Doc Rivers

Budenholzer Named Coach Of Year

The Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year at NBA’s annual awards show on Monday.

The former Hawks coach was hired last summer and guided Milwaukee to the league’s best record. The Bucks became an offensive juggernaut under his watch, scoring a league-best 118.1 points per game.

The Nuggets’ Michael Malone and Clippers’ Doc Rivers were the other finalists.

Budenholzer was also named Coach of the Year in 2015 with Atlanta. He was also Hoops Rumors’ consensus choice this year.

Clippers Fined For Tampering On Kawhi Leonard

The NBA announced today in a press release that it has fined the Clippers $50K for violating the league’s anti-tampering policy. The penalty stems from comments made by head coach Doc Rivers about Raptors star Kawhi Leonard during a television appearance.

“(Leonard) is the most like (Michael) Jordan that we’ve seen,” Rivers said while participating in an ESPN panel earlier this week, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Like, there’s a lot of great players. LeBron (James) is phenomenal. KD (Kevin Durant) is phenomenal. Not like he is Jordan, or anything like that. But he’s the most like him. Big hands. Post game. Can finish. Great leaper. Great defender. In-between game. If you beat him to the spot – bumps you off. And then you add his 3-point shooting…”

The NBA generally doesn’t crack down as hard on potential tampering violations when players and coaches talk about rival players, preferring to limit its penalties to comments made or actions taken by executives and owners.

In this case though, the NBA may have been sensitive to the perception that the Clippers have been recruiting Leonard all year while he’s under contract with Toronto. The Raptors have reached out to the league multiple times this season when they’ve felt the Clippers have crossed tampering lines, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).

Additionally, it’s not as if Rivers was simply a head coach discussing an opponent directly before or after playing him. The circumstances surrounding Rivers’ comments explain why the league was less willing to let them slide.

While it’s possible that Leonard’s NBA Finals run with the Raptors will help convince him to stay in Toronto when he reaches free agency in a month, the Clippers are still lurking in the shadows as his presumed top suitor, Amick wrote in a column before Game 1.

Marc Stein of The New York Times also provided some details this week on the lengths the Clippers are going to as they prepare their pitch for Leonard, reporting that the club explored the feasibility of buying a portion of the rights to Kawhi’s “Klaw” logo, which is still owned by Nike.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24. Here are the rest of the finalists:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Michael Malone (Nuggets)
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Doc Rivers Signs Extension With Clippers

Doc Rivers’ long-term extension with the Clippers is now official, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers, who first discussed the extension offer in March in response to rumors that he was considering leaving to coach the Lakers, told Greif today that he has signed the deal.

“I’m going nowhere,” Rivers said to reporters on March 19. “I can tell you that straight and up front. I’m going to be here until (owner) Steve (Ballmer) says ‘Get out.’”

Rivers didn’t say how many years the extension will cover, but he reiterated his desire to have a long-term future with the organization when its playoff run ended last night. After missing the playoffs last season, Rivers led the Clippers to 48 wins and a surprisingly tough six-game series against the defending champion Warriors.

“As I’ve said before, I’ve never had a group where you wanted to, in the morning, you raced to the car, you raced to practice just because you love being around them,” Rivers said after Friday’s game. “So for me, it was just a pleasure to coach them.”

Rivers has coached in L.A. for the past six seasons, compiling a 307-185 record with five playoff appearances. The Clippers will have enough cap space to offer at least one max contract this summer and could be among the best teams in the West next season if they can land an elite free agent.

Pacific Notes: Rivers, J. Green, Kings, LeBron

Within the last few years, the practice of an NBA head coach holding general manager duties has become less common — Mike Budenholzer, Stan Van Gundy, and Tom Thibodeau held those dual roles in Atlanta, Detroit, and Minnesota respectively, but ultimately parted ways with those organizations.

The only coach who had his front-office duties removed but still remains with the same team is Doc Rivers, who continues to coach the Clippers despite no longer serving as the club’s GM. Speaking to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (podcast link), Rivers admitted that the GM job was “too big” to do on his own, adding that he felt comfortable transitioning out of it as long as he still had some input in personnel decisions.

The fact that the Clippers promoted Lawrence Frank to run their front office, rather than making an outside hire, also allowed Rivers to feel comfortable making the adjustment.

“I’m the one who brought Lawrence in,” Rivers told Wojnarowski. “It would have been interesting if they said, ‘We’re taking your power away and we’re going to hire someone else.’ … There’s no way I would’ve been here without Lawrence staying.”

The change in title for Rivers has been a success, as his work on the sidelines for the 2018/19 Clippers represents perhaps the best coaching performance of his long career.

