Donnie Nelson

Southwest Notes: Primo, Hart, Pelicans, Mavs, Parsons

As expected, the Spurs have assigned rookie Joshua Primo to their G League affiliate in Austin. According to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link), Primo isn’t expected to travel with the NBA club to Dallas, Milwaukee, and Indiana for its next three games and will instead remain in the G League during that time.

McDonald says it’s possible Primo will return to San Antonio after the Spurs’ road trip comes to an end next week, but it’s probably safe to assume the 18-year-old will spend plenty of time in Austin during his rookie year. Primo is the youngest player in the NBA, and the Spurs typically exercise plenty of patience with their top prospects.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans wing Josh Hart, who has missed the team’s last three games due to right quadriceps tendinosis, said on Wednesday that he felt soreness during the preseason, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Hart is getting closer to returning to action, but wants to be sure he’s back to 100% and expressed doubts about returning tonight.
  • While the eventual return of Zion Williamson should help unlock the Pelicans‘ full offensive potential, the team probably needs to play slower and more deliberately as long as the former No. 1 pick remains sidelined, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who says New Orleans can’t afford to turn the ball over so much.
  • In a discussion on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast about the Mavericks‘ front office over the years, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested that forward Chandler Parsons was the “primary voice in (team owner Mark) Cuban‘s ear” for a couple years back in 2014-15. “Chandler Parsons had significantly more control over personnel than Donnie Nelson did for two years,” MacMahon said, per Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. “That is simply a fact.”

Former Mavs Exec Voulgaris Discusses Tension With Nelson, Exit From Team

Appearing on the ESPN Daily podcast with Pablo Torre, former Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris publicly addressed for the first time his exit from the franchise and reports of discord between him and longtime head of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who also left the team this offseason.

A report from The Athletic in June stated that Voulgaris had either initiated or approved nearly all of the Mavs’ roster moves for the last two seasons and suggested his influence was virtually on par with Nelson’s. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who worked with Voulgaris in the past and brought him aboard in 2018 as the team’s director of quantitative research and development, disputed The Athletic’s portrayal of how much power the executive had. However, Voulgaris’ abrasive personality was reportedly a source of some tension in the front office and he was said to have a “strained” relationship with star guard Luka Doncic.

As Tim MacMahon of ESPN details, Voulgaris told Torre the Mavericks’ basketball operations department was a “very gossipy workplace” and likened the team’s dysfunction to “high school drama.” Although he denied some details from The Athletic’s report – including that he dictated lineups and rotations to then-coach Rick Carlisle – he didn’t challenge others.

Voulgaris told Torre that he came to believe Nelson “didn’t want me around,” adding that other people in the front office may have felt threatened by his close relationship with Cuban.

“I didn’t have a working relationship with other people in the front office at all, to the point where it was awkward,” Voulgaris said. “But that’s kind of the M.O. of the way that front office was run — like, surround yourself with people who are not threats. You don’t become an NBA general manager and hold on to your job for that long unless you are very, very good at keeping your job.

“… I think Mark had this idea that maybe we (Voulgaris and Nelson) could work together, the stuff that he’s good at I might be deficient at and vice versa,” Voulgaris continued. “(Nelson is) more of a, kind of like a wheeler-dealer, like when you shake his hands, you want to make sure your rings are still there. Not in a bad way, but he’s that guy. He’s a deal-maker. He’s a broker. My working relationship with Donnie Nelson was seeing him every once in a while and getting a fist bump. That was it. Whether it was a fist-bump text message or a fist bump in person, that was his thing. He was very nice and cordial to my face, (but) I think threatened by me.”

Voulgaris also confirmed The Athletic’s claim that his relationship with Doncic worsened after he left his courtside seat with the Mavericks down 10 points and under a minute left in a game in April. Doncic viewed it as a sign of Voulgaris quitting on the team, while the executive considered it a non-issue and was upset that others in the organization didn’t back him up at all.

“You have a great relationship with this player. Why are you not telling him that I didn’t quit on the team?” Voulgaris said, referring to one of the Mavs’ assistant coaches, possibly Jamahl Mosley. “I just went to my desk to look at something on my computer or got up because I normally get up. There are plenty of other instances of me getting up in the middle of the game. … It was such a non-event that I didn’t think it was a big deal, and the fact that it became a big deal led me to believe that this is just not worth it to me.”

Voulgaris wasn’t fired by the Mavs, and didn’t step down from his role either — his contract simply expired and the two sides didn’t work out a new deal. While the franchise may have been seeking a fresh start following the hiring of Nico Harrison to replace Nelson, Voulgaris made it clear that he also felt his time in Dallas had run its course.

