Doc Rivers

Pacific Notes: Smailagic, Adams, Diallo, Shamet

Warriors rookie big man Alen Smailagic has a severe ankle sprain, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Coach Steve Kerr said Smailagic, a second-round pick, will be out for the “foreseeable future” due to the injury.

The 18-year-old Serbian played in the G League for Santa Cruz – the Warriors’ affiliate – in 2018/19 but wasn’t draft-eligible until this year. He was shut down early in the pre-draft process and was “hidden” in Serbia from the rest of the NBA. He signed a four-year, minimum salary contract with two years guaranteed.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings never seriously considered trading for Thunder center Steven Adams, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports.  The Thunder are reportedly seeking a significant return for their top big man and were hoping to pry away Buddy Hield or Bogdan Bogdanovic in talks with Sacramento.
  • The Suns have numerous options at the power forward and center spots but Cheick Diallo could be in the mix, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Diallo was signed to a two-year contract after spending three seasons with the Pelicans. “He’s a really active player,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He can score around the basket. He’s trying to defend. … He just plays hard. Gives you a different edge at that four-five spot.”
  • Landry Shamet and rookie Terance Mann are the main backup options to Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley despite having backgrounds at the wing positions, Mirjan Swanson of the Orange County Register relays. Coach Doc Rivers believes Shamet will emerge in that role. “Landry will play point a lot this year,” Rivers said. “There’s no doubt about that. Because he can do a lot of things that very few guys can do, (Stephen) Curry-like. He can push it up, throw it and run and still score.”

L.A. Notes: Leonard, L. Williams, LeBron, Bradley

Kawhi Leonard understands that he has an opportunity to make history by leading a third team to an NBA title, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Robert Horry and John Salley both won rings with three franchises, but neither played a starring role like Leonard did in San Antonio and Toronto. He’s a team leader now for the Clippers and has a chance to bring a championship to the city where he grew up.

“That would be a great accomplishment,” Leonard said. “That feat would be something to talk about once I’m done playing, and being able to do that in my hometown would be amazing. Growing up, [Staples Center] was one of the first NBA arenas I ever went to. So to do all of that here would be special. But we have work to do first.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The addition of Leonard and Paul George will mean a reduced role for Lou Williams, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year is ready to adapt to whatever is necessary, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Even though he came off the bench, Williams often ran the offense and served as the top scorer late in games. Having two stars on hand means those duties will now be shared. “At the end of the day, I am a sixth man, I am a backup,” Williams said. “No matter how much you dress it up, no matter how much history I’ve made, no matter how many special things I’ve done off the bench, I’m still a backup and I understand that to the core of me.”
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers tells Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that he briefly quit the team in 2013 after former owner Donald Sterling vetoed the signing of J.J. Redick. The incident happened less than a week after Rivers was hired, and he changed his mind when Sterling relented the next day.
  • LeBron James is ready to prove he’s still among the league’s elite players after the longest offseason of his career, Vardon writes in a separate story. LeBron’s summer included shooting “Space Jam,” working on his game and spending time with family and friends, but for the first time in 13 years it didn’t include the playoffs.
  • Avery Bradley has quickly emerged as the Lakers‘ most feared defender, observes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley is glad to be back in Los Angeles after ending last season with the Grizzlies“This is a whole new opportunity for me to prove myself each and every night,” he said. “There’s no bigger stage than this. Each and every night, every opportunity I get I’m going to try to prove, to show the world I’m the best perimeter defender in the NBA.”

Western Notes: Kerr, Clippers, Melli, Mavs

All the changes to the Warriors roster will make training camp “critical,” coach Steve Kerr told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. While in recent years the Warriors have only made tweaks to their scheme, this training camp will involve sorting out the rotation and finding the team’s strengths.

“This year, it’s totally different,” Kerr said. “Nobody really knows each other that well. We’re really going to have to examine our team in camp, the exhibition season, early in the season. Figure out the best way to play on both ends.”

Kerr sees the need to take more control of the offense.