As we wait to see how far Rivers can take the Clippers in the postseason, let’s round up a few more Pacific notes…

  • Moving from the Grizzlies to the Clippers at last month’s trade deadline will pay off financially for forward JaMychal Green, who secured a $200K bonus when L.A. clinched a spot in the postseason on Tuesday, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That incentive had been included in the two-year deal Green signed with Memphis back in 2017.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Marks previews the Kings‘ offseason, which will see the team facing decisions on a handful of key contributors. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield will become eligible for contract extensions, while Willie Cauley-Stein will reach restricted free agency.
  • After never missing more than 13 games in a season during his first 15 years in the NBA, LeBron James will miss at least 20 in 2018/19 due to injuries and rest. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explores whether this season is a blip on the radar for James, or whether the Lakers should plan on nagging injury concerns becoming the “new normal” for the 34-year-old going forward.

Pacific Notes: Bogut, Rivers, Crawford, Buss

Andrew Bogut returned to the Warriors this month after spending the last three years away from the team, rejoining the franchise he won a championship with in 2015. Bogut played a key role on that championship squad, forever stamping his mark in history as the club’s starting center.

The break-up between Bogut and the Warriors was rather simple, and both sides understood one another: Golden State cleared cap space as the summer of 2016 approached, gearing up for a run at Kevin Durant in free agency. Bogut was one of the players separated at the time.

“Look, I’m not stupid, man,” Bogut told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “The dude they made cap space for, I mean, look who he is. I’m not an idiot. You know, if it was someone else, a 12th man, I’d be pissed. But it’s one of the best players in basketball. So I totally get it.

“Was I disappointed? Of course. I wasn’t happy to get traded from a team that just went 73-9, went to the Finals, thought we had a chance to win it, but didn’t. But as far as hating the Warriors? No. I kept in touch with all the guys in this locker room — Andre, Draymond, Steph, Klay at times. Former guys like Harrison. Steve would text me.”

With no hard feelings or ill will toward the team, Bogut left Australia and returned to Oakland for what could be another championship run in the spring. He’s expected to provide frontcourt depth and a veteran presence for the club, with the 34-year-old having already played multiple seasons with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and other former teammates.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Players on the Clippers appreciate the long-term commitment given by head coach Doc Rivers this week, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. Rivers revealed that he and team owner Steve Ballmer verbally agreed on a contract extension last summer, one that will likely become official in the coming months. “It’s gonna be fun,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Obviously, I like playing for Doc. Good coach. He’s helped me get better in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The fact that he’s committed to us the same way we’re committed to him every night on the floor is cool.”
  • Suns veteran Jamal Crawford reflected on his season in Phoenix, calling this year “the most challenging year by far on so many levels” of his NBA career. “This is a younger team and I’m having to lead more,” Crawford said, as relayed by Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “I’m talking more than I ever have as well. Just different challenges.” Phoenix has the second-worst record in the league at 17-55, with Crawford stepping into more of a leadership role to help the team’s younger players.
  • Jeanie Buss has a golden opportunity to become more of an active owner with the Lakers following their disappointing season, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. The underwhelming acquisitions made by president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka, a lack of overall camaraderie between the players, and an awkward fit on the court have generated questions from fans and league observers, something Buss will have to take a closer look at during the offseason.

Doc Rivers Plans To Be With Clippers For A “Long Time”

Everyone is going to the Lakers — or at least that’s what the rumor mill might lead readers to believe. The latest subject of Lakers-related speculation was Doc Rivers, as there were whispers that he might be considering leaving the Clippers for the club’s intra-city rivals. Rivers dismissed that idea today.

“I have a job and the Lakers have a coach,” Rivers said, via Ben Golliver of the Washington Post (Twitter link). “I’m going nowhere. I can tell you that, straight, up front. I’m going to be here until [Clippers owner] Steve Ballmer says get out. I plan on being here a long time.”

Ballmer previously reworked Rivers’ contract, allowing him an opt-out in 2019. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), that extension has been again reworked into a longer deal.

“This summer, we decided to extend my contract,” Rivers explained. “…[Steve] did something I don’t think any owner would do. He gave me an out where I could opt out this summer.

“We wanted to test each other, we thought this was the right fit, but we wanted to make sure. As my dad said, ‘Trust everybody, but cut the cards.’ It was one of those things.

“Early this year, we both decided let’s end this thing, take this out, extend it and make it a longer deal. We’ve long decided on that but we chose not to say anything about it.

“…Steve was a man of his word. He gave a coach a chance to do what he wanted to do. This coach chose to stay right where he’s at and I’m very happy about it.”

The exact terms of the extension have not yet been made public, but Rivers said that his job “is not done,” adding that one of the reasons he came to the Clippers was to win a championship. Another goal was to make the franchise a free agent destination.

What’s clear is that Rivers plans to be part of the Clippers’ free agent pitches this summer as they compete with the Lakers and many other teams for top available talent.

