Doc Rivers

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Ntilikina, Langford, Nets Big Three

New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for the 18-7 Philadelphia’s current perch as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rivers commands respect in the Sixers locker room due to his championship pedigree and prior success across head coaching stops in Orlando, Boston, and most recently Los Angeles. Sixers center Joel Embiid is enjoying his best season as a pro thus far, averaging career-bests in scoring (29.1 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG), and shooting (.547/.377.855).

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks reserve guard Frank Ntilikina is not traveling with New York for the team’s game against the Wizards tomorrow despite continuing to test negative for the novel coronavirus, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Ntilikina has been held out of team activities since Tuesday after contact tracing determined he had been close to someone who later recorded a positive test for COVID-19.
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens indicated in comments today that reserve guard Romeo Langford will not be back with the club until after the NBA All-Star break in March, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Langford had a right wrist surgery to address torn ligaments in his shooting wrist in September.
  • The Nets still hope to improve the on-court dynamic between their new Big Three of All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden now that everybody is healthy, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It’s funny,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “[It’s been] four weeks already, Kevin and [Irving] and James have played 5 ½ games, if you include the Raptors game, together.”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Rivers, Siakam, Barrett

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Mitchell Robinson and his confidence, expressing optimism that a rise will come for the 22-year-old center, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes.

Robinson, who was drafted by the Knicks No. 36 overall in 2018, has started in all six of the team’s contests this season. Thibodeau was hesitant to name Robinson as a starter prior to the season, jumpstarting a competition between him and Nerlens Noel.

“Let’s talk about Mitch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just, every day he’s growing and growing and growing. The way he’s working, studying, preparing for the games. you could see his confidence grow. He’s making multiple effort plays. He’s a hard guy to score over. And he’s really the anchor of the defense back there. And offensively there’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s putting a lot of time in.”

As for when Robinson could take the next step in his improvement, the veteran coach gave a blunt response: “You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming.” Robinson has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game to start the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has inspired others while reaching a new milestone in his career, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Rivers, a former head coach with Orlando, is now 10th on the all-time coaching regular-season wins list, though he remains focused on his current team and not on any career achievements. “I don’t look at what I’m doing, honestly. I’d love to say — I know it means something and I know it means a lot to people, but I just I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I’ve never been able to put myself in that place where I’m thinking about what I’m doing. I think I have fooled myself that I’m really young and I have a whole career to go, and maybe that’s why I don’t, but I do feel like I’ve got a lot to do and so I don’t think about it that often.”
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam continued his struggles in the team’s 120-116 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Siakam finished with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, fouling out in less than 25 minutes. “He struggled, no doubt about it,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought he had a few decent plays and a few good drives in there, but he obviously struggled. Half-count off rhythm there at both ends a little bit, which is getting him in foul trouble and not letting him be able to finish some plays at the offensive end as well.”
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett vowed to continue shooting despite being in a slump last week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Barrett turned his play around on Saturday, giving New York a 25-point performance on 8-of-15 shooting. He also finished with four threes, five rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Green, Grousbeck, Powell

New Knicks point guard Austin Rivers was held out of practice on Wednesday with a groin injury, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

“I think it puts you behind, but you also want to be smart about it,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said about his approach with the injury going forward.

Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets that, given the way Thibodeau has discussed the injury, Rivers’s preseason availability could be up in the air. The Knicks’ new guard has not taken any contact in practices to this point.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • New Sixers swingman Danny Green will be bringing a championship pedigree and veteran leadership to his new club, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details. Green has started for three title teams, including the two most recent champions. New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers applauded Green’s “unbelievable” shooting during his first practice for Philadelphia.
  • In a conversation with Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck discussed the departure of forward Gordon Hayward, the knee troubles of starting point guard Kemba Walker, and his excitement about Boston rookies Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard. “[Team president] Danny (Ainge’s) excitement about Aaron Nesmith is about the shooting and skill and size on both sides of the ball,” Grousbeck said. “I’m not saying Payton Pritchard is (Rajon) Rondo, but Danny had that level of excitement about seeing this kid on the team.”
  • Raptors reserve guard Norman Powell will lead a new-look bench unit for Toronto, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. “This year the team looks a little different,” Powell said. “I think that’s the biggest challenge for me this year, is how do I get the new guys coming in to have that [same] chemistry [we had last season] so we can make an impact and sustain that high level of play and competitiveness, and keep playing Raptors basketball.” Second unit mainstays Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both departed in free agency,

