years, so this is really difficult on a human level,” Griffin said. “He hasn’t forgotten how to coach and this isn’t about any shortcomings. This is far more about finding the right fit and a shared vision for a very young and ambitious group moving forward.”

Griffin adds that the Pelicans intend to take their time in the search for a new coach, partly because of coronavirus-related restrictions that make in-person interviews challenging. He said the front office won’t be content to conduct the process through conference calls on Zoom and wants to talk to as many candidates face to face as possible.

“We will not be quick with this at all. This is not a rush,” he said. “We have a job that we believe is going to be the most attractive in the NBA, quite frankly. With all of the candidates still in the (Orlando) bubble – and there are some that may not be – candidates you may want to talk to are still with teams, in many circumstances.”

There’s more related to Gentry’s dismissal:

  • Despite the head coaching change, no moves will be made right away with the assistant coaches, Eichenhofer adds in the same story. “We feel very strongly about the assistant coaching staff we have,” Griffin said. “I’ve connected with almost all of them. We feel very strongly about the quality of staff we have. Some of those individuals potentially will be head coaching candidates elsewhere, Chris Finch certainly among them. He’ll be part of our conversation moving forward and it’s our intention that many of our staffers will continue to be with the next regime at some point.”
  • Sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic that Griffin began to have doubts about Gentry shortly after being hired by New Orleans in April of last year. He had reportedly been leaning toward a coaching change for a while, and the performance in Orlando made the decision easier.
  • The Pelicans’ priority should be to find a coach who can help star rookie Zion Williamson reach his potential as a defender, contends Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider link). Pelton points out that Williamson was a difference maker at Duke with 3.9 steals per 100 plays and a shot-blocking rate of 5.8% on two-point attempts. His NBA numbers were far below what his performance in college would suggest.

Pelicans Hire Jeff Bzdelik As Assistant Coach

Veteran assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik has officially joined the Pelicans‘ coaching staff as an assistant, the club announced today in a press release. Bzdelik will be one of two associate head coaches under Alvin Gentry, handling defensive responsibilities while fellow associate head coach Chris Finch focuses on offense.

A former head coach for the Nuggets and a handful of college programs, including Colorado and Wake Forest, Bzdelik had been the Rockets’ associate head coach since 2016. He briefly retired following the 2017/18 season, but after Houston got off to a slow start in 2018/19, the team lured him out of retirement and got him back on the bench alongside Mike D’Antoni.

Following a disappointing second-round exit this spring, the Rockets let Bzdelik’s contract expire without pushing to lock him up to a new deal. He subsequently engaged in negotiations with New Orleans, with a report back in July indicating that the two sides were close to a deal.

The Pelicans have also hired former Suns assistant Jamelle McMillan in an assistant role, promoting Joe Boylan to assistant coach/director of player development and Michael Ruffin to assistant coach/player development.

Timberwolves To Interview Pelicans’ Chris Finch

As part of their newly-launched head coaching search, the Timberwolves have been granted permission to interview Pelicans assistant Chris Finch for the position, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

We learned earlier today that new Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has decided to open up the team’s head coaching search beyond interim coach Ryan Saunders. While Saunders remains a strong candidate for the full-time job, the team is also said to be meeting with Heat assistant Juwan Howard and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool. We can now add Finch to that list of candidates too.

Although he’s currently part of the Pelicans’ staff, Finch’s longest-term role as an NBA assistant came in Houston from 2011-16. Rosas was part of the Rockets’ front office during that time, so he’s very familiar with the veteran assistant.

Finch was also the associate head coach in Denver for one season between his stints with the Rockets and Pelicans. Last year, he received interest from the Hornets and the Suns when they sought new head coaches.