David Griffin

Pelicans Notes: Van Gundy, Griffin, Williamson, Weatherspoon, Vinson, Lottery

Pelicans officials determined that Stan Van Gundy’s style was not a match for the team’s young core and that contributed to the decision to fire the veteran head coach after just one season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin wanted Van Gundy to give more playing time to first-round picks Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis, and Jaxson Hayes, but Van Gundy was more comfortable with veterans such as Eric Bledsoe, Fischer continues.

Parting ways with Van Gundy was also a means of currying favor with Zion Williamson, Fischer adds. Griffin had urged Van Gundy to make Williamson more of a lead ball-handler in the team’s offensive scheme.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • While assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon has been rumored to be a potential replacement for Van Gundy, Griffin downplayed that possibility, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Griffin said her candidacy is “premature” and that people may have read too much into her being named the team’s Summer League coach, Guillory adds.
  • On the other hand, assistant Fred Vinson will get serious consideration for a promotion, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Vinson has been with the organization since 2010.
  • The Pelicans hit the jackpot when they won the 2019 lottery and selected Williamson. They’re hoping lightning strikes twice, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes.  The Pelicans enter next Tuesday’s drawing with a 4.5% chance of getting the top pick and a 20.3% chance of moving into the top four.
  • Getting rid of Van Gundy so quickly isn’t a good look for Griffin, Jeff Duncan of The Athletic writes. Next season will be pivotal for the franchise and they need to hit a home run with their next coaching hire to help convince Williamson to sign a long-term extension next summer. Zion didn’t demand Van Gundy’s ouster, Scott Kushner of the Times Picayune reports, but New Orleans’ franchise player has often expressed dissatisfaction and frustration with the team’s inability to be a consistent winner. Making a coaching change now is a way of excising the possibility of Williamson becoming discontented with the franchise.

Pelicans Notes: Ball, Williamson, Ingram, Hayes, Luxury Tax, Offseason

The big question looming over the Pelicans this offseason is whether restricted free agent Lonzo Ball will remain with the franchise. Ball told Andrew Lopez of ESPN and other media members on Monday he’d like to stay.

“That’s a conversation between me and my agent moving forward. But obviously I would love to be back,” Ball said. “I built a bond here with the coaches and the teammates who are here. I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back at all.”

Franchise player Zion Williamson is also hoping that Ball will remain. The front office will have to extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer to prevent Ball from becoming an unrestricted free agent, then would have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs.

“I really would want ‘Zo to come back,” Williamson said. “He knows that. But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is ‘Zo is a grown man, so he’ll make the decision that’s best for him. The only thing I can say is I hope he stays.”

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Brandon Ingram is another fan of Ball’s, calling him a “generational” talent due to his passing ability, Lopez tweets. Ingram is also hopeful that another one of the Pelicans’ RFAs, Josh Hart ($5.23MM qualifying offer), will stay put.
  • The injury big man Jaxson Hayes suffered in the season finale on Sunday was a muscle contusion, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Hayes confirms the injury is a short-term issue, Lopez tweets“There’s a little bit of swelling and I can’t bend it too well,” Hayes said. “But it’s just a contusion. I’ll be fine in a week or so.”
  • Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said he purposely kept the team under the luxury tax, though there was no mandate from ownership. He said his bosses are willing to pay the tax in the future once it becomes a serious title contender, Lopez relays in a string of tweets. “It was something where we didn’t want to start our clock,” Griffin said. “I think this organization and ownership team has been very clear with us that when we have a chance to put the pedal to the medal and build a championship team… I believe there is a willingness to do that. But it’s about picking your spots.”
  • Finding the right combination of players around Williamson is the ultimate front office goal for the franchise, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) writes. Marks takes a deep dive into the Pelicans’ offseason decisions, their cap situation, and the draft. New Orleans owns not only a lottery pick but four second-rounders.

Southwest Notes: Ball, Popovich, Griffin, Walker

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has shown why he’s so polarizing during the team’s most recent home stretch, Christian Clark of NOLA.com writes.

Ball has delivered both good and bad performances since returning from a hip flexor strain in April, but one thing is certain: New Orleans is a far better team when it receives strong production from the 23-year-old.

