David Griffin

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.

Pelicans Notes: Van Gundy, Udoka, Lee, Redick

The hiring of Stan Van Gundy shows the sense of urgency within the Pelicans organization, William Guillory of The Athletic opines. Anything less than immediate playoff contention on a roster headed by Zion Williamson will be viewed as a failure, Guillory notes. Van Gundy would not have left his TV job for a rebuilding project and Pelicans executives will expect immediate results from their big-name hire, Guillory adds.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Ime Udoka and Charles Lee are potential additions to the Pelicans’ coaching staff, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports. Udoka was an assistant under Brett Brown with the Sixers last season after a seven-year stint with the Spurs. Lee has worked under Mike Budenholzer since the 2014/15 season, first with the Hawks and then with the Bucks.
  • The fact that Van Gundy can concentrate on coaching rather than wearing two hats fosters the belief he’ll be a success in New Orleans, according to Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Van Gundy was a flop in Detroit largely due to his personnel decisions. Van Gundy’s gregarious personality was a key factor in the hire, as Pelicans executive David Griffin feels Van Gundy will be able to connect with a young roster and make players accountable.
  • J.J. Redick is unlikely to be traded with Van Gundy on the bench, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to Sportando). Redick, who has one year and $13MM remaining on his contract, played for Van Gundy in Orlando.
  • If you didn’t get all the details on Van Gundy taking the coaching reins in New Orleans, we have them here.

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.

Western Notes: Pelicans, James, Kobe

Some Pelicans players have left New Orleans during the NBA’s hiatus, but every member of the team is checking in daily via video chats. In addition to physical exercises,  the Pelicans medical team has been virtually working with their players twice per day, providing them with mental exercises and stress relieving exercises.

“We’re trying to be as creative as we can to have constant contact with people and make them understand that we’re still part of the same family, and family matters vitally to this group,” VP of basketball operations David Griffin said today in a conference call (via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com).

“I think our players are very close individually. I think organizationally, I think if you talk to most of the people in it, they would tell you that ‘family’ is a big focus of what we’ve brought to this, so we’re trying as best we can to connect with as many people on as many different levels as possible.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • LeBron James shouldn’t have issues getting back up to speed if the NBA season resumes, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said on a conference call with local media. “Everybody knows that LeBron is a pro’s pro and I know that the way he dedicates himself to his profession is unparalleled,” Pelinka said (via Mike Trudell of NBA.com). “I know he’s been committed to leadership, he’s been committed to continuing to inspire his teammates.”
  • In the same conference call, the Lakers‘ GM also discussed the late Kobe Bryant‘s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. “He was one of the players I think that led the charge of really reaching out to all-time greats to try to collect wisdom and advice from them,” Pelinka said. “I think back to him reaching out to Hakeem Olajuwon to have a footwork workout with him, or the countless conversations with Michael [Jordan] that have been chronicled so well over the past few weeks to Lakers legacy and history with Magic [Johnson]. He was one of the first players, I think, to really, really tap in to getting knowledge from the all-time greats and to be inspired by them.”
  • Magic Johnson admits that it will probably be hard for NBA players to play basketball without fans, though the Hall of Famer believes that the league will be alright if it has to go that route, as he said on CNN (H/T Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com). “We’ve all played our whole life on playgrounds and pickup games without fans there… So basketball players will know how to adjust, trust me,” the former Lakers executive said, adding that he is “looking forward” to see if Los Angeles will win the championship.

David Griffin Talks NBA Shutdown, Zion Williamson, More

The NBA continues to be in wait-and-see mode with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the league to halt operations. Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin joined the club’s local broadcast team to talk about the suspended season as well as share some insight about the on-court product in New Orleans, as the team relays on its website.

Griffin said he hopes that the league resumes soon but wouldn’t speculate on a definite timeline, as it’s impossible to accurately predict when the virus will be contained.

“With everything changing so quickly, everything is in a state of flux that I think it would be premature for the NBA to say what it ultimately looks like,” Griffin said. “I do know unequivocally that the league is very mindful of the idea of getting back to playing.

“The idea of canceling a season is not all on their minds, and we’re modeling every possible thing we can for how we can deliver a product to the fans. Quite frankly, we’re all going to need a diversion in the future. (But) until we can get to a point where we think we’ve got containment of (the coronavirus), we’re going to continue to stay locked down. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can come back sooner rather than later.”

During the 30-minute segment, Griffin also discussed the Pelicans’ roster, including the fit of Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball.

“A big part of it is the chemistry you see with Lonzo and Zion. They have a special connection,” Griffin said, while adding that Nicolo Melli has also proven to be a good on-court mate to Williamson.

“I think Nicolo Melli getting more minutes, and him starting to become a key part of the rotation has been essential as well,” the executive added. “Those three guys work incredibly well as a unit. Zion gives us another player who can create vertical thrust in the offense, and Lonzo can pick defenses apart with his passing.”

Coronavirus Update: Griffin, Smart, Greece, Olympics

Although the coronavirus continues to spread through the league, the NBA hasn’t given any thought to canceling its season, according to Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin (Twitter link from Will Guillory of The Athletic). Griffin made the comment tonight on the team’s Twitter feed during a rebroadcast of a game from earlier this season.