“If I’m distracting that f—ing guy (Doncic), I don’t need to be around,” Voulgaris said. “Whatever the case may be, no matter how I see it, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. He is the fulcrum of the team. So I was like, ‘Cool.’ Plus, I was trying to find a way out of this job to begin with.”

Mavericks Notes: Carlisle, Doncic, Nelson, Forde, Finley, Green

There are quite a few head coaching jobs Rick Carlisle could pursue after parting ways with the Mavericks on Thursday. He may even wind up with a team that still has a head coach. There have been rumblings that if the Bucks fire Mike Budenholzer, Carlisle could be his replacement, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The rumors about Carlisle taking over an Eastern Conference playoff contender and becoming Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s coach have been circulating for weeks, Stein adds.

We have more info on the Mavs:

  • Prior to the news of Carlisle’s departure, Luka Doncic addressed the organization’s decision this week to remove Donnie Nelson as president of basketball operations and expressed his disappointment, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News relays. “It was kind of tough to me,” Doncic said during a press conference in Slovenia. “I really like Donnie. [I’ve known] him since I was a kid and he was the one that drafted me. It was tough to me, seeing that, but I’m not the one making decisions there.” Doncic is practicing with his national team for the Olympic qualifying tournament later this month.
  • Despite Nelson’s dismissal, Doncic still intends to sign a super-max extension before next season, Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic hear. Doncic strongly hinted after the season he would sign his rookie scale extension, which would be worth a projected $201.5MM over five years after making the All-NBA team two straight years.
  • The Mavericks have hired Mike Forde’s Sportsology, a consulting firm frequently used by NBA teams, to assist in the search for a new head of basketball operations., Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Nine NBA teams have either hired or promoted from within a new chief basketball executive in the past two seasons and three of those searches— Pelicans, Wizards, and Kings —were led by Forde, Yaron Weitzman of The Ringer noted earlier this year.
  • Former Mavericks All-Star Michael Finley, currently the team’s VP of basketball operations, has emerged as a candidate to replace Nelson, Stein tweets.
  • The team’s decision to take Josh Green over Saddiq Bey in last year’s draft frustrated a number of key executives and scouts., Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman tweets. Green was selected at No. 18 and the Pistons snapped up Bey, who was named to the All-Rookie First Team, with the next pick. The Mavs’ analytics team wanted Green and won the debate.

Doncic Upset With Mavs Over Nelson’s Dismissal?

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is upset about the team’s decision to part ways with longtime executive Donnie Nelson, Marc Spears of ESPN said on “The Jump” Wednesday (video link).

“They were really, really close,” Spears said, adding that Doncic will issue a statement on Nelson’s dismissal on Thursday. Nelson was credited for pushing for the draft-night trade with the Hawks that landed Doncic in Dallas.

Doncic is currently in Slovenia with its national team, which is training for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Lithuania later this month.

Spears also claimed there aren’t any ongoing talks between Doncic and the franchise regarding a rookie scale extension, though there would be no need for talks to be occurring at this point. His rookie scale extension couldn’t be signed until August and the deadline is prior to the start of next season. It’s no secret the Mavs will offer their franchise player the maximum allowable contract.

According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link), Doncic hasn’t shared his feelings with anyone regarding Nelson’s departure from the organization, so it’s inaccurate to claim that he’s upset about it. Townsend confirms that Doncic is expected to speak about the situation on Thursday during a press conference for the qualifying tournament.

Mavericks, Donnie Nelson Agree To Part Ways

The Mavericks and longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson have agreed to part ways, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The club issued a press release confirming the news.

Nelson, who was originally hired by the Mavs in 1998, was promoted to the role of GM/president in 2005 and had been one of the NBA’s longest-tenured lead basketball operations executives. Following Danny Ainge‘s exit from his role with the Celtics two weeks ago, only Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich had held the positions of president of basketball operations with their respective teams longer than Nelson.

“I just want to thank Donnie for his 24 years of service to this organization,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said in a statement. “Donnie has been instrumental to our success and helped bring a championship to Dallas. His hard work, creativity, and vision made him a pioneer. Donnie will always be a part of the Mavs family and I wish him all the best.”

Since Nelson ascended to the top of the Mavericks’ basketball operations department in 2005, the club has earned playoff berths in all but four seasons, making the NBA Finals twice and winning a title in 2011. While Cuban is more involved in roster and personnel decisions than most team owners, Nelson played a part in all of the team’s major moves over the last decade-and-a-half, including the trade up for Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft.