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Cook, Davis, George, Clippers

According to a report from Ben Stinar of Forbes (Twitter link), the Lakers have sent home their players who don’t have guaranteed contracts as a coronavirus precaution in order to limit the number of people on the court during training camp.

The exact details here are a little unclear. The Lakers reportedly agreed to Exhibit 10 deals with undrafted rookies Zavier Simpson, Tres Tinkle, and Kevon Harris, but those signings haven’t been announced by the team and haven’t shown up in the league’s public transactions log, so it’s possible they simply won’t be officially finalized.

Meanwhile, Quinn Cook formally re-signed with the Lakers on Friday, and Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that Cook received a non-guaranteed training camp contract. However, it doesn’t appear that Stinar’s report would apply to the veteran guard. Head coach Frank Vogel suggested on Sunday that he expects Cook to begin practicing later this week once he clears COVID-19 protocols, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets.

As we await more details on the Lakers’ camp roster, let’s round up a few more notes on the NBA’s two L.A. teams…

  • After signing a five-year contract with the Lakers, Anthony Davis explained that he felt more comfortable locking in a longer-term deal in part because of his injury history, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I do have a little history with injuries, and a two-year deal, you kind of bet on yourself. … God forbid, knock on wood, something happens,” Davis said. “… I want to secure the most amount of years possible and be here long-term with this team, so I thought the five-year deal was best for me in my situation.”
  • After suggesting during an appearance on the All The Smoke podcast that Doc Rivers misused him last season and suggesting the Clippers failed to make adjustments during their second-round loss to Denver, Paul George walked those comments back a little on Friday, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. Rivers’ response, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Hey, listen, I enjoyed coaching him. So not a lot to say there. (New Clippers coach) Ty Lue was sitting right next to me. So he better hope it’s not adjustments. It ain’t going to be much different.”
  • Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley said that he and his teammates are entering the season angry and looking to make up for their disappointing playoff showing. “The attitude around here is guys are pissed off,” Beverley said, according to Youngmisuk. “Which is good. We should be pissed off after our exit last year in the playoffs. … It is a little quieter workplace and guys are more locked in, more focused, and that is the way it should be.”

Doc Rivers Urged Austin Not To Sign With Sixers

The Sixers were interested in signing free agent guard Austin Rivers before his father, new Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers, decided a reunion wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Rivers coached his son for three and a half years with the Clippers and thought it was best that Austin remain independent.

“He was high on Philly’s list before I took the job,’’ Doc Rivers said. “It was one of the guards they wanted. When I took the job, I said, ‘You don’t want that. You got too many other things we have to deal with.’ For Austin it’s better. He’s his own player. Unfortunately for him, me being the dad, he’s just an easy guy to target. I have felt since the separation, it’s been really good for him.’’

Rivers reached a three-year, $10MM agreement with the Knicks and was acquired from the Rockets in a sign-and-trade deal. That came after he turned down a player option with Houston that would have paid him the veteran’s minimum of $2.4MM.

Doc Rivers, who played for the Knicks in the 1990s, stayed with Austin during free agency and explained the benefits of playing in New York City.

“I kept telling him, ‘New York is a great place,’’’ Doc Rivers said. “I had a great experience there. That’s what I shared with him. It’s a tough city — in a positive way. He said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ I said, ‘It’s similar to Boston and Philly. Their fans are real. They want you to play hard, give you everything you can and play like a team.’ I told him, ‘The Knicks fans are still Red Holzman’s Knicks fans. They remember how that basketball was played. They want team basketball, hard-nosed, tough basketball.’”