The number of NBA players testing positive for the virus grew from two to 10 over the past week. Three members of the Sixers organization and a member of the Nuggets organization have also tested positive.

Griffin’s comment meshes with a statement by NBA commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week that he remains optimistic that the season will be concluded in some form.

There’s more basketball-related coronavirus news:

  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart, one of the players who tested positive, appeared on CNN yesterday to urge people to take the virus seriously, writes Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports. Smart said he and his teammates were tested after returning from their last road trip and they have all remained quarantined. “Be alert to what’s going on and take the precautions to not only protect yourself,” he said. “By protecting yourself, you protect others.”
  • Panathinaikos is allowing American players to return home because of the virus outbreak in Greece, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. Jimmer Fredette, the most recognizable name on the roster, came back to the United States several days ago. Former NBA forward Wesley Johnson is also part of the team.
  • USA Track and Field is calling for the Summer Olympics to be postponed because of the pandemic, reports CNN. “Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis,” USATF chief executive Max Siegel wrote. “As we have learned our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities.”

Knicks Rumors: Fizdale, Durant, Porzingis, Griffin

Before being hired by the Knicks in the spring of 2018, David Fizdale was a highly sought-after head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who suggest that Fizdale had offers from the Hawks and Suns and was the leading candidate for the Hornets‘ opening as well. However, Fizdale was focused on New York and turned down other offers even before he received any assurances from the Knicks.

A year and a half later, Fizdale is back on the market after a miserable start to the 2019/20 season. Leading up to his ouster, Fizdale knew that team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry were meeting with players to get their input on why the Knicks weren’t showing progress, sources tell Shelburne and Wojnarowski. Eventually, Fizdale told Mills and Perry that he understood if they felt he’d become part of the problem.

Mike Miller has taken over as the Knicks’ interim head coach and should keep the job at least through the end of the season, assuming players respond to him, per the ESPN duo. But there have already been talks at the ownership level about potentially hiring a new coach during the season if the club’s struggles continue. That would present a new series of complications, since Mills and Perry are now on the hot seat themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’d get the go-ahead to pick a new coach.

Shelburne and Wojnarowski touch on many more topics in their latest article, exploring many other factors that have contributed to the Knicks’ ongoing struggles in recent years. The piece is absolutely worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights:

  • Kevin Durant did “strongly” consider the Knicks as a free agent destination earlier this year, but when he and Kyrie Irving talked about teaming up, Durant never pushed the Knicks the way Irving pushed the Nets, sources tell ESPN. Shelburne and Wojnarowski also suggest that team owner James Dolan was wary about bringing aboard Durant and his torn Achilles after the Knicks’ experience with Amar’e Stoudemire.
  • The Knicks began gauging Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value early in 2019, offering him to the Pelicans in an Anthony Davis package, per ESPN. When New Orleans showed little interest in that proposal, the Knicks began to wonder if league-wide interest in Porzingis may not be as high as they believed.
  • When Porzingis and his brother (and agent) Janis found out the Knicks were discussing a possible trade with the Mavericks, they hurried a meeting with the team, providing a wish list of four destinations (Nets, Clippers, Raptors, and Heat), according to Shelburne and Wojnarowski. The Knicks turned around and quickly finalized a deal with Dallas, perhaps not wanting to lose leverage when Porzingis’ request leaked. The series of events left more than a dozen teams around the NBA wondering why they didn’t have a chance to bid on Porzingis, and suggested one of two things to rivals, per Shelburne and Woj: Either the Knicks knew Durant and Irving were coming, or they didn’t know how to properly execute a franchise-altering trade.
  • After parting ways with Phil Jackson in 2017, the Knicks initially zeroed in on David Griffin, who told the organization he was interested only if he could become president of basketball operations and report directly to ownership. Dolan suggested he was “excited” about that idea, sources tell Shelburne and Woj. However, Griffin soon realized – particularly when word broke that the Knicks had signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71MM deal – that he likely wouldn’t have full autonomy and would have to report to Mills. He met with the club but withdrew his name from consideration shortly after that meeting.
  • The Knicks subsequently pivoted to Perry, a candidate “without the gravitas or leverage to demand a direct line to ownership.” Perry’s contract includes fourth- and fifth-year options that must be exercised this season, according to ESPN. It seems unlikely at this point that New York will pick up those options for 2020/21 and ’21/22.

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Davis, Griffin, Gentry

Excitement is building in New Orleans for the debut of Zion Williamson, even though a target date hasn’t been set, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The top pick in this year’s draft is recovering from meniscus surgery, and a return before Christmas is still considered possible. He is able to do partial, weight-bearing workouts, but hasn’t been cleared to take contact.

“He’s dying to be back out here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s taking his rehab very, very serious. He’s chomping on the bit. We’d love to have him out there because he is a game-changer. Who wouldn’t want him out there? … It’s been tough for him only to be able to play in the preseason and not play now. He’s going to be special regardless because he is a team-first guy. And team-first guys seem to succeed in this league and have an impact on their team.”

