Danny Ainge

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Lillard, Simmons, Murray

Trade rumors have been swirling around Damian Lillard since the Trail Blazers were knocked out of the playoffs, but backcourt partner CJ McCollum believes Lillard is “all in” for the new season, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Appearing on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, McCollum discussed Lillard, new coach Chauncey Billups and several other topics.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but having a close relationship, he and I talk every day, or every other day, from sharing memes to sending videos to each other to serious talks about our season, what it takes to win, what it’s going to takes to win a championship, I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at,” McCollum said of Lillard. “And I think his goal is to win a championship. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship. But I mean, he’s all in. I think at this stage I can say that he’s all in. He just wants to win at the end of the day.”

Lillard held a press conference last month while preparing for the Olympics to deny a report that he was about to ask Portland’s front office for a trade. Although he hasn’t demanded a deal, Lillard has communicated his desire to upgrade the roster to give the Blazers a better chance to compete for a title.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune examines the latest rumors about the Timberwolves‘ interest in Ben Simmons, concluding that Minnesota would like to acquire Simmons but doesn’t have the assets to make a deal. Rand suggests an offer of D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels and at least one first-round pick, which he concedes still may not be enough to interest the Sixers. Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, is looking for a star in return, so the Wolves might need to get other teams involved to have a chance at Simmons.
  • March is a “reasonable target date” to expect Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to start playing again, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. That would be 11 months since his surgery for a torn ACL. Denver targeted a scoring guard in the draft to make up for the loss of Murray, Singer adds, and came away with Bones Hyland.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith tells Ben Anderson of KSL Sports that fans shouldn’t read anything into his golf outings with former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. There have been rumors that Ainge might be considered for a position in Utah’s front office, but Smith says they have been playing together for a long time. “I’ve played golf with Danny Ainge for 20 years,” Smith said. “I know the media likes to write about it like there’s this thing going on with Danny, but Danny has been a mentor and a friend for 20 years.”

And-Ones: Lawson, Tobey, Lin, Ainge, Alkins

Former Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson has signed with Kolossos Rhodes, a team in the Greek League, per a team press release. According to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando, Lawson originally signed with the Greek club last January, but was unable to leave China to join the team due to travel complications.

Lawson, who is still only 33 years old, had several seasons of borderline All-Star level play for the Nuggets before off-court issues derailed him. The 5’11” point guard has averaged 26+ PPG and 8.7+ APG the last two seasons in China. This stint marks his first time in the European leagues since he played with BC Zalgiris during the 2011 NBA lockout.

We have more news from around the world of basketball:

  • Mike Tobey, who played in two games for the Hornetsduring the 2016/17 season, had a strong showing for the Slovenian Olympic team alongside Luka Doncic in Tokyo, averaging 13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG and 2.5 APG while shooting 38% from three. But Marc Stein reports that Tobey has a significant buyout with his current team of Valencia in Spain, making a return to the NBA a complicated proposition, at least in the near future.
  • Former Knick – and NBA champion with the Raptors – Jeremy Lin tested positive for COVID-19 upon landing in Shanghai, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Lin said he is vaccinated, and is only experiencing minor symptoms.
  • Danny Ainge may not be with the Celtics anymore, but he calls his current status “taking a break,” rather than “retired,” according to an interview with A. Sherrod Blakely. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to re-enter to the level I was at, for sure,” Ainge said. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I’m in no rush.”
  • Rawle Alkins plans to sign with Ukraine’s Dnipro, according to our JD Shaw (Twitter link). The 23-year-old 6’5 guard from the University of Arizona played 10 games for the Bulls during the 2018/19 season.

Western Notes: Leonard, George, Mavericks, Jazz, Ainge, Suns

Despite Kawhi Leonard having the ability to decline his $36MM player option and enter free agency this summer, the pairing of Leonard and Paul George is likely to continue with the Clippers, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times opines.

Leonard and George remain one of the league’s most formidable duos on both ends of the floor. This season’s run was cut short due to Leonard’s knee injury in round two, with the Clippers subsequently losing 4-2 to the Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

“We’ve made great connections; I think we’ve both grown, myself and Kawhi, together,” George said after the team’s season-ending loss, as relayed by Greif. “I think we really enjoy being teammates, and we see what we can be and what we can do.

