Dan Craig

Pacific Notes: Handy, Clippers, Suns, Warriors

Despite some rumors linking him to Brooklyn in recent weeks, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy suggested this week in a conversation with Jason Dumas of KRON4 News (Twitter link) that he intends to remain with the 2020 NBA champs.

“I am a Los Angeles Laker. What’s next for me is waiting for (Lakers head coach) Frank Vogel to pick up the phone and… give me what my next directives are,” Handy said.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • New Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is apparently strongly considering former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and current Heat assistant Dan Craig as additions for his bench, per Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets that Atkinson, renowned for his ability to develop young players, could be a fit considering that owner Steve Ballmer is hoping his new coaching staff does just that.
  • Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic assesses the prospects of a 2020/21 Suns squad if the team essentially maintains its 2019/20 roster and rely on internal player growth. Backup center Aron Baynes is the only rotation player entering unrestricted free agency this offseason.
  • As the Warriors look to build at the edges of their roster, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area takes a look at two potential swingman bench fits: sharpshooting Bucks guard Pat Connaughton and hyper-athletic Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.

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.

Eastern Notes: Craig, Harris, Raptors, Hawks

Heat assistant Dan Craig impressed in his interview for the Pacers’ head coaching job on Friday, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets.

Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch still remains the favorite for the Indiana job, Jackson notes, with Miami assistant Chris Quinn also interviewing for the position. In addition, former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is reportedly in the mix as well.

The Pacers fired Nate McMillan in August after being swept by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. The team accrued a 45-28 record this season, good for fourth-best in the East, but hasn’t won a playoff series since 2014.

Craig has been an assistant with the Heat for eight years. He started with the franchise in 2003 as a video intern, working his way up through the organization over time — much like current Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Nolan Jensen of Nets Daily examines how Joe Harris free agency could play out with the team. Harris is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and would provide an off-ball threat around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant next season, though it’s unclear how much money the team is willing to spend to retain him. “Joe is a guy who is always in the gym,” teammate Caris LeVert said this season. “He’s always trying to get better. He’s always watching film. His maturation and his development obviously hasn’t been a huge surprise, especially for a lot of us who see him work each and every single day,” he said. “It’s especially good to see in games, but we know what Joe is capable of. We know how hard he works. It’s great to see that pay off, especially down the stretch of a game like that.”
  • The Raptors could target a number of free-agent wings this offseason, Blake Murphy of The Athletic writes. Toronto has multiple high-level free agents of its own, including Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka, but the team could show interest in players such as Harris, Jae Crowder and Kent Bazemore.
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic interviewed Hawks assistant general manager Landry Fields, touching on subjects such as scouting, his job with the team and more. Atlanta named Fields as assistant GM earlier this month, with the former NBA player previously serving as GM of the Austin Spurs.

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.

Eastern Notes: Heat, Thibodeau, Bane, Nets

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes his assistants rightfully deserve consideration for head coaching vacancies around the league, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

Both Dan Craig and Chris Quinn have seen their names linked to various teams this year, with Spoelstra backing the idea as a whole.

“I think on our staff we have several future head coaches,” Spoelstra said, as relayed by Winderman. “I don’t want them to just be assistant coaches their whole career. I want them to be able to grow and have opportunities to be head coaches at some point.”

The Heat have previously lost coaches such as Juwan Howard, who left for Michigan, and David Fizdale, who left to become head coach of the Grizzlies and Knicks. Spoelstra credits the coaching tree to team president Pat Riley, a former coach himself.

“I think it’s just the whole Heat program, and that started with Pat,” Spoelstra said. “I think he’s taught us all how to become basketball coaches, at all levels, where you have to learn scouting, offense, defense, tendencies in the league, learning how to coach on the floor and teach.

“That was all demanded from Pat. And then growing, that culture of growing you.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • For the Knicks, it won’t be business as usual with Tom Thibodeau now at the helm, Steve Popper of Newsday opines. Thibodeau is looking to ramp up the team’s offseason workload and work closely with the players, though he’ll have to adhere to the league’s COVID-19 guidelines first. “Obviously, we’d have to follow the protocol that’s set forth by the league, but we will have an opportunity to do the individual stuff with guys that are in the bubble up until October 6,” Thibodeau said. “Then we’re waiting on what we’ll be able to do with the guys that are out of the market. So whatever the league tells us we can do, we will certainly do. And if not we’ll find other ways to get to our development piece whether it’s through film, communications with the players. But we‘re planning on spending a lot of time with our players this offseason.”
  • TCU forward Desmond Bane could be the perfect 3-and-D player for the Nets to draft, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Bane credits current Nets forward Joe Harris for a key part of his game, explaining how he’s studied Harris’ ability to work off screens and make shots off different movements. The Nets have the No. 19 pick in this year’s draft, while Harris is set to reach unrestricted free agency.
  • NetsDaily.com examines the Nets‘ draft situation and which player could be selected, suggesting that Bane, Maryland big man Jalen Smith and others could fit nicely with Brooklyn, a team that’s expected to be at the forefront of contention next season. The draft will take place on Wednesday, November 18.

Pacers Identify 14 Head Coaching Candidates

The Pacers are set to begin a wide-ranging search for a head coach that will include more than a dozen candidates, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski details, Indiana is looking to interview the following candidates as the team seeks a replacement for Nate McMillan:

  • Former Kings and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger
  • Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool
  • Nets associate head coach Jacque Vaughn
  • Trail Blazers associate head coach Nate Tibbetts
  • Spurs assistants Becky Hammon and Will Hardy
  • Heat assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn
  • Mavericks assistants Jamahl Mosley and Stephen Silas
  • Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee
  • Sixers assistant Ime Udoka
  • Magic assistant Pat Delany

It remains to be seen whether the Pacers will be granted permission to speak with all of their potential targets. If they do, the team’s first round of virtual meetings would feature at least 14 interviews.