“Lonzo is one of the most highly scrutinized players I’ve ever seen,” executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said in March, as noted by Clark. “He has the most polarized narrative around him. He’s either the greatest player in the NBA or the worst player that’s ever played. Apparently, there is no in-between.”

Ball is holding per-game averages of 14.7 points, 5.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds on the season. He’s set to reach restricted free agency this summer.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich may be the last of his kind, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Popovich is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, spending the past 25 years as head coach of the team.
  • The rant delivered by Pelicans EVP of basketball operations David Griffin about the team’s officiating concerns was meant to help Zion Williamson down the road, as Scott Kushner of NOLA.com explains. Griffin received a $50,000 fine for criticizing the officiating, noting that Williamson hasn’t received enough respect from many referees this season.
  • Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV enjoys closing out games for the team, but doesn’t seem to mind coming off the bench to start contests, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “I could care less about starting,” Walker said. “I could care less about being on the bench. But being able to play in the final few minutes of the game and close it out, that’s my favorite time.”

Pelicans’ David Griffin Fined $50K

The NBA has fined Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin $50K for “public criticism of the officiating and comments detrimental to the NBA,” the league announced (via Twitter).

Griffin’s comments came Friday in response to a fractured finger that could keep Zion Williamson out for the rest of the  season, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Griffin called the injury “avoidable” and said referees are allowing opponents to enjoy an “open season” on the second-year forward.

“We told the NBA through every means available to us … that the way they were officiating Zion was going to get him injured,” Griffin said. “Quite frankly, he’s injured because of the open season that there’s been on Zion Williamson in the paint. He has been absolutely mauled in the paint on a regular basis to the point where other players have said to him, ‘I’m going to keep doing this to you’ because they don’t call it. There is more violence encouraged on him in the paint than any player I’ve seen since (Shaquille O’Neal). It was egregious and horrific then. The same is true now.”

Griffin said Williamson’s injury didn’t occur on a single play, but was the result of excessive contact “over a period of time.”

“It’s a blunt-force injury,” Griffin said. “He was being beaten on the hand over and over and over again. For me to tell you one time, I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think he knows one time.”

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Griffin, Williamson, Marshall

The Pelicans made big news on Friday when they announced Zion Williamson would be out indefinitely with a fractured left ring finger. Somewhat under the radar was GM David Griffin’s comment about Brandon Ingram‘s status. Griffin said that Ingram’s left ankle sprain “is going to sideline him indefinitely,” Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. Ingram was injured during Tuesday’s game against Golden State.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • As we noted, Griffin ripped the league’s officiating regarding Williamson, despite the fact he’s among the top five in the league in free throws per game. Griffin says Williamson’s power game and physical style shouldn’t influence how games are officiated, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune relays. “I’ve heard officials say this to (head coach) Stan (Van Gundy): ‘Look, the kid’s a beast. He just brings about a bunch of contact,’” Griffin said. “OK, well that doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re supposed to be calling. I almost feel like they didn’t know how to deal with someone so sudden and so strong. So they sort of threw their hands up in the air.”
  • Griffin’s claims regarding the lack of calls for Williamson are broken down in detail by Will Guillory of The Athletic. Guillory says that Griffin’s claims have some validity, balanced out by the fact that the league doesn’t want every game to turn into a parade to the free throw line. Thus, while it’s logical for Griffin to support his franchise player, his claims will likely fall on deaf ears.
  • Newcomer Naji Marshall will receive approximately $120K this season, about double the minimum he could have gotten, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video). The breakdown on Marshall’s four-year contract include a $1.5MM guarantee for next season, $1.8MM for the 2022/23 season and a $1.93MM team option in 2023/24.

Redick: Pelicans’ Front Office Didn’t Honor Their Word

Former Pelicans guard J.J. Redick asked New Orleans’ front office for a trade back in November around the time the team dealt Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee, Redick said today on the latest episode of his Old Man and the Three podcast (video link).

As Redick explains, the opportunity to play with Holiday was one of the main reasons he initially signed with the Pelicans in 2019. Holiday’s departure – and an expectation that his own playing time would be cut back under Stan Van Gundy – played a part in Redick’s decision to ask for a trade. The distance from his family in Brooklyn was also a major factor, since various league and local COVID-19 protocols prevented him from getting many opportunities to see them.