“When you lose continuity, it’s more important to have sets and calls that you can rely on,” he said. “Random stuff gets more difficult if you don’t know each other well.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Sixth man Lou Williams was the Clippers’ closer the last couple of seasons, but the additions of superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George change that dynamic, as coach Doc Rivers explained to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “Lou is always going to be a closer, but it’s more closing plays now than who the closer is,” Rivers said. “You know who the closers are. The fact that that’s plural is a very good thing. Now it’ll be the closing lineups, the closing sets, the closing formations.”
  • Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli has returned to the court after undergoing offseason knee surgery, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Melli skipped the FIBA World Cup due to the injury. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, $8MM contract in July after playing professionally in Europe for over a decade.
  • The Mavericks have prioritized continuity on their roster, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News notes. More than half of the players on the training camp roster have played at least half a season for Dallas, Townsend notes. The Mavs have also invested $320MM in guaranteed contracts over the next four seasons, Townsend adds.

Doc Rivers On How Clippers Landed Kawhi, George

The Clippers were one of the big winners of the 2019 offseason, landing the top free agent on the market in Kawhi Leonard and trading for MVP finalist Paul George in perhaps the most shocking deal of the summer.

While the Clippers can look back fondly now on a first week of July that culminated with the club reaching agreements to acquire both stars, head coach Doc Rivers admits to Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride at the time.

According to Rivers, on Friday, July 5 at noon, it looked like the Clippers wouldn’t be able to pry George away from the Thunder. Failing to complete that deal was expected to result in Leonard signing with the Lakers or returning to the Raptors, and Rivers was particularly dismayed at the idea of Kawhi joining the Lakers, telling Clippers owner Steve Ballmer that they couldn’t allow that to happen.

“I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle,” Rivers told Markazi. “It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”

Less than 12 hours later, the deal with Oklahoma City was back on and the Clippers had secured a commitment from Leonard, shaking up the NBA world and putting Rivers in position to coach two of the game’s top players.

In his conversation with Markazi, Rivers offered a few more entertaining tidbits about the Clippers’ pursuit of Leonard and their trade for George. Here are a few of the highlights from the veteran head coach:

On the Clippers’ subtle, season-long recruitment of Leonard in 2018/19:

“I got a lot of credit, and so did [special consultant] Jerry West, but the guy that was the hero in all this was [president of basketball operations] Lawrence Frank. He did all the work. He had Steve Ballmer going to Raptors games and he went to some, too. We were warned that no more Clippers players, coaches or employees could go to games in Toronto. We were sending guys to go sit the stands.

“There was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but Steve Ballmer sitting courtside in Toronto seemed a little strange. But we didn’t say a word. We just wanted [Leonard] to know we were there and we were interested.”

On Leonard essentially giving the Clippers an ultimatum:

“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me. He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”

On how Leonard zeroed in on Paul George as a potential teammate:

“We actually had a list of guys, which was a mistake, but we got lucky. We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with and the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, ‘I want to play with him.’ We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.'”

On sending a massive haul of draft picks to the Thunder for George:

“Steve Ballmer was nervous about the picks. I said, ‘Steve, you keep saying six picks for Paul George is insane, but you’re saying it wrong. It’s not six for Paul; it’s six for Paul and Kawhi. So three for each. I would do that.’ You have to look at it in those terms.”

Clippers Notes: Rivers, Leonard, Harrell, Sterling

On one July night, the Clippers went from a fringe playoff contender to title favorites. Now it’s up to coach Doc Rivers to make all the pieces fit, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The Clippers won a three-team race to sign Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and they made it happen by trading for regular season MVP finalist Paul George. Rivers has experience in molding elite talent into a championship team from his days with the Celtics.

“It’s not the superstar power. I don’t care about that,” he said. “It’s about having a team that you really think can compete for a title. Having a team with superstars that you don’t believe can compete for a title is nothing. There’s a difference. Because there are teams we all have seen that, and been around and had, you may have that one superstar but you’re not winning it.”

Rivers has coached a few disappointing teams in L.A., with his “Lob City” groups repeatedly falling short in the playoffs. Even though the new version of the Clippers has little championship experience outside of Leonard, Rivers welcomes the favorite’s role.