The Mavericks’ front office shakeup occurs just two days after a fascinating report from The Athletic suggested that Haralabos Voulgaris, Dallas’ director of quantitative research and development, had essentially become the team’s co-GM, earning an outsized influence in the basketball operations department.

The Athletic’s report stated that Voulgaris had either initiated or approved virtually every one of the Mavs’ roster moves within the last two years, and that his influence has been virtually on par with Nelson’s.

Cuban called the report “total bulls–t” and told ESPN’s Jordan Schultz (Twitter link) that he listens to everyone in the front office, adding, “The whole idea that there is a shadow GM is ridiculous.”

However, multiple sources close to the situation were cited in The Athletic’s story, and Nelson’s departure from the franchise strongly suggests there was some truth to it. The decision for Nelson to leave the Mavericks was actually made on Sunday, a day before The Athletic’s report was published, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

With Nelson out and Voulgaris’ future with the franchise uncertain, per The Athletic, the Mavericks have hired a search firm as they begin to seek a new head of basketball operations, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Mavs Rumors: Front Office, Voulgaris, Doncic, Carlisle

Haralabos Voulgaris, a well-known sports gambler who was hired by the Mavericks in 2018 as the team’s director of quantitative research and development, has gained an outsized influence in the front office, Tim Cato and Sam Amick write in a fascinating new report for The Athletic.

Multiple team and league sources tell Cato and Amick that Voulgaris has either initiated or approved virtually every one of Dallas’ roster moves within the last two years and has had input on Rick Carlisle‘s lineups and rotations. Although president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson continued to take the lead on major transactions, Voulgaris’ influence has been virtually on par with Nelson’s, The Athletic duo suggests.

“We had two general managers,” one team source told Cato and Amick.

Voulgaris’ relationship with team owner Mark Cuban paved the way for him to become a significant voice in the Mavs’ front office, and Cuban told The Athletic that he “really” likes what Voulgaris brings to the table, downplaying the idea that he has more influence than “any other data source on the team.” However, Voulgaris’ personality and decision-making has bothered other members of the front office during his tenure with the club.

“What did (he) sell to Mark to make him believe (he) can do this? Nobody knows,” one source with “intimate knowledge” of the situation told The Athletic. That same source added: “He doesn’t know how to talk to people.”

Earlier this year, Voulgaris appeared poised to gain further control in the front office, but now his contract is set to expire and his future with the Mavs is uncertain, according to Cato and Amick. One major factor the team must consider is the fact that superstar Luka Doncic doesn’t seem to be on particular good terms with Voulgaris — The Athletic’s report describes the pair as having a “strained relationship.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Cato and Amick point to the 2020 draft as a “particularly egregious example” of Voulgaris’ front office power, reporting that members of the scouting department – who were part of the team’s war room via Zoom – were surprised when they weren’t consulted for the Mavs’ selections of Josh Green and Tyrell Terry. The club’s scouts disagreed with Voulgaris on at least one of those players, per The Athletic.
  • Despite the fact that Doncic isn’t on great terms with some members of the Mavericks organization, including Voulgaris, the two-time All-Star has a “healthy relationship” with the organization at large, per Cato and Amick. Multiple sources tell The Athletic that Luka intends to sign a super-max contract extension with the Mavs once he’s eligible this offseason. Still, the franchise is starting to feel some urgency to upgrade the roster to make it a legit title contender, and to ensure Doncic will want to stick around beyond his second contract.
  • Some of Cato’s and Amick’s sources were surprised to see Cuban publicly endorse head coach Rick Carlisle so quickly – and so forcefully – after Dallas’ first-round exit. According to The Athletic’s report, there was a sense during the season that Carlisle’s future might be in the air beyond this season, and that some players were frustrated with his rotation decisions. However, Carlisle proved to be adaptable and made modifications to relieve that tension, presumably giving the Mavs the confidence to stick with him going forward.