Redick, now with the Mavericks, said he had “transparent” conversations with Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin and GM Trajan Langdon and felt as if they had reached an understanding.

“Griff basically says to me, ‘Come down for a month. If you still want to be traded, I give you my word, I’ll get you to a situation that you like,'” said Redick, who added that he had four conversations directly with Griffin after that point. “… Obviously he did not honor his word.”

Redick made it clear that his comments aren’t intended as a slight toward Dallas. He said he’s looking forward to bringing leadership and shooting to Dallasand playing alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, adding that he told team owner Mark Cuban, “In any other year, I’d be thrilled to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks.” However, the Mavs weren’t one of the teams that Redick and the Pelicans had discussed as a potential landing spot.

According to Redick, he thought that if he wasn’t going to be traded by the “aggregate deadline” of February 2 (the last day a player could be traded and still have his salary aggregated in a second trade at the deadline), he was headed for a buyout agreement with New Orleans. That would allow him to sign with any team, and he suggested he would have considered a handful of teams in the northeast.

“(My understanding was) if I was going to be traded, it was going to be a team in the northeast where I was closer to home and I’d be able to see my family for the last two or three months of the season,” Redick said. “Obviously that didn’t happen.

“… I look at the buyout situation not as me just specifically being like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get bought out and go to Brooklyn,'” he added. “I just wanted to be able, on an off day, to go see my family and to be within sort of driving distance. … Geographically, you can sort of think of the teams where that’s the case.”

Although Redick said he had an “amazing” year-and-a-half with the Pelicans, he admitted that the way the relationship ended was far from ideal.

“I don’t think you’re going to get honesty from that front office. Just objectively speaking — that’s not an opinion, I just don’t think you’re going to get that,” Redick said. “I don’t think what happened with me is necessarily an isolated incident either. I do think across the league, front offices, they act in their own best interest. I get that, I understand that.

“Truthfully, and it’s hard for me to admit this, but I think I was a little naive in thinking that because I was in year 15 and I had at least attempted to do things right throughout my career and I honored my end of the bargain (that the Pelicans would reciprocate)… but in terms of this front office, it’s not something where I would expect certainly the agents who worked on this with me to ever trust that front office again.”

Redick will speak to reporters in a Zoom press conference on Thursday and expects to be with the Mavs on Friday, though he said he’s still rehabbing his heel issue and is likely “a little ways away” from returning to the court.

Southwest Notes: Silas, Griffin, Mavericks, Zion

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is trying to maintain a rosy outlook despite Houston’s recent 13-game losing streak, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“It’s encouraging to know when we get back and we’re healthy and we’re whole and we’re in a position [where] we have enough guys to compete, we’re going to be just fine,” Silas said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • During a recent interview with team broadcaster Todd Graffagnini of ESPN New Orleans, Pelicans team president David Griffin explained the reasoning behind the team prioritizing its veterans over its youth. “So where we’re struggling right now is finding a way to play those guys in a way that makes sense within the framework of a system that doesn’t allow for practice to put them in a position to succeed when they’re on the court,” Griffin said (a transcript is viewable here). “So it’s complicated, and I think the coaches have done a remarkable job of trying to find the balance there. I really take exception to the idea that, well, if you’re losing, you might as well be playing the young kid, that that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • The Mavericks have brought back rookies Josh Green, Tyler Bey and Tyrell Terry from the G League, according to The Dallas Morning News. Green and Bey were playing for the Salt Lake City Stars while in Orlando for the NBAGL “bubble” campus. Terry suited up for the Memphis Hustle.
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will start in place of Sixers center Joel Embiid in the starting lineup for tonight’s All-Star game, Adrian Wojnarowski of EPN tweets. Embiid and his Philadelphia teammate Ben Simmons will be missing the contest as a result of COVID-19 contact tracing. Scott Kushner of The Times-Picayune details how Williamson’s exciting offensive game makes him an ideal fit for the All-Star stage.

Western Notes: Williams, Pelicans, Wall, Thunder

After missing two Suns practices to attend to personal matters, head coach Monty Williams intends to coach Phoenix against the Thunder on Wednesday, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

The 8-7 Suns will host the 7-9 Thunder in the first game of a back-to-back homestand.

