David Griffin

Pelicans Rumors: Williamson, Griffin, Coaches, Front Office

There hasn’t been much noise surrounding Zion Williamson since a June report suggested some of his family members want him out of New Orleans, but the 2021/22 season will be crucial for the Pelicans and their long-term relationship with the former No. 1 overall pick.

Williamson will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, and while no player has ever turned down a maximum-salary rookie scale extension, New Orleans will want to take a major step toward contention this season to reduce the risk of Zion becoming the first.

In a deep dive into the situation in New Orleans, Christian Clark of NOLA.com suggests Williamson grew frustrated back in the Pelicans back in his rookie season when they handled his return from a preseason knee injury with extreme caution, extending his recovery timeline and then having him play in short “bursts” when he returned. Williamson detested those “burst” limits, according to Clark, who says there was significant tension between the star forward and the team’ medical staff that season.

Additionally, while executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin tried to forge a bond with Williamson during his rookie season, Zion’s relationship with the head of the team’s front office had “begun to sour” by the end of the year, says Clark. The two men don’t communicate frequently now, Clark adds.

Here’s more from Clark’s report, which includes several interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full:

  • Griffin isn’t particularly popular among a segment of Pelicans employees, who referred to him in a group chat last year as “Griff Krause” while ‘The Last Dance’ was airing, according to Clark. The moniker was a reference to former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, whom the ESPN documentary portrayed as disliked by the team’s stars and head coach.
  • Although many people in the Pelicans’ organization believed the team needed to replace head coach Alvin Gentry in 2020, some didn’t like the way the change was handled. According to Clark, Griffin blamed Gentry for the Pelicans’ poor start that season, telling one person, “I give Alvin all the answers to the test, and he still fails.”
  • Tyronn Lue was believed to be the Pelicans’ top choice when they replaced Gentry, but Lue opted to join the Clippers. When Griffin pivoted to Stan Van Gundy, some people in the organization raised concerns that the fit would be awkward, Clark writes, but the Pelicans hired him anyway. The team dismissed Van Gundy this spring after just one season.
  • While J.J. Redick‘s public criticism of the Pelicans’ front office earlier this year placed Griffin and his group under a microscope, Jrue Holiday praised the team for sending him to a contender after he quietly asked to be traded, and several prominent agents – including Mark Bartelstein – told Clark that their interactions with New Orleans’ head of basketball operations have been positive.

Pelicans Notes: Lowry, Playoffs, Griffin, Williamson

Now that the dust has settled on Monday’s Grizzlies-Pelicans trade, William Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at why the Pelicans made the move, what it means for the future, and the man assumed to be at the center of the sudden push for cap space: Kyle Lowry.

After getting off of the contracts for Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, the Pelicans project to have about $22MM in cap space, and if they renounce Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and their remaining free agents, that number could climb to $36MM, more than enough to make a competitive offer to Lowry.

But despite the obvious on-court and leadership appeal of Lowry, Guillory preaches caution when thinking that Lowry could have the same impact that, say, Chris Paul had on the Suns. Lowry, while a great player in his own right, has been limited by injuries the last three seasons, and doesn’t have quite the same track record of raising a team’s expectations as Paul.

Guillory also points out that because of the reported interest in Lowry from teams like the Sixers, Heat and Lakers, it’s likely that New Orleans, which is not a prime free agent destination, would have to overpay for the 35-year-old guard.

We have more news from the Pelicans:

  • New head coach Willie Green just finished a miracle run to the Finals with the Suns, and he’s looking to see a similar leap with the Pelicans next year, writes ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “We’re really close to taking the next step,” Green said. “I believe going into next season that’s our goal, that’s our mindset. That’s what makes us a sleeping giant. We have two young All-Stars. Putting a lot of talent around those guys and really just making this team go.”
  • Within the same piece from Lopez, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin lays out what he considered his vision for the offseason: “What we hope we’re able to do in the coming weeks in the offseason and heading up through the following years is build a sustainable winner that’s rooted in that gratitude and joyfulness led by Willie Green and the players… that leadership voice, that shooting we need to put around our great young stars. We’re heading towards that.”
  • While gameplans and racking up wins may be part of Green’s agenda, one priority stands out above all others, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst: ensuring Zion Williamson wants to stay in New Orleans long-term. Green has the reputation of creating deep bonds with his players, but this will be a new challenge as a first-time coach of a superstar in a small market. Williamson reportedly had some concerns with former head coach Stan Van Gundy, making Green’s ability to be a player’s coach even more crucial.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Pelicans Draft Choices, Pelicans Roundup

New Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd joined ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday to discuss his time with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, as well as what’s in store for his relationship with Luka Doncic in Dallas.

Asked about what he was focused on helping Doncic improve on, Kidd replied, “My job is to help make the game easier for him. Understanding the game within the game. Understanding how to get guys going, becoming a better leader.”