“So, I’m happy. I’m happy to be his teammate. I was very excited. Proud of what we accomplished. … I think we’ve got a good foundation.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall had an extensive conversation with new head coach Jason Kidd about his 2001 domestic abuse charge before he was hired, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Kidd accepted his position with the Mavericks last month. He won a championship with the team in 2011 and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Lakers.
  • Former Celtics president Danny Ainge said that there’s “nothing going on” between him and the Jazz at this point, despite rumors he could join the team as an advisor, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Ainge recently departed from the Celtics after nearly two decades with the franchise.
  • Mark Faller of The Arizona Republic examines how the Suns went from 19 wins in 2018/19 to the NBA Finals this season, calling it the best turnaround story in sports. Phoenix, led by a star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, will play Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Finals on Tuesday.

Northwest Notes: Beasley, Blazers’ Patch, Ainge, Timberwolves

Michael Beasley has agreed to play with the Trail Blazers’ summer league team in Las Vegas next month, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Beasley didn’t play in the NBA the last two seasons. He was signed as a substitute player with the Nets last summer but the contract was voided after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

The second overall pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2018/19 campaign, when he averaged 7.0 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 26 games (10.7 MPG) for the Lakers. He was traded to the Clippers at the ’19 deadline and subsequently waived.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Blazers have entered into a jersey patch agreement with StormX, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website writes. StormX is a company based out of Seattle that features an app which allows users to earn rewards, which are then paid out in cryptocurrency. They are the first NBA team to have a cryptocurrency as their jersey patch partner.
  • Danny Ainge became a BYU legend 40 years ago and perhaps it’s time for him to return to Utah in an executive role with the Jazz, Jeff Call of the Deseret News opines. Ainge stepped down from his post with the Celtics but he still wants to be involved with the game, There have been rumors that Ainge could join the Jazz in an advisory role.
  • The Timberwolves traded away their lottery pick and are pushed up against the luxury tax. ESPN’s Bobby Marks explores Minnesota’s potential offseason moves, noting that the team is limited to the $5.9MM taxpayer midlevel exception if it wants to sign a free agent. The Timberwolves could also choose to move some of their $35MM in expiring contracts, a group that includes Ricky RubioJuan HernangomezJake Layman and Josh Okogie.

Jazz Rumors: Lindsey, Snyder, Azubuike, Wade, Ainge, Battier

Dennis Lindsey‘s transition from his executive VP of basketball operations position with the Jazz into an advisory role was framed as Lindsey’s call, but it was more of an ownership decision, according to Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen and Walden explain in an in-depth story, new Jazz owner Ryan Smith is making some changes to the front office — director of pro player personnel David Fredman was also told this week that his contract isn’t being renewed.

One factor in the decision to reassign Lindsey was a “long-running disconnect” between the executive and head coach Quin Snyder, per the Tribune’s report. According to Larsen and Walden, Lindsey and Snyder had numerous disagreements both on and off the court, including not seeing eye to eye on rotation and roster decisions. Snyder – along with many members of the front office – were frustrated by the selection of Udoka Azubuike in the first round of the 2020 draft, per Larsen and Walden.

Given Utah’s success during the 2020/21 season, Lindsey and Snyder were on better terms during the last year, but several people in the organization still felt that this week’s announcement reflected a feud being settled. “Quin won,” one source told The Tribune.

Here’s more on the Jazz’s front office shakeup:

  • While Lindsey is now an advisor in the Jazz’s front office, there’s an expectation that he’ll seek a job with another team, according to Larsen and Walden.
  • Dwyane Wade has “added his voice” to front office discussions, but isn’t taking a day-to-day role in basketball and roster decisions, per Larsen and Walden.
  • If former Celtics executive Danny Ainge joins the Jazz, it will likely be in an advisory role, says Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Jones, Larsen, and Walden all say more front office additions are expected. Multiple reporters, including Jones, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggest that Wade’s former teammate Shane Battier is one candidate to join the basketball operations department. Battier worked in the Heat’s front office from 2017-21, but recently left that position and is now just a consultant for Miami.

Jazz EVP Lindsey Transitioning To Advisory Role; Zanik To Run Basketball Ops

Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey is transitioning to an advisory role with the franchise, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Although Lindsey has been the head of basketball operations in Utah in recent years, general manager Justin Zanik has run day-to-day operations in the front office since 2019 and he’ll continue to do so going forward, sources tell ESPN. Head coach Quin Snyder will also continue to have a “significant organizational voice,” says Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

New Jazz owner Ryan Smith is expected to take the opportunity to evaluate the basketball operations department to “see where it can be strengthened,” Woj adds (via Twitter). Tony Jones of The Athletic (all Twitter links) also suggests that more front office changes are on the way, with former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge among those who could be in the mix to join the Jazz. Ainge was linked to Utah immediately after word broke that he was stepping down from his job in Boston.