“We have to make sure we keep our foot on the gas and not let up at all,” center Deandre Ayton said in discussing the Suns’ recent swoon, which has featured four losses in five games. “We definitely have some answers and we have to redeem ourselves.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer considers next steps the Pelicans could take after their disappointing 5-10 start. New Orleans team president David Griffin is hopeful that star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram will begin to develop defensively, and mentioned new head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s Dwight Howard-era Magic teams as a possible blueprint. “They played really big,” Griffin said. “They played big, skilled basketball. They weren’t like blitzkrieg fast, but they were super skilled and very big.”
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes an in-depth look into the recovery of new Rockets starting point guard John Wall, who missed two calendar years of action during his time as a Wizard, due first to a left heel surgery and then a ruptured Achilles.
  • A revised Thunder bench unit sparked an intriguing victory against the Trail Blazers in Portland, as Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman details.

Pelicans Notes: Ball, Bledsoe, Adams, Holiday, Ingram, Williamson

The Pelicans won’t be choosing between Lonzo Ball and recently-acquired Eric Bledsoe as their starting point guard, according to executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. New Orleans’ top executive envisions that they’ll form the starting backcourt, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. The Pelicans had a similar setup last season, when Ball and Jrue Holiday shared ballhandling duties. The Pelicans acquired Bledsoe from the Bucks and center Steven Adams from the Thunder, along with draft picks, in a four-team deal that sent Holiday to Milwaukee.

New head coach Stan Van Gundy said that Griffin has prioritized toughness and competitiveness at a very high level, and Bledsoe and Adams fit that mold, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune tweets.

Griffin and Van Gundy dropped some interesting tidbits during their Monday press conference:

  • Griffin had pursued Adams for a very long time, according to Kushner (Twitter link). Griffin was impressed with Adams since meeting him prior to the 2013 draft. Adams, who was selected with the No. 12 pick that year, received a two-year, $35MM extension as part of the four-team deal.
  • The front office wanted to do right by Holiday by trading him to a title contender, Lopez notes (Twitter link). Griffin said Holiday’s career timeline to compete for a championship differed somewhat from the Pelicans’ timeline.
  • Brandon Ingram‘s five-year contract doesn’t include a player option, Lopez adds in another tweet, but there is a trade bonus. Ingram officially signed the $158.25MM contract on Monday.
  • Zion Williamson will not have any restrictions heading into training camp, according to Van Gundy. The coach anticipates the early days of camp will look different because they haven’t played as much pickup due to COVID-19 restrictions and a short offseason (Twitter link).
  • The team’s disappointing showing in the Orlando restart convinced Griffin the team needed more “elite competitors” and didn’t have “enough of a work ethic identity,” Kushner relays (Twitter link).

Pelicans Notes: Young Talent, Redick, SVG, Free Agents

In his first press conference with his new team on Tuesday, Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy had high praise for forward Zion Williamson, the top pick in the 2019 draft, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“He’s a multi-talented guy,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t look at him in any way as far as is he a four or a five. I’m not sure those labels matter when it comes to him.”

Van Gundy spoke highly of point guard Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, as well.

“So I think as good as Lonzo is now, and he’s very good, I think that we can expect a good arc of improvement for him over the next few years,” Van Gundy opined.

The Pelicans’ new head coach also stressed emphasizing defense improvement for the club.

There’s more out of the Big Easy:

  • Veteran Pelicans guard J.J. Redick, who had played under Van Gundy while with the Magic, recommended the hire to Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. “I had mentioned to Griff back in August that I thought he’d be great for the job,” Redick said on his podcast The Old Man and the Three, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN relays (Twitter link).
  • With the hire of an experienced coach at the level of Van Gundy, the Pelicans are hopeful that their new head coach can optimize the potential of the team’s young talent, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic assessed some ideal free agent candidates for the Pelicans in a new mailbag. With center Derrick Favors an unrestricted free agent this offseason, free agent veterans like Marc Gasol, Tristan Thompson, Meyers Leonard, and Aron Baynes could all be effective replacements should New Orleans opt to move on from Favors. Defensive-oriented Heat forward Jae Crowder is mentioned as another solid fit for the team to generally shore up its frontcourt depth.