Earl Watson

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Nets, Harris, Cavs, Raptors Staff

The Nets plan to re-sign unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and are also looking to add depth at center as the free agency period begins, general manager Sean Marks told ESPN’s Malika Andrews and other media members (Twitter link). Money does not appear to be an object — Marks said the Nets are “married to the luxury tax” and owner Joe Tsai is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.

We have more from the Eastern Conference

  • A report that the Sixers are shopping Tobias Harris isn’t accurate, a source familiar with the situation tells Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice. It’s likely that the Harris trade rumor is old news, since his name came up as part of a larger deal with the Rockets earlier this year before James Harden was dealt to the Nets.
  • Along with the pending acquisition of Ricky Rubio, the Cavaliers could look to add another veteran or two in free agency, particularly on the wing, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Doug McDermott and Reggie Bullock are two names to watch with Cleveland dangling all or part of its mid-level exception for their services. The Rubio deal with the Timberwolves can become official on Friday.
  • The Raptors have added Earl Watson, Trevor Gleeson and Nathaniel Mitchell to Nick Nurse‘s coaching staff. However, former assistant Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after a season as the Pacers’ head coach, will not return to Toronto, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter links).

Coaching/Front Office Notes: Watson, Raptors, Kokoskov, Mavs, More

Former Suns head coach Earl Watson appears set to return to the sidelines for an NBA team, as Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that Watson is finalizing a deal to join the Raptors. Watson – who was pursued by multiple teams, according to Haynes – would be an assistant on Nick Nurse‘s staff. Watson hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2017, but Devin Booker has credited the former Phoenix coach for his accelerated development at the NBA level, Haynes notes.

Here are a few more notes on coaching and front office hires from around the NBA:

  • Veteran assistant Popeye Jones, who spent over a decade in the NBA as a player, will leave the Sixers to take a job on Michael Malone‘s staff with the Nuggets, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Marc Stein first reported (via Twitter) that Jones – a former Nuggets player – was emerging as a strong candidate to be hired by Denver.
  • Turkish club Fenerbahce officially announced today that head coach Igor Kokoskov won’t return to the team next season. As previously rumored, the former Suns coach is on track to take a job on Jason Kidd‘s staff with the Mavericks, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. In Dallas, Kokoskov will get the opportunity to reunite with Luka Doncic, whom he coached on the Slovenian national team in 2017.
  • Speaking of the Mavericks, they’ve hired Nets salary cap strategist Andrew Baker for a senior role in their front office under new president of basketball operations Nico Harrison, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
  • Fischer also identifies Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham as two potential targets for the Celtics as they seek a general manager under new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Tatum, Warriors, Kings

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum spoke this week about being enamored by the Suns leading up to the 2017 draft and hoping to fall to Phoenix at No. 4. According to Tatum, a meeting with the Suns’ then-coach Earl Watson a few days before the draft helped sell him on the organization. Speaking on Monday to Jay King of The Athletic, Watson confirmed that he was high on Tatum during the pre-draft process.

As Watson tells it, he wanted Tatum badly enough that he had some “uncomfortable” conversations with team owner Robert Sarver, who preferred Josh Jackson. Watson tells King that he tried to get the Suns to do whatever it took to get in position to land Tatum.

“I was pushing Tatum,” Watson said. “Like, we had to move up for Tatum, we had to get Tatum. And ownership chose Josh Jackson. … I knew the two players were dynamically different, but my vision was what’s the best fit for Devin Booker. Booker and Tatum, I think a combination like that right now would have been completely different than anything in the NBA at that age.”

Although Watson’s story is compelling, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 pushes back against the former head coach’s recollections of the 2017 draft. According to Gambadoro (via Twitter), the Suns had Tatum ranked ahead of Jackson on their board and would have drafted Tatum if they’d had the opportunity to do so.

As Gambadoro explains (via Twitter), since the Celtics initially controlled the No. 1 pick and had Tatum atop their board, the Suns had no avenue to move up to select the young forward. Presumably, when Boston swung a deal to move down to No. 3, the C’s had assurances that the Sixers and Lakers wouldn’t be trading out of the top two spots, which would have been Phoenix’s only path to Tatum.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Teams around the NBA are reopening their practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts, but that won’t happen anytime soon for the Warriors, who are tentatively aiming for June 1, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. As Slater observes, the last-place Dubs won’t have the same urgency to return to their building as some other California teams might, so they’re “waiting for the (government) order, not influencing it.”
  • After Klay Thompson recently cautioned against assuming the Warriors‘ dynasty is over, fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry conveyed a similar sentiment in an interview with Jermaine O’Neal (video link via Chris Montano). “It’s going to look different. It’s going to have a new cast of characters that are going to contribute at a high level,” Curry said. “But the DNA and the chemistry that us three (Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green) have, we’re going to be in good shape coming out of this.”
  • Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the financial toll that COVID-19 is taking on the Kings, who are preparing for the possibility of “tens of millions of dollars in uninsured losses.”

And-Ones: Age Limit, Watson, Loyd, Overseas Signings

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is calling on the NCAA to develop a plan in response to the NBA’s expected rule change that would lower the draft eligibility age from 19 to 18, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The NBA has submitted a proposal to its players union that would make the change effective in 2022.