However, Wojnarowski stresses that Smith and Zanik have worked well together, and Jones says the plan is for Zanik to head up the basketball operations department going forward. If Ainge comes aboard, it won’t be to lead the front office, according to Jones. It’s unclear if Ainge would be interested in a role where he’s not making the final decisions.

Lindsey, confirming his move to an advisory position, shared a statement with Wojnarowski:

“In recent years, I have had conversations with the Miller family and then Ryan Smith when he came on board about moving into an advisory role. This is an appropriate time to make the transition with the organization on such solid footing. … I look forward to making contributions to the Jazz in a different way, while enjoying more time with my wife Becky and our four children.”

Atlantic Notes: Udoka, Smart, Raptors, De Colo, Simmons

New Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was intrigued by the chance to work under Brad Stevens, a president of basketball operations uniquely positioned to understand Udoka’s role as well as anyone, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

The Celtics, in turn, were drawn to Udoka due to his work ethic, his pedigree – including his experience working under Gregg Popovich – and his ability to connect with a young team. According to Himmelsbach, during Udoka’s previous stints as an assistant, he’d often go out for dinner with players to learn more about them.

Udoka’s final interview with the Celtics took place on Sunday, with Stevens, team owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, and VP of player development Allison Feaster all present. While that group ultimately made the decision to hire Udoka, the C’s also sought input from former president of basketball ops Danny Ainge and multiple players, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Himmelsbach notes.

As Udoka takes the reins in Boston, he’ll be tasked with rebuilding the Celtics’ defensive identity and developing the club’s young talent, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes in an Insider-only story. Pelton suggests that Udoka may also prioritize increasing the team’s ball movement and putting players in positions to create shots for teammates — Boston’s rate of assisted field goals ranked 27th in the NBA in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marcus Smart isn’t a traditional point guard, but he’s a “criminally underrated” passer, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who outlines why Smart could be the Celtics‘ starter at the point in 2021/22 with Kemba Walker gone.
  • The Raptors secured the fourth overall pick in a draft that is viewed as having at least four top-tier prospects, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with simply staying put and taking whichever player drops to them, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. General manager Bobby Webster suggested the club will be open to a variety of scenarios with that selection. “All of our options are open,” Webster said. “As much as we would love the pick, we’re going to see what it yields outside of the draft.”
  • Veteran guard Nando De Colo, who technically remains a Raptors restricted free agent despite not having played in the NBA since 2014, will return to Fenerbahce in Turkey for at least one more season, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Toronto has issued De Colo a qualifying offer for seven straight years to retain his RFA rights and will likely do so again this summer.
  • While there’s no guarantee that the Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason, Chris Mannix of SI.com believes that it should, arguing that Simmons and the Sixers would both benefit from a fresh start.

Mavs Notes: Finley, Front Office Search, Carlisle

Former Mavericks champion Michael Finley has emerged as a strong candidate to be named the team’s new head of basketball operations, writes Marc Stein of the New York Times. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News also believes Finley is likely to become Dallas’ new president of basketball ops.

Finley spent eight seasons in Dallas as a player and was a two-time All Star for the Mavs. He’s currently the team’s VP of basketball operations, and Stein and Townsend both suggest that team owner Mark Cuban is more likely to stay in-house to replace longtime executive Donnie Nelson than to bring in someone new with the draft and free agency around the corner.

Stein also reports that the Mavs aren’t pursuing veteran executives such as Danny Ainge and Masai Ujiri for their front office opening. There’s an expectation that – even if Finley is promoted – the team would make at least one outside addition to its front office, but execs like Ainge and Ujiri would likely expect more autonomy than Cuban is willing to cede, Stein writes.