The Pelicans are expecting Williamson to contribute right away when he does return. After a 6-12 start marked by a long string of injuries, executive vice president David Griffin said the team needs Williamson’s “energy” and “unbridled joy” for the game.

“He’s a monster,” Jrue Holiday added. “Having Zion has been really cool. He definitely surprised me professionally. Obviously, coming from college at 19, he is a little kid at heart. But the way he handles it is like an ultimate professional.”

There’s more from New Orleans, all from Spears:

  • Former Pelicans star and fellow No. 1 pick Anthony Davis met with Williamson when the Lakers traveled to New Orleans this week. Davis could have been Zion’s teammate, but didn’t back off from his trade request after the Pelicans won the draft lottery. “I told him to get healthy,” Davis said. “Obviously, they’re waiting on his return and they’re trying to hold on until he gets back.”
  • Gentry cites “a change of culture” since Griffin was hired to run the organization in April. The move was part of a front office overhaul that included adding Trajan Langdon as general manager and former WNBA star Swin Cash as vice president of basketball operations and team development. “The players know that everything is first class,” Gentry said. “Not that it hadn’t been before. But just the overall feeling and overall environment in a more positive way.”
  • One change that wasn’t made was on the bench, where Gentry was retained despite a 33-49 record last season and a 145-183 mark in his first four years in New Orleans. Griffin had previous experience with Gentry in Phoenix and is confident that he can eventually produce a winner. “Everybody says, ‘Why didn’t you start over with a new coach?’ ” Griffin said. “‘Well, I don’t know a lot of other coaches that I went to the conference finals with, with a roster similar to this.’ The fearless Alvin that coached the 2010 Suns to the conference finals is a different animal than he was able to be here. My job is to get to channel as much of that person as I can because that was a masterful job that I watched him do.”

David Griffin Discusses Zion Williamson’s Injury, Conditioning

Zion Williamson is slated to miss six-to-eight weeks with a torn meniscus in his right knee. While some have speculated that Williamson’s injury occurred because of his weight, GM David Griffin made it clear he doesn’t buy into that theory.

“The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is asinine,” Griffin said of Williamson (via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com). “He wasn’t in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah. That’s not what it is. He’s just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective.”

Exactly when Williamson sustained the injury is unclear. He let the team know of knee discomfort in mid-October, a couple of days after the Pelicans’ preseason game against the Spurs.

The team’s medical staff is working with the No. 1 overall pick to learn more about his body, as there have been few players with Williamson’s particular type of athletic build.

“He can be 274 pounds with 8.5% body fat and he can be 280 pounds with 9% body fat,” Griffin said. “As we have gone through the process for our medical team, learning how to keep him lean and give him the core strength and stability and control he needs to handle all that torque he generates, typically that means you are going to do things to strengthen those areas.

“In this case, he gains muscle mass so fast and gains weight so fast, no one has ever dealt with anybody like him. He’s 19 and it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.”

Williamson played in four preseason games this fall. He averaged 23.0 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.0% from the field.

While the team has set Williamson’s recovery timetable at six-to-eight weeks, Griffin said today that he expects the former Duke star to try to make it back sooner than that.

Pelicans Notes: Williamson, Griffin, Offseason

Pelicans players, coaches and executives alike are trying to shield phenom Zion Williamson from as much of the pressure and spotlight that comes with being the most-hyped player since LeBron James that they can, but it may be a futile endeavor, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Vardon admits it’s an admirable strategy, to try to create an environment in which Williamson matures into an adult naturally, to the degree that’s possible as a professional basketball player. But it’s hard to convince people that this is Jrue Holiday‘s team when everybody and their mother at media day only wants to hear from Zion, even if it meant waiting after the Pels purposely didn’t bring him out until later.

“He’s still 19, a very young 19,” Pelicans’ Executive VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “I think Zion is finding more comfort just with himself as a man, as a person. And that’s really important to us. We don’t have expectations that we are hoisting on him with the players. It’s really about finding himself, finding comfort with his teammates, finding his role and we’re blessed. All Zion wants to do is win.”

But whatever Griffin says, the NBA didn’t “put (the Pelicans) on national TV 30 times” because of anybody but Zion, and New Orleans knows this. So try as they might, the Pelicans probably won’t be able to protect Williamson from what’s coming at him this season.

There’s more news this evening from the Big Easy:

  • As training camp gets underway, William Guillory of The Athletic writes that the Pelicans’ uncertainty entering camp might be higher than it is with any other NBA franchise, as New Orleans only returns five of 20 players from last season’s roster – Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, Jahlil Okafor, and Frank Jackson.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com explores how Griffin was able to make good on his promise to bring multiple, accomplished NBA veterans to New Orleans when he took over in April. One example? Griffin managed to bring in J.J. Redick, Derrick Favors, and Nicolo Melli, a trio that boasts a combined 30-plus seasons of professional experience.
  • ICYMI, Luke Adams took a look at how New Orleans was able to successfully transition from one franchise player to another in the span of a few months, among other Pelicans’ related tidbits, as part of our 2019 Offseason in Review series.