“Teams are going to try to come after us,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing. I think we need that. It will teach us hopefully every night you have to be ready.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • Rivers tells Washburn that Leonard reminds him of a less-talkative version of Kevin Garnett and he welcomes the challenge of coaching him. “I don’t go into it knowing one way or another,” Rivers said. “My job is to get to know him first and how he plays, what makes him play better and how well he makes the team play better.”
  • Montrezl Harrell is trying to develop into more of a perimeter threat, relays Jovan Buha of The Athletic. All the Clippers received a list of skills from the coaching staff to work on during the summer, and outside shooting was the focus for Harrell and fellow center Ivica Zubac“I feel confident in my game and where I’m at,” Harrell said. “We worked extremely hard on being able to create my shot and knowing my shot.”
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation examines the most interesting revelations to come out of the new podcast series about former Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Atlantic Notes: Miller, Prokhorov, Celtics, Scott

The Knicks have hired Mike Miller as an assistant on David Fizdale’s staff after he served as their G League coach since the 2015/16 season, according to a team press release. Miller, not to be confused with the longtime NBA player, compiled a 108-92 record with the Westchester Knicks. Derrick Alston, who served as an assistant to Miller, has been promoted to head coach of the G league team, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Mikhail Prokhorov, who recently sold his interest in the Nets, inquired about other NBA franchises — including the Knicks — before he was approved as the majority owner of the Brooklyn franchise. His top basketball adviser, Sergei Kushchenko, revealed that to TASS in a story relayed by NetsDaily.com. ”We were looking over various options at that time,” Kushchenko said. “Among them were the New York Knicks, who asked for a bizarre sum, the Phoenix Suns and the New Jersey Nets. We decided to focus on the New Jersey Nets since it was a completely different market then in addition to the prospect of the new arena’s construction along with a full-fledged business framework.” Prokhorov was also scared away by the Knicks’ debt load, according to NetsDaily.
  • Celtics coach Brad Stevens will have a dilemma if he wants to get all of his best players on the court during crunch time, Matt John of Basketball Insiders notes. The team’s top five include Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, which would leave them without a true power forward or center in those situations.
  • Sixers forward Mike Scott said some advice from Clippers coach Doc Rivers helped him after he was dealt to Philadelphia last season, Kevin Murphy of The Athletic writes. Scott emerged as a key reserve after he was included in the Tobias Harris blockbuster and earned a two-year, $9.8MM contract in free agency. “I feel I didn’t play well in L.A., and I think for the most part it was on me,” Scott said. “I was still trying to figure it out. When I got here, I said, ‘[The heck with it], I am going to ball-out and try to do what Doc says.’ Do the little things and see what happens.”

Clippers Hire Tyronn Lue As Top Assistant On Doc Rivers’ Staff

The Clippers and Tyronn Lue have agreed on a deal that will make the coach Doc Rivers‘ lead assistant, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. It was recently reported that the team was closing in on a deal with Lue.

Lue was the frontrunner for the Lakers head coaching gig just months ago. Contract talks between Lue and the Lakers reportedly broke down, and the club ultimately hired Frank Vogel to replace Luke Walton.

Lue previously coached on Rivers’ staff, serving as an assistant during stints with the Celtics and Clippers before he made his way to Cleveland, where he won a title as a head coach.

A report in May indicated that the Pelicans and Rockets had expressed interest in hiring Lue as an assistant and that he had turned down offers to join NBA coaching staffs since being let go by the Cavs last fall.

Lue has a record of 128-83 as a head coach with all of his experience coming during LeBron James‘ second era in Cleveland. Now, Lue and James will again share a workplace, albeit in much different circumstances as the two Los Angeles gear up to compete against each other in the Western Conference.