Los Angeles Notes: Davis, Lakers, Clippers

The Lakers weren’t able to get very far in talks with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis and team president Magic Johnson hinted that the team won’t prioritize a blockbuster trade this offseason, as  Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com relays.

“That’s not going to change our plans this summer,” Johnson said of being unable to trade for Davis at the deadline. “It’s a great [free-agency] class, and we just want to get one of them.”

If the Lakers sign a maximum salary free agent this summer, they are unlikely to land Davis as a free agent during the following offseason, Windhorst explains. It would be difficult for the team to add maximum salary players in back-to-back offseasons with LeBron James‘ max deal also on the books.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The most realistic path to finding a Davis-to-the-Lakers trade may involve a third team, Windhorst contends in the same piece. The Pelicans appeared uninterested in the Lakers’ young prospects at the deadline. However, Los Angeles’ prospects have value around the league and the franchise could ship them to another team this summer in order to build a package the Pelicans would prefer.
  • The Clippers turned over a third of their roster at the trade deadline, but the team’s “tough guy” culture will remain unchanged, as Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times relays. Coach Doc Rivers said the team doesn’t “want any guy that’s not really ready for warfare because for us to make it [to the postseason], it’s going to be hard.”
  • Rivers, who was previously more involved in the Clippers’ front office, was surprised that the two Los Angeles teams agreed to a trade. Rivers said past negotiations with the Lakers have been one-sided, as Greif passes along in the same piece. “I didn’t know we were doing business again because we have tried and it just has been no conversations [with the Lakers],” Rivers said. “It was good they wanted conversations.”

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Ingles, Cousins, Shumpert, Divac

Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. The Lakers will not practice prior to their game against Houston on Saturday, so Rondo’s first practice will be delayed until at least Sunday. Rondo hasn’t played since Christmas Day due to a torn ligament in his right ring finger. Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, underwent surgery on December 28th.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers still rues the day the franchise let Joe Ingles go, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News reports. Ingles was the team’s last cut during 2014 training camp because the roster was already filled with guarantee contracts. Ingles has since emerged as a key piece for the Jazz. “I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” Rivers said. “Unfortunately  I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”
  • The Warriors know there will be adjustment period once DeMarcus Cousins returns to action but they’re confident he’ll eventually fit in, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. Like many of the team’s stars, Cousins is used to having the ball in his hands frequently. They’ll all have to learn to share it even more with a dominant low-post scorer in the lineup. “Obviously, we want him to be himself,” Stephen Curry said. “We want him to be that player that he knows he can be. Bring that specific and unique skill set to kind of change our look a little bit. We have high-IQ guys all over the floor that will be able to figure it out. It might not be smooth at the beginning because it is going to be different, but he brings another element that we’ve never had before.”
  • Kings guard Iman Shumpert denies that he tried to enter Portland’s locker room in a confrontation manner on Monday, he tweets. Shumpert was apparently upset at Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic for setting a hard pick on him but said he merely wanted to talk things out. “I was respectful of their team’s space and privacy. I waited outside and asked to have a conversation. I was greeted by team security that talked to me and I left.”
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac confirms that he told minority owners to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Divac made his feelings known during a conference call with members of the team’s executive board. “I just told them about my plan,” he informed Anderson. When asked if he told those owners to stop meddling and leaking stories, he replied, “Yeah, that’s my plan.”

Pacific Notes: Green, Ayton, Gilgeous-Alexander

A hot topic during the NBA season so far has been the inconsistent play and effort from the Warriors. Whether it is a result of injuries or struggles from key star players, the Warriors just haven’t played to the best of their abilities during the first half of the regular season. As Monte Poole writes for NBC Sports California, Draymond Green is ultimately the key to the Warriors turning things around and hitting their stride.

Poole writes that Green can look like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate one night, only to produce a pedestrian effort the next game. Green’s offensive struggles are no secret, especially with his inability to hit long-range shots cramping the Warriors’ floor spacing. But Poole believes that Green being fully engaged defensively on a more consistent basis will provide the team with that extra energy to compete at their highest level.

With DeMarcus Cousins set to return in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how he fits on the floor and what he provides for a Warriors team clearly searching for their competitive edge.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • At a recent practice, Suns rookie big man Deandre Ayton discussed the fact that he feels the pressure of expectations, mainly as a result of his competitiveness and desire to win.
  • After getting off to a very strong start, Clippers‘ rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has struggled in recent weeks as he has hit the “rookie wall.” However, as Andrew Greif points out for The Los Angeles Times, Doc Rivers continues to be impressed with the young guard’s work ethic and understands that he will need more time to get over the hump this season.
  • As the Suns have played better in recent weeks, head coach Igor Kokoskov has enjoyed having the ability to tailor and adjust his rotation on a game-to-game basis depending on the energy from his players and that night’s matchup. Katherine Fitzgerald of The Arizona Republic details how the team’s young players and bench depth have improved in recent weeks.