Berman notes that the Knicks tried to attract Austin when he was a free agent in 2015, including a dinner with former team president Phil Jackson, but Doc Rivers convinced the Clippers to give him a contract that was a year longer than New York’s offer.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who served on Rivers’ coaching staff in Boston, is among the beneficiaries of Austin choosing New York this time. He spoke to Doc Rivers about his son before the deal was reached.

“Tom just likes competitive players — always has,’’ Doc Rivers said. “We’re very similar — give us 12 competitors, we’ll figure it out. Whenever we talked about Austin — and we will a lot less now — Thibs loves competitors.’’

Atlantic Notes: Turner, Rivers/Howard, Gasol, Knicks

The Celtics had an opportunity to add Pacers big man Myles Turner in a sign-and-trade package deal for departing forward Gordon Hayward. Zach Lowe of ESPN believes that Turner “would probably be a Celtic” if the club really wanted to add him.

The Celtics wound up adding former Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson in free agency instead of making the trade for Turner. Turner is set to earn $18MM/year for the next three seasons, while Thompson inked a two-year deal worth $9.5MM annually.

There’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • During his first video conference call with his new squad, Sixers center Dwight Howard discussed his recruitment by head coach Doc Rivers soon after free agency began last Friday, and recruit him, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “He was the first one to call me and he said we want you,” Howard said. “I’m super happy that Doc called me, that he gave me the opportunity, and I told him yes.”
  • Marc Gasol, who signed a two-year contract with the Lakers as a free agent, said it was a “tough” decision to leave the Raptors and that his run in Toronto “could not get better,” as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. “I’m going to miss Toronto,” Gasol said. “Toronto has been a great place, my family was very settled there, very comfortable, they really enjoyed their time.” Gasol added that the rumors of his potential return to Spain were overblown and that he never spoke to FC Barcelona (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Steve Popper of Newsday indicates that the Knicks might still be in the market for talent this offseason. The team remains $8MM below the salary cap floor. Given the club’s cap space, New York might be in the mix to take back money in a trade. Popper notes that the contracts of Nicolas Batum, Victor Oladipo, and DeMar DeRozan could still be traded into cap space.
  • New Knicks coaching hire Aaron Brooks will be the first “two-way liaison” in the NBA, as Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. We passed along word of Brooks’ hiring earlier today.

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

Atlantic Notes: Davis, Kansas City, Hinkie, Adams

Raptors guard Terence Davis has entered a not guilty plea after being charged in New York with two counts of assault, harassment, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal mischief, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. As The Athletic’s Eric Koreen writes, Davis’ girlfriend visited him at a Manhattan hotel and they allegedly got into a verbal argument. Davis allegedly hit his girlfriend in the face, then grabbed the victim’s phone and broke it. His next court date is December 11.

The Raptors issued a statement which read in part that they “take these issues very seriously, and we will fully cooperate and support the League in its investigation of this matter as we work to determine the appropriate next steps for our team.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has made a pitch to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, lobbying to bring the Raptors to his city next season, Jonathan Concool of Basketball News relays. The Raptors may need to move their games out of Canada, much like baseball’s Blue Jays did this season, due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Kansas City has an arena fit for an NBA team and while Lucas insists he’s not trying to get the Toronto franchise to move there permanently, he’s hoping it would be a de facto “test run” to show the league the city is worthy of an NBA franchise, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Pickman.
  • Former Sixers executive Sam Hinkie believes his former team made a smart move by hiring Daryl Morey to run their basketball operations, he told ESPN’s Pablo Torre (hat tip to RealGM). “I think it’s great news. He’s not a good hire. He’s a great hire,” he said.  “It’s a really big move for the franchise. For a franchise I care a lot about. With a bunch of people I care a lot about.”
  • Brian Adams is joining Doc Rivers’ Sixers staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Adams worked under Rivers for both the Celtics and Clippers before a two-season stint as head coach of the Clippers’ G League team, Agua Caliente.