Many of the Pacers’ coaching candidates identified by Wojnarowski have been linked to other vacancies around the league. Vanterpool, Craig, Mosley, Silas, Ham, and Udoka, for example, are all believed to be interviewing for the Bulls’ job. Udoka and Ham have also been mentioned as potential 76ers candidates, as has Joerger. Vaughn was seriously considered for the Nets job before the team hired Steve Nash, while Hardy and Delany interviewed with the Knicks before they hired Tom Thibodeau.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Others on Indiana’s list, such as Tibbetts and Hammon, have interviewed in past years for various NBA head coaching openings. Only a couple candidates – Quinn and Lee – haven’t received head coaching consideration in the past, as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, Joerger and Vaughn are the only names on the list with previous head coaching experience.

Mike D’Antoni has also been mentioned as a potential target for the Pacers, but he remains active in the postseason with the Rockets and there’s no guarantee he’ll leave Houston when his contract expires.

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has spoken about wanting to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game and has the ability to connect with younger players. McMillan’s old-school approach to offense was believed to be one reason why Indiana made a change.

Heat Notes: Offseason, Robinson, Craig, Butler

The Heat have a number of free agents and may need to make some tough choices this summer, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Veteran starters Goran Dragic, 34, and Jae Crowder, 30, will be free agents this offseason. Bench big man Kelly Olynyk has a $12.2MM player option for 2020/21 that could clog up the team’s cap this summer.

The Heat will look to build on an exciting 2019/20 campaign that sees them currently up 1-0 on the top Eastern Conference seed, the Bucks, in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • Heat wing sniper Duncan Robinson has risen through the ranks, from an undistinguished high school basketball career to a little-noticed college tenure with Division III school Williams College to becoming a starter on an upstart playoff Miami squad in his second NBA season. Ramone Shelbourne of ESPN details the forward’s rise. “It’s my job to make shots,” Robinson said. “But the big shift is that I understand it’s actually my job to take these shots.”
  • The Heat have given assistant coach Dan Craig permission to interview for the Bulls‘ open head coaching position, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a separate story. The 38-year-old Craig has worked with the Heat organization in various capacities for 17 years. He has been an assistant coach for the past four years.
  • Five-time Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, coming off a playoff career-high 40-point night against the Bucks, feels “welcomed” in Miami after his oft-discussed exits from several prior NBA stops, as we detailed in a previous story.

Bulls Begin Interviewing Head Coaching Candidates

The Bulls‘ search for a new head coach is underway, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the team has received permission to speak to a number of candidates and has begun conducting interviews.

Several candidates identified by Wojnarowski have been previously reported as potential targets for Chicago. That group includes former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas, and Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool.

In addition to those candidates, Wojnarowski reports that the Bulls have also been granted permission to talk to Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley and Heat assistant Dan Craig.

Finally, current Bulls assistants Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers – holdovers from Jim Boylen‘s staff who remain under contract – may receive consideration for the top job, according to Wojnarowski. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago indicates that Fleming could have a role on the new staff if he isn’t promoted, since he has previously worked with Bulls executive VP Arturas Karnisovas in Denver and there’s a “trust factor” between the two men.

Following Boylen’s dismissal, Karnisovas suggested that Chicago is seeking a head coach who “puts the relationship with players first” and is “a good communicator.” The Bulls, who appear to be conducting a wide-ranging search, could be competing with the Pacers, Sixers, Nets, and Pelicans for certain candidates, since all of those clubs are also in the market for new head coaches.

While Karnisovas has said there’s no set timeline for finalizing a new hire, it will be interesting to see whether Chicago tries to have a new head coach in place for its organized offseason team activities, which are scheduled to take place from September 14 to October 6.

Eastern Notes: Smart, Teague, Draft

Hawks point guard Jeff Teague relayed today that he played the entire 2015/16 campaign with a torn patellar tendon in his knee and that he “could barely jump or stop,” Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com writes. Teague won’t require surgery this offseason and is expected to be ready to go when training camp commences, Mazzeo adds. “He is kind of, for lack of a better word, managing his knee,” coach/executive Mike Budenholzer said. “I don’t know if it is knees and ankles. I would say it is hard to know what he shares and what he doesn’t. I think he was relatively healthy and he was good so many nights and he is such a good player. I do think he was managing it a little bit like a lot of NBA guys do.”

Teague, 27, appeared in 79 games in 2015/16, averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 assists and shooting 43.9% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. He has one year remaining on his current deal and is a potential trade candidate this offseason. Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Celtics held two group workouts today, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com tweets. The first group was comprised of Alex Caruso (Texas A&M), Juan Hernangomez (Spain), Damian Jones (Vanderbilt), Thon Maker (Australia), Georgios Papagiannis (Greece) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland), Forsberg notes. The second group included Robert Carter (Maryland), Stefan Jankovic (Hawaii), Shawn Long (Louisiana-Lafayette), Mamadou Ndiaye (UC Irvine), Nik Slavica (Croatia) and Troy Williams (Indiana).
  • The Heat have granted the Grizzlies permission to interview assistant coach Keith Smart for a position on the staff of former Miami assistant David Fizdale, who was recently named Memphis’ head coach, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel relays. Memphis was denied permission to interview Heat assistant coach Dan Craig, who is expected to take an elevated position on Erik Spoelstra‘s staff next season, Winderman adds.
  • The Hornets have workouts scheduled for Friday with Cat Barber (NC State), Nathan Boothe (Toledo), Jake Layman (Maryland), Isaiah Miles (St. Joe’s), Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders relays (on Twitter).