Western Notes: Warriors, Beasley, Covington, Doncic

An abbreviated regular season if the season is restarted wouldn’t do teams like the Warriors much good, Anthony Slater of The Athletic argues. It would be easier for the teams currently owning a playoff berth to play some tuneup games while ending the season for the 14 lottery-bound teams. That would allow their front offices to focus on their roster remakes and players to work on their games, Slater adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves will undoubtedly want to re-sign restricted free agent Malik Beasley, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Beasley averaged 20.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG while shooting 42.6% from long range in 14 starts since being acquired from the Nuggets. Beasley’s price tag has risen, with Krawczynski speculating that his original projection of four years and $48MM is probably not high enough. There aren’t many teams with significant cap room but the Knicks could make a run at him, he adds.
  • While the Timberwolves’ defense has suffered by trading Robert Covington to the Rockets, they got a much-needed infusion of offensive talent with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Beasley and Juan Hernangomez in the four-team deal, Krawczynski writes in a separate story. They now have a point guard in Russell that can score and pass as well as any they’ve ever had, a shooting guard in Beasley who can score in bunches and a solid rotation player in Hernangomez.
  • Several members of the Mavericks’ front office and scouting staff believed Luka Doncic would have been viewed as the undisputed top prospect in the 2018 draft if he had played in the United States or attended the pre-draft workouts, according to an in-depth piece from Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic. GM Donnie Nelson was completely sold on Doncic and owner Mark Cuban wasn’t going to pass him up, since he ignored Nelson’s advice on Giannis Antetokounmpo five years earlier. The Mavs’ front office was confident Doncic wouldn’t be drafted earlier than third overall, allowing them to arrange a trade with the Hawks to move up and nab the eventual Rookie of the Year.

Southwest Notes: Gentry, Executives, Covington

The Pelicans entered the season without championship expectations as the team embraces year one of the post-Anthony Davis era. However, not many expected the team to have a record of 6-21, and some of the blame for that poor performance falls on Alvin Gentry. Still, the head coach is confident that he can turn things around and isn’t worried about the possibility of being let go before he’s given the chance to do so.

“I’ve been in the league 31 years, I don’t ever worry about anything that I don’t have any control over,” Gentry said (via William Guillory of The Athletic). “I don’t have any control over that. You would have to ask that question to the people that have control. I just know I’m going to come in to work every day and do everything I can to get this turned around.”

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes that it’s “highly unlikely” R.C. Buford would leave the Spurs to take a potential top role with the Knicks. Buford is under contract for multiple seasons after the 2019/20 campaign, per Begley.
  • In the same piece, Begley names Mavericks GM/president Donnie Nelson as a candidate for the Knicks‘ potential top executive role. The scribe hears that Nelson is an at-will employee, so New York wouldn’t have to offer Dallas any compensation to hire him as the team would with Masai Ujiri or other executives under contract.
  • The Rockets should do whatever it takes to land Robert Covington in a trade, Kelly Iko of The Athletic contends. Iko believes RoCo would mesh well with James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Latest On Knicks’ Potential Front Office Search

The Knicks are planning to make a run at top Raptors executive Masai Ujiri and Marc Stein of The New York Times reports (via his latest newsletter) that there are many around the league who believe Ujiri can be lured to New York.

Even though the Knicks have been laughable on the court, the prestige of the franchise and of winning it all in the arguably the greatest city in the world carries weight with top executives in the NBA. Entering Madison Square Garden’s latest rehabilitation project and coming out with a championship remains a unique and coveted prize.

Regardless of whom New York lands, the franchise’s next architect will face his share of challenges. It’s not certain if owner James Dolan is finally ready to give his top executive something that resembles “real autonomy,” Stein writes. Even Phil Jackson, who was relieved of his duties before his contract was up, didn’t get nearly enough freedom to make internal moves that could have impacted the culture. Stein adds that Dolan has given zero indication that he will sell the team.

In addition to Ujiri, Stein mentions R.C. Buford (Spurs), Bob Myers (Warriors) and Donnie Nelson (Mavericks) as names to keep an eye on when it comes to a potential top executive search in New York.

Draft Notes: Mavericks, Robinson, Smith

The Mavericks hold the No. 33 pick in the upcoming draft and the team feels there will be players available who provide great value at that spot, as Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News passes along.

“It’s a really good area,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “If you look at the area from 15 to 40, you may be getting the same guy.

“You may not be able to draft for a position, but you can get a good player. And there’s a number of point forwards. You may be looking at an athlete or a shooter or a point guard. At that spot, you take the best player on the board. The difference is not that much honestly.”

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • There’s a growing belief that Boston College’s Jerome Robinson will be selected in the middle of the first round, multiple league sources tell Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. The scribe adds that organizations are impressed by Robinson’s scoring skills as well as his character.
  • It will be hard for the Mavericks to pass up on Michael Porter Jr. if he falls to No. 5, especially if the forward checks out medically, Sefko writes in a separate piece. Sefko adds that Porter is seen as one of the biggest risk/reward prospects in the draft.
  • Rafael Uehara of Real GM breaks down the game of Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, speculating that the combo forward could be versatile enough to play center at the next level. Smith sits at No. 16 on ESPN’s latest top 100 rankings.