“The NCAA is not prepared right now,” Krzyzewski said. “They need to be in concert with the NBA in developing a plan that is specific for men’s college basketball. And that should include what an athlete gets, how he’s been taken care of, whether or not there’s a re-entry if something – really, it’s deep. And if we only look at it shallow, then we’re doing a disservice to the kids. And that’s why I would hope that the NCAA has someone leading this to figure it all out.”

Krzyzewski asked whether the G League would start attracting blue-chip players and providing more competition for college basketball and how the NCAA will adapt once the one-and-done rule is gone. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo shared some of the same concerns and worried that too many players will be pressured to turn pro before they’re ready.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • Former Suns coach Earl Watson has interviewed for the head coaching position at UCLA, tweets Jordan Schultz of ESPN. A former Bruins player, Watson was fired by Phoenix three games into last season. Schultz reports that longtime college and NBA coach Larry Brown would join Watson as a top assistant.
  • Jordan Loyd is this year’s 2 Ways & 10 Days pick for NBA G League MVP, writes Adam Johnson. He’s the second straight player from the Raptors 905 to claim the honor, following Lorenzo Brown‘s MVP season in 2017/18. Loyd is playing on a two-way contract and has appeared in 10 games at the NBA level.
  • Three players with NBA ties have signed contracts overseas. Hollis Thompson, who played four NBA seasons and was with the Pelicans two years ago, is joining Crailsheim Merlins in Germany, according to Emiliano Carchia of SportandoXavier Rathan-Mayes, who appeared in five games for the Grizzlies late last season, has signed with Bnei Herzelia in Israel, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. Brad Newly, whose rights are owned by the Lakers, has signed with Sydney in Australia, Smith adds (Twitter link). Newly was drafted in 2007, but has never played in the NBA.

And-Ones: Trade Deadline, Goodwin, Watson, Williams

There probably won’t be significant activity prior to the trade deadline, according to Keith Smith of RealGM (Twitter links). The biggest trades this season may have already occurred, one source told Smith, because teams are intent on preserving salary-cap space for 2019. Still, some expiring contracts could be moved and there’s always a possibility that a team “might get desperate” and do something bold, the same source suggested.

A front-office member from another team believes many of the trades coming before the deadline could be motivated by trying to stay below the luxury-tax line, even if it results in a talent downgrade. However, that executive also believes that there should be more sellers in a month than there are now. “Some of us will get real about our chances and start moving guys,” the source said to Smith.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Guard Archie Goodwin has returned to the United States to join the G League’s Maine Red Claws, the team announced in a press release. Goodwin most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he appeared in a combined 15 games with New Orleans and Brooklyn. The shooting guard played his first three seasons with Phoenix. The Red Claws acquired his returning player rights in a trade prior to the season. Goodwin lost his roster spot with China’s Zhejiang Golden Bulls to former Spurs guard Brandon Paul in late December.
  • Lakers guard and former UCLA star Lonzo Ball has endorsed former Suns coach Earl Watson to be the Bruins’ next coach, Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times report. UCLA recently fired Steve Alford and replaced him on an interim basis with assistant Murry Bartow. “I know Earl personally,” Ball said. “I think he has coaching experience in the league. Obviously, he went there, he’s alumni, so I think he’s a good fit.”
  • Veteran big man Alan Williams is in advanced talks with China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Williams was waived by the Nets this week to allow him to pursue the overseas opportunity. He was on a two-way deal after getting released by the Suns during the offseason. Williams was playing well in the G League but did not make an appearance with Brooklyn.
  • Forward Okaro White, who was waived by the Wizards last month, has signed with the G League’s Long Island Nets, according to NetsDaily.com. Long Island acquired his G League rights last year. The Nets are not using their available two-way slot on White, according to the report. White made three appearances with Washington this season.

And-Ones: UCLA Coach, Withey, Delfino, NBAGL

With Steve Alford out as the head coach at UCLA, and the program launching a search for Alford’s replacement, a pair of former NBA head coaches have already been linked to the position.

Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that there have been “persistent rumbles in NBA coaching circles” that the Bruins would pursue Fred Hoiberg, though it’s not clear if Hoiberg would be open to returning to the NCAA. After he was let go by Chicago earlier this season, reports indicated that Hoiberg wanted to remain in the NBA.

Meanwhile, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link) that former UCLA guard Earl Watson would have interest in the job. Watson, who coached in Phoenix from 2016-17, has strong AAU ties and was close with Bruins legend John Wooden, Spears notes.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA big man Jeff Withey had been playing in Turkey this season, but he and Tofas Bursa have parted ways, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Withey, who has logged more than 200 regular season NBA appearances, played in nine games for Dallas in 2017/18.
  • An NBA forward from 2004 to 2013, Carlos Delfino had been playing with Fiat Torino this season, but his time with the Italian club came to an abrupt end last week. According to Carchia, Delfino had a heated argument with Fransesco Forni, who is Fiat Torino’s VP and the son of the team’s owner. Forni issued a statement saying that Delfino “almost assaulted” him, and the club opened disciplinary proceedings against the veteran after cutting him. Delfino disputed the notion that there was any sort of physical confrontation and explained his side of the story to Carchia.
  • Former first-round pick Rashad Vaughn has changed NBA G League teams, with the Delaware Blue Coats acquiring him today from the Texas Legends, per a press release.
  • Speaking of the G League, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days recently took a look at some of the challenges facing Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is taking over as the NBAGL president.