Sixers Adding Sam Cassell, Dan Burke To Doc Rivers’ Staff

Sam Cassell, a longtime Clippers assistant coach under Doc Rivers, will be joining Rivers in Philadelphia, becoming part of the Sixers‘ staff, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

A former NBA player who won two titles with the Rockets and a third with the Celtics, Cassell transitioned into coaching after he retired in 2009. He spent five seasons on the Wizards’ staff as an assistant and has worked since 2014 under Rivers in Los Angeles.

Rivers endorsed his longtime assistant as a deserving NBA head coaching candidate last month before he parted ways with the Clippers. Cassell reportedly interviewed to replace Rivers in L.A. and drew some interest from Houston, but the expectation was that he’d continue to work on Rivers’ staff if he didn’t get a head coaching job, per Pompey.

Meanwhile, the 76ers are also hiring veteran Pacers assistant Dan Burke, league sources tell Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

Burke, who began his career with the Trail Blazers, has been a fixture in Indiana for over two decades, having served as a Pacers assistant under six different head coaches, dating back to Larry Bird‘s days on the sidelines. As Bontemps notes, Burke is highly respected around the NBA and is known for his defensive acumen.

Cassell and Burke will be joining a growing Sixers staff that will also reportedly feature former Kings and Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger.

Rivers’ group is also expected to include former Clippers video coordinator Pete Dominguez, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, who tweets that Dominguez earned a promotion to the bench after impressing Rivers and the Clips in multiple roles in recent years.

Steve Ballmer Discusses Decision To Replace Doc Rivers

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wasn’t happy with the version of the team he saw in Orlando, but he didn’t want to rush into a coaching change, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

Ballmer waited nearly two weeks after the Clippers were eliminated by Denver, blowing a 3-1 lead in the process, before deciding to replace Doc Rivers, who had coached the team for the past six years. Ballmer called Rivers “a fantastic championship coach” and “a mentor” and said he never would have considered the move prior to the team’s performance at Disney World.

“It’s very important to me that we not do anything in the heat of the moment,” Ballmer told reporters today in a conference call. “That’s not rational, like, ‘Oh, we lost a game.’ That’s not sane. We took our time. Doc and I took our time together and arrived to the point we did.”

The Clippers were considered one of the favorites to win the title after signing signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George last summer. They appeared headed for a showdown with the rival Lakers in the conference finals before the series with the Nuggets slipped away.

President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank emphasized that the organization doesn’t hold Rivers solely responsible for the playoff loss, but there was a feeling that a coaching change was needed. Assistant Tyronn Lue was chosen because he is familiar with the roster and he has already succeeded in a similar situation, taking over for David Blatt in Cleveland and leading the Cavaliers to the 2016 title.

“We’re talking about chemistry and continuity, and it’s not more so off the court and guys not liking each other,” Lue said. “It was hard to get continuity and chemistry throughout the season because we didn’t have a lot of practice time for our starting unit or our whole team for a large part of the season. When we talk about chemistry and continuity, it’s more so on the basketball court of just being familiar with guys.”

Even though the Clippers managed to claim the second seed in the West at 49-23, they dealt with injuries and other distractions all season long. They had a combined 114 games missed due to injuries and used 33 different starting lineups. Leonard sat for 13 games with left knee issues, and George missed 16 games after having offseason surgery on both shoulders.

The regular lineup wasn’t together enough in Orlando to develop any sort of comfort. Lou Williams left the Disney campus for a funeral, then had to quarantine for 10 days after stopping for food at a strip club in Atlanta. Montrezl Harrell missed all eight seeding games after the death of his grandmother, and Patrick Beverley was sidelined for four games with an injury.

Lue said he spoke to Leonard and George after his hiring was announced about his expectations for next season. He admits the team needs to play at a faster pace and do a better job with ball movement and floor spacing. He welcomes the opportunity to be a head coach again and believes there’s enough talent on hand to make a run at the 2021 championship.