Kidd was also asked about Kristaps Porzingis. “Getting KP back to what he did in New York,” Kidd said. “Putting the ball on the floor, one dribble stop-and-pop… I remember a lotta highlights when he was putting the ball on someone’s head. So getting him back to that era in his basketball when he was having fun.”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • In part one of his offseason mailbag, The Athletic’s Will Guillory explored some of the big questions of the Pelicans’ offseason. One such question regarded whether the disappointing seasons of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams were more about personal decline or bad fit with the team’s stars. Guillory maintained that Adams, who had trouble fitting in, has been serious about adding a three-point shot to extend his career, and that he’s been “shooting the snot out of the ball,” according to a source. But he also warns that Bledsoe could face boos at home if he’s still on the roster next season.
  • Guillory also confirms that many believe Jacque Vaughn was the favorite for the Pelicans’ head coaching position before withdrawing, but that Willie Green won many in the front office over immediately upon his first meeting with them.
  • In a piece for NOLA.com, Pelicans beat writer Christian Clark breaks down five prospects the Pelicans are likely to consider with the 10th pick in the draft. Clark quotes executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin on the need to improve the roster construction: “We need to make the pieces fit a little bit better. I think you could all see that this was a rather wonky group at times.” Clark names Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, Moses Moody and others, in a clear sign that wing shooting is going to be at a premium for New Orleans

Pelicans Rumors: Griffin, Vaughn, S. Mitchell, Vinson, Hayes

Before the Pelicans decided to hire Willie Green as their new head coach, they were looking hard at Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn, who ultimately removed his name from consideration.

At the time, Vaughn’s desire to spend more time with his family in Brooklyn was cited as the motivating factor for his decision to withdraw, but Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggests that Vaughn’s discussions with Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin also played a part. During those conversations, Griffin conveyed that he intended to be involved in determining the team’s rotation, planning players’ skill development, and filling out Vaughn’s coaching staff.

“He wants to have some level of involvement in every decision,” one Pelicans source said of Griffin, per Fischer.

Here’s more out of New Orleans:

  • After Vaughn withdrew from the Pelicans’ coaching search, the team expanded its list of candidates, according to Fischer, who says NBA TV broadcaster and former Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell was among those to receive a call. Mitchell is expected to receive consideration for a spot on Green’s staff, Fischer adds.
  • Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson, who interviewed for the head coaching position, is considered likely to remain in his current role. Sources tell Bleacher Report that Vinson’s interview with New Orleans lasted over four hours and was “exemplary.” Vinson and fellow Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon are said to have good relationships with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, per Fischer.
  • During the interview process, the Pelicans wanted to know how each head coaching candidate would scheme their offense around Williamson and Ingram, and asked them to present development plans for the team’s other young players, writes Fischer.
  • Fischer refers to center Jaxson Hayes as “a personal favorite” of Griffin’s.
  • In case you missed it, the Pelicans are reportedly likely to trade at least one of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams this offseason and may go after Kyle Lowry in free agency.

Southwest Notes: Mosley, Mavs Front Office, Kidd, Vaughn, Pelicans

Assistant coach Jamahl Mosley is expected to leave the Mavericks, writes Tim Cato of the Athletic. Mosley is a respected coach around the league, and had a particularly close relationship with star Luka Doncic. Mosley had expected to receive serious consideration for the head coach position, but felt that failed to materialize as the team zeroed in on its preferred candidate, Jason Kidd. He will likely be an in-demand assistant coach, even if a head coaching position isn’t offered to him this summer.

In the same article, Cato examines the Mavericks’ front office power structure. The most striking thing, Cato writes, is that despite the overhaul, the structure feels exactly the same. The organization is surrounding new head of basketball operations Nico Harrison with former Mavericks players familiar with the team’s dealings, such as special advisor Dirk Nowitzki, vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley, and head coach Kidd, who is expected to bring on J.J. Barea and possibly Jason Terry as assistant coaches. Team owner Mark Cuban is expected to continue acting as the ultimate decision-maker.

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Kidd’s contract with the Mavericks will be for four years, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The exact amount of the contract is still unclear, but this deal will run until Doncic is 26 years old, a critical period in the All NBA guard’s career.
  • Jacque Vaughn is gaining traction to become the head coach of the Pelicans, as Brian Windhorst reported this week. William Guillory of The Athletic examines how Vaughn – a current Brooklyn assistant and former Orlando head coach – could fit in New Orleans, as well as potential question marks for the coach, including the Magic’s lack of success with him at the helm, as well as the question of if he would continue to utilize star Zion Williamson as a point forward or rely more on the traditional guards.
  • Next season will mark the third coach in three years for the Pelicans, and Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that it could be president of basketball operations David Griffin‘s last chance to get it right for a while. It will be crucial for Griffin to examine where and why Alvin Gentry and Stan Van Gundy couldn’t succeed in New Orleans, or else the team will be forced into another reset that it cannot afford. “The real issue moving forward is finding somebody who you’re in lockstep with,” Griffin said. “And that includes ownership as well. That has to be something we’re moving with together and moving with the same spirit and same energy. I don’t know how else to put it.”

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.