Suns Notes: Assistants, Watson, McDonough, Bledsoe

Three Suns assistants were fired Sunday along with head coach Earl Watson, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPNNate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser were all dismissed after a meeting with management Sunday night. Bjorkgren served as a bench coach, while Okur and Fraser were part of player development.

Bjorkgren is a former G League head coach and an original member of Watson’s staff. Okur, who played 10 years in the NBA, joined the Phoenix staff at the start of last season. Fraser had been with the team since 2015.

Tyrone Corbin will be promoted to lead assistant under interim coach Jay Triano. A former head coach with the Jazz and Kings, Corbin is in his second season on the Suns’ staff.

There’s more news this morning out of Phoenix:

  • Watson had a tumultuous relationship with GM Ryan McDonough during his two and a half seasons as head coach, Wojanarowski writes in the same story. They clashed frequently over a variety of topics, and owner Robert Sarver ultimately sided with McDonough. Watson, who leaves with an 87-142 record, offered a farewell message to the team and his fans. “Thank you to my Suns family, the Phoenix community and everyone who has supported me through this journey,” he said. “Life has unpredictable pivots that I embrace humbly and with great purpose.”
  • Suns star Eric Bledsoe received a lot of attention for Sunday’s tweet that read, “I don’t wanna be here,” but it wasn’t the first time he expressed a desire to get out of Phoenix, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). The eighth-year guard met with with management before the season started to tell them he wanted to be dealt. On top of the losing, Bledsoe was unhappy when the team decided to shut him down because of soreness in his knees last March.
  • Bledsoe was excited about the possibility of being traded to Cleveland over the summer as part of a rumored deal for Kyrie Irving, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. The teams were close to completing the trade and Bledsoe was “depressed” when it fell through, a source tells Amico.
  • The Suns’ problems stem more from the roster McDonough put together than Watson’s coaching, writes Mitch Lawrence of Forbes. Phoenix is trying to compete with four rookies and four second-year players, including a 19-year-old in Dragan Bender and three 20-year-olds. Lawrence states that Bledsoe and fellow veteran Tyson Chandler aren’t pleased with the youth movement. He also notes that McDonough hasn’t been able to find a franchise player despite picking fourth twice, fifth and eighth in the past five drafts.
  • Former Suns stars Steve Nash and Dan Majerle are among the potential replacements for Watson suggested by Jordan Greer of The Sporting News. Others are Adrian Griffin, Ime Udoka, Monty Williams, Sean Miller, Jerry Stackhouse, Mark Jackson and Brent Barry.

Suns Fire Earl Watson

The Suns have fired head coach Earl Watson, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). After a 2016/17 season in which no head coaches were fired, Watson’s dismissal comes just three games into the 2017/18 regular season.NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Ryan McDonough are meeting with the club’s assistant coaches. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis, says Woj.

While Watson didn’t get much of a leash to start the year, it’s hard to think of many teams that have come out as flat as the Suns to open a season. The team has already lost to the Trail Blazers by 48 points and to the Clippers by 42. Those blowout losses sandwiched a narrow defeat to the Lakers, who beat the Suns in Phoenix.

The Suns’ slow start has also led to one of the team’s veteran players apparently expressing his displeasure publicly, with Eric Bledsoe tweeting earlier today, “I don’t wanna be here.” Although Bledsoe’s tweet lacked context, a report out of Phoenix from local radio host John Gambadoro suggests it’s just what it sounds like — the point guard is unhappy with the Suns and would like to be traded.

Watson initially joined the Suns’ coaching staff as an assistant in 2015/16 before the mid-season firing of Jeff Hornacek prompted his promotion to the helm. In 33 games that year and then the entire 2016/17 season, the 38-year-old coach posted a .287 win percentage, having dropped 82 games along the way.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Pacific Notes: Pelinka, Buss, Ulis, Bender

Rob Pelinka’s deal with the Lakers is for five years and it’s worth over $20MM, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (h/t RealGM). Los Angeles hired Pelinka to be the team’s GM last month. Windhorst adds that lucrative deals are becoming typical for high-ranking members of teams’ front offices.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • A judge ruled that Jeanie Buss will retain controlling ownership of the Lakers, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (ESPN Now Link). It was previously reported that Jim and Johnny Buss would try to take over control of the team.
  • Tyler Ulis continues to impress in a starting role for the Suns, Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic writes. “I knew Tyler was pretty special quickly,” coach Earl Watson said. The rookie is averaging 14.8 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest since becoming the starter in mid-March.
  • Dragan Bender is back on the court after recovering ankle surgery and while his minutes are limited, the Suns like what they see, Bordow adds in the same piece. “He’s just a straight basketball player,” Watson said. “He goes out there, he just plays the game. He takes what the defense gives him.”