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Tim Cato of the Athletic provides a post-mortem on the Rick Carlisle era with the Mavericks, highlighting the coach’s adaptability as a tactician and thinker of the game, as well as his abrasive personality, including his rocky relationship with star Luka Doncic. Both star and coach seemed at times to bristle at each other, as Carlisle felt Doncic publicly showed him up and Carlisle was known for lashing out at players verbally, including several Doncic was close with. The piece also discusses more about his contentious give-and-take towards the end with Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris. Cato concludes that the era was a successful one, culminating in a championship with longtime Mav Dirk Nowitzki, but in the end, it was time for both sides to move on.
  • The Mavericks will not seek any compensation from the team that hires Carlisle, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Carlisle still had two years on his deal when he stepped down, but MacMahon writes that owner Cuban has no interest in complicating Carlisle’s job search and drawing out what has already been an ugly process. Carlisle and Cuban have a long-standing relationship and Cuban has expressed nothing but gratitude to Carlisle for his time as Mavericks head coach.
  • In case you missed it, a report earlier this week indicated that the Mavericks kicked the tires on Kelly Oubre at the trade deadline and could have interest in the forward again in free agency.

Fischer’s Latest: Celtics’ Front Office, Ainge, Billups, Brown, More

As the Celtics transition from the Danny Ainge era to the Brad Stevens (presidential) era, they will have a lot of decisions to make, both in regards to the front office and the coaching staff. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer suggests that two names to watch in regards to the front office are current assistant general manager Mike Zarren and director of player personnel Dave Lewin. Both are long-time members of the Celtics organization and seem set to move up the organizational hierarchy.

Fischer writes that Zarren has long been the primary voice in trade negotiations, and that there is belief that Stevens will out-rank him as a decision maker more in name than in practice. If Zarren is promoted to general manager, it’s believed that Lewin will be promoted to assistant general manager.

Another name Fischer mentions is Hawks assistant general manager Landry Fields, who has previously been cited as a potential front office candidate for the Celtics.

“All teams are monitoring Landry Fields,” said a Western Conference executive, “because he’s going to get a real shot here to run his own team soon.”

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • While the possibility of Ainge joining the Jazz has been previously reported, Fischer adds that Ainge has also been linked by league sources to the Trail Blazers in some capacity. The Blazers have already fired longtime coach Terry Stotts after the team’s first round exit, and more shake-ups may be on the way.
  • Chauncey Billups may not have experience as a head coach, but Fischer says Billups has been considered the lead candidate among league personnel to replace Stotts as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for weeks now. The former Pistons point guard – and current Clippers assistant – is considered one of the top head coach candidates on the market.
  • Mike Brown is on the lookout for another head coaching job after five years as an assistant coach with the Warriors, according to Fischer’s sources. Brown is a veteran who has previously been the head coach for the Cavaliers and Lakers, but he hasn’t had a team of his own since the 2013-2014 season.
  • With so many options on the market, it seems unlikely that the Celtics head coach will come from the team’s bench, according to Fischer, who says people around the league don’t expect the Celtics to promote an assistant coach with no prior experience head coaching in the NBA.

Celtics Notes: Allen, Stevens, Lawson/Hammon, Ainge

Current Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen will interview for the vacancy left by Brad Stevens when the latter opted to step into a front office role with Boston, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Allen has been an assistant on Stevens’ staff for the last six seasons. Stevens will be leading the search for his replacement.

Pompey notes that Allen had an opportunity to become an assistant coach with the Mavericks during the 2020 offseason, but opted to remain in Boston, hoping to one day become the next Celtics head coach.

“For six years, I either sat behind [Stevens] or next to him and watched him not only work, I watched him prepare,” Allen said. “I watched him show-in to other people. Watched how he operated.”

Pompey writes that Allen has developed strong relationships with current Celtics Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart. Before transitioning to the NBA, Allen was previously the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • In a new piece, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe details how Brad Stevens emerged as the replacement for departing Celtics team president Danny Ainge. Ainge officially informed Celtics ownership of his intentions after the March 2021 trade deadline. Upon hearing this, owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca approached then-head coach Stevens about transitioning into the team president role.
  • There are several viable female candidates who could become the Celtics’ next head coach, writes Steve Buckley of The Athletic. Buckley examines the potential fits of former Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson, as well as longtime Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
  • Outgoing Celtics team president Ainge has outfitted the team with plenty of promising players, but new president Stevens will need to make some key adjustments to bring Boston back to title contention, writes Jay King of The Athletic“These last two years have been tough,” Ainge acknowledged. “In the [2020 NBA restart] bubble and all the rules and scrutiny and protocols that we had to go through has not made the job as much fun.” King notes that the 62-year-old Ainge may yet join another team’s front office in some capacity. Ainge drafted current Boston All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Stevens will need to figure out how to navigate his way around the league’s luxury tax while improving the roster around the Celtics’ two best players, writes King.