Pacific Notes: Castleberry, James, Evans, Warriors

Kawhi Leonard will have an ally on the Clippers’ coaching staff. His close friend Jeremy Castleberry will serve as an assistant under Doc Rivers, according to Jabari Young of The Athletic (Twitter link). Castleberry followed Leonard to Toronto after the Spurs traded him to the Raptors last summer. Castleberry played with the star forward in high school and at San Diego State. He was a player development coach in Toronto.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will do some team bonding ahead of training camp. LeBron James is organizing a team minicamp in September, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link).
  • Jacob Evans, the Warriors’ first-round pick in 2018, is honing his skills as a point guard. The former Cincinnati guard talked about his development in a team website post. “It’s been a great transition, honestly,” he said. “Just learning the offense, trying to learn different reads out of it, some different sets, different looks and just trying to put myself in an aggressive attack mentality.” Evans appeared in 30 regular-season games and seven postseason games last season.
  • Kris Weems will be promoted to head coach of the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days reports. Weems has been an assistant with Santa Cruz the past two years under Aaron Miles, who will be promoted to Golden State’s staff, Johnson continues. Ryan Atkinson, Santa Cruz’s assistant GM since 2016, will be named the team’s GM. He previously served as president of basketball operations for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Clippers Notes: Rivers, Leonard, Patterson, Robinson

Doc Rivers will be in the spotlight with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both joining the Clippers, but his training for dealing with superstars dates back to his early days as a coach in Orlando, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers had just completed his first year as a head coach in the summer of 2000 when the Magic signed both Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, forming what was expected to be a super-team of that era.

“(Clippers president of basketball operations) Lawrence Frank did more research than any human being is possible to do,” Rivers said. “And I thought (former Magic general manager) John Gabriel did the same thing. That’s why we were successful in Orlando getting Tracy and Grant, and that’s why we’ve been successful today.”

In both cases, the free agent jackpot was preceded by a decision to trade a franchise player — Anfernee Hardaway in Orlando and Blake Griffin in L.A. Rivers insisted that both franchises remain competitive rather than tanking after the deals, believing that was the best way to lure free agents. George confirmed the value of that decision.

“You could just see their connection on the court,” he said of last year’s team. “Everybody pulling for one another, everybody elevated their games to be part of that camaraderie. That’s what made it such an attractive spot.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • In the same story, Rivers offers an inside look at the negotiations with Leonard, saying the focus never strayed from how the team could compete for a title. “All the other stuff that people think matters in the recruitment, I don’t think Kawhi wanted to talk about that, and so I didn’t,” Rivers said. “I talked about winning, and basketball. Kawhi is a serious man and I think you felt that with him. I think he felt the seriousness of me and how serious I am about winning and how serious he is about winning and he felt good about that match.”
  • In his buyout with the Thunder, Patrick Patterson gave back $3.5MM of the $5.7MM he was owed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. He will earn another $2.3MM with the Clippers this season.
  • Jerome Robinson didn’t see much playing time as a rookie, but he’s counting on a greater role in his second season, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Mathias Lessort, whose rights were acquired from the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler trade, will play for German Bundesliga champion FC Bayern Munich this season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. A 2017 draftee, Lessort spent last season in Spain.

Pacific Notes: Davis, Lee, Russell, Rivers

Lakers power forward Anthony Davis says he’s never failed at anything and is confident he’ll win a championship during his career, as he told ESPN personality Sarah Spain in a story relayed by Dave McMenamin. “If I don’t win a championship that would be, I would feel that’s one of my biggest failures. But right now, I still have a lot to do in this world on and off the court,” Davis said. “So I don’t feel like I’ve failed in anything. I think I just continue to do it over until I succeed at it.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors swingman Damion Lee will likely have a greater role than a typical two-way player, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. Beyond D’Angelo Russell, Klay Thompson‘s replacement as he mends from an ACL tear, the Warriors have an unimposing group of wings that include Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Jacob Evans, Alfonzo McKinnie, Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. That puts Lee in position to fill a role as a floor spacer, Slater notes. Lee agreed to a two-way deal on Sunday.
  • Money was a major factor in Russell’s free agent decision, as his former Nets teammate and new Lakers forward Jared Dudley told Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. Russell received four years and approximately $117MM in a sign-and-trade that raised some eyebrows since he’ll have to move to shooting guard with the Warriors. “D’Angelo wanted to get the max. So I’m not surprised,” Dudley said. “He would’ve gone to, you know, Saudi Arabia, if he could have gotten the max there. I’m not surprised he took that.”
  • With the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Clippers coach Doc Rivers feels like he’s been given another chance to win a ring, as he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Rivers’ club repeatedly came up short during the Chris PaulBlake Griffin era with the franchise. “I view this as another opportunity to win it,” he said. “And let’s be honest: You don’t have a lot of opportunities to actually win it. When you have that, you take advantage of it.”